By Toni Ojoyeyi, Staff Member

Venezuela has struggled to regain economic and political stability after the death of former President Hugo Chavez in 2013. Today, the country is experiencing unrest and thousands of Venezuelans have crossed into Colombia hoping to encounter work or basic necessities such as food that are difficult to find in Venezuela.[1] At this point there is an estimated 800,000 Venezuelans in Colombia and over 20,000 in Brazil.[2] Months of protests in opposition of current President Nicolas Maduro last year resulted in over 120 deaths. [3]

In 2017, the Organization of American States (OAS), an organization that united all 35 independent states of the Americas and created the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the region called on member states to temporarily suspend Venezuela from the organization if the government did not take certain actions.[4]

Today, the four most influential actors in Venezuela are China, the United States and Russia while Cuba still holds significant political influence.[5] However, beyond the economic sanctions the U.S. government enacted against Venezuela in August 2017, there has been relatively little intervention initiated from the international community.  The sanctions have already begun to complicate the South American country’s financial situation.[6] Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed support for increased European Union sanctions against Venezuela.[7] Last month, the European Union sanctioned several Venezuelan leaders, on the grounds that they were undermining democracy. Additionally, the EU also banned weapons sales to Venezuela in November.[8]

However, constructing more extreme economic sanctions against Venezuela in the form of an oil embargo may further devastate their economy beyond repair.[9] Economic sanctions have failed to positively influence the turmoil Venezuela is experiencing.[10] In fact, economic sanctions have been shown to have little effect and studies have found that sanctions are effective in coercing a change in behavior only 10% of the time.[11]

Military intervention from an international body such as the United Nations may be the next step for the international community. Ultimately, a new approach to the Venezuelan crisis is necessary if a true change in Venezuela is expected to occur.

[1] Meridith Kohut and Isayen Herrera, As Venezuela collapses, Children Are Dying of Hunger, NY TIMES, (Dec. 17, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/17/world/americas/venezuela-children-starving.html

[2] Manuel Rueda, “Venezuelan Refugees Strain Colombian Border Towns,” Americas Quarterly, (May 17, 2017), http://www.americas quarterly.org/content/venezuelans-seekrefuge-neighboring-countries.

[3] Sanchez, supra note 3.

[4] The Organization of American States, Who We Are, http://www.oas.org/en/about/who_we_are.asp

[5]Oliver Stuenkel, How South America Let Venezuela Down, 29 Insight Turkey 55-65 (2017).

[6] Id. at 61.

[7] John Irish, France’s Macron calls for new EU sanctions on Venezuela, Business Insider, (Jan 26, 2018), http://www.businessinsider.com/r-frances-macron-calls-for-new-eu-sanctions-on-venezuela-2018-1

[8] Sanchez, supra note 3.

[9] Stuenkel, supra note 6, at 61.

[10] Id.

[11] Thomas Biersteker, UN Sanctions and peace negotiations: possibilities for complementarity, Oslo Forum Papers, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, (January 2015).