Economic Sanctions Reproduce State Sponsored Repression, Human Rights Violations and Violence: A Case Study of Venezuela

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Majid Sharifi


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Document Type

Oral Presentation

Publication Date

Spring 5-2020


International Affairs


Utilizing the case study of Venezuela, this paper will explore the negative unintended consequences of the US-led regime sanctions on the reproduction of state sponsored repression, human rights violations and violence within the targeted nation by exacerbating the declining economic and living conditions of their citizenry. Since the end of World War II, economic sanctions have become the US’s default foreign policy tool, perceived to be a more diplomatic and less violent approach of coercing compliance in the international community. Under this pretense the United States has become the world's number one sender, imposing economic sanctions on over 89 nation-states. But by the 1990’s it became widely apparent that besides being largely ineffective, economic sanctions caused a host of unintended political problems within the target nation-state. Most notably were their devastating implications on the civilian population. In the case of Venezuela, the US-led regime of sanctions have exacerbated the economic decline of Venezuela to the point where crucial imports such as food, medicine and basic necessities faced shortages. This has led to the death of 40,000 Venezuelans and puts 300,000 more at risk in 2019.This has fueled massive civil unrest and its subsequent forms of state repression and violence.

The failures of US-led economic sanctions ignited numerous scholarly inquiries aimed at better understanding economic sanctions and their use. Two bodies of scholarship have emerged: those who hope to improve the outcome of economic sanctions, focusing on how to increase their effectiveness, and those of their critics who choose to broaden their scope and analyze the negative consequences of economic sanctions. While the former are interested in making sanctions more painful and thus producing faster and more effective results, the latter is more interested in the painful side effects caused by sanctions on the target nation-state’s political, economic and social integrity. This paper belongs among those in the latter category, which seeks to answer the question: What are the effects of intended and unintended consequences of the US-led regime of economic sanctions on the living conditions of a targeted nation-state, specifically as it pertains to state repression, human rights violations and violence?

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