Photographer: George Castellano/AFP/Getty Images
Photographer: George Castellano/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Fortunately, the U.S. Senate is likely to shelve the sanctions initiative. With Maduro using unsustainable state spending to prop up his popularity, Venezuelans eventually will catch on to his shortcomings. There's no point delaying that reckoning by playing into his game.

To contact the author of this article: Raul Gallegos at rgallegos5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Lisa Beyer at lbeyer3@bloomberg.net.