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Obama administration threatens economic sanctions on Venezuela

By Dave Schneider

Latest U.S. moves to topple Venezuela's progressive Bolivarian government and inflict harm on the people

Jacksonville, FL – In the latest move by the U.S. to topple the progressive, democratic Venezuelan government, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced on March 3 that President Barack Obama was considering economic sanctions on Venezuela. Schultz, who represents a district in south Florida and who chairs the Democratic National Committee, made the disturbing announcement on the heels of a proposed Venezuela sanctions bill introduced and sponsored by Florida's two senators, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.

Other U.S. representatives joined Schultz in calling for economic sanctions on Venezuela, including Miami Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Under pressure from the far right of the Republican Party of Florida, which includes sections of the large anti-Castro Cuban exile community in Miami, Governor Rick Scott joined calls for Obama to impose sanctions on the South American country.

According to Schultz, the proposed sanctions considered by Obama would target many individuals in the Venezuelan government. Senators Rubio and Nelson's bill would restrict individuals in the Venezuelan government and many leaders of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) from traveling to the U.S., freeze assets in U.S. and U.S.-allied banks and treasuries, and restrict access to credit markets.

Sanctions are latest move by Washington to topple Venezuela's progressive government

These sanctions represent the latest episode in the U.S. government's long campaign to topple the democratically elected government of Venezuela and stop the Bolivarian revolutionary process. In 2002, U.S. and Venezuelan business elites supported a military coup against then-President Hugo Chavez, who was returned to power within 47 hours by a mass uprising of working people. Less than a year later, rich Venezuelan oligarchs linked to the oil industry halted petroleum production in order to force Chavez from office. The oil bosses locked out the oil workers and threatened violence. Despite support from the U.S., their plot failed due to the continued popularity of the Venezuelan government among the majority of people. Even now, Wikileaks documents show far-reaching connections between the CIA and the right-wing opposition leaders, like Leopoldo Lopez, and instigator of protests and street violence.

Additionally, the U.S. government spends an incredible amount of money funding the far-right opposition groups protesting President Nicolas Maduro's government today. Estimates by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found $90 million reaching these groups since 2000. In 2014 alone, the U..S Congress passed a budget containing $5 million in funding for the Venezuelan opposition. While the Obama administration funds the right-wing opposition in Venezuela, they also signed $8.7 billion in cuts to food stamps into law, highlighting how imperialist meddling also hurts the U.S. working class.

‘Targeted sanctions’ actually target poor and working people

Although the politicians calling for sanctions emphasize that they are against individuals, rather than the entire country, the brutal history of U.S. ‘targeted sanctions’ makes clear that the Venezuelan people will suffer from these measures.

In 2001, then-President George W. Bush signed the deceptively named Zimbabwe Democracy and Economy Recovery Act (ZDERA) to punish the progressive government of Zimbabwe for its land reform program. These sanctions legally targeted only 113 individuals in the government and 70 entities, but the individuals included important government officials and huge state-owned enterprises vital to Zimbabwe's economy. For instance, the individual restrictions on Minister of Finance Herbert Murerwa's access to international credit indirectly limited the entire elected government of Zimbabwe, leaving the state unable to pay public workers their full salaries and pensions.

In order to meet their obligations to workers and African farmers who received land in the redistribution, Zimbabwe was forced to print money. This led to staggering hyperinflation and a shortage of necessary goods like food and AIDS medication. The U.S., UK, and the EU imperialists caused the entire crisis through their ‘targeted sanctions’, and then criticized Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.

The U.S. placed more comprehensive sanctions on the Republic of Iraq under President Saddam Hussein throughout the 1990s. They pushed and enforced the punishing sanctions through the United Nations. The U.S. claimed the sanctions were in response to Hussein and the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, but the world knows it was so the U.S. could attempt to dominate the Middle East and seize Iraq’s oil fields.

Like in Zimbabwe, the real victims of U.S. sanctions on Iraq were ordinary working people. A groundbreaking study by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1995 found that the UN sanctions on Iraq caused the deaths of more than 567,000 Iraqi children, by restricting access to food, medicine and critical infrastructure. Other studies since then have placed the child death toll alone closer to 1 million.

Obama's consideration of sanctions on Venezuela echoes the sick policy justifications of the former Democrat President, Bill Clinton. U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, appointed by Clinton, infamously attempted to justify the horrifying deaths of Iraqi children by saying, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? We think the price is worth it.” When it comes to economically devastating the people of Iraq, Zimbabwe or Venezuela, both the Republicans the Democrats see eye-to-eye.

Sanctions on Venezuela will hurt working families in the U.S.

It is likely that such sanctions on Venezuela would prevent Maduro's government from continuing the legacy of Chavez, one in which poor and working families in the U.S. receive free and reduced price oil. Starting in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, the Venezuelan government partnered with CITGO to provide free heating oil to more than 100,000 families in the U.S. According to CITGO, more than 252 American Indian communities and at least 245 homeless shelters also received this aid. To this day, the program continues, but the sanctions considered by Obama threaten this important economic aid for working families.

With more and more people opposing the 54-year long U.S. embargo against Cuba, Obama will likely encounter large resistance to sanctions on Venezuela from progressives across the U.S. Nevertheless, the danger of sanctions remains high for both working people in the U.S., who benefit from the solidarity of the Venezuelan government, and the entire people of Venezuela. It will take a nationwide movement of progressives committed to ending U.S. imperialism and supporting the Bolivarian revolutionary process to stop history from repeating itself.

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