Urgent course correction needed

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During his presentation at the IX Summit of the Americas, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley humbly requested inclusion of all countries, and the removal of sanctions on some of them, so as to encourage development equitably-a statement that holds much merit.

According to Arta Moeini and Christopher Mott International, sanctions are often framed as an instrument of choice in the foreign policy toolkit of North Atlantic nations.

While they are depicted as an effective and non-violent method for persuading and disciplining ‘rogue states’ to follow the ‘global norms’ set by the West, the actual results of sanctions often contradict the theoretical justifications for them.

The effectiveness of sanctions to induce change in regime behaviour is highly suspect. Economic sanctions often harm the average citizen, while political elites can more easily evade them using their control over the state.

When a targeted country is sanctioned, the level of economic pain it experiences will vary based on how connected it is to the international economy and how dependent it is on trade as a percentage of its GDP.

By studying a handful of countries most subjected to international sanctions, it becomes apparent that the intended objectives of these policies seldom occur.

Moreover, many unintended consequences have also revealed themselves.

US sanctions on Venezuela began back in 2002 at the time of Hugo Chavez. Over time, they became more cut-throat and intense, culminating in a truly devastating impact under the Trump administration in 2017 and 2019.

Almost every aspect of international trade with Venezuela now falls under some kind of restricted guideline listed by the US Treasury. Following the trend established by sanctions placed on Iraq in the 1990s, Venezuela has seen an increase in mortality and food shortages among the general population, yet the government’s grasp on power remains as firm as ever.

If anything, given that sanction mitigation necessitates greater centralisation, Maduro enjoys a stronger position today, as his government controls a larger share of the country’s economy.

Without urgent course correction, the powerful western countries could soon become a cautionary tale about how an obsessive, ideology-driven sanctions policy with doubtful efficacy could ruin not only their own financial dominance, but also unravel the global financial system in the process.

In the context of great power competition and deepening multi- polarity, such a course appears especially unwise and imprudent.

Nigel Seenathsingh
San Fernando