Caracas asked the ICC to open an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed by the US through unilateral coercive measures.
The Venezuelan government submitted a second report to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday detailing the negative impacts of the United States’ unilateral coercive measures.
The report is part of Caracas’ efforts to hold the US accountable at The Hague.
“With this report we are showing the damage caused to the population as a result of the crimes that have been committed by the US Government and those who have joined this criminal blockade against Venezuela,” said Vice President Delcy Rodríguez in a press conference on Tuesday.
The government of Nicolás Maduro asked the ICC to open an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed by the government of the United States of America against Venezuela through the use of unilateral coercive measures, commonly referred to as sanctions, on February 13, 2020. The investigation is presently in “phase 2” where the ICC prosecutor will determine if there is a legal basis for a full enquiry.
As part of her presentation, Rodríguez demonstrated statements by US institutions and officials that she deemed “confessions” that served as proof that officials knew that the measures would have a negative impact on the civilian population.
“They do not care about the suffering they have caused the Venezuelan people,” said Rodríguez. “They have a political objective: to oust a government that is not aligned with their interests, that is not subservient to its mandates, its orders.”
Washington’s sanctions against Venezuela formally began under President Barack Obama in 2015, and were greatly intensified by his successor, Donald Trump, who first imposed economic sanctions in 2017 and strengthened them over time.
President Joe Biden has maintained Trump’s hardline policies toward Caracas, including the ban on oil-for-diesel swap deals, in which Venezuela exchanged imported diesel for crude. The closing of this lifeline has exacerbated severe fuel shortages in the Caribbean country.
Nineteen US House Democrats recently demanded the Biden administration lift sanctions against Venezuela and support ongoing dialogue efforts between the government and the opposition being held in Mexico.
The report submitted to the ICC also detailed how US Treasury sanctions were responsible for the grave economic situation that Venezuela is facing, particularly through the measures against the oil industry since 2017. The vice president likewise shared a number of instances where public companies in Venezuela were unable to import critical equipment and supplies as a result of the US blockade. She stressed that the obstacles have affected utilities such as electricity and water supply.
Rodríguez placed special emphasis on the impact of US sanctions on the country’s ability to address the Covid-19 emergency.
At its outset in early 2020, experts called on Washington to lift its unilateral measures on various countries, including Venezuela, so they could count on the resources necessary to confront the pandemic.
Rodríguez shared an anecdote where she detailed how the president of the country’s central bank—seeking funds to buy medical supplies—was rebuffed by Citibank, where Venezuela had a 342 million dollar deposit frozen, attributing the decision to consequences of Treasury sanctions. These funds were subsequently transferred to the US government’s Federal Reserve and used to finance the activities of self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaidó.
US sanctions notoriously interfered with Venezuela’s ability to pay for vaccines through the United Nations’ COVAX program after funds were frozen or blocked. As a result, Venezuela has lagged in its vaccination campaign compared to its neighbors, with an article in The Lancet calling on the international community to act.
This case at the ICC is unrelated to a separate preliminary investigation by the court that was initiated by the Venezuelan opposition and a handful of US-aligned governments who filed a suit accusing the Maduro government of carrying out crimes against humanity in its response to violent “guarimba” protests. A decision by ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan on that case is expected soon.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.