Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Thinking About Venezuela Sanctions

It appears the idea of targeted sanctions is gaining momentum:

President Barack Obama’s administration is considering imposing sanctions on Venezuelan officials culpable in that nation’s repression and who travel to and hold bank accounts in the United States, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Monday. 
“There should be sanctions on individuals. ... The administration is looking at those,” said Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, citing an unnamed “high-level” state department official she spoke with earlier in the morning.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/03/3971520/wasserman-schultz-obama-looking.html#storylink=cpy

I had mentioned before that this would be tempting. They are low cost because they do not disrupt oil or anything else, and President Obama can nod to Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans in Florida that he's tough. That is particularly appealing as Republicans rail on him for being soft on Russia.

I'm quoted in this Washington Post story, arguing that for now Nicolás Maduro is still in a solid position. What would targeted sanctions do? If you pinch just the right people, maybe his internal position weakens.

With regard to chavistas in general, there is the question of whether sanctions provides new ammunition for the empire argument and thereby strengthens Maduro's position domestically. However, if they are well targeted then they actually won't affect more than a very small number of people, which takes a lot of the steam out of that line. Does the average chavista care that much whether some of the political elites can't access their money? It's not impossible but hard to imagine caring too much.

At least at this point, if there is no dialogue then there is a really good chance we'll see such sanctions. It's just a solid domestic political move for Obama.


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