Geneva, 8 August 2019
“I am deeply worried about the potentially severe impact on the human rights of the people of Venezuela of the new set of unilateral sanctions imposed by the US this week. The sanctions are extremely broad and fail to contain sufficient measures to mitigate their impact on the most vulnerable sectors of the population. I fear that they will have far-reaching implications on the rights to health and to food in particular, in a country where there are already serious shortages of essential goods.
Venezuela’s economy has contracted by 47.6 per cent between 2013 and 2018 according to official figures. With the new sanctions further restricting economic activity, I am concerned that businesses and financial institutions are likely to err on the side of caution and completely halt transactions relating to the Government of Venezuela rather than risk punishment for violating the sanctions.
As I have stressed before, the roots of the economic crisis in Venezuela predate the imposition of any economic sanctions. But the economic sanctions imposed in August 2017 and in January 2019 have exacerbated the effects of this dire crisis – and by extension the humanitarian situation – given that most of the foreign exchange earnings derive from oil exports, many of which are linked to the US market.
I note that the latest sanctions technically do not apply to “transactions related to the provision of articles such as food, clothing and medicine intended to be used to relieve human suffering”. However they are still likely to significantly exacerbate the crisis for millions of ordinary Venezuelans, especially as there will certainly be over-compliance by financial institutions around the world that have commercial relations with the governments of the US and Venezuela.
There is a significant body of evidence showing that wide-ranging unilateral sanctions can end up denying people’s fundamental human rights, including their economic rights as well as the rights to food and health, and could place obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Even carefully targeted sanctions must be subject to stringent human rights safeguards.
I call on all those with influence in Venezuela and in the international community to work together constructively for a political solution to the protracted crisis in the country, by putting the interests and human rights of the long-suffering people of Venezuela above all else.”
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