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Venezuela again

Open letter to the Australian parliament
No war on Venezuela – Lift the sanctions

The United States government of President Donald Trump has made clear it will do whatever is required, including engaging in illegal activities and even potentially launching a military offensive, to overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected government of President Nicolas Maduro.

On January 23, when Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido unilaterally declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela, the U.S. administration immediately recognised his illegal claim.

The Australian government followed suit shortly after. While Guaido’s attempted coup failed, the U.S. is continuing its economic war on Venezuela in an attempt to cripple and oust Venezuela’s government, no matter the human cost. Since 2017, President Trump has used executive orders invoking the 1976 National Emergencies Act to impose 150 sanctions on individuals and entities of Venezuela, promoting the blatant lie that Venezuela represents an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security” of the U.S. A number of European nations have also imposed their own sanctions on Venezuelan officials.

These economic sanctions, currently supported by U.S. allies such as Australia, have cost Venezuela US$116 billion, 11 times more than the country’s international reserve, and are currently the major factor in Venezuela’s economic crisis. The freezing of more than US$30 billion of Venezuelan government assets is preventing Venezuela from exporting and importing necessary goods, including food, medicines, water pumps and spare parts for its oil industry. Despite the Maduro government’s spending on social programs and its efforts, in cooperation with grassroots organisations and international agencies, to obtain and distribute sufficient food and medicine to blunt the impact of the blockade, the U.S. sanctions are causing extreme hardship for the Venezuelan people. A recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research revealed that the sanctions have contributed to the deaths of possibly as many as 40,000 people in Venezuela last year alone. Apart from causing immense suffering to a population and government that has never threatened the U.S., the Trump administration’s sanctions are also categorically illegal.

They are illegal under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which states that sanctions are to be imposed by the U.N. Security Council following a determination that there is a threat to or a breach of international peace and security; a sole U.N. member state is not entitled to impose economic sanctions upon any sovereign state, and doing so violates the U.N.’s Declaration on the Principles of International Law.

In causing death through food and medical shortages in Venezuela, the U.S. sanctions violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes as basic rights and freedoms to which all people are entitled the right to life, food and health, among others.

The U.S. sanctions are also illegal under humanitarian law, specifically the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), which prohibits states from imposing a blockade, siege or regime of economic sanctions with the purpose of causing starvation among the civilian population.

The sanctions are illegal under Chapter IV of the Organization of American States Charter (to which the U.S. is a signatory), which states “no state may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another”. Despite this, the report issued on July 4 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is being used by the U.S. and its allies to justify their attempts to impose “regime change” on Venezuela, only briefly mentions the devastating impacts of the U.S. sanctions and makes no call for them to be lifted. It is thereby thoroughly discredited. By refusing to denounce the Trump administration’s aggression against the Maduro-led government of Venezuela, the Australian government has placed itself on the side of those advocating less democracy, more violence and greater suffering in Venezuela. We cannot remain silent in the face of this assault on the Venezuelan people’s right to elect their own government, and live in peace without fear of starvation or military invasion. We call on the Australian government to:

  • reverse its recognition of Guaidó as “interim president” of Venezuela;
  • refuse to cooperate with the United States’ economic sanctions on Venezuela, and put pressure on the U.S. and European nations to lift all sanctions;
  • respect the sovereignty of Venezuela by categorically ruling out any support for a military intervention against Venezuela and condemning the calls by the Trump administration, as well as Lima Group and OAS officials, for a military overthrow of the Maduro government.

Signed Sujatha Fernandes, Professor Dr Rodrigo Acuña, Associate Lecturer Dr Eulalia Reyes-Whitney, Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network Federico Fuentes, editor Green Left Weekly Pablo Leighton, Teacher

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