Photographer: George Castellano/AFP/Getty Images

Chavez Would Cheer U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela

Raul Gallegos is a Bloomberg View contributor, who covers Latin American politics, business and finance. He was a columnist for Reuters and a correspondent for Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and Columbia University. He grew up in El Salvador and is based in Colombia.
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A bill to sanction Venezuelan officials deemed human-rights abusers was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. It may seem a sensible response to a government crackdown on opposition-led protests that has resulted in 42 deaths and thousands of arrests.

Such sanctions would backfire, however. They would feed the anti-Americanism encouraged by President Nicolas Maduro and help him distract attention from his economic mismanagement. His bungling has produced chronic food shortages, a worthless currency and one of the world's highest inflation rates.

The threat of sanctions has already given Maduro a soapbox. He denounced such measures in an op-ed published by the New York Times last month, and hasn't stopped talking about them since. "It's hardly worth responding to the stupid things the imperialist elites to the north do," he said this month, responding to those very things.

The House bill would deny entry to the U.S. to Venezuelans identified as human-rights abusers and would freeze any assets they held in the U.S. or in U.S. institutions. It would do little to hurt the Maduro administration. Maduro's allies can go without Miami shopping excursions. Most probably have closed their U.S. accounts already.

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