Venezuela Sanctions Likely to Be Counterproductive

Michael McCarthy

The US Congress is considering targeted sanctions against Venezuelan government officials for their handling of the country’s political unrest. On Wednesday I published a piece in World Politics Review arguing that this measure would be counterproductive.

Sanctions serve an important symbolic purpose: communicating universal support for human rights. But their utility needs to be assessed in terms of whether they can change the Venezuelan government’s relationship with the opposition and its heavy-handedness with protesters.

In light of the underway US government efforts to shame Venezuelan government elites through visa bans and asset freezing, the fact that these sanctions are unlikely to draw multilateral support, the lack of incentives for the targets to comply, and the strong possibility these measures undermine existing diplomatic efforts by the Obama administration to work the problem via third parties, the cons greatly outweigh pros in this case.

What is more, the sanctions could strengthen the Maduro government by playing into its narrative of an international financial siege just when economic pain becomes acute.