Everyone knows that the United States maintains a policy of "sanctions" and economic blockade against Venezuela, which since the time of Donald Trump they themselves called a "maximum pressure strategy." The government of Washington, be it Democrat or Republican, does not hide that its intention with this is to achieve a “regime change”, that is, to force President Nicolás Maduro to leave power by force. All of this is crystal clear.
Now, what is the effect of these sanctions, which in international law are known as “unilateral coercive measures”? There are those who maintain that the measures taken by Washington do not affect the population but only government officials. And this is the basis for the determined support of Venezuelan politicians for this US strategy. Many media outlets that reproduce this opinion, both inside and outside the country, have contributed to this discourse.
That is why we decided to consult the readers of Últimas Noticias to measure how the population perceives the effect of sanctions. From Monday, April 19 to Thursday, April 22, we published a digital poll on our website wwww.ultimasnoticias.com.ve and social media accounts with the following question:
"How do the sanctions and blockade imposed by the US affect Venezuelans?"
The response options were: - They affect everyone - They affect some - They do not affect anyone. The intention is to collect, in broad strokes, how ordinary people understand the impact that this pressure has had on Venezuela.
What do people say?
The result obtained was this:
Of a total of 3.001 observations, 85,9% responded that the sanctions “affect everyone”; 9,3% think they “affect some”; and 4,8% affirm that "they do not affect anyone".
We can affirm that almost 9 people out of 10 understand or perceive that the sanctions and the blockade have a real impact on the entire population. Almost 10% of people hold the idea that, although this impact exists, it only prays in some people and is not a general thing. While a small minority, less than 5%, do not believe that there is any effect on the population.
If we group the result between the positive and negative statements, we obtain that the proportion grows as follows: more than 95% recognize that sanctions have effects on the population, be it on all or some; while less than 5% negates any effect.
Regarding absolute numbers, we have that of the three thousand observations collected: 2.587 responses corresponded to the option that the sanctions affect everyone, while 278 participations were inclined to the option that they affect only some and only 145 Opinions defend the idea that sanctions do not affect anyone.
Speech vs reality
Last month, the Deputy Minister of Anti-Blockade Policy, William Castillo, explained in a forum that a narrative has been built with five main axes, whose intention is to make visible the fact that the blockade has devastated the economic capacities of our country. He called them the "Five myths about the blockade of Venezuela":
Myth 1: "There are no sanctions"
Myth 2: "They are only against officials and do not affect the people"
Myth 3: "The country was already very bad before the sanctions"
Myth 4: "Sanctions are not responsible for the crisis, but corruption"
Myth 5: "The US would lift sanctions if there are 'fair, free and competitive elections.' However, reality has outgrown the cover-up speech. Our results confirm this. But it is not just about the readers of Últimas Noticias. As a coincidence, this week part of a survey carried out by the consulting firm Datanalisis, which inquired about the same issue, was released. Let's see the graph:
The economist Francisco Rodríguez published this result on his Twitter account and described it like this: “Four out of five Venezuelans think that the sanctions have had a negative and important impact on people's lives. More than half think that this impact has been very negative. Less than 5 percent say they have had no impact. "
Four out of five Venezuelans think that the sanctions have had a significant negative impact on people's lives. More than half think that this impact has been very negative. Less than 5 percent say they have had no impact. pic.twitter.com/n28Tnvzoh0- Francisco Rodríguez (@frrodriguezc) April 21, 2021
Their results match ours. More than 90% of Venezuelans believe that sanctions have an impact on the population. And it is striking that both polls show exactly the same result on the negative statement: those who deny the impact of the sanctions represent 4,8% of the population.
The impact is real
People are right in stating that the sanctions and the bloc affect the entire population.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said in an interview recently that "if Venezuela did not have its resources blocked [abroad], three months ago we would have bought the 30 million vaccines that the country needs." The blockade and theft of resources from Venezuela through the so-called "sanctions" is something very real and this is just one example of the result.
