On February 4, 18 European countries recognized Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela. The move came eight days after the European Union gave Caracas eight days to announce new presidential elections.
Now it appears that the EU is willing to increase the pressure on the regime of Nicolás Maduro further.
Reuters reports that the EU is considering placing more sanctions on individuals in the Venezuelan government.
Malta’s foreign minister, Carmelo Abela, said that the sanctions needed to be targeted: “The intention … is that sanctions can be possible on certain individuals rather than on issues that might have an effect on an already weakened economy.”
“Having further (sectoral) sanctions is not excluded but primarily we are focused on certain individuals,” said Abela.
Targeted sanctions may not be enough to force Maduro to adopt new policies. Some experts say oil and financial sanctions may be the only way to force meaningful change in Venezuela.
The United States and India imported the most crude oil from Venezuela in 2017, the latest year with complete data from UN COMTRADE. In that year the US imported $10.7 billion and India imported $5.9 billion worth of crude oil.
As the graph below shows, China, India, and the US are in the best position to put pressure on the Maduro regime through trade sanctions or an oil embargo.
European countries represent a much smaller fraction of all crude oil exports than China, India, or the US. However, given the state of the Venezuelan economy, European countries and the EU can still apply significant economic pressure through trade sanctions or an embargo on Venezuelan oil.
Sweden, Spain, and Germany were the top importers of Venezuelan crude oil in 2017.
Although they may be reluctant to impose oil sanctions at the moment, European countries may need to take a closer look at the option in the near future if Maduro continues to cling to power.