Preventable Misery: The Breadth, Consequences and Harm of Economic Sanctions
w/ Special Guest: Dr. Francisco Rodriguez
Venezuela, Sanctions, UN Charter, Life Expectancy, International Law, Foreign Policy, United States, International Power Structures
Pedro Gatos 00:00 - Introduction
Welcome alternative news listeners. This is 91.7 KOOP community radio. This is Bringing Light Into Darknesss news and analysis. I'm your host Pedro Gatos and we are transmitting from Austin, Texas. All comments are welcomed and can be sent to Pedro at email@example.com. That's firstname.lastname@example.org. Many of the shows are archived at pedrogatos.org. Thank you for joining us, and we hope to have a recording of the show up on pedrogatos.org for your closer scrutiny within the week. We have a sensational show tonight as quite frankly, we have every Monday night. If your interest is to get as close to the truth as any news and analysis show will allow you then you are in the right place. Welcome to Bringing Light Into Darknesss where we invite you to join in our weekly pursuit for social justice, a pursuit where we seek to separate fact from fiction and where we acknowledge uncertainty where we seek to deconstruct deceit by identifying where unproven allegations are presented as fact through repetition and the absence of evidence and where uncertainties are approached from a humble, critical thinking perspective, because our interest is in deconstructing deceit and depression not enabling it. Tonight shows focus is about sanctions and the economic and humanitarian impact they have on majority populations. What our research has revealed is that sanctions can best be described as a regressive act of war. It's an act of war. Because it is a direct attack on the welfare of a whole population. It directly attacks the economic and nutritional well being of the majority population. It cuts off the government from foreign currency. And what we will learn is that when foreign currency is drastically reduced, it means cutting back on government spending for healthcare. It means cutting back on government spending on education, it means cutting back on government spending on public services. That means cutting back on government spending for food assistance. It means cutting back on government spending for pensions, and perhaps its most pernicious aspect, in addition to the lost years of life and the degradation of the quality of life while on this earth is that although it hurts everyone, it particularly and disproportionately harms the most vulnerable. Think about it, that it's not just an act of war on a nation, it is regressive in that it disproportionately harms the most vulnerable. Thank you for joining us tonight, as we have such an important dialogue and education on the human consequences of economic sanctions with the leading economic authority on the subject, Dr. Francisco Rodriguez who just completed and published his exhaustive study on the issue. Enjoy. Okay, welcome alternative news listeners. This is 91.7 KOOP Hornsby, Austin. This is Bringing Light Into Darknesss Monday news and analysis. I'm your host Pedro gatos. Today is Tuesday, May the ninth 2023 Our interview in this show will be rebroadcast live on 91.7 FM and streaming live on koop.org. On Monday, May the 15th 2023 from six to 7pm Central Standard Time. I am very pleased and we are very honored to be inviting and having the distinguished Dr. Francisco Rodriguez on with us today. Dr. Rodriguez, welcome to Bringing Light Into Darknesss. Thank you. It's very nice to be here with you. Well, one of the subjects that we've talked about on Bringing Light Into Darknesss many many times is the issues of sanctions and their impact on the countries that they are executed in Dr. Rodriguez. He is a Rice family professor of The Practice of International Public Affairs at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. He is a native of Venezuela. He is also the founder of Oil for Venezuela, a nonprofit organization focused on finding solutions to Venezuela's humanitarian crisis. He received his master's and his PhD in economics from Harvard University and has an undergraduate degree in economics from Venezuela's Universidad Catolica Andres Bello. Dr. Rodriguez has taught economics and Latin American Studies at the University of Maryland at College Park, and he has held prominent positions in the public and private sector and international organizations, including the head of the economic and financial advisory of the Venezuelan National Assembly during the 2000 to 2004 period. He is head of the research team of the UN's Human Development Report office from 2008 to 2011, and chief Andean Economist of Bank of America from 2011 to 2016. So he has a rich history of teaching and writing. He is a frequent contributor to several publications such as foreign affairs, Financial Times, The New York Times, America's Quarterly Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, among others, he has published a number some 50, or more research papers in academic outlets, including the American Economic journal, Journal of Economic Growth and journal event, macro economics, to name a few. He is also an author, he wrote the book Scorched Earth -the Political Economy of Venezuela's Collapse, which will be published in the upcoming year. Anyhow, with that being said, I just wanted to share that I had the great experience of reading, I think it's about a 20 page executive summary of