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News > Venezuela

Timeline of Half a Decade of US Economic War Against Venezuela

  • A worker holds a wad of Venezuelan bolivar notes at a state oil company PDVSA's gas station in Caracas, Venezuela May 17, 2019.

    A worker holds a wad of Venezuelan bolivar notes at a state oil company PDVSA's gas station in Caracas, Venezuela May 17, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 May 2019

The various waves of U.S. sanctions have caused economic losses of at least US$130 billion.

As of Jan. 23, 2019 when the self-declared 'president' Juan Guaido attempted to lead a coup, the hostility of the U.S. blockade against Venezuela increased substantially.

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However, the latest sanctions by Washington against Venezuela come as a culmination of almost half a decade of U.S. aggression by multiple successive administrations seeking to put an end to decades of leftist rule in the oil-rich South American country. 

While the recent U.S. sanctions are blocking the Venezuelan people from using over US$11 billion from Citgo Petroleum, a corporation owned by Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), total damages are estimated at US$130 billion for the period between 2015 to 2018, as the Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia, Carlos Rafael Faria Tortosa, said Tuesday.

While the Venezuelan government, human rights organizations and experts, as well as economists,  warn that such sanctions are directly affecting the Venezuelan people, U.S. officials seem to care little about their suffering.

In October 2018, during an exclusive interview with VOA media, former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield said the "best solution" would be to "accelerate" the collapse of the Bolivarian Revolution even if that implied a greater burden of human suffering.

teleSUR put together a timeline of economic sanctions and hurdles placed on the Venezuelan government by both the United States government and the U.S. banking system, revealing a strategic escalation of aggression by the U.S. government over the past few years. 

December 2014

The U.S. Congress approved Law 113-278: "Public Law for the Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society in Venezuela," which establishes the road map for unilateral coercive measures by the U.S. and the countries that operate within its sphere of influence.

This law expressly established "sanctions" against the Central Bank of Venezuela and PDVSA, the main state company which has a monopoly on the exploitation of all the nation's hydrocarbons and generates more than 90 percent of the revenues in the country.

With this legal instrument, the United States opened the doors for unilateral measures to block and freeze assets, funds and Venezuelan properties; suspension of entry, cancellation of visa or other documentation belonging to officials who hold public office, military officers and diplomatic representatives.

All these actions were aimed at creating the conditions of an economic, financial and commercial embargo on Venezuela, as well as to hinder the participation of state representatives in international relations.

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March 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama signed a decree which designates Venezuela as an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the U.S. National Security."

As a result, Citibank refused to receive Venezuelan funds seeking to purchase 300,000 insulin doses required for the treatment of Venezuelan diabetic patients.

May 2016

Due to pressures from the U.S. Treasury Department, the German bank Commerzbank unilaterally closed the accounts of Venezuelan public institution and companies.

July 2016

Citibank unilaterally terminated its service to correspondent accounts in foreign currency of Venezuelan institutions in the U.S., including those of the Venezuela's Central Bank (BCV).

Risk rating agencies assigned Venezuela the world's highest financial risk (2,640 points), well above countries at war, despite having fulfilled its external debt commitments. Venezuela had paid US$63.4 billion in debt service since 2013; however, the financial risk increased 202 percent during the same period, rising from an average of 768 in 2012 to 2,323 in 2016.

August 2016

Portugal's Novo Banco reported the impossibility of conducting dollar-denominated operations with Venezuelan banks, due to pressures exerted by its corresponding banks.


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September 2016

In order to partially refinance its financial obligations and reschedule its debt amortizations, the Venezuelan government makes an offer to exchange US$7.1 billion in PDVSA bonds. The U.S.-based risk rating agencies threatened investors with declaring default if they agree to the Venezuelan proposal.

November 2016

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. issued a false default alert about an alleged US$404 million PDVSA debt default.

December 2016

Venezuela did not receive a shipment of new banknotes from the Crane Currency company, which is a U.S. Treasury Department's supplier and was contracted by the Venezuelan state to print currency cone pieces.

July 2017

The Delaware Trust company, an agent of payments of PDVSA bonds, announced that its U.S. correspondent, the PNC Financial Services Group, refused to receive funds from the Venezuelan oil company. 

August 2017

The U.S. Executive Order 13808 prohibited all transactions aimed at financing Venezuela, banned direct or indirect purchases of Venezuelan government securities, which included bonds, loans, credit extensions, loan guarantees, credit letters, drafts, bankers acceptance, invoices or discount notes and commercial papers.

With this order, the U.S. blockade against the Bolivarian government became official and granted legal status to the financial boycott, making private banks an openly active partner of the U.S. isolation policy.

The Swiss multinational investment bank, Credit Suisse, prohibited its clients from carrying out financial transactions with Venezuela.

The Bank of China at Panama stated it would not carry out any operation in favor of Venezuela due to both instructions from the U.S. Treasury Department and pressures coming from the Panamanian government.

