US sanctions have killed more than 40,000 people in Venezuela

US Hands off Venezuela rally in Brisbane.

US sanctions imposed on Venezuela in 2017 contributed to the deaths of more than 40,000 people last year, according to a new report — and this figure is set to rise due to the latest round of sanctions.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research report co-authored by economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot, the 2017 sanctions deprived Venezuela of billions of dollars it needed to pay for essential food and medicine, leading to a rise in disease and mortality and the displacement of millions seeking to flee the worsening situation.

The report states: “The sanctions exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilise the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.”

The report explains that the estimate of 40,000 deaths was arrived at based on the results of the National Survey on Living Conditions, an annual survey administered by three Venezuelan universities. According to the survey, there was a 31% rise in general mortality from 2017 to 2018.

The report also noted that by late 2018 more than 300,000 people were estimated to be at risk due to lack of access to medicines or treatment, including 80,000 people with HIV without access to antiretroviral treatment, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension but who cannot obtain insulin or cardiovascular medicine.

The report concludes that the US sanctions “fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory”.

Speaking to Democracy Now! on May 1, Sachs said: “What is certain ... is that there is a humanitarian catastrophe [in Venezuela], deliberately caused by the United States, by what I would say are illegal sanctions, because they are deliberately trying to bring down a government and trying to create chaos for the purpose of an overthrow of a government.”

“This is normal US right-wing foreign policy, nothing different. This is the same foreign policy that we saw throughout Latin America in the 20th century. It’s the same foreign policy that we saw catastrophically in the Middle East.”