An organization representing Venezuelan exiles has urged the Trump administration to impose an “urgent” oil embargo on the country’s ruling socialist dictatorship.
The Organization for Persecuted Venezuelans in Exile (VEPPEX) argues that an “oil embargo is a very important step for the weakening and isolation of the tyrant Nicolás Maduro.”
“Although it sounds paradoxical, an [oil embargo] would provide direct aid to the decent society that fights for a change in the country,” the organization said. “The money from the sale of oil to American companies is used to finance a tyranny that murders and tortures its citizens.”
VEPPEX made the request as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson concludes his tour of Latin America, where the issue of Venezuela’s worsening political, economic, and humanitarian crisis was high on the agenda.
In a series of talks and bilateral meetings, Tillerson has sought to gain approval for additional sanctions against the Maduro regime, now presiding over the worst humanitarian and economic crisis in the country while also becoming increasingly more authoritarian and repressive against widespread political dissidence.
On Monday, Tillerson confirmed that the U.S. was now considering blocking all imports of Venezuelan oil in an attempt to squeeze the regime, although some Latin American countries fear that additional sanctions could worsen a situation where people are already starving and without basic resources to live. The country’s monthly minimum wage is now equivalent to under one dollar a month.
“One of the aspects of considering sanctioning oil is what effect would it have on the Venezuelan people? Is it a step that might bring this to an end more rapidly?” he said. “We are looking at options and we are looking at how to mitigate the impacts on U.S. business interests.”
However, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie has warned that sanctions “must never harm the Venezuelan people.”
The U.S. has already imposed multiple sanctions on the Maduro regime, which include banning Americans from dealing with Venezuela’s state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela, as well as personal sanctions against a number of high ranking government officials including Maduro himself.
During a bilateral meeting on Tuesday, Tillerson and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos also agreed that they would not recognize the results of the upcoming Venezuelan presidential election, which Maduro is widely expected to win having banned opposition parties from running.
“Our only objective is to see Venezuela return to its constitution, return its duly-elected assembly, and to hold free and fair elections and give the Venezuelan people the right for their voices to be heard in elections,” Tillerson said.