Should the US lift sanctions on Venezuela

November 26 Update

On November 26, 2022, the Biden administration decided  to allow Chevron to start pumping oil again in Venezuela as a part of a humanitarian exemption to the sanctions. Does this signal that the sanctions on Venezuela will be slowly lifted? Was this done as a way to get more oil to the market after Saudi Arabia said no to increase production (and actually reduced production) and the US is considering a price cap on Russian oil exports? “The move came as the government of Nicolás Maduro held its first formal talks with Venezuela’s opposition coalition in more than a year.” Washington Post.  It’s a limited exemption that lasts for 6 months that the US can revoke at any time. It also requires that all of the revenue go toward reducing previous Venezuelan debt to Chevron.


During the political and economic crisis in Venezuela that began in 2014, governments of the United States, the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Panama and Switzerland applied individual sanctions against people associated with the administration of Nicolás Maduro

The sanctions were in response to repression during the 2014 Venezuelan protests and the 2017 Venezuelan protests, and activities during the 2017 Venezuelan Constituent Assembly election and the 2018 Venezuelan presidential election.

Sanctions were placed on current and former government officials, including members of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) and the 2017 Constituent National Assembly (ANC), members of the military and security forces, and private individuals accused of being involved in human rights abuses, corruption, degradation in the rule of law and repression of democracy.

Recently (November 2022), there has been some discussion of the US at least partially lifting sanctions to allow the US oil company Chevron to resume support for Venezuela’s oil industry. This would be in exchange for Maduro engaging in dialogue with the US-supported opposition that is led by Juan Guiado, though his support is declining.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations

President George W. Bush’s 2006 ban on all U.S. commercial arms sales was in response to the Venezuelan government’s lack of cooperation on counterterrorism and anti-narcotics efforts. (Hugo Chávez was in power at the time.) In 2014, following widespread political protests and subsequent reports of abuse by Venezuelan police forces, the U.S. Congress authorized President Barack Obama to impose sanctions on individuals involved in human rights violations. The next year, Obama declared [PDF] Venezuela a national security threat and applied sanctions on several high-ranking officials. 

In 2017, President Donald Trump began aggressively tightening sanctions with the aim of ousting Maduro in favor of an interim opposition government led by Juan Guaidó. The Trump administration cut off the Maduro regime’s access to the U.S. financial system; barred U.S. companies and citizens from purchasing Venezuelan debt; and blocked PDVSA from exporting to the United States, its primary destination. By the end of his term, Trump had issued seven executive orders targeting state-owned or -affiliated companies, government agencies, and the central bank.

With a few exceptions, President Joe Biden has kept these measures in place. Yet, he has opted to start direct talks with the Maduro government and has floated the idea of easing oil sanctions in exchange for democratic reforms.


Current sanctions on Venezuela  Terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking are issues that lead the US to impose sanctions.  Quick List

There are no plans to change sanctions on Venezuela, Blinken says as pressure mounts

History of US Venezuelan relations

Do US sanctions on Venezuela work?


*Lifting sanctions would help alleviate the oil production crisis that has hurt its economy by increasing supply quickly

However, analysts generally agree that oil sanctions have hurt. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found [PDF] that sanctions placed on PDVSA in 2019 likely contributed to the collapse of Venezuela’s economy, which saw a 35 percent contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) that year. (The International Monetary Fund recorded a slightly lower contraction.) Oil production had long been falling, from a height of 3.2 million barrels per day in the 1990s to less than 1.4 million in 2018; in the wake of oil sanctions, output fell further, to 558,000 barrels per day in 2021. The country also faces fuel shortages due to failing refineries, leading its ally Iran to send shipments in defiance of U.S. sanctions. Council on Foreign Relations

*The sanctions have created a huge humanitarian crisis in Venezuela – mostly affecting the poor 

*The sanctions against Venezuela have never worked 

*Sanctions are hurting Venezuela’s ability to fight covid and other diseases

*The sanctions primary effect has been on the poor and vulnerable

*Venezuela is a major producer of oil and increasing oil production will lower the global oil price, putting more pressure on Russia

If the US lifted sanctions we could immediately begin pumping oil 

Lifting sanctions would help increase the world’s oil supplies 

Many Venezuelan refugees are stranded creating a humanitarian crisis

Ending sanctions can help alleviate a hidden refugee crisis

Sanctions aren’t working 

Humanitarian impact of sanction

Economic sanctions as collective punishment

Sanctions are hurting Venezuela’s ability to fight disease

The Impact of Sanctions on the Venezuelan Economy


*Venezuela is illegally detaining US citizens

*The progressive leaders in Latin America acknowledge the lack of democracy in Latin America

*Venezuela is actively using hate crime laws to persecute political opponents

*The problem isn’t caused by sanctions – but because Venezuela is a failed petro state.

*The UN has substantial documentation of human rights abuses in Venezuela

*Sanctions target human and drug trafficking

*Sanctions are not responsible for Venezuela’s economic crisis

Venezuela is illegally detaining US citizens

Even the progressive left in Latin America acknowledges the democracy deficit in Venezuela

Venezuela is using hate crime laws to oppress political opponents

Venezuela is a failed “Petro” state and needs to reform

The UN has reported massive human rights violations

President Maduro of Venezuela is responsible for the humanitarian crisis not US sanctions

Impact of the 2017 sanctions on Venezuela




This question formed the basis of the January 2020 Public Forum resolution and you can find some additional resources, including a topic lecture that was produced in December of 2019.

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