Preliminary Statement and Findings of the Venezuela Fact-Finding Mission

The following statement was issued by the Venezuela Fact-Finding Mission of the International People’s Tribunal on U.S. Imperialism, carried out between July 24-28 with the National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Charlotte Kates, Samidoun’s international coordinator, participated in the Mission.

As the Fact Finding Mission of the International People’s Tribunal, we unequivocally denounce the U.S. imperialist hybrid war on the Venezuelan people, economy and state. Throughout our mission we have witnessed the brutal effects of the unilateral economic coercive measures regime. Our meetings, interviews, and discussions clearly exposed the lies of the US government and the propaganda of the corporate media that aim to depict Venezuela as a “failed state”. We concluded  our Mission July 28, the birthday of Comandante Hugo Chávez with our Venezuela Hearing and public release of our statement. 

As we mark the 200th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine, we recall that the economic blockade is part of a long history of enslaving, colonizing and subjugating the peoples of the Global South. Our meetings have helped us to understand how sanctions are designed not only to exacerbate internal contradictions within the organic social base of a revolutionary project but to undermine the material conditions necessary for socialism. The sanctions regime attempts to manufacture political confusion among the population, to direct legitimate frustration over a lack of social services and access to public goods against their government rather than the true culprit: US imperialism. What appears as neoliberal austerity is in fact CRIMINAL THEFT by sanctions. As one of our speakers, Laura Franco, Coordinator of Exchange and Cooperation at the Simon Bolivar Institute told us “this is not a neoliberal economy, it is a war economy.” 

Sanctions as a Policy of “Regime Change”

Political confusion is neither accidental nor a secondary result of the sanctions and blockade regime. It is designed to create an environment of chaos towards regime change and to provide narratives for opposition forces, particularly proxies of the United States working to extend and intensify the sanctions regime. For example, the recognition of Juan Guaido as the fake “president of Venezuela” by the US, Canada and other imperialist powers was used to create propaganda and also to implement the sanctions, by confiscating the property of the Venezuelan state (the sole legitimate political organ of the Venezuelan people) and transferring them to the custody of an array of U.S.-backed “opposition” forces, another form of blockade imposed upon the assets of the Venezuelan people. 

We see the most recent incitement towards “regime change” with the announcement of a $15 million reward for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. This bounty recalls those issued for the heads of state of Iraq and Libya shortly before their violent removal and assassination and the destruction, destabilization and looting of these states by imperialist forces. Additionally, the three bills in the U.S. Congress that seek through legislative means to achieve the same ends: the Prohibition of Transactions and Leases with Venezuela’s Illegitimate Authoritarian Regime Act, the Venezuelan Human Rights “AFFECT” Act and the Venezuelan Democracy Act. The bills have a common denominator: to further increase the pressure of the blockade and impose on it a framework of “humanitarian assistance”. This represents an escalation of imperialist intervention in the lead up to the presidential elections next year. 

Bolivarian Resistance to U.S. Imperialism 

In our mission, we learned about the suffering of the Venezuelan people because of the imperialist sanctions regime. But we also learned about and have been inspired by their resistance. We witnessed the resilience and creativity of the communes, building independent economic capacity and development based on collective, non-capitalist forms of knowledge production.  We saw the ingenuity and passion of doctors in the Children’s Cardiology Hospital of Latin America treating the most difficult cases while navigating shortages of medical supplies and equipment, demonstrating the cruelty and genocidal intent of the sanctions regime. We were also profoundly inspired and uplifted by the hospital’s commitment to not only treating patients from outside of Venezuela but also to providing free education to new generations of doctors internationally. This serves as a testament to the nation’s culture of compassion, socialist values, and solidarity. 

We have been particularly struck by the centrality of women to this resistance. From the struggle to achieve food sovereignty, to political education initiatives, frontline legal defense,  Afro-Venezuelan revolutionary projects fighting colonial capitalist gentrification and displacement, and their overall political leadership, women are the backbone of the Bolivarian Revolution. 

International Fact-Finding Mission

Our delegation includes lawyers, legal scholars, academics and organizers from the United States, Canada, Philippines, Kenya, Lebanon, Algeria, and Iran. This delegation is part of the International People’s Tribunal on U.S. Imperialism, an international effort investigating the sanctions regimes as key tools of imperialism, used to undermine the sovereignty – particularly the economic sovereignty – of nations in the Global South, maintaining the global capitalist order. Venezuela and all countries targeted by U.S. sanctions have challenged U.S. imperialism, and seek to uphold their independence and sovereignty from U.S. hegemony. We are holding hearings on the impact of sanctions, economic coercive measures, in 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.

