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Sanctions hurt Venezuela economy, US government study says

·2-min read
A man uses a mobile phone in front of a sign displaying prices in US dollars in December 2020 outside a clothing store in Venezuela's capital Caracas, which has been ravaged by hyperinflation and other economic problems

US sanctions have likely contributed to Venezuela's economic deterioration and have caused obstacles for humanitarian workers, a study by a US government watchdog said Monday.

The assessment by the Government Accountability Office, requested by Democratic lawmakers, comes as President Joe Biden looks set to fine-tune Venezuela policy but largely preserve his predecessor's unsuccessful goal of toppling leftist leader Nicolas Maduro.

"The US sanctions likely contributed to the decline of the Venezuelan economy, mainly by further limiting its revenue from crude oil exports," the report said.

It pointed to the sanctions Donald imposed by Donald Trump's administration on state oil firm PDVSA, saying that buyers of Venezuela's key export shied away or were able to negotiate lower prices.

But the report did not quantify a figure and noted that there were plenty of other factors behind Venezuela's economic collapse, including mismanagement by the government.

It did not directly say if sanctions hurt ordinary Venezuelans rather than the government and noted that the United States has emphasized that it is not restricting humanitarian goods.

"However, despite US agency efforts to mitigate the negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions, humanitarian organizations assisting Venezuelans are still experiencing some challenges delivering assistance, including delays in processing financial transactions and transfers," it said.

The report recommended that the Treasury Department do more to track complaints from humanitarian workers to address recurrent problems.

Representative Andy Levin, one of the lawmakers who requested the report, said it "makes clear that sanctions imposed by the United States made a dire situation worse."

"With this new administration, we have an opportunity to pursue foreign policy guided by our values," he said.

"Let us take the lessons of this report to heart and use them to craft a more thoughtful, humane and effective approach moving forward."

The Biden administration plans one key shift by shielding Venezuelans in the United States from deportation -- a step refused by the anti-immigration Trump despite his tough talk against Maduro.

But State Department spokesman Ned Price made clear that the new administration does not plan dialogue anytime soon with Maduro, who has voiced hope of improving ties with Biden.

The United States and most Western and Latin American nations declared Maduro to be illegitimate two years ago after an election that drew wide reports of irregularities.

More than five million Venezuelans have fled the crumbling economy but Maduro remains in power with support from the military, Russia, China and Cuba.

sct/ft