On March 31, the U.S. government indicted Venezuela’s authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro, on drug trafficking and money laundering charges while ignoring calls from the international community to suspend its sanctions regime during the pandemic. The White House has previously made clear that its intentions behind sanctioning Venezuela are to encourage regime change, and repeated that message when the charges were announced. But both the indictment and the timing of it are irrelevant in the context of a deadly pandemic. A civilian population ravaged by starvation and disease cannot unify and overthrow a dictator. And there is little room for doubt that disease will ravage Venezuela, from what we know about COVID-19 at this stage, and what we have long known about the state of deterioration that its healthcare system is in. Regime change is far from guaranteed, but one outcome is certain: civilians will still suffer horribly from coronavirus while sanctions are applied. I have written more on this topic here.
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