EU Prepares to Sanction Venezuelan Officials
Corruption in Venezuela has been consistent and widespread over the last few decades and has been especially pervasive within the highest ranks of the government. As a result of longstanding corruption, the European Union is currently preparing sanctions against several Venezuelan officials.
The United States has previously imposed sanctions against many of the same high-ranking officials, including President Nicolás Maduro. Most recently, in November, the Trump Administration doled out a round of sanctions on 10 Venezuelan officials, its fifth round of sanctions in 2017. The US has frozen the assets of the 10 officials in question and consequently prohibited American businesses from working with these sanctioned Venezuelans.
In its annual report published on Thursday, Human Rights Watch said that Maduro was an “incompetent autocrat” who “continued destroying Venezuelan democracy and the economy” and used “violent repression” to stay in power.They also commented that international pressure was the only hope for change.
An EU diplomat involved with the implementation of sanctions added: “The government has crushed the opposition and is guilty of human rights abuses, so we believe it is time to send a strong message.”
Due to years of economic instability, the country holds the world’s highest inflation rate and Venezuela enters a fifth straight year of recession. According to an article published by Reuters, “worsening food shortages and runaway inflation have unleashed the spate of pillaging since Christmas in the South American country, in which 7 people have reportedly died.”
The Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict, a human rights group, estimates that 107 lootings or attempted lootings have taken place just in the first 11 days of 2018.
Widespread crime has begun to spread fear throughout the entire nation. Such lootings involve people ransacking trucks, supermarkets, and other businesses. An extreme case occurred in the mountainous western state of Merida, where a mob reportedly slaughtered cattle grazing in a field.
Moreover, shopkeepers in the town of Garcia de Hevia are skeptical of the authorities’ ability to protect its citizens and have become vigilantes due to the states failure to provide security. The president of the local shopkeepers’ association William Roa said, “we’re arming ourselves with sticks, knives, machetes, and firearms to defend our assets.”
The situation throughout Venezuela seems direr than ever, with crime spreading and violence spurring. Yet these sanctions do not seem to be instilling the change that one would hope. Rather, the Venezuelan government has taken an extremely defensive stance, accusing the US of directly attacking their country via sanctions.
“It would be sad if the EU continues to submit to Donald Trump's interventionist, racist and warmongering opinions," said Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela's Foreign Minister.
Though these sanctions may be completely warranted and necessary for the time being, the country as a whole does not seem better off or relieved as a result. Instead, feelings of unrest and fear plague the country.