Anthony Blinken, President Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, shared this week that they will recognize Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela rather than the democratically elected president, Nicolás Maduro. Former President Donald Trump also recognized Guaidó as president and both administrations will continue to impose harsh sanctions weakening an already unstable economy that’s only worsened the crisis in Venezuela.
Blinken told members of the U.S. Senate that Biden would seek to “more effectively target” sanctions on the country, Reuters reported. He did add that the administration would look into more humanitarian assistance for the nation as well. Guaidó along with lawmakers stormed parliament and he was sworn in as Venezuela’s interim president, a role he’d taken in 2019 after declaring President Nicolas Maduro’s ascendency illegitimate.
“The dictatorship’s oppressive forces did not want to allow us in,” Guaido said after his swearing in, CNN reported. “There are not two oppositions or parliaments, there is only one country.”
Guaidó, the youngest person to have been elected to lead the National Assembly, was 35 years old at the time and declared that the 2018 reelection of Maduro was not legitimate. He was recognized by the U.K as well as neighboring Latin American nations including Colombia as the rightful president. However since Maduro took control of the National Assembly, Guaidó’s power has weakened and the European Union no longer recognizes him as interim president.
The U.S.’s support of the pro-democracy leader hasn’t lessened the sanction placed on the once wealthy oil- producing nation. The sanctions target people and businesses linked with Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman who U.S. officials allege is close to Maduro. Saab is in prison in Cape Verde, an island country belonging to Africa, while fighting extradition to the U.S. to face corruption charges, the Associated Press reported.
Sanctions by the U.S. Treasury’s Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, block any assets that targeted individuals and businesses have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from conducting financial transactions with them, according to AP. The U.S. Department of Commerce also announced measures to block U.S. technology from being used by military intelligence in nations including China, Cuba, Russia and Venezuela. Research from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) estimates as many as 40,000 Venezuelans have died due to sanctions from 2017-2018.
In a last-minute decision on the eve of his last day as president, Trump signed an executive order deferring the deportation of more than 145,000 Venezuelans for 18 months. He cited the “deteriorative condition” within Venezuela as the basis for his decision.
Since the sanctions began in January 2019, oil production has fallen 36.4 percent (431,000 barrels per day), according to the CEPR report. They report that the projected 67 percent decline in oil production for the year due to continuing sanctions will lead to more deaths. Beyond the death toll, Venezuelas have also been hit economically the average income in Venezuela in 2019 being 72 U.S. cents per day, according to the 2019–2020 National Survey of Living Conditions in Caracas. That means that, based solely on income, 96 percent of Venezuelans live in poverty and 70 percent live in extreme poverty.