Trump’s Economic Sanctions Have Cost Venezuela About $6bn Since August 2017

The inescapable conclusion is that Trump’s policy is depraved. The US has deliberately made an economic catastrophe much worse in the hope that its Venezuelan allies can seize power through violence as they briefly did in April of 2002. But as it stands today, US puppet leader for Venezuela is in hiding from Maduro’s loyal army haha.*

Images and portrayals of Venezuelans rioting in the streets over high food costs, empty grocery stores, medicine shortages, and overflowing garbage bins are the headlines, and the reporting points to socialism as the cause.

Perversely, Maduro’s government has been widely accused of “using” the economic crisis to “buy” loyalty of the most vulnerable through the direct delivery of food and other basic products. Trump’s goal is clearly to starve the government of funds it uses to allegedly “buy support” (i.e. respond to the crisis). Maduro, like Chavez before him, regularly decries US interference in Latin America.

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Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez, a longtime critic of the Venezuelan government, wrote a piece showing that after sanctions Trump introduced in August of 2017 Venezuela’s oil production dropped much faster than analysts had predicted it would. Rodriguez was the economic advisor to former presidential candidate Henri Falcon, who defied US threats to run in Venezuela’s presidential elections that were held in May despite the boycott of other opposition leaders.

Below is the key graph Rodriguez provides.

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Venezuelan and Colombian oil prices (OPEC)

Venezuelan and Colombian oil prices (OPEC)

Venezuelan oil production followed essentially the same pattern as Colombia’s during 2016 and most of 2017 –until August when Trump’s sanctions came into force. A decline in production was driven by the price of oil hitting its lowest point in about a decade at the start of 2016.

But in August of 2017 Trump’s sanctions made it illegal for the Venezuelan government to obtain financing from the US which was devastating for two reasons: all the Venezuelan governments’ outstanding foreign currency bonds are governed under New York state law; and one of the Venezuelan government’s major assets, the state-owned CITGO corporation, is based in Texas.

The sanctions also blocked CITGO from sending profits and dividends back to Venezuela (which had been averaging about $1 billion USD per year since 2015).

The table below shows my estimate of Venezuela’s oil revenues each month since Trump’s sanctions came into force. The price of WTI oil (which approximates the price of Venezuela’s) basically increased linearly since August of 2017 from $50 to about $70 per barrel.

The oil production volumes are taken from the estimates Rodriguez has provided. In the “no sanctions” case show below, it is assumed that Venezuela‘s oil production would have continued to fall at the same rate as in the 12 months before Trump’s sanctions.

Rodriguez cited a “worst case” prediction made by a prominent oil consultant that a 13% decline in production would take place in 2017 followed by a 6% decline in 2018. The “no sanctions” case shown below is close to that “worst case prediction”. It assumes an 11% decline would have taken place.

In reality (i.e. the “sanctions” case) production has fallen by 37% since the sanctions were imposed. The difference in total revenue between the “sanction” and “no sanctions” case over the twelve month period is about $6 billion.

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Venezuelan oil revenues with and without the impact of sanctions (Joe Emersberger)

Venezuelan oil revenues with and without the impact of sanctions (Joe Emersberger)

That sum, $6 billion, is 133 times larger than what the UNHCR has appealed for in aid for Venezuelan migrants. It is also equal to about 6% of Venezuela’s GDP at present. Health care spending in Latin America and the Caribbean averages about 7% of GDP.

Perversely, Maduro’s government has been widely accused of “using” the economic crisis to “buy” loyalty of the most vulnerable through the direct delivery of food and other basic products. Trump’s goal is clearly to starve the government of funds it uses to allegedly “buy support” (i.e. respond to the crisis). 

Rodriguez pulls his punches and heavily qualifies his thesis, but the inescapable conclusion is that Trump’s policy is depraved. The US has deliberately made an economic catastrophe much worse in the hope that its Venezuelan allies can seize power through violence as they briefly did in April of 2002.

Rodriguez is correct to say that the “toxification” of dealing with Venezuela’s government, and the imposition of “reputational costs” on those who do so, is a huge factor in all this. The Western media has indeed demonized Venezuela‘s government for 17 years and has therefore reduced, almost to zero, the legal and moral constraints on the US and its allies.

The priority for decent people whose governments have collaborated with Trump in attacking Venezuela should be to strengthen those constraints. The attacks could easily become even more barbaric.

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”- George Orwell

US ready to starve another 500,000 babies in Iran, like they did in Iraq

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John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, predicted that “the Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us” rather than continue with the 2015 deal, under which major European corporations have signed billions of dollars of contracts in Iran.

“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanctions,” Trump said. “Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.”

In the aftermath of Washington’s pullout, Europeans are seeking ways to protect the interests of their firms doing business in Iran and help them escape the brunt of upcoming US bans.

Senior EU politicians recently threatened that the 28-nation bloc is ready to challenge any move that may harm their businesses in the Iranian market at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The White House has already began a fresh push to put pressure on Iran and Washington’s European allies.

In the past week, it has slapped a new series of sanctions against Iran.

On Sunday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened the European allies that Washington is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies if their governments refuse to heed Trump’s demand to stop dealing with Iran.


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  • Amy Goodman to Madeline Albright:

    … many say that, although president Bush led this invasion, that president Clinton laid the groundwork with the sanctions and with the previous bombing of Iraq. You were president Clinton’s U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations…. the U.N. sanctions, for example … led to the deaths of more than a half a million children, not to mention more than a million Iraqis.


 

“Today we hope to see how we can with participation of European Troyka, China, Russia, Iran and European Union to use the mechanisms available not to allow undermining of this important document,”Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed.

Lavrov also voiced support for Iran’s right to defend its “legitimate interests” as part of the agreement, which removed nuclear sanctions against Iran in early 2016 in exchange for certain limits on its civilian nuclear activities.

“I would like to point out that Russia and other participants in the deal – China and the European countries – also have their legitimate interests enshrined in this agreement,” he added. “This is why we need to cooperate in protecting our legitimate interests.”

Zarif arrived in Moscow following similar negotiations in China and will later head to Brussels for talks with the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and his counterparts from the three European parties.