The United States originally established diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 1835, but their association has been strained in recent years. The South American country’s corrupt and failing government has sparked an economic collapse that has led to a humanitarian crisis.
The Venezuelan government’s policies and gross mismanagement of national affairs have caused the United States to impose over 40 sanctions on Venezuelan individuals since 2017. Millions of Venezuelans have become refugees due to food shortages, rising prices, increased crime, and a broken health system. The regime has killed protestors in rallies and imprisoned political opponents. Hyperinflation is projected to reach over one million percent by the end of 2018. This chaotic country has become an extremely challenging climate for the United States and multinational companies.
In May of 2018, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro took office. In response to his election, US Vice President Mike Pence commented,“The illegitimate result of this fake process is a further blow to the proud democratic tradition of Venezuela. The United States will not sit idly by as Venezuela crumbles and the misery of their brave people continues.”
Shortly after the election, the Trump administration placed a new of set sanctions on the Venezuelan government. These new penalties aimed to prevent Maduro from selling off government debt to enrich himself. The executive order attempts to stop American companies from buying debt from the government of Venezuela, thus putting an end to corruption in a country near collapse.
Since then, President Trump has issued a new round of sanctions targeting Maduro’s inner circle. Venezuela’s First Lady, Vice President, Defense Minister, and other officials are being penalized for plundering the precarious country’s remaining wealth. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that this inner circle has helped Maduro’s regime maintain its grip on power. For example, the First Lady, Cilia Adela Flores De Maduro, is a political figure in her own right and has been accused of helping her husband’s administration illegally acquire wealth. She has previously served as National Assembly Deputy and President of Legislative Power in Venezuela.
In a passionate statement, the Venezuelan President stated that Flores’ only offense was being married to him and that sanctioning her is a cowardly act by the United States. Meanwhile, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has been named a key figure in awarding Maduro near dictatorial powers.
The US Treasury Department has stated that the United States will continue to use every available economic and diplomatic strategy to stop the corrupt government and support the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy. The sanctions are being used to put pressure on government officials to either step down or pursue Venezuela’s best interests. According to the Trump Administration, sanctions against certain individuals will be dropped if they restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses, and combat corruption.
Julio Borges, former head of the Venezuelan National Assembly now exiled to Columbia said, “We’ve gone through all the democratic routes. Maduro has closed the doors and turned the country into worse than a dictatorship — a failed state.”