ANALYSIS: New EU Measures Echo US Hostility To Venezuela

By Tim Young, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (23/11/17)

In early November the European Union, having at first declined Trump’s invitation to join the US in imposing sanctions of its own on Venezuela, decided to do so.

Full details of the sanctions are not readily available, but in addition to an arms embargo on sales to Venezuela, the EU may later target sanctions on security forces, government ministers and institutions.

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, met with ambassadors from the 28 countries of the European Union and rejected the sanctions proposed by the EU against Venezuela.

Arreaza expressed the Venezuelan government’s regret that the EU was taking an interventionist approach similar to the United States “with the aim of breaking the dialogue process in Venezuela.” Venezuela has also condemned the measures as violating international norms.

The EU sanctions against Venezuela were signed off by the EU’s foreign ministers on November 13 in Brussels.

The measures against Venezuelan government officials would enable the EU to enforce travel bans and asset freezes within the EU, while EU member states are banned from selling arms and surveillance equipment to the Maduro government.

US intellectual Noam Chomsky has called this move hypocritical, saying: “the idea of imposing an arms embargo on Venezuela while refusing to impose one on Saudi Arabia is beyond parody, not least because of Saudi Arabia’s murderous assault on Yemen, which has created one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world.”

It is not altogether surprising that the EU has taken this step. The Spanish government has persistently lobbied for sanctions against Venezuela, but left-leaning governments such as Portugal’s have been opposed.

In September, a resolution in the European Parliament calling on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to consider asset freezes and travel restriction against Venezuelan government officials was opposed by 96 MEPs while 59 abstained.

The move to impose sanctions now seems to have been triggered by governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV)’s success in the regional elections on October 15, securing 18 of the 23 state governorships, with 54% of the vote.

Rather than seeing this victory as a product of a failure by the discredited opposition to get their supporters out to vote, for a programme that included supporting US sanctions against the country, the perception by the EU, the US and others has been the PSUV had secured a “surprise” – and therefore illegitimate – win.

Further pressure is also being applied by the United States. The Trump administration targeted 10 more Venezuelan officials with sanctions in November, including electoral officials and the head of the government’s main food distribution programme.

The US also chaired an informal meeting at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on November 13 to discuss the situation in Venezuela.

During the meeting, which was boycotted by leading UNSC members such as China and Russia, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, declared that “the crisis in Venezuela today poses a direct threat to international peace and security. Venezuela is an increasingly violent narco-state that threatens the region, the hemisphere, and the world.”