On August 8, Argentine President Mauricio Macri urged the U.S. government to block Venezuelan oil exports to the U.S., saying that such a measure would enjoy “wide” support across the hemisphere. As organizations devoted to advancing human rights, the signing groups express our deep rejection of these remarks. We urge the international community to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Venezuela by refraining from supporting sanctions that would worsen the grave humanitarian situation faced by Venezuelans.
We are also greatly alarmed by the ongoing violation of human rights, freedom of expression, and democratic norms by the Venezuelan government. Already, the widespread lack of medicine and shortages of basic goods have taken a deep toll on the population, with alarming results. There is evidence that rates of child malnutrition are increasing, and the lack of medication has led to a sharp uptick in deaths from preventable diseases or normally treatable conditions such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. Restricting oil sales, which account for around half of the state’s income, would drastically impair Venezuela’s already limited ability to import food and medicine.
Such a measure would also worsen a growing migration crisis. The number of Venezuelans seeking asylum in the exterior increased by over 8,000 percent in 2016, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This year it has grown even more. Implementing an oil ban would only fuel this trend, overtaking the ability of neighboring countries to protect the rights of migrants and refugees.
Finally, economic sanctions would go against public opinion in Venezuela, where a majority of Venezuelans reject such measures. For this reason and because of the frequent invocation by the Maduro government of an alleged international plot to justify policies that violate human rights, sanctions could even be counterproductive and end up contributing to those policies.
In August of this year, 59 Venezuelan civil society organizations signed an open letter to the international community, demanding that it block “the approval of unilateral or multilateral sanctions against the whole of the nation on behalf of governments of the region, which escalate the existing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.” By rejecting a proposed oil blockade, we stand with these civil society organizations, just as we support their condemnation of a break in the constitutional order and from the basic democratic rules in Venezuela.
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Argentina
Conectas Human Rights, Brazil
Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Peru
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), U.S.