Washington, DC—Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Representative Andy Levin, today welcomed the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the impact of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela.

In response to a May 2019 request from Congressman Levin and the Foreign Affairs Committee, GAO examined the impact of U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan economy, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and the U.S. oil industry. The report indicates that U.S. sanctions likely exacerbated Venezuela’s economic decline and that, while federal agencies have worked to ensure sanctions do not impede the delivery of humanitarian assistance, more can be done to remove obstacles.

“No matter one’s position on sanctions, we ought to agree that they should not be imposed lightly, and they should not stand in the way of life-saving aid,” Rep. Levin said. “This report makes clear that sanctions imposed by the United States made a dire situation worse. The Trump administration, moreover, broadened sanctions with seemingly little thought to the impact they might have on the people they claimed to care about—the same people, it is worth noting, to whom they denied Temporary Protected Status in our country. With this new administration, we have an opportunity to pursue foreign policy guided by our values. Let us take the lessons of this report to heart and use them to craft a more thoughtful, humane and effective approach moving forward.”

“I am pleased to join with Congressman Levin in releasing today’s report which will help Congress and the Biden Administration chart a better approach to Venezuela. I have met with families on the Venezuela – Colombia border and listened to their haunting accounts of the suffering they’ve endured. Helping the Venezuelan people will be a top priority for me as Chairman,” Chairman Meeks said. “While sanctions can at times have a positive impact, we must ensure that all precautions are taken so that sanctions do not impede the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those who need it most. It is time to move forward from four years of the Trump Administration’s failed policy towards Venezuela and work with our allies in the Lima Group and the European Union on a more effective, multilateral approach to the country’s multiple crises.”

The report finds the following:

  • Venezuela’s economy deteriorated steadily for nearly a decade. That decline worsened after the U.S. levied new sanctions in 2015. According to the report, “in addition to the imposition of U.S. sanctions, various other factors have also contributed to the decline of the Venezuelan economy, including lower world oil prices and mismanagement by the Venezuelan government.”
  • U.S. government agencies have engaged humanitarian organizations in an effort to ensure sanctions do not impede the delivery of aid and remove hurdles when issues are identified. Nonetheless, aid organizations report challenges. All nine USAID implementing partners GAO spoke with said banks had closed their accounts or held up or rejected transactions because of concerns over U.S. sanctions.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department could better track the hurdles partners report. This would allow them to provide a more effective response when aid organizations encounter issues and perhaps avoid similar issues in the future.
  • U.S. sanctions have likely had a limited impact, if any, on the U.S. oil industry. The loss of Venezuelan crude oil due to sanctions has not caused spikes in crude oil or retail gasoline prices in the U.S.

A full version of the GAO’s report can be found here.

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