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Today, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) joins with 115 organizations and individuals in Venezuela in calling on the Trump administration to refrain from aggravating Venezuela’s deep humanitarian crisis. In an open letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (also copied below), the signatories urge the U.S. government to refrain from ending exceptions on sanctions that currently permit the state oil company to trade crude oil in exchange for diesel.  

This decision would have devastating consequences for a population already suffering from a deep humanitarian emergency. In Venezuela, diesel is primarily used for power generation and bulk cargo transport—including food, medicine, and humanitarian supplies. Cutting off access to diesel in the country could worsen living conditions for millions of Venezuelans dependent on a crumbling supply chain. 

Signatories to the letter, which include Venezuelan civil society groups such as Acción Solidaria, the Venezuelan Education-Action Program on Human Rights (PROVEA), the Venezuelan Association of Christian Health Services (AVESSOC), and many others, point out that such a measure would have the following impacts: 

  • Among other things, diesel is used by the backup electric generators which are employed in almost all private clinics and some public hospitals in the country, including the generators that were sent in some of the first shipments of humanitarian aid by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. With less diesel, these health centers could see their activities paralyzed, in the middle of a health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In 2018, 85 percent of private vehicular diesel consumption in Venezuela was used for cargo transport and 15 percent was used to transport passengers. More than 70 percent of the Venezuelan population depends on public transport to buy food and medicine. If there is no diesel, the mobility of those with lower resources will be the most affected.
  • Heavy trucks depend on diesel to transport supplies from ports and airports to cities, as well as to transport live animals to industrial slaughterhouses. If there is no diesel, there could be a stoppage of freight transport that would impact the movement of supplies that are essential to the survival of millions of Venezuelan families.
  • Electric power generation plants in Venezuela’s Llanos, Amazonas, and Los Andes regions do not have access to state oil firm PDVSA’s natural gas network. If they cannot run on diesel, these areas of the country will depend exclusively on the electric power generated in the Guri Hydroelectric Dam, which would produce greater demand on transmission lines, resulting in increased electricity rationing.

It is important for the international community to reject authoritarianism and support Venezuelans’ calls for free and fair elections. But the simple truth is that additional restrictions on fuel imports to Venezuela would only aggravate the suffering of the Venezuelan people, while bringing the country no closer to a democratic transition. 

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mnuchin:

We, a group of individuals and organizations in Venezuela and the United States, are writing in reference to recent press reports that the U.S. government is planning to end exemptions to sanctions on fuel transactions with Venezuela as early as October 2020. If this is true, we are alarmed by the fact that this new measure would target diesel swaps with companies in Europe and Asia, which account for nearly 80 percent of crude shipments leaving Venezuela. 

This decision would have devastating consequences for the population. In Venezuela, diesel is primarily used for power generation and bulk cargo transport—including food, medicine, and humanitarian supplies. Cutting off access to diesel in the country could worsen living conditions for millions of Venezuelans dependent on this supply chain. We ask that you consider the following:

  • Among other things, diesel is used by the backup electric generators which are employed in almost all private clinics and some public hospitals in the country, including the generators that were sent as part of some of the first shipments of humanitarian aid by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. With less diesel, these health centers could see their activities paralyzed, in the middle of a health crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • In 2018, 85% of private vehicular diesel consumption in Venezuela was used for cargo transport and 15% was used to transport passengers. More than 70% of the Venezuelan population depends on public transport to buy food and medicine. If there is no diesel, the mobility of those with lower resources will be the most affected.
  • Heavy trucks depend on diesel to transport supplies from ports and airports to cities, as well as to transport live animals such as pigs, chickens, and cattle to industrial slaughterhouses. If there is no diesel, there could be a stoppage of freight transport that would impact the movement of supplies that are essential to the survival of millions of Venezuelan families.
  • Electric power in Venezuela today is generated from hydroelectricity and thermal sources. The latter is largely from natural gas (methane) and liquid fuels such as fuel oil and diesel. Fuel oil plants in Venezuela have stopped generating electricity, which is why the generation of electricity by thermal sources in Venezuela currently depends exclusively on diesel.
  • Electric power generation plants in the Llanos, Amazonas, and Los Andes regions do not have access to PDVSA’s natural gas network. If they cannot run on diesel, these areas of the country will depend exclusively on the electric power generated in the Guri Hydroelectric Dam, which would produce greater demand on transmission lines, resulting in increased electricity rationing.
  • Faced with an abrupt production shutdown, the supply of gas to the electricity sector at Corpoelec power plants throughout the country would be put at risk. Another affected area would be the supply of methane gas to residential consumers. This measure will affect the gas used by 7% of urban residents. At the same time, it would cause a drop in the production of natural gas, affecting the production of the propane that is used for cooking gas cylinders. To date, local production only supplies 25% of the market. A larger drop in supply would be even more serious for the most vulnerable population, who depend on this for food preparation.

Venezuelans today are already suffering the consequences of falling oil production, as well as fuel, food and medicine shortages in Venezuela generated by years of corruption and mismanagement of the Maduro regime, which oversaw an unprecedented economic disaster, including a collapse in the oil industry. This has in turn reduced the capacity to refine fuels that in the past supplied the domestic market.

A solution to the crisis seems distant. While these measures impact the people of Venezuela, the political and military elites of the regime do not seem to be affected by these broad economic sanctions. On the contrary, Maduro and those around him appear to be more entrenched in power than before.

Venezuelans today are already suffering the consequences of the U.S. government’s explicit efforts to limit gasoline supplies to the country. 

