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William Castillo: The "Obama Decree" is the backbone of the sanctions system

The Vice Minister of Anti-Blockade Policies, William Castillo pointed out this Thursday that the so-called “Obama decree”, the executive order signed on March 9, 2014 that declares Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the national security of the United States, “is the backbone of the sanctions system ”. This is because said instrument makes any measure valid "in the name of US security."

“If the Obama decree is repealed, all other sanctions will be invalid; all are articulated on that legal order ”, he asserted.

In his opinion, Venezuela today would not be in the situation it is in if this scheme of unilateral coercive measures had not been subjected.

These statements took place during the inauguration of the Free Antiblocking Chair of the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV). It is a permanent space for research, debate, and dissemination of the impact and scope of the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States against Venezuela, as well as for the development of proposals and strategies to confront and overcome the blockade. This was explained during the presentation of the chair by Sandra Oblitas, rector of this house of higher studies.

The inaugural videoconference was attended by William Castillo, Deputy Minister of Anti-Blockade Policies; Professor Rosicar Mata, from the UBV Center for Collective Health Studies; Sandra Oblitas, rector of the UBV; and the Minister of University Education César Trompiz.

Oblitas reported that the initiative arose from the joint work of the UBV, the Vice Ministry of Anti-Blockade Policies and the Simón Bolívar Institute. Likewise, he pointed out that efforts in this area will be extended through international alliances. "We are committed to working in a line of research with universities from sister countries, such as Cuba and Iran, which have also been victims of coercive measures," he explained.

Five myths

Vice Minister William Castillo spoke about the "Five Myths about the Blockade of Venezuela." He explained that since 2013 began the construction of a story about our country accompanied by "the most profound aggression that our people have received in history." He said that perhaps the most similar event was the War of Independence, when there was gigantic damage to the infrastructure, people and the economy of the country as a result of a war of more than ten years. But, he assured, the current process has been much deeper and more widespread.

In this sense, he developed his explanation on the five axes of the narrative that has been constructed with the intention of making invisible the fact that Venezuela is subjected to a brutal blockade that has devastated its economic capacities, preventing the full exercise of the population rights.

The first myth is the one that affirms that "sanctions do not exist", that it is only pressure measures to achieve "democratic changes". Castillo warned that this "denialist" line is denied by the statements of the spokesmen of the United States government. He highlighted how statements by the State Department have made it clear that its actions have forced the country to default, and such events are attributed as a success of its policy. President Donald Trump himself considered the blockade as a fundamental part of his strategy and former Ambassador William Brownsfield asserted on several occasions that "the desired end", that is, the fall of the government of President Maduro, "justifies that severe punishment" to the population.

Another of the lines disseminated to distort the reality of the blockade is the one that implies that the sanctions "are only against officials and do not affect the people." "It is a story imposed by the media and by the US government itself," Castillo said. Given this, he explained how between 2014 and 2021 Washington has issued 2 laws, 7 decrees and more than 20 particular measures directed against different areas of the national economy.

In addition, he emphasized the fact that the so-called sanctions not only operate on Venezuelan state structures, but, for example, 90% of the international financial system is prevented from carrying out transactions with the Venezuelan state. Multiple international organizations and companies are in a similar situation that have been threatened by the United States with the imposition of sanctions if they maintain relations with Venezuela and that is why they have refused to negotiate.

"They have broken contracts, paralyzed payments for supplies to the electrical system, supplies from hospitals, for the infrastructure of the drinking water system," he explained.

He gave the example of a Mexican company that exchanged food for diesel. In theory this "is allowed", but this company was attacked in court and sanctioned by the US, a situation that led to bankruptcy. Even though the Treasury Department has established special “licenses” that constitute supposed exceptions to the blockade, the reality is that such exceptions are non-existent.

"They say that there are licenses, food has licenses, but the Government cannot import food ... The United States will never write that it prohibits the bringing of food, but it persecutes, sanctions and punishes companies that do so," he said.

The definition of these instruments is so broad that when they say “officials”, the actions can cover anyone. "It is an attack against the entire country, against a people and its public and private economy, against anyone who the US considers violates its illegal sanctions."

The third myth expresses that the country was doing very badly before the sanctions. Given this, Castillo showed a series of variables and indicators of the national economy in 2013 and 2014 that show that the country maintained a solid position before the imposition of coercive measures.

Another important aspect is that our economy is subject to fluctuations in the oil market. And the coincidence of the fall in crude prices in 2014 with the beginning of the system of aggression against Venezuela is historical.

"The oil dependency, precisely there the attack took root from 2014," he said.

The fourth myth ensures that sanctions are not responsible for the crisis, but corruption. Castillo said that, although every crisis is multifactorial, it is an incontrovertible fact that the most important element of our current situation is the "brutal fall in foreign exchange earnings." In six years there has been a decrease in national income of 99%. "Only PDVSA lost 102 billion dollars due to the blockade."

Among the most outstanding data is that between 2014 and 2020 the drop in GDP stands at 63,4%. In addition, the country has had financial resources confiscated in more than 40 international banking institutions. All of this has had a tremendous impact on our economy and "any situational analysis must take these elements into account," he said.

The next myth considered is the thesis that the US would lift sanctions if there are "fair, free and competitive elections." Given this, Castillo pointed out that the falsehood of such a statement is evident, since since 2017 there have been four electoral processes in the country and this has only meant the intensification of the aggressions. He stressed that even international organizations that have been invited to observe such processes have refused to do so, actions that contribute to the story that justifies the coercive measures.

He announced that, during this year, in the framework of the Free Antiblocking Chair, this thesis will be discussed in greater depth.

Impact on comprehensive health

For her part, Professor Rosicar Mata, from the UBV Center for Collective Health Studies, made a presentation on the impact of the blockade on the provision of goods and services, and how the sanctions have affected the overall health of the population.

She gave as an example the national pharmaceutical sector, which produced 2015% of the consumption of medicines in 97. This proportion fell to 10% as a result of unilateral coercive measures.

She said that from the institution it is proposed "to advance in the consolidation of a different epistemological vision of health, which is consolidated in local production."

Their proposals are based on "generating the ethical bases to advance to a new institutionality" that allows us to face this situation, a process that must be approached from our singularity. "We only count as a reference of a similar situation the case of Cuba."

She announced that in the month of July a production by several researchers who have elaborated reflections on the handling of the pandemic under siege, called "Breaking chains", will be presented.

She explained that there is a communication blockade that has made it impossible to disseminate the figures that show the impact of the coercive measures against the country, as well as to relate the efforts that are being developed to face the aggressions. "It is the intention of these initiatives, to break the siege."

Finally, the Minister of University Education, César Trómpiz, reported that the instruction will be given that the Free Antiblocking Chair be replicated in all educational centers that are under the rectory of the institution he directs, as well as in the Sucre Mission.

"Let's put the universities in the forefront against unilateral coercive measures," he said.

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