Sanctions on Venezuela: Implications of Economic Restrictions on the Health of Venezuelans
By Isaac Bai, Solon High School, Solon, Ohio, USA
In the high-stakes chess match of international politics, the US and other powerful nations are capable of imposing sanctions on Venezuela–exacerbating its humanitarian crisis by punishing the people instead of the dictators.
The United States, Canada, and the European Union (EU) have imposed various sanctions on Venezuela since 2006. Economic sanctions have targeted the oil and financial sectors, while diplomatic sanctions have barred government officials such as President Maduro from global transactions (Sanctions against Venezuela | Sanction Scanner, n.d.). These sanctions were imposed on Venezuela because of the country's political, economic, and human rights situations. Venezuela's government, led by President Nicolas Maduro, has been accused of widespread human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions of political opponents, and undermining democratic institutions such as the judicial system and election process (Escobari, 2019). But the hope of using sanctions to pressure the Venezuelan government to end these atrocities and address human rights violations, democratic deficits, and economic mismanagement have backfired and left the people of Venezuela in a humanitarian crisis.
These sanctions have further oppressed the people of Venezuela, leading to shortages of basic needs and price increases–exacerbating the humanitarian crisis carried out by President Maduro’s regime. In fact, sanctions have caused deaths of an estimated 40,000 people between 2017 and 2018 due to a lack of basic commodities (Weisbrot et al., 2019). The sanctions have only worsened the economic crisis, leading to hyperinflation, job losses, and increased poverty. Arguably the most important sectors impacted by sanctions are medicine and food.
Restrictions imposed by the sanctions have significantly impacted the medical sector, leading to a shortage of medical supplies and medications. This has worsened the country's already struggling healthcare system, leaving many without access to proper care. Critically, more than 300,000 people are estimated to be at risk because of a lack of access to medical treatment as a result of sanctions. Those at risk include 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 cancer patients, and approximately 80,000 people with HIV (Deutsche Welle, 2019).
Furthermore, the impact of sanctions on the food sector has been particularly devastating, leading to widespread food shortages and malnutrition. Venezuela relies heavily on imports for its food supply, and the sanctions have made it difficult to access these imports. In 2020, over 9 million people in Venezuela were food insecure, and right now, 3.7 million are in need of urgent food assistance (World Food Program Set to Help Venezuelan Children, 2021). The prolonged food crisis has led to widespread poverty, with many people unable to afford basic necessities.
The outcomes of these sanctions including the lack of access to medical supplies and food insecurity have driven many Venezuelans to flee the country. The implications of sanctions on Venezuela stretch far wider than just the nation itself. The humanitarian crisis, medical insecurity, and prolonged famine have led to a mass exodus of Venezuelans, creating a refugee crisis in the region. More than 7 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, creating a burden on neighboring countries, who have had to absorb the influx of refugees, and leading to strained resources and increased social tension (Arena et al., 2022). For instance, Venezuelan refugees fleeing to Colombia caused a 30% increase in the presence of gangs, since groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) recruited refugees or trafficked them. This is problematic, as these exact violence groups have killed and displaced millions of innocent citizens (“Exclusive: Thousands of Colombian FARC Rebels Return to Arms despite Peace Accord - Military Intelligence Report,” 2019). This cycle of instability only pushes civilians farther away from safety and access to food, water, shelter, and medical treatment.
What can be done to help the people of Venezuela?
Moving forward, it is important for legislators on the global stage to understand the impacts of international sanctions on the people of Venezuela. Although there is still faith that sanctions can pressure Venezuela’s leaders to change, it is necessary to understand that in reality, the victims of these sanctions are the Venezuelan citizens. However, these atrocities can’t be taken away just by lifting the sanctions. It is vital for delegates to engage in diplomacy with the Venezuelan government, as the only way to stop these crises is to knock the king of pride on the board over and work to save lives–because in the end, protecting the people and preserving peace is the winning move of this international game of politics.
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Escobari, M. (2019, February 28). Made by Maduro: The Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela and US Policy Responses. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/testimonies/made-by-maduro-the-humanitarian-crisis-in-venezuela-and-us-policy-responses/
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Weisbrot, M., Sachs, J., Johnston, J., Cashman, K., Sammut, J., & Brineman, C. (2019). Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela. http://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/venezuela-sanctions-2019-04.pdf
World Food Program Set to Help Venezuelan Children. (2021, April 23). Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/04/23/world-food-program-set-help-venezuelan-children