Sanctions would spark collapse, US warned
VENEZUELA: Venezuelan lawmakers have warned that the country could be headed for a ‘‘catastrophic’’ meltdown if the United States limits or blocks its crude oil exports, amid an escalating struggle over the fate of the socialist government.
The White House is considering a range of political sanctions, including a ban on oil imports, if the government goes ahead with plans to rewrite the constitution.
Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has slapped high-ranking officials in the country with sanctions, but there has been increased talk on Capitol Hil recently about hitting Venezuela’s critical oil industry.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican working closely with the White House on Venezuela policy, said ending Venezuelan oil imports would directly target the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Such a move would decimate the country’s economy and send the nation into a tailspin, said opposition congressman Angel Alvarado.
‘‘The consequences for Venezuela would be catastrophic,’’ he said. ‘‘It would be a collapse without precedent.’’
Venezuela exported 291 million barrels of oil and oil products to the US in 2016. Alvarado said those sales represented about 75 per cent of the country’s export revenue, or about US$11 billion a year.
The US market was particularly vital because it was one of the few countries paying in hard currency, he said. Venezuela needed the US money to finance imports of food and medicine, and turning off the tap would only aggravate a grinding hunger problem.
‘‘We already have a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Sanctions would accelerate the crisis ... But the problem here wouldn’t be an embargo, it’s our economic model.’’
Yesterday, Bolivian President Evo Morales said the talk of more US sanctions and ‘‘political conspiracies against Venezuela’’ was ‘‘shameful’’.
The increased tensions come after an informal referendum last weekend rejected government plans to rewrite the constitution.
Despite the strong turnout, Maduro says the vote was meaningless, and he is pushing forward with plans to hold elections next week to choose more than 500 delegates for the National Constituent Assembly. Critics fear the administration will use the new entity to cling to power and destroy the last vestiges of democracy. – Miami Herald