a recent and exhaustive research paper that you authored. Dr. Rodriguez, it was published in the Center for Economic Policy Research, the prestigious think tank in Washington, DC, it was called the human consequences of economic sanctions. There's also a recent Op Ed, I believe that you wrote in Financial Times on or about May 4, called the harm that sanctions do to the vulnerable. So I just wanted to ask you, in your comments, in the in both cases, you share that there has been quite a increase over the last six decades in the use of economic sanctions by Western powers and international organizations. And I might say that, really, this is mainly led by the United States, they seem to be a common denominator in most all of these sanctions. But anyhow, less than 4% of countries are subject to sanctions imposed by the United States, you right, and the European Union or un in the early 60s. But today, that 4%, or less than 4%, has now risen to 27%. And when you go back, and you look at also the share of the world GDP produced in sanction countries that that rose from less than 4%, I presume back in the 1960. period to now up to close to 30% 29%, in the same period. And so you mentioned that nearly a third of the world economy is now subject to sanctions. Would you say, if we were to translate that into the population of the world is that basically 1/3 of the population of the world? Are we talking about over 2 billion or more people being affected by the sanctions.
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez 08:33 - The Rise of Economic Sanctions in the World
Yes, I mean, that's, that's accurate. And it's about a third of the population of the world. It represents a staggering increase over the past several decades. I mean, even if we go back to just to the 1990s, those ratios were less than 10%. And so they've tripled over the course of the past quarter century. And this reflects an inclination, a tendency of leaders in Western countries, but as you can correctly state, particularly in the US to use sanctions in basically as their instrument of choice for dealing with countries that they consider hostile. And it also reflects a breakdown of the world order that had been created on the aftermath of World War Two, and particularly, also the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which pursued some type of understanding with particularly with major world powers that there would be a working trading system that countries could participate in that work in trading system, and could be relatively free to import and export goods. That has given way to a tendency and inclination on the side of leaders of the US and Europe, to view other countries so frequently, are countries whose actions they want to correct they want to change they want to amend and therefore to use economic sanctions as in many times I also as the only instrument that they feel they that they can appeal to given the increasing unwillingness of people in these countries and voters in these countries to tolerate further military adventures. The reality is that however, they become increasingly frequent, and when they get to the level of covering a third of the world economy, or even before that, what we see is also a remarkable change in their effectiveness, because it's one thing to try to isolate economies that were 5% of the world economy, which can be treated as marginal, it's another thing to try to isolate a third of the world economy. And by the way, it's isolating a third of the world economy and having probably another third that doesn't share doesn't agree with that isolation. So what tends to happen is that you create groups of countries that band together, so you tried to say, stop Russia, from selling oil, but you can sanction Russian oil in the US, you can sanction Russian oil in Europe, that doesn't mean that China is going to stop, stop buying Russian oil. In fact, China might feel grateful that they're making it easier by Russian oil, which is another way of just another important destination for Russian oil. So sanctions, the more frequently they are used, also they lose some of the bite that they had, and they lose their effectiveness.
Pedro Gatos 11:25
Yeah. Dr. Rodriguez, let me ask you this, because, you know, you're talking about this polarization that it can create, as well. But if we can back up for a second, I know you're not an attorney. But I know you're very knowledgeable in everything connected to sanctions. Can you just share with our audience from the international law perspective that some sanctions are legal, if they're endorsed by the UN, yet many of these sanctions that are affecting a third of the world's population are not sanctioned by the UN? I'm wondering if you can just talk a little bit about what constitutes a internationally like legal sanctioning, like, for instance, if the world community recognized that there was an egregious violation of democracy have in human rights of a certain nation that they could get sanction. But it seems to me that sometimes, especially when it's not sanctioned by the UN itself, that some of this can be more political than actually more objectively measure. But can you talk a little bit just about the sanctioning, you know, also, the ratios? I don't know if you know, are aware, but back when you say in the 1960s, when only 5% of the world was sanctioned? Were those generally UN sanctions? Or were they more like unilateral sanctions by other nations?
