EU imposes arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Venezuela

The EU Council has published its conclusions on the situation in Venezuela, where the it says democratic institutions have been eroded by the establishment of “an all-powerful Constituent Assembly” and the UN believes “extensive human rights violations and abuses” have taken place (UN report here).

As foreshadowed last week (see previous blog), the EU Council has decided to impose an arms embargo on Venezuela, and also to introduce a legal framework for travel bans and asset freezes against those involved in human rights violations and non-respect for democracy or the rule of law.

The Council says that the measures will be used “in a gradual and flexible manner” alongside its diplomatic and political efforts, and called on the Venezuelan government to hold credible and meaningful negotiations, respect democratic institutions, adopt a full electoral calendar, and liberate all political prisoners. Although the Council said that the sanctions can be reversed if Venezuela makes progress on these issues, it also warned that the sanctions may be expanded if the situation warrants.

The relevant legal measures are Council Regulation (EU) 2017/2063 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/2074.

EU to impose arms embargo on Venezuela

Venezuela1.jpgEU ambassadors have agreed to impose an arms embargo on Venezuela, as well as a ban on any equipment capable of being used to repress opponents within the state. Next week, EU Foreign Ministers will vote on whether to approve the measures. The proposed sanctions follow a UN report (published August 2017) which concluded that “extensive human rights violations and abuses” had been carried out in the context of country-wide anti-Government demonstrations.

In the US, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has added 9 individuals (and updated the details of one person) to its Venezuela sanctions list, see OFAC Notice here and FAQs here. The US Treasury has announced that all 10 individuals are “current or former Venezuelan government officials… associated with undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela”. Furthermore, it is stated that this designation follows the 15 October 2017 state elections in Venezuela, which had been “marked by numerous irregularities”, strongly suggesting that “fraud [had] helped the ruling party unexpectedly win a majority of governorships.”

Canada lists 52 foreign nationals under Magnitsky law

Canada3.jpgPursuant to the recently passed Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) (see previous blog here), Canada has imposed targeted sanctions on 52 foreign nationals (including 30 Russians) by enacting the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Regulations. The Regulations were made in response to three different sets of circumstances, namely, “the case of Sergei Magnitsky, and incidents of corruption and gross human rights violations by officials linked to the Maduro regime and by officials in South Sudan”, see here.

The Regulations prohibit any person in Canada, or any Canadian outside of Canada, from dealing, directly or indirectly, with any of the listed foreign nationals.

In response to the measures, Russian authorities have imposed a ban on a number of Canadian public figures from entering Russia (without specifying who has been affected).

Canada sanctions 40 Venezuelans

Canada, like the USA, has imposed sanctions on senior Venezuelan officials and supporters of the Venezuelan government (see previous blog). The listings target 40 people, including President Nicolas Maduro, members of his cabinet, and members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court.  Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland echoed the US description of Venezuela as a “dictatorship”, and said that it was “important to send a signal to the leaders of the Maduro regime that their actions are unacceptable”.

President Trump addresses the UN on sanctions

President Trump has given his first address to the UN General Assembly, in which he made several comments relating to sanctions. He again criticised the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, describing it as “an embarrassment to the US” and creating further uncertainty about the deal’s future. World leaders have called on President Trump not to undermine the deal, which enjoys near-universal support among UN Member States.

The President also said that he would not lift the US trade embargo on Cuba until Cuba made “fundamental reforms”. In June, President Trump reinstated some of the sanctions on Cuba that were lifted by President Obama (see previous blog), chilling a relationship that had begun to thaw under the previous administration. In addition, he warned that the US was prepared to take further action against the administration of President Maduro of Venezuela, which the US describes as a dictatorship (see previous blog).

Venezuela’s rival legislature votes to prosecute supporters of US sanctions

Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, which was set up by the Maduro government as a rival legislature to the country’s democratically elected National Assembly, has voted to investigate and prosecute anyone deemed to be a supporter of US sanctions against Maduro’s administration on charges of treason. Members of the Constituent Assembly accused opposition politicians of supporting the sanctions, which were substantially expanded in the past week (see previous blog).

US imposes new sanctions on Venezuela’s government

The US has imposed wide-ranging new financial sanctions on President Maduro’s administration in Venezuela. The US accuses Maduro’s government of depriving Venezuelans of food and medicine, imprisoning the democratically-elected opposition, and violently suppressing freedom of speech. Most recently, President Maduro created a rival legislature and transferred to it the powers of the democratically elected National Assembly (see previous blog).

The new sanctions prohibit dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela and its state oil company.  They also prohibit dealings in certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector ad dividend payments to the government of Venezuela.  To mitigate harm to the American and Venezuelan people, the US Treasury has issued several general licences, including for financing most commercial trade, 30-day wind-down periods, and the financing of humanitarian goods.

The White House’s press release is here, and the relevant executive order and general licences are here.

US sanctions Venezuelan officials, including previous President’s brother

The US has added 9 people to its SDN List for being involved in organising or otherwise supporting the creation of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, a rival body to Venezuela’s parliament with the power to rewrite the country’s constitution (see previous blog). The US views the Constituent Assembly as illegitimate, and designed “to further entrench [President Maduro’s] dictatorship”.

Among those designated are Adan Chavez, a high ranking official in the Constituent Assembly and brother of deceased former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Bladimir Lugo Armas, a Commander in Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard who is said to have been responsible for violence against Venezuelan parliamentarians. The US Treasury’s press release is here, and details of Nicolas Maduro’s listing are here.