Commentary: Trump threatens Venezuela’s dying economy with economic sanctions

Commentary: Trump threatens Venezuela’s dying economy with economic sanctions

By Anthony L Hall

Venezuela has been on a political and economic descent into the heart of darkness for years. I have bemoaned this unfolding tragedy in many commentaries, including most recently in “Venezuela’s Death Spiral of Recession, Protest, and Repression,” April 24, 2017.

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant – headquartered in Washington DC – who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at

But it speaks volumes that so much is being made of Sunday’s pyrrhic reprieve — when millions of hapless and hopeless Venezuelans participated in a symbolic referendum.

Venezuelan opposition leaders have called for their supporters to escalate street protests and support a 24-hour national strike later this week after more than 7.1 million people rejected a government plan to rewrite the constitution. …

More than three months of opposition protests have left at least 93 people dead and 1,500 wounded [and more than 500 protesters and government opponents jailed]…

[President Nicolas] Maduro and the military dominate most state institutions, but the opposition controls the congress and holds three of 23 governorships.

(London Guardian, July 18, 2017)

Foremost, it is noteworthy that many of those taking to the streets these days to protest Maduro’s ineffectual rule were taking to the streets a few years ago to hail Hugo Chávez’s dictatorial rule. After all, Maduro is the personification of the primrose legacy Chávez left behind for the poor, misguided Venezuelans who supported him. I commented on their rude awakening in “Venezuela Finally Awakens from Chavismo Dream,” December 9, 2015.

As it happened, during the waning years of his rule (which ended when he died in 2013), I began analogizing Venezuela’s impending doom to the one that befell Zimbabwe. Now President Trump is threatening to intervene with economic sanctions instead of humanitarian relief, which would only reinforce this analogy.

US President Donald Trump threatened on Monday to take ‘strong and swift economic actions’ if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro goes ahead with plans to create a super-legislature known as a Constituent Assembly in a July 30 vote.

‘The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions,’ Trump said.

(Reuters, July 17, 2017)

Of course, the cruel irony inherent in that threat is completely lost on Trump. Not to mention that it betrays Trump’s declared America-First intent to stay out of the domestic affairs of other countries.

But, if he follows through, that would plunge millions of long-suffering Venezuelans into a living hell. After all, Maduro has already demonstrated a determination to emulate Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and successive North Korean dictators — who have defied similar “economic actions” for decades. But I fear civil war will erupt before Maduro seals his dictatorial legacy.

In the meantime, there’s no denying the heartrending spectacle of so many once-proud Venezuelans living lives of Dickensian desperation — complete with increasing numbers scavenging for food:

Some people had traveled across Venezuela to queue overnight hoping to cross [the border into Colombia] to buy food and other basics that are in short supply in Venezuela, which is steeped in an economic crisis. …

Venezuela’s stores lack the most basic foods and medicines. Queues of hundreds and even thousands of people are common, and riots and looting are a daily occurrence.

(Reuters, August 13, 2016)

As indicated above, I marched in virtual solidarity with Zimbabweans on their descent into the heart of darkness. And, thanks to successive US presidents taking “strong and swift economic actions” to punish the Mugabe regime, long-suffering Zimbabweans are now 25-plus years into their living hell.

Therefore, even if spared a civil war, things do not bode well for them. But I am loath to continue commenting on Venezuela’s in similar fashion, especially given that my commentaries did nothing to alter Zimbabwe’s death spiral.

In fact, besides urging you to pray for Venezuela, I can probably do no better than to refer you to my April 24 commentary cited above, which includes this forlorn plea:

We cry for you Venezuela
The truth is he never loved you
Despite Chavismo
His revolution
He broke his promise
Please find your senses

Related commentaries:
Death spiral…
Venezuela awakens…