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More than 40,000 people have died in Venezuela since 2017 as a result of U.S. sanctions, according to a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research co-authored by economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot.
The report examines how U.S. sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine in Venezuela and increased disease and mortality. We speak with Jeffrey Sachs in our New York studio. In the report, he writes, "American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela's economy and thereby lead to regime change. It's a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman. Our guests are Miguel Tinker Salas, a Venezuelan professor at Pomona College in California; Jeffrey Sachs is with us here in New York, leading economist and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. He's recently co-authored a report for the Center for Economic and Policy Research headlined "Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela."
So much is being used against the presidency of Maduro, saying he's brought the country to an economic standstill. You make a different case, Jeffrey Sachs.
JEFFREY SACHS: Well, it's not an economic standstill. It's a complete economic collapse, a catastrophe, in Venezuela. There was a crisis, for sure, before Trump came to office, but the idea of the Trump administration, from the start, has been to overthrow Maduro. That's not a hypothesis. Trump was very explicit in discussions with presidents of Latin America, where he asked them, "Why shouldn't the U.S. just invade?" He said that already in 2017. So the idea of the Trump administration has been to overthrow Maduro from the start. Well, the Latin leaders said, "No, no, that's not a good idea. We don't want military action." So the U.S. government has been trying to strangle the Venezuelan economy.
It started with sanctions in 2017 that prevented, essentially, the country from accessing international capital markets and the oil company from restructuring its loans. That put Venezuela into a hyper-inflation. That was the utter collapse. Oil earnings plummeted. The earnings that are used to buy food and medicine collapsed. That's when the social, humanitarian crisis went spiraling out of control. And then, in this year, with this idea, very naive, very stupid, in my view, that there would be this self-proclaimed president, which was all choreographed with the United States very, very closely, another round of even tighter sanctions, essentially confiscating the earnings and the assets of the Venezuelan government, took place.
Now Venezuela is in complete, utter catastrophe, a lot of it brought on by the United States deliberately, creating massive, massive suffering. We know there's hunger. We know there's a incredible shortage of medical supplies. We can only imagine, because we won't know really until the dust settles and careful studies are done, how much excess mortality there is, but, surely, in a context like this, this is a catastrophe largely created by the U.S., because, as was said earlier, this is an all-or-nothing strategy. What the U.S.wants -- Trump just doesn't understand and what Bolton, of all, of course, never agrees to, is the idea of negotiations. This is an attempt at an overthrow. It's very crude. It's not working. And it's very cruel, because it's punishing 30 million people.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you come up with the number 40,000 dead as a result of these crippling U.S. sanctions?
JEFFREY SACHS: Let me be clear: Nobody knows. This was a very basic, simple calculation based on estimates of universities in Venezuela that mortality had increased by a certain proportion after the sanctions. I don't want anyone to think that there is precision in these numbers. What is certain, though, staring us in the face, is that there is a humanitarian catastrophe, deliberately caused by the United States, by what I would say are illegal sanctions, because they are deliberately trying to bring down a government and trying to create chaos for the purpose of an overthrow of a government.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
JEFFREY SACHS: Why are they doing that? This is normal U.S. right-wing foreign policy, nothing different. This is the same foreign policy that we saw throughout Latin America in the 20th century. It's the same foreign policy that we saw catastrophically in the Middle East. This is Mr. Bolton. This is Mr. Bolton's idea of diplomacy. This is Trump's idea of diplomacy. You punch someone in the face. You crush your opponent. You try whatever way you can to get your way. It's very simple-minded. It's very crude. And, Amy, it never works. It just leads to catastrophe.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring Miguel Tinker Salas back into this conversation, professor at Pomona College. As these protests were taking place in -- or this coup attempt was taking place in Venezuela -- in Honduras there were massive protests against privatization, also huge demonstrations in Paris. You certainly don't get the same kind of coverage.