Chavez Would Cheer U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela

Sanctions approved by the U.S. House against Venezuelan human-rights abusers would only backfire, helping the Venezuelan government distract attention from its economic mismanagement, which has produced chronic food shortages, a worthless currency and one of the world’s highest inflation rates.
Photographer: George Castellano/AFP/Getty Images

A bill to sanction Venezuelan officials deemed human-rights abusers was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. It may seem a sensible response to a government crackdown on opposition-led protests that has resulted in 42 deaths and thousands of arrests.

Such sanctions would backfire, however. They would feed the anti-Americanism encouraged by President Nicolas Maduro and help him distract attention from his economic mismanagement. His bungling has produced chronic food shortages, a worthless currency and one of the world's highest inflation rates.

The threat of sanctions has already given Maduro a soapbox. He denounced such measures in an op-ed published by the New York Times last month, and hasn't stopped talking about them since. "It's hardly worth responding to the stupid things the imperialist elites to the north do," he said this month, responding to those very things.

The House bill would deny entry to the U.S. to Venezuelans identified as human-rights abusers and would freeze any assets they held in the U.S. or in U.S. institutions. It would do little to hurt the Maduro administration. Maduro's allies can go without Miami shopping excursions. Most probably have closed their U.S. accounts already.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.