Experts Agree: Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis Can’t Wait

Experts Agree: Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis Can’t Wait

Javier Manjarres
Javier Manjarres
March 2, 2023

During a panel discussion on U.S. Policy for Venezuela hosted by Florida International University (FIU) on Tuesday, Western Hemisphere political and economic experts concluded that U.S. “Maximum Pressure” sanctions against the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela have not worked.

The panel, which included Human rights advocate Feliciano Reyna, energy expert Francisco J. Monaldi, and Andes analyst and former journalist Phil Gunson, was moderated by Prof. Eduardo Gamarra.

Gamarra opened up the discussion by stating that historically, these kinds of sanctions “very rarely” lead to democratic change.

The panelists agreed that the Trump-era hardline oil sanctions against Venezuela needed to be reassessed, not only because of their ineffectiveness but also for exacerbating the country’s humanitarian crisis.

In his perspective, Gunson said that the Trump administration missed the mark in believing the idea that making “life so tough” for bad governments would work.

“The Trump administration started out with the idea [that] we're going to make life so tough for you that you'll have no option but to hand over power. That almost never happens,” said Gunson. He added that the Biden administration appears to be using “the existing sanctions, which they inherited,” to “leverage Maduro towards negotiating improved political and electoral conditions.”

The panelists concurred that easing U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela would allow that country to feasibly jumpstart its economic recovery, as the oil industry has been the bastion of Venezuela’s legal economy. In the short term, recalibrating oil sanctions “does not mean a lot of additional money flows into the country,” said Monaldi, “but in the mid-term, it could help stabilize the economy.”

Addressing the Humanitarian Crisis Can’t Wait

The panelists also agreed that a humanitarian program, especially the one that has been agreed to in principle by the regime and the opposition, should be put into action ASAP.

Reyna offered some sobering numbers: “Nineteen million of the 28.5 million Venezuelans have depleted their life-savings and livelihood.  They have no choice but to continue to reduce what they eat or emigrate.”

Although Reyna and the other panelists understand that there is an impasse in finding and disbursing the funds that have been pledged for the UN humanitarian program for Venezuela, he believes that some direct disbursements can be made into organizations like the Pan-American Health Organization and earmarked for urgently needed programs like vaccinations.

Panelists raised widespread concerns about the proper use and funneling of the humanitarian funds, as well as who might be favored politically: the Opposition or the Regime.  Reyna dismissed this last point, stating, “the reality is that [these humanitarian funds] will not have any significant political impact but they will certainly make a difference on the people.”

As to concerns about corruption and lack of transparency in the process, all panelists agreed that the benefits far outweigh the risks, and the time to get this up and running is sooner rather than later, as the primaries and 2024 elections in both the U.S and Venezuela will likely muddle the process even more.

“Many in the U.S opposition want a program that is perfect, but perfect should not be the enemy of the good.  Let’s not demand the impossible and work with what’s feasible,” said Gunson.  “Let’s move forward on [the humanitarian agreement,]” said Reyna. “The U.S. has a very important role to play…to start getting the funding it needs, so we start to see some results on the ground.”

Somewhat Free Elections in 2024?

Recently, the Venezuelan opposition announced that primaries to elect a single opposition candidate to face dictator Nicolas Maduro in 2024, would take place on October 22nd.

After years of boycotting elections alleging fraud and voter intimidation, the Opposition is now urging Venezuelans to go to cast their votes and prevent Maduro from winning a third six-year term.

In this context, Gamarra asked the panel how they saw this transition occurring.

The panelists agreed that the 2024 elections seem to be the only alternative for the Opposition to have some viable role in the country’s political future, although the road will be long and “tricky,” according to Monaldi.

“This is the only chance to get [the Opposition] together and have a single candidate but it’s tricky,” said Monaldi.  “Maduro has been a master at dividing the opposition.  Banning candidates, murdering, imprisonment, and using the judicial system to ban opposition candidates.”

Axis of Evil

China, Russia and Iran have helped Venezuela skirt U.S. oil sanctions with China being the largest beneficiary of heavily discounted Venezuelan crude.

Iran is a hired partner to Venezuela, helping Maduro’s government “rebuild” its refineries, not to mention circumvent sanctions.

“Venezuela just announced another contract with the Iranians to continue with the process of re-establishing the refineries in Venezuela,” said Monaldi.

Russia used to be very involved in Venezuela’s oil production but now has reverted to helping Maduro bolster its military presence, continuing to build military bases on Venezuelan territory.

As Venezuela has had” great experience in evading sanctions,” as Gunson asserts, the Biden administration must think of other ways to counter the growing adversarial partnerships in Venezuela, knowing that they will have to work with Leftists governments in hopes to contain the spread of the Axis of Evil in the Western Hemisphere.

Gunson added that, when President Biden came into power, “Venezuela was a bad situation that needed attention but had not political upside… nothing would be gained from anything Biden did in the short term.”  Now, with the Ukraine war, the energy wars, and growing geopolitical tensions elsewhere, Venezuela continues to be important, but “fixing” the situation “will not be easy.”

Newly-elected Florida Congressman Cory Mills told The Floridian that the increasing economic and military threat coming from Venezuela as a result of China and Russia’s effort to erect a new “Iron Curtain” in Latin America, “poses a real threat to the U.S. and to the entire Western Hemisphere.”

“The U.S. must have the will to find a way to negotiate and prevent bad actors like China, Russia, and Iran, from gaining more influence and assets in the region,” said Rep. Mills.

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Javier Manjarres

Javier Manjarres

Javier Manjarres is a nationally renowned award-winning political journalist and Publisher of,,, and He enjoys traveling, playing soccer, mixed martial arts, weight-lifting, swimming, and biking. Javier is also a political consultant and has also authored "BROWN PEOPLE," which is a book about Hispanic Politics. Follow on Twitter: @JavManjarres Email him at

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