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United States Imposes Broad Economic Sanctions on Venezuela After Constitutional Crisis

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On August 24, 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13,808, imposing economic sanctions on Venezuela. Trump issued the order not long after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro convened an election to assemble a new Constituent Assembly that would have the power to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution. The sanctions prohibit U.S. individuals and entities from dealing in most transactions in new debt and equity with the government of Venezuela and its state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), but do not prohibit the import of Venezuelan oil.

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1 Exec. Order No. 13,808, 82 Fed. Reg. 41,155 (Aug. 24, 2017).

2 Faiola, Anthony, With Low Turnout, Venezuela's Election Will Create What Opponents Call ‘Puppet Congress,’ Wash. Post (July 31, 2017), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/defying-international-calls-venezuela-holds-contentious-election/2017/07/30/be3cd614-7089-11e7-8c17-533c52b2f014_story.html?utm_term=.48f0e0ee4a07.

3 Exec. Order No. 13,808, supra note 1, at 41,155 (also prohibiting dividend payments to the government of Venezuela and related entities). The U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control published four general licenses that would authorize certain transactions otherwise prohibited by the sanctions, including certain transactions involving the U.S. subsidiary of PdVSA—CITGO Holding, Inc.—and transactions related to the exportation of agriculture, food, and medicine. See U.S. Dep't of Treas. Press Release, Issuance of Venezuela-Related Executive Order and Associated General Licenses (Aug. 25, 2017), at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20170825.aspx [https://perma.cc/ZD9T-NTKD].

4 Krauss, Clifford, White House Raises Pressure on Venezuela with New Financial Sanctions , N.Y. Times (Aug. 25, 2017), at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/world/americas/venezuela-sanctions-maduro-trump.html (noting that this “would almost certainly be a crippling step”).

5 Exec. Order No. 13,808, supra note 1, at 41,155. In 2015, an earlier executive order by President Obama prohibited certain transactions with specific Venezuelan individuals and entities involved in the political crisis. See Exec. Order No. 13,692, 80 Fed. Reg. 12,747 (Mar. 8, 2015).

6 Exec. Order No. 13,808, supra note 1, at 41,155.

7 Venezuela's President Maduro Calls for New Constituent Body, BBC (May 2, 2017), at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39775092.

8 Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) Constitution of 1999 with Amendments Through 2009, Art. 347 (trans.), available at https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Venezuela_2009.pdf. This and other provisions relating to the Constituent Assembly were added to the constitution in 1999 during the presidency of Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chávez. See Partlett, William, Hugo Chavez's Constitutional Legacy , Brookings Inst. (Mar. 14, 2013), at https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/hugo-chavezs-constitutional-legacy.

9 Id. Art. 348.

10 Venezuelan President Maduro Calls for New Constitution Amid Further Clashes , Guardian (May 1, 2017), at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/01/venezuelan-president-nicolas-maduro-police-protests.

11 McCoy, Jennifer L., Venezuela's Controversial New Constituent Assembly, Explained , Wash. Post (Aug. 1, 2017), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/08/01/venezuelas-dubious-new-constituent-assembly-explained/?utm_term=.181f299f8d62.

12 Julia Jones & Stefano Pozzebon, Venezuelans Reject Constitutional Rewrite in Non-binding Referendum (July 17, 2017), at http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/17/americas/venezuela-referendum-votes/index.html.

13 Trump, Donald J., Statement on the Situation in Venezuela, 2017 Daily Comp. Pres. Doc. 1 (July 17, 2017).

14 What Has Venezuela's Constituent Assembly Achieved?, BBC (Aug. 30, 2017), at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41094889.

15 Casey, Nicholas, Torres, Patricia & Herrero, Vanessa, Venezuela Vote Marred by Violence, Including Candidate's Death , N.Y. Times (July 30, 2017), at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/30/world/americas/venezuela-constituent-assembly-election.html.

16 McCoy, supra note 11.

17 Casey, Nicholas, Venezuela Reported False Election Turnout, Voting Company Says , N.Y. Times (Aug. 2, 2017), at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/americas/venezuela-election-turnout.html.

18 Zuñiga, Mariana & Faiola, Anthony, Venezuela Ushers in New Pro-government Chamber as Opposition Struggles to Regroup , Wash. Post (Aug. 4, 2017), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/venezuela-ushers-in-new-pro-government-chamber-as-opposition-vows-rebellion/2017/08/04/9c0c71e2-7883-11e7-8c17-533c52b2f014_story.html?utm_term=.c88a3fe9a129.

19 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Defending Democracy in Venezuela (July 30, 2017), at https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/07/272940.htm [https://perma.cc/V7EG-3XQS].

20 U.S. Dep't of Treas. Press Release, Treasury Sanctions the President of Venezuela (July 31, 2017), at https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0137.aspx [https://perma.cc/3TRV-8HUA].

21 Exec. Order No. 13,808, supra note 1.

22 Onuch, Olga & Uva, Jeanmiguel, Venezuela's Latest Elections Are Likely to Trigger a Regional Migration Crisis , Wash. Post (Oct. 19, 2017), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/10/19/venezuelas-latest-elections-are-likely-to-trigger-a-regional-migration-crisis/?utm_term=.562a5bf010a3.

23 Id.

24 Krygier, Rachelle & Faiola, Anthony, Overwhelmingly Defeated Opposition Decries ‘Illegalities’ in Venezuela Vote , Wash. Post (Oct. 16, 2017), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/opposition-decries-illegalities-as-venezuelans-go-to-the-polls/2017/10/15/361ba690-b12d-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.438b54c5a3aa (describing the relocation of voting sites in opposition districts and other difficulties targeting the opposition).

25 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Gubernatorial Elections in Venezuela (Oct. 16, 2017), at https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/10/274833.htm [https://perma.cc/7M5C-Y7Q7].

26 U.S. Dep't of Treas. Press Release, Treasury Sanctions Ten Venezuelan Government Officials (Nov. 9, 2017), at https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0214.aspx [https://perma.cc/PSK7-Y9M6].

27 Trump, Donald J., Remarks Following a Meeting with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson et al., 2017 Daily Comp. Pres. Doc. 5 (Aug. 11, 2017).

28 White House Press Release, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders et al. (Aug. 25, 2017), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/press-briefing-press-secretary-sarah-sanders-et-al-082517 [https://perma.cc/G8PC-PYRQ].

29 Id.

30 Proclamation No. 9645, 82 Fed. Reg. 45,161 (Sept. 24, 2017).

31 Id. at 45,166. Jean Galbraith, Contemporary Practice of the United States, 112 AJIL 109 (2018).

32 Trump, Donald J., Remarks to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 2017 Daily Comp. Pres. Doc. 3 (Sept. 19, 2017).

33 Nichols, Michelle, Russia, China, Others Boycott U.S. Meeting at U.N. on Venezuela , Reuters (Nov. 14, 2017), at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-un/russia-china-others-boycott-u-s-meeting-at-u-n-on-venezuela-idUSKBN1DE056.

34 Council of the European Union Press Release, Venezuela: EU Adopts Conclusions and Targeted Sanctions (Nov. 13, 2017), at http://consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/11/13/venezuela-eu-adopts-conclusions-and-targeted-sanctions.

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American Journal of International Law
  • ISSN: 0002-9300
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