28 January 2019 — Moon of Alabama
Mr De Zayas, a former secretary of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and an expert in international law, spoke to The Independent following the presentation of his Venezuela report to the HRC in September. He said that since its presentation the report has been ignored by the UN and has not sparked the public debate he believes it deserves.
“Sanctions kill,” he told The Independent, adding that they fall most heavily on the poorest people in society, demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy”.
On his fact-finding mission to the country in late 2017, he found internal overdependence on oil, poor governance and corruption had hit the Venezuelan economy hard, but said “economic warfare” practised by the US, EU and Canada are significant factors in the economic crisis.
The four factors – oil, poor governance, corruption and sanctions – are not unrelated to each other. That Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world makes it a target for U.S. imperialism. Not simply to “take their oil” as Trump wants, but for geo-political reasons. As Andrew Korybko muses:
Alongside ensuring full geopolitical control over the Caribbean Basin and ideologically confronting socialism, the US wants to obtain predominant influence over Venezuela in order to incorporate it into a parallel OPEC-like structure for challenging the joint Russian-Saudi OPEC+ arrangement per the author’s late-2016 prediction about the formation of a “North American-South American Petroleum Exporting Countries” (NASAPEC) cartel. This entity would function as “Fortress America’s” energy component and have the potential to exert powerful long-term pressure on the international oil market at Russia and Saudi Arabia’s expense.
Venezuela’s overdependence on the extraction of one resource also furthered poor governance. Hugo Chavez became president of Venezuela in 1998. Between then and 2014 oil prices were overall constantly rising. When ever increasing prices guarantee a decent income there is little pressure to care for government efficiency and little incentive to build other industries.
Every U.S. administration since George W. Bush introduced additional sanctions on Venezuela. The most biting once are financial sanction which make the buying of necessary imports extremely difficult. Every state that has come under such sanctions, Iran under Saddam Hussein, North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela must attempt to circumvent these. Smuggling, which governments usually oppose, suddenly becomes a necessity. Businessman or military officers trusted by the government are offered monopolies if they are able to import sanctioned goods. The risk for these people is often high but so is the reward. The monopoly position allows them to demand exorbitant profits. Every country has political corruption but sanctions tend to multiply it.
A friend of Professor Landis describes this phenomenon with regard to Syria:
Joshua Landis @joshua_landis –
On Syria sanctions as a tool for punishing or weakening the Syrian regime, a Syrian friend, whose extended family has long worked smuggling routes in Syria, warned that they only empower & enrich regime bigwigs.
“Fun fact I can’t write publicly, the sanction have led to a rise in smuggling. Smugglers never made as much money as they do now. Who are these smugglers? regime figures, their relatives & their friends. The sanctions allow them to amass wealth in amounts they never dreamed of.
“Their influence has grow more and more. Even if I want to export a pair of shoes, I can’t. I have to pay the 4th Division security officer to get an export or import license from China. I don’t have to pay them once, but twice, and the same goes for customs.
“To say that sanctions are ineffective and hurt mainly civilians is an under statement. Sanctions are directly empowering and enriching those who are in the regime. Look at the sanctions list, the people on the list were all millionaires before 2011, now they are billionaires.
Sanctions always lead to higher prices and inflation in the targeted country. They destroy the middle class and devastate the poor:
The result, said Damascus-based businessman Naji Adeeb, is that legitimate business owners are being punished while close associates of the state, including those named in the sanctions, are still able to conduct deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“You just need a lot more resources to do a lot less, and if you do a transaction today you don’t know if you can do it again a month from now,” said Adeeb. “It’s an environment where only crooks and mafiosis can work.”
The U.S. accuses the government of Venezuela of being corrupt. It laments that some 2 million fled the country. But these phenomenons are largely consequences of the economic war it wages against the country.
Sanctions can only achieve their purported purpose when the targeted entity can change its ways and thereby get sanctions relief. But the sanctions against Iraq, Iran, Syria and Venezuela were/are all intended to achieve regime change. The people in charge of these countries would have to kill themselves, or at least abolish their positions, to achieve sanctions relief. They have no incentive to do. Broad sanctions against a country make the people more dependent of their government. They allow those in charge to increase their power.
It is thus obvious that these sanctions are designed to destroy countries, not to achieve some purported aim of ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’ or even ‘regime change’. They are wars of aggression by other means:
The US sanctions are illegal under international law because they were not endorsed by the UN Security Council, Mr de Zayas, an expert on international law and a former senior lawyer with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.
“Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns.
“Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees,” Mr de Zayas said in his report.
Sieges and sanctions alone are seldom successful in achieving their purported aims. Medieval sieges usually ended either when the attacker gave up, or with the storming and looting of the town. Sieges and sanctions are the means to ‘soften up’ the target, to then allow for an easier all out attack. For thirteen years the most brutal sanctions were put on Iraq. It still required a large scale war to bring Saddam Hussein down. And the war did not even end there.