Economic sanctions often punish the people and not the errant governmentSunday, July 25, 2021
THE rationale behind one country or group of countries imposing sanctions against another is to force the Government to change its policies or punish it for certain practices. In some cases, the sanctions are aimed at regime change by creating hardship on the people.
History is replete with cases of powerful countries, including former colonial powers, carrying out regime change by military intervention. Now, however, military intervention is widely condemned as breaching the sovereignty of a country and ignoring the right to national self-determination.
It is difficult to mobilise national support to invade another country, hence the preferred resort is to use economic sanctions – which method does not involve nationals of the intervening country being killed and does not affect the quality of life of its citizens.
The use of economic sanctions to effect regime changes has largely been unsuccessful but, in many instances, sanctions cause extreme hardships, including hunger and shortages of fuel and essential medicines.
Economic sanctions are trade, investment and financial penalties applied by one or a group of countries against a country, group, institution or individual. The motives for the imposition of economic sanctions may be ideological, religious, racial, political, economic, social, or based on national security.
Empirical evidence strongly suggests the efficacy of sanctions is debatable and sanctions can have unintended consequences not confined to the country on which sanctions have been placed. Two cases in the wider Caribbean – Cuba and Venezuela – are of concern because of their actual and potential adverse impact on other Caribbean countries.
For over 50 years, the United States of America has imposed an economic embargo on Cuba, causing immense hardship to the people of Cuba. The Government had always been able to blame its economic failure and restricted political policies on the US embargo.
It is left to be seen if the recent protest demonstrations in Cuba will be assessed to be as a result of the embargo, which is opposed by all members of the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
Contrast this with how the virtues of private enterprise contrasted with the inefficiencies and lack of freedom of communism, leading to the implosion of the then Soviet Union.
The Caribbean has paid an unintended price for the US embargo in the loss of export and investment opportunities, for example, a successful Jamaican hotel in Cuba had to close down because it had leased a building that was American-owned before the 1959 revolution.
The leftist Maduro Government has remained in control of State power in Venezuela following the rule of Mr Hugo Chavez, in spite of sanctions, while the Venezuelan people have suffered severe deprivation.
Millions of Venezuelan refugees have cost neighbouring countries a fortune in relief, including the very small island of Trinidad and Tobago which is hosting thousands of Venezuelan refugees, at a very difficult time of declining oil revenues and the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A better approach must be found to promote private enterprise and democracy because economic sanctions too often cause the people to suffer and not the ruling political regime, while imposing a cost on neighbouring countries.
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