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, 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 Veneuzelan 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.