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez 12:39 - What constitutes legal sanctioning?
Well, it's it's always been a mixture. It's always been an extra. And you also had even back in the 60s, as you had different types of sanctions, even within the UN, because you had some UN General Assembly resolutions, for example, which were calling for a boycott of South African goods back then. But what do we call sanctions, which are actual legal impediments to trade, they can be approved by the United Nations Security Council, according to the Charter of the United Nations. They are approved in what's called chapter seven of the Charter, which is a chapter on action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression. What that means is that the UN only allows sanctions in cases that can be classified as aggressions on other countries, or threats to peace or breaches to peace that is basically invasion of other countries. So UN sanctions were invoked, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, because there was a aggression to another country. They could have been invoked in principle and in the case of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but they weren't because Russia has veto power in the UN Security Council, and they have to be approved by the UN Security Council. They've been approved in the case of North Korea, which has not invaded another country, but it's seen its nuclear weapons program and its violation of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty indicate, at least in the assessment of the UN Security Council members that they signify a threat to the peace or breach of peace or lack of aggression. But there are a lot of other political considerations which are often used in order to impose sanctions that the US opposes or to impose sanctions, such as defense of democracy, which are not part of of what the UN considers grounds imposing sanctions through the Security Council. The article 41 of the UN Charter does give the UN Security Council the power to decide what it calls measures not involving the use of foreign force are to be employed, to give effects to its decisions. And basically these are decisions to try to restore peace, breaches of peace and out If aggression, there are a number of legal scholars that argued that the fact that the sanctions are permitted by the UN Charter and are compulsory on UN members, so when the UN Security Council accepts them and adopts them, that means that all UN member states have the obligation to comply with and enforce those sanctions. That means that they're the only sanctions that are legally permissible according to international law. First, international law in itself is a complex concept because there's no world parliament that approves international laws. A lot of international law is a set of principles which are respected by some countries, but not necessarily by all. And the US government in particular, but also the European Union have different interpretations of the law where they believe that they have the authority in their legislation to restrict trade with others. And in the US, that comes from the Constitution, Article One, Section Eight that gives Congress the authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and particularly with the International Economic Emergency Powers Act that was approved first, during World War One, it was called a trading with the enemy act back then. And it was used to restrict trade with countries that the US was at war with. Now, something that's very interesting and quite relevant about the legal dimension in the case of the US is that sanctions in the US and US law are imposed through the declaration of national emergencies, for the president has to declare a national emergency in response to what's called an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States. And that's where the legal question also comes into play, not at the level of international law, but at the level of domestic law. The US president has issued declarations of National Emergency with respect to the situation in Venezuela, with respect to the situation in Iran, with respect to the situation in Myanmar. And it actually is quite questionable from a legal standpoint, whether those situations constitute unusual and extraordinary threats to national security of the US. So I think that there's a good argument to be made here that there is an excessive, not only an excessive use, but an abuse of power by the US executive branch when declaring these national emergencies as a legal pretext in order to be able to impose sanctions on the countries that it's decided to sanction.
Pedro Gatos 17:29 - What are the quantitative studies on the impacts of sanctions?
Yeah, I think that's a great point because it's always been befuddling to me, it seems like we're more selective from a political or geopolitical perspective, maybe as a tool of a non war intervention in another nation. You look at a country, we claim we're sanctioning a country for democratic violations of rights or those types of things. Yet, the most egregious violators of democratic rights like Saudi Arabia, for the last number of decades, of course, have been left unaddressed based, obviously, on some type of double standard. Let me ask you to move into the substance of your findings, because I found them very disturbing, but very important, because this is what we have been claiming. One of the things that I'd wanted to highlight in my own studies, was whenever you impoverish a system, or wherever there's gross wealth inequality, there was a study by the folks at the Brookings Institute back in 2016, that address some of this, they analyzed life expectancies for men who are among the top 10% of earners, and those who are among the bottom 10% of earners. And these were men that were born in 1950. So when they compared the bottom 10%, life expectancy, to the top 10% life expectancy, there was an incredible difference of some 14 years. In other words, if you are living in poverty, and then you are living in need, that life expectancy was severely curtailed. And in your findings, it was really disturbing to me. First off, you looked at a number of studies, you did not look at one study or two studies, but it was over 30 studies, you indicated that one study, the state's GDP of some 26% was decreased - equivalent to our great depression just to give people the idea of how that might impact the average family, but another found an overall decrease of woman's life expectancy of 1.4 years, which is similar to the impact of what you are indicating that the pandemic added on global mortality. And so can you explain, you know, when we hear these numbers, an overall decrease of 1.4 years, that doesn't sound like such a big decrease, but when you multiply it by the millions of people that it affects millions of years of lost life, right? I mean, can you give us a perspective of that impact of that loss of life and life years and also the quality of life for those that do survive? During their living years, how the sanctions that you studied negatively impact that quality of life.
