By Andreína Chávez Alava
Guayaquil, Ecuador, (venezuelanalysis.com) – United Nations (UN) independent experts urged Washington and allies to withdraw or minimize unilateral sanctions, warning that they violate countries’ rights to economic development.
“Sanctions hold countries back from development, they hold back people as well, and in a globalizing world, that hurts everyone,” the rapporteurs said in a press release on Wednesday.
Experts Alena Douhan, Obiora Okafor, Livingstone Sewanyana and Tlaleng Mofokeng emphasized that when unilateral coercive measures are imposed “activities essential to every country’s development suffer,” outlining that “sanctions make it harder for entire populations to stay healthy and hamper the transportation of goods needed for economic development.”
As a result, they concluded, targeted countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and Iran—all sanctioned by Washington and its European allies—have difficulties maintaining essential services like electricity, housing, water, gas, fuel, medicine and food distribution, while access to information, education and training is likewise hampered.
The human rights rapporteurs went on to denounce extraterritorial and secondary sanctions which result in over-compliance, expanding the coercive measures’ impact to all individuals, third-country nationals and companies, as well as humanitarian organizations in the targeted nations.
“The punishment of innocent civilians must end,” they emphasized, adding that “the General Assembly has declared the right to development to be an inalienable human right.”
This is not the first time UN independent figures have condemned sanctions as “collective punishment” against the civilian population. In March, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution urging to eliminate unilateral coercive measures because they violate “the right of individuals and peoples to development.”
The UN body’s resolution followed Douhan’s 12-day visit to Venezuela in February. In a preliminary report, she pointed out the “devastating” consequences of US sanctions on the Caribbean nation.
In recent years, the US has targeted the Venezuelan banking, mining and food imports sectors and blocked, frozen, or seized a number of Venezuelan assets abroad, including the US-based CITGO refinery.
However, the main target of Washington’s coercive measures has been state oil company PDVSA, traditionally the source of over 90 percent of the country’s foreign currency income. Following financial sanctions against PDVSA in August 2017, the US Treasury Department imposed an oil embargo in January 2019, banned diluent and fuel imports in June 2019 and put an end to crude-for-diesel swaps in October 2020. Acute fuel shortages have damaged the country’s electricity generation, agricultural activity and food transportation.
The former Trump administration also levied a blanket ban on all dealings with Caracas in August 2019, as well as secondary sanctions, threats and other measures to deter foreign companies from trading with Caracas.
Furthermore, US sanctions have amplified the logistical difficulties of maintaining and repairing Venezuela’s deteriorated oil infrastructure. The nation is mostly unable to obtain key parts for its western-designed facilities, despite collaboration from allies like China and Iran. The country’s oil sector is likewise dragging years of corruption, a brain drain and mismanagement.
As a consequence, PDVSA’s output fell precipitously from an average of 1.911 million bpd in 2017 to 1.354 million, 796,000 and 500,000 bpd in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively.
After hitting historic lows in the second half of 2020, PDVSA entered a steady recovery path in 2021, registering an output of 537,000 oil barrels per day (bpd) in June, the highest level in 13 months, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
However, production slid again in July to 512,000 bpd, secondary sources reported. For its part, PDVSA registered a higher number of 614,000 bpd, a 19,000 bpd drop from the previous month.
Venezuelan authorities have declared that oil output recovery is a priority, setting a 1.5 million bpd goal by the end of 2021. According to tracking data and documents cited by Reuters, PDVSA is planning to restart the Petromonagas heavy crude upgrader located in the eastern Orinoco Oil Belt to boost production. The joint venture has been paralyzed for over a year after US secondary sanctions forced Russia’s energy giant Rosneft to cease its operations in Venezuela’s oil sector and transfer its assets to a Kremlin-controlled company in February 2020.
Similarly, Argus Media reported that PDVSA is looking to restart the heavy crude enterprise PetroCedeño to produce partially upgraded crude to feed its 190,000 bpd Puerto La Cruz refinery. The measure is part of the country’s efforts to address chronic fuel shortages.
On July 30, the state company became PetroCedeño’s sole owner after buying out France’s TotalEnergies’ and Norway’s Equinor’s respective 30 and 10 percent shares in the project.