Our mission has examined the intent, history, and legal framework of the sanctions regime. It has entailed observation, analysis, and earnest dialogue with impacted individuals, workers in various sectors of the economy, communes, analysts, political organizers, and government officials. 

 Throughout our mission, we met with many people and organizations, all deeply committed to defending the Bolivarian Revolution and advancing toward socialism, despite the United States’ tremendous crimes against the Venezuelan people historically, and especially in the past eight years. “We refuse to negotiate our revolution under the sanctions’ gunpoint,” declared Robert Longa from Comuna Socialista El Panal. 

Our meetings included a meeting with Venezuela’s Vice-Minister of Anti-Blockade Policies, William Castillo, the Venezuelan Anti-Blockade Observatory, El Panal Commune, Venezuela Analysis, SURES, Plan Pueblo a Pueblo, Free Alex Saab Movement, Fundación Rompiendo la Norma ‍(Breaking the Norm),  La Fundación Género con Clase (Gender with Class), Children’s Cardiology Hospital of Latin America, CONADECAFRO (National Council for the Development of Afro-descendant Communities of Venezuela)and Cumbe Nacional AFROvenezolano.

Our objective has been to illuminate the consequences of sanctions, as experienced and understood from the ground, and to deliver a comprehensive account of their socioeconomic, political, cultural, and individual effects. The investigation has informed our collective understanding and equipped us with the evidence that was presented in the July 28th Venezuela Hearing. 

Holding U.S. Imperialism Accountable 

As we conclude our mission in Venezuela, our Tribunal moves forward on research, legal and political work to challenge U.S. imperialism and its blockade on the people and nation of Venezuela. We will complete our deliberations and release our verdict and findings at the closing on 29-30 September at the People’s Forum  in New York City, on the sidelines of the opening of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Today, we state unequivocally that the sanctions, blockades and economic coercive measures imposed on Venezuela constitute crimes against humanity, including the crime of genocide. That the US has not succeeded in its efforts to subjugate the Venezuelan people is a testament to their resistance, creativity and steadfastness in developing new forms of action and production in order to confront the blockade. 

We conclude the work of our mission  in Caracas with inspiration, motivation and commitment to do everything in our power to confront these crimes against humanity alongside the people of Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Eritrea, and all the peoples and nations of the world targeted for confronting imperialism, yet moving on a daily basis from resistance towards dignity, collective liberation, self-determination and emancipation. 

From Palestine to Venezuela, imperialist crimes can never be stopped through concessions to its demands: It is RESISTANCE that wins. It is clear, more than ever, that the U.S. empire is not able to achieve its ends by committing these crimes, and that we are witnessing a brutal attempt to maintain U.S. hegemony amid an emerging pluripolar world.

There is an added responsibility of people in the belly of  the beast to challenge imperialist sanctions and to hold U.S. imperialism accountable for their crimes against humanity and plunder of the wealth and peoples of the world. We strongly denounce the deliberate promotion of migration of young Venezuelan populations to the U.S. and the imposition of a fake “American dream”. This trend in reality aims to push Venezuelans to join the impoverished working classes, in particular the dispossessed, criminalized and struggling Black and Brown communities in the United States, at the same time that U.S. policies seek to impoverish Venezuela. 

The devastation wrought by U.S. imperialism is substantial and apparent across a range of indicators and fields, from coerced migration to the confiscation of state assets, from the unlawful detention, kidnapping and imprisonment of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab to the attack on petroleum production and revenues. At the same time, as we conclude our mission, we are struck not only by the enormity of the crimes against humanity committed by the U.S. in Venezuela but also by the strength of the resistance of the Venezuelan people and their legitimate organs of governance and representation as well as their internationalist perspective and political clarity.

The crimes taking place in Venezuela are inseparable from U.S.-led imperialism and capitalism. Confronting these crimes cannot be confined to the legal sphere but requires a clear political commitment to confront, defeat, and dismantle imperialism and capitalism.  The global world order must change, from unipolarity to pluripolarity, from anti-people to a pro-people order with dignity, emancipation and self-determination for all.

Together, we declare: These crimes against humanity will not pass! We pledge to stand with the people of Venezuela and of the world, to do our work in our spheres of legal action, political education and popular organizing  to defeat sanctions, blockades and coercive economic measures, to support the Venezuelan people and all those confronting sanctions in order to advance the potential for revolutionary victory for all of our peoples in struggle. 

In struggle until victory, 

Members of the Fact-Finding Mission 

The International People’s Tribunal on U.S. Imperialism: Sanctions, Blockades, and Economic Coercive Measures