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez 20:06
So yes, I mean, there are numerous studies that part of the the objective of this research was to look at all the studies systematically and try to understand what is the picture that has emerged out of quantitative research in this field, because something that a lot of times happens in public debate on a relevant issue such as this is that sometimes a study will be published, and then that study will be criticized by other authors. And the people who pursue particular policy agendas may cite a study that they find more favorable to their review. So you can you can end up having a lot of confusion in the debate here. So what we did here was simply collect all of the studies. These are all of the quantitative studies using econometric techniques, or what are known also as calibration techniques, which are modeling techniques in economics to estimate the effect of sanctions and on living conditions. By living conditions, we mean anything that affects living standards, ranging from per capita-
Pedro Gatos 21:09
Excuse me, your audio faded - per capita income, please continue what else?
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez 21:14
To poverty, to health, through human rights. We found 32 studies of those 32 studies, we found that 30 of them found unambiguous negative effects on living standards. There were two other studies, one of them found ambiguous effects, which were positive in some dimensions and negative and some others, and another one claimed to find positive impacts. And we looked at that remaining study in significant detail, because it was the only one that had a conclusion that was different from the rest of the literature. And in fact we were able to identify some coding errors in the methodology, so that remaining study was essentially mistaken. In terms of the magnitude, well, if you're talking about a country that has 25 million persons, the population, such as some of the effect that countries like Venezuela, you'd be talking about between 25 and 35 million years of lives lost. And that is a huge mod by any standards and that's precisely why we frame it with comparison to the COVID pandemic. And this is the estimated effect on life expectancy is similar to the estimated effect on global mortality of the COVID pandemic. So think of the efforts that the international community deployed to deal with the COVID pandemic. While this is the same magnitude of harm that is being imposed on specific countries with what I would argue is a pretty big difference, which is that the harm that is being inflicted on target countries is often disregarded brushed aside, policymakers don't want to talk about it. It's quite amazing how, whenever questions about this type of findings are opposed to us policymakers, they brushed aside these concerns with arguments which are not very good. And sometimes they simply ignore these concerns. So part of the idea of this paper was to have all the evidence consolidated in one place, so that we could look at and assess what we know what's our state of knowledge with respect to the impact of sanctions. The results, of course, go beyond those to which you cited, there are a number of other findings. For example, in the case of HIV rates, child HIV rates go up by 2.5% as a result of sanctions on you find effects on not only on the length of life, but on the quality of life, find effects on child mortality, you find effects on malnutrition, on low birth weight babies, you find effects also on human rights situation deteriorates, usually, according to the studies on average when a country is faced with sanctions. So we have a plethora of effects ranging across all relevant dimensions of well being and all of them point either as an overwhelming consensus, are they pointing in the same direction? And I can tell you I've seen and I've conducted similar studies on other issues of economics, and such as, for example, the effect of a policy on economic growth. It is very rare to find this overwhelming level of consensus that a policy has either a negative or positive impact on this case, clearly a negative impact.
