Up until now, we´ve resisted taking a position on the Menendez-Rubio act imposing sanctions on Venezuelan human rights violators. That stops now: all of the CC bloggers agree that this is not something we are going to oppose.
This bill is targeted at certain individuals. The idea that these sanctions are somehow hurting the Venezuelan people is pure BS, propaganda in its purest form. Anyone repeating it simply needs to put on their glasses and read the damn thing. If this bill were to somehow hurt the Venezuelan economy, we would obviously oppose it. It doesn’t, so we don’t.
Furthermore, the bill itself does not impose sanctions. Only the President and the State Department can do that, and so far they have not exercised that right. So far, it’s only a threat.
Some claim that sanctions play into the government’s hands by unifying chavismo and playing the “imperialist” card. We disagree. While this is a valid point, we think that its effects on solidifying chavismo are grossly exaggerated and lacking in evidence. In order for something to “solidify” chavismo, it would have to be the case that chavismo is somehow “less solid” than it could be. Where is the evidence? There is none.
As for boosting Maduro’s popularity, in all my years writing about Venezuela I have yet to come across the first foreign policy issue that really made a difference in public opinion. People care about bread-and-butter issues. Luisa Ortega’s visa … is not one of them.
Oh, some will say, the US will be made into the scapegoat by the chavista propaganda machine. They will blame the economic crisis on the sanctions, and somehow escape.
True, the propaganda aspect has already begun. But … guess what? We’ve been under an “economic war” propaganda barrage for more than a year, and it hasn’t worked. Yes, chavismo will lie. Yes, they will decry imperialism. They always do. That has not prevented Maduro’s popularity from falling. The man simply can’t govern, and no amount of propaganda can belie that. People are not stupid.
In fact, sanctions can accomplish some positive things. It gives the US something to negotiate – much like holding Alan Gross gave Cuba something to negotiate. It may even force a slight crack inside chavismo. There are undoubtedly more than a few people who will be affected by this bill who will seriously regret being part of this circus. Anyone who has ever encountered a Venezuelan general’s wife dressed head to toe in Louis Vuitton and Cartier will immediately know what I’m talking about.
Ultimately, the true measure of the bill is whether or not it gets us closer to getting Leopoldo López and the rest of the political prisoners freed. Given the absolute reticence on the part of the government, the total unwillingness to even sit down to talk about our issues, and given the horrible treatment being inflicted on Lopez and his friends, it’s hard to see how this bill makes things worse for him and his cellmates.
This bill is a step in the right direction. We applaud the US Congress, and we urge the Venezuelan government to release the political prisoners.