European Parliament Mulls Potential Sanctions on Venezuelan Officials

Members of the European Parliament voted Wednesday to explore freezing EU assets belonging to those alleged to have carried out “serious human rights violations” in Venezuela.

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas
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The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France
Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session at the body’s headquarters in Strasbourg, France. (Reuters)

Bogota, September 14 2017 ( - Members of the European Parliament voted Wednesday to explore the option of freezing EU assets belonging to Venezuelan government officials accused of carrying out “serious human rights violations”. 

During a session on the European Union’s political relations with Latin America, 526 MEPs voted to approve a resolution which “strongly condemns” and refuses to recognize the decisions taken by Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC), elected by popular vote at the end of July. The resolution also calls on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the European Council to give “consideration to the freezing of assets, as well as placing restrictions on access to EU territory for all those involved in the serious violations of human rights in Venezuela, including the members of the non-recognised Constituent Assembly”. Ninety-six MEPs voted against the resolution, while fifty-nine abstained. 

In the approved text, the European Parliament expressed “grave concern” over Venezuela’s “deteriorating situation” and urges the government to restore the separation of powers it claimed were broken by the ANC.

“[The EP] calls furthermore on the Venezuelan Government to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and to present as soon as possible an electoral calendar that will allow free and transparent electoral processes to take place,” continues the text. 

Earlier on in the week, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council released an electoral calendar for upcoming regional elections, due to be held on October 15. The EP text does not appear to acknowledge  the timeline. 

The resolution also urges the EU “to play an active role” in investigations being carried out by the International Criminal Court into the alleged “extensive crimes and acts of repression perpetrated by the Venezuelan regime”.

Wednesday’s resolution comes less than a week after opposition National Assembly President Julio Borges travelled to Europe to push for regional sanctions against Venezuela. During his trip, Borges met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish President Mariano Rajoy, as well as UK Prime-minister Theresa May. All the European leaders subsequently made statements condemning the Venezuelan government. 

For his part, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza also traveled to Europe this week to defend his government’s record. On Wednesday Arreaza met with his Spanish counterpart, arguing that the government in Madrid had an extremely “biased” view of Venezuela’s political reality. 

The EP vote for potential sanctions against Venezuela comes after the US Trump administration called the country a “dictatorship” and imposed financial sanctions at the end of August. Both the Trump and Barack Obama administrations had previously sanctioned individuals in the Venezuelan government - a similar course of action to that proposed by MEPs on Wednesday. 

Over eight million Venezuelans voted to elect delegates to the National Constituent Assembly on July 30th. The body has the power to rewrite the country’s 1999 Constitution and was proposed by the government as a mechanism to overcome months of violent opposition-led anti-government protests. One hundred and twenty six people were killed between beginning of April and August due to the unrest. 

Though fatalities have occurred on both sides, the US, United Nations and European governments have exclusively blamed the Venezuelan government for the loss of life.