Caracas, Venezuela – “I have a pension of 40,000 bolivares [$4,005]. With that, I can buy two kilogrammes of cheese. My son is in Peru and I’m going to live with him but I cannot get here,” said Maria Eugenia Castillo outside the Peruvian embassy in Caracas.
She was crying and desperate. She has been waiting for a humanitarian visa to go to Peru for months but it still has not arrived.
Stories like hers are frequent in Venezuela these days as the country struggles with an economic crisis that has forced millions to flee. Now the United States has imposed more sanctions that will certainly make life more difficult for many of those who remain.
In the past, the US imposed sanctions on Venezuelan individuals linked to Maduro’s government and on PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, accusing them of serious human rights abuses, drug trafficking and corruption.
Now they are taking things further by seizing Venezuelan assets in the US and banning US companies from doing business in the country.
“One way to summarise this to a business, for example, is ‘do you want to do business in Venezuela or do you want to do business with the United States?'” said UN National Security Adviser John Bolton in Lima, Peru.
“And I think for any international corporations, whether they’re US-based, European, wherever they may be, to the boards of directors and shareholders, they ought to be asking their management if it’s worth risking for a trickle of income from the illegitimate Maduro government, if it’s worth risking their business in the United States.”
The sanctions basically block any type of business with the Venezuelan government. But private businesses are worried too of what is called “overcompliance” which means that in order to prevent US anger, people will just walk away from dealing with Venezuelan companies altogether.
For the US and dozens of other countries who met in Lima at the Conference for Democracy in Venezuela, Caracas needs political and economic change.
In their final statement, most of them recognised the need for presidential elections, despite the fact that President Nicolas Maduro‘s term is due to end in 2025.
Countries like Russia and Turkey did not attend, saying the conference has been taken over by the US and its attempt to overthrow Maduro.
Just as the tension between Venezuela and the US escalated once again, the government and the opposition are holding talks in Barbados with Norway as a mediator.
“What this accompaniment of our most important allies confirms is that we are acting on all the necessary battlefronts to achieve a solution to the crisis which is what all Venezuelans want,” said opposition leader Juan Guaido.
“The Kingdom of Norway’s mechanism continues because what we are generating are the conditions for a real solution to the crisis, like we’ve always said.”
But most of the people you talk to on the streets do not have faith in the negotiations.
They believe the government has used negotiations in the past to buy time. Others simply want to get out and escape the difficulties they face every day.
Even though the US says the new measures will not affect the supply of medicine, food or clothes, the government says the latest sanctions constitute a full economic embargo.
It blames the US for the consequences that the measures will have on the population. They are also appealing to the United Nations to investigate why the sanctions were implemented.
“It is hypocritical to say that these so-called sanctions, these executive orders protect the purchases of medicines. That’s false because it is only possible to buy them through transaction banks. You have to pay for it and you can’t pay because you can’t use the international financial system,” said Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.
Most analysts say the sanctions will not work.
“Just like it happened in countries like Iran and North Korea, the population gets poorer. The country gets poorer and the leaders remain mostly because the population becomes more and more dependent,” Luis Vicente Leon, a Caracas-based analyst, told Al Jazeera.