The economist Pasqualina Curcio estimates the impact of the sanctions, only between XNUMX and XNUMX, at US $ XNUMX billion. She explains that this is equivalent to approximately XNUMX months of national production and that with that money we would have been able to pay the complete external debt, which according to the BCV is US $ XNUMX billion. It also affirms that this money would be used to import food and medicine for XNUMX years. In the article "Impact of the economic war in Venezuela", published in this newspaper, Professor Curcio details:
"These losses are broken down as follows: US $ 25 billion correspond to money and assets that have been looted from us, while the other US $ 169 billion represent what we have stopped producing from 2016 to 2019 as a consequence the attack against PDVSA (US $ 64 billion) and the attack on the bolivar (US $ 105 billion) ”.
But this is not just an inside view. In 2019, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a respected research institute based in Washington, USA, published a report signed by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs entitled "Economic sanctions as collective punishment: The case of Venezuela." (Available on their website cepr.net)
There these academics make a recount of the different moments in which the US imposed sanctions on Venezuela and their respective impact, which they define as a "punishment" to the population with the intention of collapsing the country's economy, so that that in turn provokes the "regime change." They highlight that the Executive Order signed by Trump in August 2017, which prohibited the Venezuelan government from borrowing in the financial markets of the United States, seriously harmed oil production in Venezuela. The report says:
“Following the executive order of August 2017, oil production plummeted, falling more than triple the rate of the previous twenty months. This would be a consequence of the loss of credit and, therefore, of the inability to pay for maintenance and operations, as well as making the new investments necessary to maintain production levels. This acceleration in the rate of decline of oil production would imply a loss of $ 6 billion in oil revenues for the following year ”.
They also point out that “the loss of so many billions of dollars in foreign exchange and the loss in government revenue constituted the main push that led the economy to go from its high inflation, when the sanctions were implemented in August 2017, to hyperinflation".
Even the United Nations (UN) has pointed out the impact that sanctions and the bloc have on the Venezuelan population. On March 23, the UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution condemning these measures.
In addition, in February a United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights came to the country, Alena Douhan, who prepared and published a report which will then be expanded and presented to the Human Rights Council in September of this year. There, Douhan describes how sanctions work:
“Venezuelan assets frozen in banks in the United States, United Kingdom and Portugal amount to 6.000 million dollars. It is reported that the purchase of goods and payments from public companies are blocked or frozen. The private sector, non-governmental organizations, universities, sports clubs and citizens of Venezuela denounce the rejection or reluctance of foreign banks to open or maintain their bank accounts, including those of correspondent banks in the United States and Europe; difficulties in obtaining visas and buying tickets; the need to act through agents from third countries; and the need to pay additional insurance costs ”.
It also describes the situation that Venezuelans experience as a result of the measures dictated by Washington:
“They have caused a steady growth in malnutrition in the last 6 years, with more than 2,5 million people severely food insecure. Mechanisms to cope with this situation include reducing the number of meals per day (1 or 2 instead of 3); reduction of the quantity and quality of food; decapitalization / sale of household goods to eat; and reducing spending on health, clothing and education; with a corresponding increase in family crises, tensions, violence and separations; child labor; participation in the black economy; criminal activity, including drug and human trafficking; forced labor; and migration ”.
Venezuelans need to understand that the situation of siege that our country is experiencing by the world's leading economic and military power not only has serious real effects, as most people perceive, but that it is a perverse operation to subdue to the population until they are able to expel a government that does not suit their interests.
American Mark Weisbrot explained this behavior of his own country in a 2019 article published on the website cepr.net:
“After the Sandinistas triumphed in 1979, the United States waged a bloody war to take back the country using a terrorist paramilitary force called the Contras, who regularly murdered civilians. President George HW Bush made it clear during the Sandinistas' second election in 1990 that, although he was not God, he would continue to punish Nicaraguans with a trade embargo and war, if they did not get rid of the Sandinistas. Tired of war, hyperinflation and economic collapse, Nicaraguans voted in favor of the opposition: the Sandinistas lost ”. Obama, Trump, and now Joe Biden are pursuing a strategy as old as it is deplorable. And it is not about applying "maximum pressure" only to the Government. This pressure is suffered by the country's economy and the entire population. And it is evident that this fact is clear to all Venezuelans.