Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro waves to workers of state-run oil company PDVSA during a rally against imperialism in Caracas March 18, 2015.
Miraflores Palace / Reuters

The United States’ announcement of sanctions against Venezuela for human rights violations and political persecution increased tensions between the two countries, which spilled into greater Latin America. The sanctions impose travel restrictions and freeze the U.S. assets of seven military and law enforcement officials. Their true aim, however, was to rebuke Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. In his announcement of the sanctions, U.S. President Barack Obama said that they were motivated by the “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.” 

Even though this language was a prerequisite for sanctions, Obama’s hyperbole undermines his credibility: Many observers question whether the sanctions will isolate Maduro internationally and fracture his domestic support, or will serve to strengthen the beleaguered president’s hand by unifying Venezuelans and regional leaders against Washington’s interference.

Maduro denounced the sanctions

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  • LAUREN CARASIK is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Western New England University School of Law.
  • More By Lauren Carasik