Of course the decline in oil production, as well as shortages of fuel, food, and medicine in Venezuela, predate U.S. sanctions. Through years of corruption and mismanagement, the Maduro regime has overseen an economic disaster, including a collapse in the refining capacity that once supplied the domestic market. But these conditions have been undeniably aggravated by the announcement of oil sanctions in January 2019, as well as their subsequent tightening.

Meanwhile, a solution to the crisis remains out of sight while the political and military elite in the regime appear unaffected by these broad economic sanctions. To the contrary, Maduro and those around him seem to be more firmly entrenched than before.

In light of these reflections, it is important to bear in mind the recommendations of High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who has called for easing the broad economic sanctions against Venezuela so that “more resources could be allocated to treating and preventing the epidemic.” We urge the US government to renew its commitment to a democratic and negotiated transition in Venezuela, as well as to support mechanisms that improve the living conditions of the Venezuelan people and, by extension, their capacity to mobilize and demand a solution to the crisis. For this reason it is necessary to continue granting exceptions to oil sanctions that allow the exchange of diesel for crude oil— in order to avoid the serious consequences that these actions could have in terms of deepening human suffering on the ground in the middle of a humanitarian emergency aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Signatories:

Organizations

  1. Acción Solidaria
  2. A.C. Radar de los Barrios
  3. AlertaVenezuela
  4. Asociación Venezolana de Servicios de Salud de Orientación Cristiana (AVESSOC)
  5. Caracas Ciudad Plural
  6. Catia Posible
  7. Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (CDH-UCAB)
  8. Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ)
  9. Centro Gumilla
  10. Civilis Derechos Humanos
  11. Clima21 – Ambiente y Derechos Humanos 
  12. Comité de Derechos Humanos de la Guajira
  13. Convive
  14. Frente Ecológico Universitario y Comunitario Cimarrón
  15. Fundacion Aguaclara
  16. Fundación de Lucha Contra el Cáncer de Mama (FUNCAMAMA)
  17. Gente de Soluciones, A.C.
  18. Instituto Venezolano de Ingeniería Tecnología y Manufactura
  19. Laboratorio de Paz
  20. Meals4Hope – Alimentando Esperanza
  21. Monitor Social A.C.
  22. Movimiento Ciudadano Dale Letra
  23. Observatorio Venezolano  de la Salud
  24. Oil for Venezuela
  25. Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA)
  26. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA)
  27. Promoción, Educación y Defensa en Derechos Humanos (PROMEDEHUM)
  28. Pro Venezuela e.V.
  29. Red de Activismo e Investigación por la Convivencia (REACIN)
  30. Red por la Defensa al Trabajo, la Propiedad y la Constitución
  31. Reunificados ORG
  32. Revista SIC

Individuals

  1. Alessandro Nanino
  2. Alfredo Bizcochea
  3. Alfredo Infante
  4. Ana Caufman
  5. Ana Quilarque Quijada 
  6. Anabel Castillo
  7. Armando Contreras Diaz
  8. Bella Petrizzo 
  9. Carolina de Oteyza
  10. Celina Carquez
  11. César Augusto Lameda 
  12. David Smilde
  13. Deborah Van Berkel
  14. Edgar Alfonzo
  15. Edgar García 
  16. Eduardo S Alvarado
  17. Eladio Reyes
  18. Emiliano Terán Mantovani
  19. Ezequiel Aranguren 
  20. Feliciano Reyna Ganteaume
  21. Francisco Martínez García
  22. Francisco Morsa Ramos
  23. Francisco Sánchez
  24. Geoffrey Ramsey
  25. Gerardo Alì Poveda
  26. Guillermo Tell Aveledo
  27. Gustavo Guevara
  28. Gustavo Márquez Marín
  29. Indira Urbaneja
  30. Isabel Donís Hernández
  31. Jacqueline Richter
  32. Javier Biardeau
  33. Jeaquelinne Calles
  34. Jesús Chuo Torrealba
  35. Jesús Puerta
  36. Jesús Urbina
  37. Joel R Pantoja Gaerste
  38. Johnny Behrens
  39. José Araujo
  40. José Gómez Febres
  41. Jose M Canudas
  42. José Manuel Roche 
  43. Juan Berríos Ortigoza
  44. Keta Stephany
  45. Keymer Ávila
  46. Leonardo Carvajal
  47. Luis Eduardo Gallo
  48. Luis Oliveros
  49. Luisa Pernalete
  50. Luisa Rodríguez Táriba
  51. Magda Miklos
  52. Manfredo González
  53. Mariela Ramírez
  54. Marcos Salazar
  55. María Villegas 
  56. Mario Villegas
  57. Marisela Arraga
  58. Marisela Betancourt 
  59. Matilde Polanco
  60. Mibelis Acevedo Donís
  61. Miguel Ángel Guerra 
  62. Moraima Ascanio
  63. Nataly Carvajal
  64. Nelly Gaerste Flores
  65. Nelson Suárez
  66. Pedro Escalante
  67. Rafael G. Curvelo E.
  68. Rafael Simon Jiménez Melean
  69. Ramón Montiel
  70. René Parodi
  71. Ricardo Barreto Muskus 
  72. Ricardo Ríos
  73. Richard Fortunato 
  74. Rigoberto Lobo
  75. Rodolfo A. Rico
  76. Rodrigo Cabezas Morales 
  77. Rubén Pérez Silva 
  78. Simón García
  79. Sonia Hecker
  80. Tamara Herrera
  81. Trina Bajo
  82. Verónica Zubillaga 
  83. Vicente Brito
  84. Víctor Baptista
  85. Yaya Andueza
  86. Yudelkis Flores
  87. Yván Serra