Open letter to Australian government: No war on Venezuela, lift the sanctions

Venezuela solidarity protest in Sydney, January 2019. Photo: Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.

The following open letter to the Australian government was released on July 27.


The United States government of President Donald Trump has made clear it will do whatever is required, including engaging in illegal activities and even potentially launching a military offensive, to overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected government of President Nicolas Maduro.

On January 23, when Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido unilaterally declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela, the US administration immediately recognised his illegal claim. The Australian government followed suit shortly after. While Guaido's attempted coup failed, the US is continuing its economic war on Venezuela in an attempt to cripple and oust Venezuela’s government, no matter the human cost.

Since 2017, President Trump has used executive orders invoking the 1976 National Emergencies Act to impose 150 sanctions on individuals and entities of Venezuela, promoting the blatant lie that Venezuela represents an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security” of the US. A number of European nations have also imposed their own sanctions on Venezuelan officials.

These economic sanctions, currently supported by US allies such as Australia, have cost Venezuela US$116 billion, 11 times more than the country’s international reserve, and are currently the major factor in Venezuela’s economic crisis. The freezing of more than US$30 billion of Venezuelan government assets is preventing Venezuela from exporting and importing necessary goods, including food, medicines, water pumps and spare parts for its oil industry.

Despite the Maduro government’s spending on social programs and its efforts, in cooperation with grassroots organisations and international agencies, to obtain and distribute sufficient food and medicine to blunt the impact of the blockade, the US sanctions are causing extreme hardship for the Venezuelan people.

A recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research revealed that the sanctions have contributed to the deaths of possibly as many as 40,000 people in Venezuela last year alone.

Apart from causing immense suffering to a population and government that has never threatened the US, the US sanctions are also categorically illegal.

• They are illegal under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which states that sanctions are to be imposed by the UN Security Council following a determination that there is a threat to or a breach of international peace and security; a sole UN member state is not entitled to impose economic sanctions upon any sovereign state, and doing so violates the UN’s Declaration on the Principles of International Law.

• In causing death through food and medical shortages in Venezuela, the US sanctions violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes as basic rights and freedoms to which all people are entitled the right to life, food and health, among others.

• The US sanctions are also illegal under humanitarian law, specifically the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), which prohibits states from imposing a blockade, siege or regime of economic sanctions with the purpose of causing starvation among the civilian population.

• The sanctions are illegal under Chapter IV of the Organization of American States Charter (to which the US is a signatory), which states “no state may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another”.

Despite this, the report issued on July 4 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is being used by the US and its allies to justify their attempts to impose “regime change” on Venezuela, only briefly mentions the devastating impacts of the US sanctions and makes no call for them to be lifted. It is thereby thoroughly discredited.

By refusing to denounce US aggression against the Maduro-led government of Venezuela, the Australian government has placed itself on the side of those advocating less democracy, more violence and greater suffering in Venezuela.

We cannot remain silent in the face of this assault on the Venezuelan people’s right to elect their own government, and live in peace without fear of starvation or military invasion. We call on the Australian government to:

• reverse its recognition of Guaidó as “interim president” of Venezuela;  

• refuse to cooperate with the United States’ economic sanctions on Venezuela, and put pressure on the US and European nations to lift all sanctions;

• respect the sovereignty of Venezuela by categorically ruling out any support for a military intervention against Venezuela and condemning the calls by the US, as well as the Lima Group and OAS officials, for a military overthrow of the Maduro government.

Signed (listed alphabetically, titles for identification purposes only)

Alex Bainbridge, Socialist Alliance national co-convenor

Andrew Chuter, National Tertiary Education Union NSW division councillor

Chile Solidarity Melbourne

Chela Weitzel, teacher

Chris Slee, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (Melbourne)

Colombia Demands Justice Campaign (Melbourne)

Dr Coral Wynter, author Voices from Venezuela

Dr Eulalia Reyes-Whitney, Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (Brisbane)

Federico Fuentes, editor LINKS International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Frank Stillwell, Professor Emeritus in Political Economy, University of Sydney

Dr Graham E.L. Holton, academic retired

JFK Miller, author

Jim McIlroy, Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (Sydney)

Joe Montero, journalist, The Pen

Juan Campos, El Salvador Support Network (ELSANET)

Kevin Bracken, chairperson, Spirit of Eureka

Larissa Payne, writer & teacher 

Lucho Riquelme, Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET)

Luis Fernando Angosto-Ferrández, Senior Lecturer, Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies, University of Sydney

Manoli Orellana, Australian Solidarity with Latin America

Mapuche-Aboriginal Struggles for Indigenous Land (MASIL)

Dr Martin Rorke, University of Sydney

Matthew Rayner, PSA workplace delegate

Dr Michael Henry, co-convenor, Just Peace

Ovidio Orellana, Australian representative, Guatemalan Revolutionary National Unity (URNG-MAIZ)

Pablo Leighton, Teacher

Paul McAleer, Maritime Union of Australia Sydney branch secretary

Paul Petersen, Maritime Union of Australia Queensland assistant branch secretary

Paula Sanchez, Latin America Social Forum

Dr Pedro Alvarez, Composer

Pip Hinman, Stop the War Coalition

Rafael Pacheco, Brisbane Committee in Support of the FMLN (El Salvador).

Robert Austin, Honorary Associate, Department of History, University of Sydney

Rodolfo Allemand, artist

Dr Rodrigo Acuña, Associate Lecturer, Macquarie University

Sam King, Researcher, Victoria University

Sonia Peralta, United for Colombia

Sue Bolton, Moreland City Council councillor

Professor Sujatha Fernandes, Department of Political Economy and Sociology, University of Sydney

Susan Price, editor Green Left Weekly

Dr Tim Anderson

Victor-Hugo Muñoz, Committee for Human Rights in Guatemala

Viviana Ramírez, teacher (retired)

Vivian Honan, research assistant, University of Sydney

Adrian Fuentes

Graham Matthews

John Philpott

Barry Healy

Narendra Mohan Kommalapati

Fiorenza Jones

Gloria Perla

Holly Patterson 

Shiralee Boughen

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