Bill in Congress Would Ban Imports of Venezuelan Oil

A bill in the Congress would ban the importation of certain oil products from Venezuela to the United States. Total imports last year of the goods covered by the proposed legislation amounted to more than $10.9 million, or more than 95 percent of all imported goods.

The Protecting Against Tyranny and Responsible Imports Act (PATRIA) of 2017 was introduced in early September by Representative Mike Coffman, a Republican representing Colorado. The bill would prohibit the importation or even the withdrawal from warehouses of certain Venezuelan petroleum products. Specifically, the bill affects products under 2709, 2710, 2711, and 2713 headings according to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.

Coffman views his bill as a necessary additional measure to the sanctions that President Trump placed on Venezuelan government officials, including President Nicolas Maduro.

“Although I am pleased that President Trump authorized additional sanctions against Venezuela, I believe that we must take stronger action to get Maduro to reinstate the National Assembly,” said the Congressman.

The United States imported $10.9 billion of oil from Venezuela in 2016 or less than 7 percent of total oil imports. Oil imports from Venezuela have steadily declined since 2011 due in large part to increased domestic production.

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A major criticism of traditional sanctions measures, such as the economic sanctions on Cuba, Iran, and North Korea, is that the measures hurt the people of the country more than their governments. Joy Gordon, a professor at Loyola University and author of Invisible War: The United States and the Iraqi Sanctions, estimates that the sanctions placed on Iraq between 1990 and 2003 led to between 670,000 and 880,000 deaths of children under five.

Congressman Coffman acknowledges that his bill would negatively impact the people of Venezuela as well as the regime.

“No doubt, this could make economic conditions even tougher for the Venezuelan people,” said Coffman, “but it will also deliver a devastating blow to Maduro’s ability to stay in power without restoring the democratically-elected National Assembly.”

The main focus of the sanctions is to restore the National Assembly to power and end President Maduro’s usurpation of legislative power vis-a-vis the Constituent Assembly. To that end, Congressman Coffman’s bill contains a termination clause. Should the PATRIA Act become law, the President would have the power to terminate the bill’s ban on oil imports by certifying to Congress that the Constituent Assembly has been dissolved and that the National Assembly has been restored to power in Venezuela.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa and Congressman Mike Gallager are cosponsors of the PATRIA Act. The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on September 5, 2017.

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