Venezuelan Officials Face Sanctions Abroad and Pressure at Home

For the people of Venezuela, their current government, led by President Nicolas Maduro, appears to be under siege both internationally and on the home front. Opponents of the current president at home are trying to pressure him into changing his plans to rewrite their constitution, although there seems to be little evidence that they are having an effect.

Additionally, the U.S. administration of President Trump announced sanctions in late July on 13 current and former members of Maduro’s administration, essentially turning the international community against Maduro at a time of domestic unrest. The U.S. has also joined with roughly a dozen regional governments in urging Maduro to not rewrite the constitution.

However, the Venezuelan leader seems to be emboldened to continue on this path by the sanctions, arguing that the U.S. is undermining the democracy of his nation.

“We don’t recognize any sanction,” said Maduro. “For us, it’s a recognition of morality, loyalty to the nation, and civic honesty.”

Domestically, however, the president’s stand has opposition groups leading strikes, some at a national level. Activists are using roadblocks to keep individuals from getting to work, and others observed 48 hour strikes where they did not work, thus disrupting the economy of the nation for a period of time.

The Trump administration has said that it would consider other sanctions, which could include restrictions on imports of Venezuelan oil.

The U.S. also said it had determined that Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami had “hundreds of millions of dollars” in assets now frozen by sanctions. The Trump administration has also accused El Aissami of playing a major role in global drug trafficking, which he denies.

“The goal of the sanctions is to change the calculus of President Maduro and his supporters… so they realize there are much more significant costs to his government pursuing these undemocratic steps,” said David Mortlock, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. However, he added, “those sanctions must be accompanied by a clear narrative” of what the United States and the international community expects to see change.

With the new Constituent Assembly in place, Maduro now has the power to strip any democratic checks on his power from the constitution. On August 8, foreign ministers from seventeen different countries in the Western hemisphere, declared their governments will refuse to recognize Venezuela’s new Constituent Assembly.

There seems to be a unity of purpose within the international community on how to deal with this issue going forward. However, that unity of purpose appears to be lacking in other trouble spots throughout the globe, most notably Iran and its influence throughout the Middle East. Perhaps the strategy of foreign policy from the international community could be a lesson on how to move forward in other areas of the globe.

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