Similarly, Russian banks refused to make transactions towards Venezuelan banks due to restrictions imposed by correspondent banks based in the U.S. and Europe.

Claiming administrative reasons, the BDC Shandong's correspondent paralyzed a US$200 million transaction towards Venezuela even though the People's Republic of China had already rotated the corresponding funds.

October 2017

Venezuela could not deposit money in the Swiss UBS Investment Bank to pay for vaccines and medicines purchased through the Pan American Health Organization (PHO). This caused a delay of four months in the acquisition of vaccines and altered the Venezuelan vaccination schedules.

November 2017

The Deutsche Ban, the main correspondent of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), permanently closed all Venezuelan accounts.

International banks refused 23 Venezuelan operations, worth US$39 million, aimed at purchasing food, basic supplies and medicines.

The Standard and Poor's rating agency declared Venezuela to be in "selective default" for allegedly failing to register a payment process on time, a label which was later found to be false.

Wilmington Trust, a company managing bonds, accused the Venezuelan company Corpoelec of not paying US$27 million in debt interests. This happened in a moment when Venezuela's means of payment were going through a full blockade within the U.S. financial system.

December 2017

U.S. banks arbitrarily blocked 19 bank accounts through which Venezuela had been making payments to land transport cabotage services. This caused fuel shortages in several states and also hindered transactions related to 471,000 vehicle tires which had already been paid.

European banks delayed a US$29.7 million transaction with which the Venezuelan Committees for Local Supply and Production (CLAP)'s food program had arranged to pay its suppliers.

J.P. Morgan Chase delayed accepting resources for US$28.1 million which were destined to pay services from vessels transporting food supplies to Venezuela.

January 2018.

About US$1.2 billion in Venezuelan sovereign bonds and PDVSA bonds could not be repaid to their creditors due to the Trump administration's sanctions.

February 2018

The U.S. Treasury Department extended financial penalties established in the August 2017 Executive Order 13808. The renegotiation or restructuring of the Venezuelan debt, issued by the government and its public enterprises before August 25, 2017, was impeded.

March 2018

President Trump renewed executive orders 13692 and 13808 for an additional year. He also prohibited debt restructuring in favor of Citgo Petroleum, the PDVSA's U.S. subsidiary company, and prevented the repatriation of the company's dividends.

The U.S. issued executive order 13827, effectively prohibiting any citizen or institution from making financial transactions with 'Petro,' a Venezuela's state-owned cryptocurrency.

April 2018

During the Summit of the Americas, Peru's Foreign Minister announced that Lima Group has decided to create a follow-up group to study further political and economic measures against Venezuela.

In the same event, Colombia and the U.S. agreed to accelerate mechanisms to chase Venezuela's financial transactions and hinder basic products supply lines.

May 2018

In retaliation for the victory of Nicolas Maduro in the presidential elections on May 20, 2018,  during which the Bolivarian leader received 67 percent of 9 million votes, the U.S. issued executive order 13835 which prohibits purchasing debt and accounts payable by Venezuelan state-owned companies. In addition, the Trump administration sanctioned 20 Venezuelan companies for alleged ties to drug trafficking.

Thus the U.S. government banned all kinds of operations related to the sale, transfer, assignment, or granting performed by any U.S.-based company where the Venezuelan government had a share of 50 percent or more.

Consecuently, over 15,000 hemodialysis patients shouldered the blow when US$9 million meant for purchasing dialysis supplies was blocked. The Colombian government blocked a 400,000 kilos supplies shipment for the Venezuelan food subsidy program.

August 2018

The Brazilian government failed to pay US$40 million to the Venezuela's Electricity Corporation for its energy supply to the Roraima state. Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes declared that his country's debt could not be paid due to "the economic and financial blockade imposed by the U.S. and the European Union."

November 2018

Through a new coercive measure, the Trump Administration prohibited U.S. citizens from trading gold exported from Venezuela.

January 2019

The Trump Administration approved new sanctions against PDVSA, which included freezing US$7 billion in assets owned by CITGO. This measure will bring about US$11 billion estimated export-related losses in the coming years.

On Jan. 28, the State Department and the Department of the Treasury ceded control of CITGO and Venezuelan bank accounts in its territory to Guaido's representatives.

In Europe, as a result of an extraterritorial and illegal application of coercive measures, the Bank of England announced the confiscation of Venezuela's gold reserves valued at US$1.4 billion.

March 2019

As a consequence of executive order 13850, the production and trading operations of the Venezuelan Guyana Mining Corporation (Minerven) were affected.

This executive order also compromised the operations of the Venezuelan Economic and Social Development Bank (Bandes) and the institutions over which it retains 50 percent ownership, namely, Bandes Uruguay, People's Bicentenary Bank, Universla Bank, Bank of Venezuela and Prodem Bank.

April 2019

The operations of more than 30 PDVSA oil tankers were blocked.

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