Pedro Gatos 24:37
Yeah, you know, it's really interesting to me, because I know you're familiar with a claim that was made some years ago by a report by Mark Weisbrot, Dr. Wiesbrot, also an economist and Jeffrey Sachs, another reputable researcher. They published a report back in 2019 that just looked at the number of lives that were lost in Venezuela alone in a single year as a result of US sanctions. They estimated some 40,000 lives from 2017 to 2018. Now, I know that you can't with absolute certainty break down the number of deaths but before I get to my question, we need to take a brief pause for the cause. This is91.7 KOOP Hornsby, Austin. This is Bringing Light Into Darknesss. We get the great privilege of having Dr. Rodriguez with us. We'll be back in a flash don't touch that dial.
Pedro Gatos 00:00 - Effects of sanctions on mortality.
Welcome back to Bringing Light Into Darknesss. We returned to our interview in dialogue with Dr. Rodriguez and to the question of the important study by Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrod on effective sanctions in a single year in Venezuela. Enjoy. First off, I'm sure you're familiar with that research? Can you indicate that that seemed like a good number as far as accuracy? And then how would you come to such a number? What would be the metrics that people would use to make that type of estimation or for yourself, when you do your research, I didn't see a specific number of deaths. But I was very impressed with what you were suggesting, in your paper about the child mortality rates, the malnutrition, the low birth weight, these types of things. When you have malnutrition, and you have low birth weights. What happens is the health, the brain ecology of these poor little infants that are not properly nourished, is compromised. In fact, micronutrients did some important studies many years ago that clearly showed that an improperly malnourished brain during particularly the first two to four years of life creates irreversible cognitive brain potentiality losses. But what is measurable, or at least ostensibly, was measurable was the number of deaths between 2017 and 2018. Do you mind just briefly sidetracking for a second, and speaking to that research?
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez 01:29
Sure, sure. That was a very important paper and discussion, the effect of sanctions and it was first paper to identify that a significant increase in mortality had occurred during the time in which sanctions were imposed, and particularly on the year after which no sanctions were imposed. It is, I think, important to set the record straight on the paper, the paper does not attribute an increase of 40,000 deaths to sanctions. The paper observes that an unusual event occurred, which is an increase a significant increase in mortality in 2018 and claims that part of that increase is almost certainly attributable to sanctions. And their argument, which I totally share with is that given that we have strong evidence that sanctions are effective as on oil production, given that oil provides 95% of the country's foreign currency revenue, given that the contraction in oil revenues caused a contraction in GDP, which, in that year, shrank by double digit numbers and has in the period between 2012 and 2018, has shrank by 72%, which is the equivalent of three great depressions. Given that we can certainly infer that the reason why we're seeing that increase in mortality is the country's economic production, or the main reason why we're seeing it as the country's economic production. And that economic contraction is to a very significant extent driven by economic sanctions, but they didn't. And the study has been misquoted a bit in that sense, they didn't actually say that the whole 40,000. They didn't come up with an estimate that the 40,000 were caused by sanctions, they made a reasonable assessment to claim that it is improbable that such an increase would have occurred, had it not been significantly affected by sanctions, that sanctions almost surely contributed to that increase. And again, that's an assessment that I share. But it also illustrates the difficulty in getting at these numbers. And that's one of the reasons why, in the paper that I published, I did not present an estimate of the number of deaths. Now, I think that that I definitely believe that there is good evidence, and the evidence is precisely reflected in the survey that I presented, that sanctionshave an effect on mortality, and that they contribute to increase in mortality. And when we look at life expectancy, well, life expectancy is that. Um in the study of looks at life expectancy, the way in which life expectancy is calculated is how long could somebody who was born today expect to live if that person faced the age specific mortality rates in the country at that moment of time? So it's not actually I mean, even though the term life expectancy might suggest that this is kind of like a forecast of how how long somebody is going to live, if they're born today, or an average of the times in which our people die, it's actually slightly different from that. It's it's a very important number, but it's essentially a way to summarize current mortality rates. Now with that said, the research I'm involved in currently trying to estimate this number of the mortality effect with greater precision. It's research that I hope to publish in the future. It's not research that I'm ready to discuss it. So so that number is there. But it's a number that that we have to identify with greater precision. The most that can be done is what Mark Weisbrod and Jeffrey Sachs did, which is to say, look, we see that in some cases where sanctions are imposed, we see unusual increases in mortality, those are increases, even if we can't pin down the exact number of deaths caused by the sanctions, we can pretty safely say that sanctions contributed to that unusual increase.
Pedro Gatos 05:36
One last question. If those estimates were for the one year in 2017, is there any reason to expect that it would be much different from year to year since 2017? Obviously, there's been continued sanctions there. And I know your paper covered three case studies, including Iran and Afghanistan, as well as Venezuela. But just since we're speaking about Venezuela, just to get the idea of, you know, one potential estimate, would that number be essentially changed at all, in your estimation, regardless of its accuracy? You know, what I'm asking between-
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez 06:11 - Economic contractions
I mean, with Venezuela, we have to contend with problem that mortality data is not readily available. That indicator that they used was an indicator that was created by a consortium of private sector universities. And it was just done for 2018. Regrettably, so. So so so we don't have good data to indicate what has happened since that moment. But what we do know is the country continued undergoing for at least two more years, a very large economic contraction. And that contraction was driven by the imposition of sanctions, because when they looked at this data, Venezuela had faced just the first round of financial sanctions, which were sanctions, which impeded the government and the state owned oil firm from a seeking international financing from refinancing their debt and essentially forced the state owned oil industry into the fold of its that, and that was very damaging to add to the oil sector. But in 2019, after that, you had the position of oil sanctions, which barred Venezuela from selling oil in the US and also threatened to impose their secondary sanctions, what are known as secondary sanctions on any other countries that bought Venezuelan oil. And then in 2020, you also had a further round of secondary sanctions on those partners that helped sell Venezuelan oil internationally. So so you had a tightening of sanctions, which came after that. And we know that that was reflected in a continued decline in GDP. As I said, in the case of Venezuela, you have the largest economic contraction observed in any country, outside of wartime, it's a contraction of 72% of GDP, of that a very large fraction of that was caused by sanctions. So and the deepest effects were felt in 2019 and 2020. So I think that when we get mortality data for Venezuela for 2019, and 2020, we will probably be able to, to observe even larger effects than those that were, that were observed by by Weisbrod and Sachs. Now, all of that said, it's also important highlighting that it's very difficult and precisely the reason why they stopped short of actually attributing a specific fraction of the of that increased sanction, it's very difficult to attribute specific effects at the level of single incidents, that and that's a general characteristic of quantitative sciences, whether they be quantitative social sciences or quantitative natural sciences, it's same thing that climate experts will tell you that human induced climate change leads to an increase in the incidence of natural disasters. But if a particular tornado hits, they can actually say that that tornado was caused by climate change, the same phenomena operates here, when and that's why I focus on large cross country datasets which look at at more than 100 countries at the same time, over 30, 40, 50 years. That's what gives you enough data source to be able to extract statistical patterns. When you have just one case, then there can be many multiple ways of doing attribution around the causes for that case. So it makes it a lot more difficult. It's, we can say with much more confidence that sanctions lead to a decline of life expectancy between 1.2 and 1.4 years, because we've looked at that in more than 100 countries than try to extract an estimate for a particular or sanctions episode in a particular country at a given moment in time.
Pedro Gatos 10:03
And that's very well explained. I just want to remind our listeners that we're visiting with the distinguished Dr. Francisco Rodriguez. He's the Rice Family professor of the practice of International and Public Affairs at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. We're speaking to his research study that was recently released, entitled The Human Consequences of Economic Sanctions on May 4 of 2023. The goal of the paper was to understand the implications of sanctions for people living in those target countries. Appreciate the way you explained how you can't get to an exact number. But we can absolutely attribute increased mortality rates in these countries based on again, we started earlier in the show, just mentioning this Brookings Institute, study that in 2016, that that showed that if you're at the bottom of the ladder, you know, you're in poverty, and born in 1950, and you're a male, and you're in that bottom 10% versus the top 10%. earners, you have a life expectancy of some 14 years shorter. So clearly, poverty impacts quality of life in a very negative and harmful way. And it seems to me, it's pretty clear and pretty obvious that if you sanction a country relentlessly over many, many years, or even for many, many months, you're going to have those declines. In fact, you indicated that the main channel through which the sanctions work is constraining the public sectors access to foreign exchange, which is typically followed by decline in spending on public health, education and food assistance. And in the limited time that we have remaining, you also indicate that there's a consequential currency depreciation and inflation that also drive a decline in real wages. It just seems to be such a pernicious outcome. And lastly, you talked which I thought was really important in your Financial Times piece, you indicated that economic sanctions can sometimes be more deadly, and often maybe are more deadly than an act of war conflict. In other words, a mother doesn't grieve any less, I would suggest if her son or small child dies in a war, or dies of malnutrition, from the impact of these other increased mortality rates that we're talking about. Can you speak briefly in your concluding remarks about how these sanctions work through constraining the public's access to foreign exchange? Explain that concept to some of us that, economically speaking, don't have high economic IQ as yourself.
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez 12:42 - Acute shortages that the U.S uniquely avoids.
No, it's actually quite simple. The majority of countries in the world live through the trade that they do with the rest of the world. And that's particularly important for small countries. And it's very important for developing countries, for countries in the Global South. So when we live in the US shirt, there are a lot of goods that are imported. But we're but the US is, is somewhat of a peculiar economy in that sense, in which a lot of what we consume is produced in the US and a lot is not. If you go to developing countries and countries in the Global South. Usually, these are countries that have a less developed manufacturing base. So a lot of what they consume is imported. And they produce natural resources, like oil, like mining, like natural gas, which they export to other countries, and that provides them with the resources to bring in imported goods. And those imported goods include a lot of times include food, they include medicines, they include inputs for their agricultural industry. So some food is imported, some food is produced domestically, but in order to produce food domestically, you need a lot of inputs, you need machinery, you need equipment, or they can buy internationally only. So when you cut off a country from particularly developing country from foreign exchange, you may make it impossible for that country to import medicines. And in that case, it's again, it's very different from the US. And it might be very different from from more advanced countries like Russia. So if you cut off the US from access to foreign exchange, the US probably has the ability to produce all the necessary drugs inside the country, a standard developing country does not. So that means that you can cause acute shortages of medicines of basic food items, you can see a significant decline in agricultural productivity when sanctions are imposed. And at the same time, remember that sanctions are aimed primarily at governments. So when you cut off a government's access to funds that means that you're generating fiscal crisis in that country. That's what sanctions aimed to do. That means that the government is going to be forced to cut back spending. And that means that it's going to cut back spending on health, it's going to cut back spending on education, it's going to cut back spending on public services, on food assistance on pensions. And all of these things, of course, hurt people in general in these countries, but they particularly hurt vulnerable groups. So there's very systematic work done both at the cross country level as well as in sanctioned economies that shows that you have large increases in the inequality of income distribution, when sanctions are imposed, and that it tends to be people who live in rural sectors and the unemployed, and those who are in the poorest strata of society that are more hurt by sanctions. So those who are part of the public sector or part of the nomenklatura that that hold power, they can always find a way to protect their wellbeing. So even so, there's the claim that sanctions are targeted at wrongdoers and their cronies. Usually, it's actually the opposite the the leaders who are targeted there, they're not going to have any trouble finding food nor maintaining their standard of living, it's actually the most vulnerable.
Pedro Gatos 16:19
Very good. And I think that's what makes him so unconscionable, in my mind is that outcome that you just mentioned, but also the fact that there seems to be a double standard that these sanctions can be used for political purposes if you're trying to create coercive measures to compel a country to act as you want it to act, rather than its own, uncoerced sovereign choice to act. In this misuse of sanctioning what drives the sanctions is the US government's complicity with corporate private interests, including but not limited to the military industrial complex, to compel an advantage for those private corporate interests in the international marketplace, rather than on the merits as outlined by the UN Charter. Yet at the same time, a false political rationalization is often created to make it appear that you are acting within the principles of the UN Charter. The famous words of George Bush, our president, you're either with us or against us. If you're not willing to jump aboard our coalition's in various venues and such, then you're just more likely to get sanctioned, as what I've noticed time and time again, again, because some of the most egregious violators of democracy are untouched by sanctions, yet some claims that has main reasons to sanction that country goes on. So when you really look at that inconsistency, it does, at least in my mind, particularly those that are not endorsed by the UN, seem to be pejoratively used as like a foreign policy coercion tool of some sorts. Before we get to the concluding remarks by Dr. Rodriguez. I wanted to add the following comments in a postscript from my experience of having this time with the esteemed economics expert regarding our extended discussion and dialogue. I wanted to insert two important reflections related to the content of our dialogue that were alluded to by Dr. Rodriguez. One was related to our discussion of international law and domestic law when it comes to sanctions under international law, the sanctions that are legal are those that are consistent with the UN Charter and are endorsed by the UN Security Council. However, Dr. Rodriguez also indicated that under domestic US law, we reserve the right to sanction any country we wish to provide it there as cause. This seems reasonable in that it seems such a discretion would fall under the sovereign rights of any nation. However, what was alluded to also was secondary sanctions, also known as extraterritorial sanctions, which are sanctions that seek to compel other countries to honor and apply your sanctions and your sanction rules to them, even though they may not want to, and likely would not do so except for the threat of coercion. The EU in the past claimed they are unenforceable, and the UN assembly and Human Rights Council have similarly condemned them as illegal. Yet the threat of not honoring a US sanction can often lead many entities to follow these illegal sanctions in order to avoid the ire and possible retribution by the United States as the most powerful economic and military country in the world. So the point here is that we are allowed to act with impunity and ignore international law in this and other ways we have described in the past much like a bully. The other point Bringing Light Into Darknesss wanted to make tonight regards the loss lives associated with sanctions applied by the United States and Venezuela over time, if you use the 40,000 approximation of loss lives in a single year 2017 That two highly reputable PhD economist, Dr. Mark Weisbrot in Dr. Jeffrey Sachs came up with in their 2019 report entitled economic sanctions as collective punishment, the case of Venezuela in which they cited 2017 estimates and multiply that by the last seven years, that would be a staggering sum of some 280,000 deaths attributable to the sanctions. However, I would suggest another approximation using the data provided by our esteemed guests tonight, Dr. Rodriguez, he suggested a Venezuelan population of some 25 million in 2023. And that an average loss of life was some 1.4 years per each Venezuelan off their life expectancy. And then if you do the math, that would be some 35 million years of lost life caused by the US sanctions over their lifetimes in Venezuela. And if you take 35 million years of life and divide it by the Venezuelan life expectancy in 2023, which is just below 72.5 years, that would come out to some 482,000 lost lives. And if you think about that Venezuela represents a small percentage of the world economy. And we started off our show tonight, citing Dr. Rodriguez study that indicated that some 29% of the world economy is being sanctioned, not just Venezuela, it seems this is a clear evidence of preventable misery being inflicted on millions, if not billions of people that should be eliminated, we return to our concluding remarks with Dr. Rodriguez. But Dr. Rodriguez, any concluding remarks, and also I wanted folks to access your work. If people are interested in accessing the human consequences of economic sanctions or any of your writings and want to keep track of when your book is coming out? How would they stay apprised of that data?
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez 22:23
Yes, sure. The paper, the human consequences of economic sanctions is published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Their webpage is www.cepr.net. So you can find it there. You can also look at my webpage, which is Franciscorodriguez.net. You can find that and you can find my other work there. And social media on Twitter, you can find my Twitter account is @FRRodriguezC. There you will find links to all of the works that I've published. And yes, of course, your my book out next year, which deals specifically with the causes of Venezuela's economic collapse.
Pedro Gatos 23:10
Very good. So one more time we had the Center for Economic Policy Research is one website that people can access your work, but you mentioned your own website. Did you say that was Fransisco rodriguez.net? Is that right? Yes, exactly. Very good. Dr. Rodriguez, thank you so much for this research. It's very important that perspectives be backed by hard science and data wherever possible. Many of these areas people don't traditionally believe can be measured scientifically like in the lab, but you come as close to that as possible with with the way that you approach your economic indices and measurements and such and I found it very insightful. So thank you for your work. We look forward to continuing to follow your work.
Dr. Francisco Rodriguez 23:55
Thank you very much for the invitation.
Pedro Gatos 23:57
All right, friend, thank you for Bringing Light Into Darknesss.