Those who would claim that U.S. sanctions led to Venezuela’s downfall would do well to check their facts before speaking.
On Thursday’s episode of BBC One’s “This Week,” host Andrew Neil took former English politician Ken Livingstone to task for suggesting the U.S. is responsible for the chaos in Venezuela. Livingstone had suggested that U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm cost the country “11 billion pounds a year.”
“Now, that’s an important impact on their economy,” Livingstone said.
Neil responded by asking when the U.S. oil sanctions were imposed, to which Livingstone responded: “I can’t remember when it started.”
Neil cut him off and told him that the sanctions were imposed “this week.” Livingstone tried to push back and say this was just the “latest” round of sanctions, but Neil wasn’t having any of it.
“No, no. Until then there have been no oil sanctions on Venezuela. Indeed, the United States, until this week, was Venezuela’s biggest importer – exporter – of oil. The 600,000 barrels of oil a day were exported from Venezuela to America. There have been no oil sanctions,” Neil said.
Livingstone tried to counter this by saying the U.S. has imposed sanctions on Venezuela like they have on Cuba and Nicaragua, but when pressed by Neil, couldn’t name what those sanctions allegedly were.
“The Venezuelan economy has shrunk by 50% in five years, what U.S. sanctions caused that?” Neil asked.
“Well, in the first place, it was the collapse of the oil price. That was damaging,” Livingstone said.
Neil pointed out that the oil price drop wasn’t a sanction. Livingstone again tried to blame U.S. sanctions and was again asked: “What were they?” Livingstone didn’t know.
Neil pushed back by noting the first sanctions against Venezuela came in 2015 under President Barack Obama, and were aimed “solely at regime members suspected of corruption and human rights abuses.”
“That was all. Their assets were frozen. That cannot bring down an economy nor create hyperinflation,” Neil said. “So, I ask you again, what U.S. sanctions have caused this collapse in the economy?”
Livingstone at this point tried to claim that U.S. sanctions are “illegal under international law,” again avoiding Neil’s question.
Livingstone resorted to saying the information he has was from the Venezuelan ambassador, who said the oil sanctions – which have been in effect for one week – were costing the country “$11 billion a year.”
“There was not a single trading sanction on Venezuela,” Neil responded. “You could export or import anything other than arms. There were no restrictions. Under this same time, Venezuela got $80 billion in loans from China and Russia. So, why did the economy collapse?”
Livingstone, yet again, blamed the collapse of oil prices and U.S. sanctions, which he can’t name, for the rapid decline of the country.
Livingstone suggested Neil was wrong about how long U.S. sanctions have been in place against Venezuela. The Congressional Research Service has a report about these sanctions that was updated on February 1. It stated that sanctions have been used “for more than a decade,” so Neil is wrong when he says the first sanctions came in 2015. But, the sanctions were directed at specific individuals for drugs, terrorism, sex trafficking, and other human rights abuses. The sanctions did not target the Venezuelan economy and could not account for the rapid decline.
Watch the full interview below: