Fighting Against Imperialism: The Latin American Approach to International Sanctions

Lead PI: Dr. José Ignacio Hernández G.

Unit Affiliation: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP)

September 2020 - Ongoing
South America ; Venezuela
Project Type: Outreach

DESCRIPTION: The Latin American experience with international sanctions has been mostly as sanctioned states rather than targeting states. This is not merely because Latin American countries have lacked the interest in using sanctions tools but also because of more complex factors, including the historical evolution of Latin American nationhood, a set of cultural values rooted in the defense of national sovereignty, and opposition to any foreign intervention. Although those values were embraced as a result of defending the independence of Latin American nations against European dominance, the values were also applied in intraregional relations in Latin America. As a result, there is not a strong culture of international sanctions imposed by Latin American countries. With few exceptions—such as Cuba—Latin American countries tend to rely on diplomatic negotiations conducted under the nonintervention principle.

The unparalleled crisis in Venezuela has produced a change in perspective. While the main actions adopted regarding this crisis were undertaken to facilitate diplomatic negotiations with the Venezuelan government, Latin America—particularly within the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS)—has started to implement international sanctions as a tool to promote a transition in Venezuelan governance. This shift has not been without controversy in Latin America. Consequently, the principle of nonintervention as relates to the use of sanctions is under stress in Latin America and merits re-examination.

This paper, part of the International Security Initiative at the Center on Global Energy Policy, reviews the history of international sanctions in Latin America in the context of broader diplomatic developments.