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American Sanctions Have Polluted Venezuela
ONC Editorial

Mar 17, 2023

Removing American sanctions on Venezuela would be a step in the right direction when it comes to solving the nation’s clean water crisis. (The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the individual author, whose information can be found below.)

Clean drinking water is declared a necessity, yet an entire nation is being deprived of it. According to Rendon, nearly 80% of Venezuelans lack access to clean drinking water, a fact that’s proven disastrous for their health. This crisis, however, is not entirely of Venezuela’s own making. Although Nicolás Maduro, the current leader of Venezuela, has severely mismanaged Venezuelan water infrastructure, American sanctions have only served to worsen the problem. The United States and other nations have set up an economic blockade, making it impossible for Venezuela to buy new water pumps or trucks to transport water. Although removing sanctions on Venezuela alone would not solve the nation’s clean water crisis, it would be a step in the right direction.

The Venezuelan government has twice attempted to purchase new water pumps; however, the blockade has stopped companies and countries trying to help. This means that although Venezuela is trying to end its  water crisis, it is left unable to do so because of US-led efforts intended to strangle Venezuela’s economy.

Currently around one million residents have been exposed to unfiltered water, says Kurmanaev and Herrera—a number that includes children as well as adults. Venezuela’s next generation is growing up dehydrated and lacking the clean drinking water  necessary to thrive. Without a resource such as clean water, schools have also been forced to shut down, and students are being constantly exposed to contaminated materials in those still operating. Their physical and psychological development is being stunted along with their access to an adequate education.

Amid a pandemic ravaging the world, Venezuela numbers among the nations hardest-hit. With 73% of the population receiving an irregular supply of water, pandemic control measures have been pushed onto the backburner, according to Reuters. In conditions such as these, the country has become a breeding ground for COVID-19. There is little water available for hand-washing, and even if there were, citizens would risk contracting a waterborne virus. Venezuelans are currently having to gamble for the lives and safety of themselves and their children, a situation only worsened by American sanctions.

The civilian quality of life in Venezuela has exponentially decreased after the imposition of American sanctions. Although presented to the public as a peaceful means to restrain the Venezuelan government, the sanctions in Venezuela have only managed to invite chaos and death. Removing such limits on Venezuela would help the public immensely. With access to water pumps and new filtration methods, water would be clean enough to drink, a mere dream for many Venezuelans currently. An increase in imported water trucks would further expedite the distribution of water across the region. Water trucks would be  able to refill the water tanks of every house in Venezuela, even those without running water, making them a necessity in solving the crisis.

National production in agriculture has also fallen 60 percent and has resulted in the average weight loss of twenty-four pounds per citizen, as stated by Rendon. A famine is amongst the horizon of terrible fates possible in Venezuela--a situation that must be avoided at all costs. A lack of crops leads to a lack of adequate nutrition across the entire population and eventually malnutrition, the effects are being seen now. 

Having this conversation is critical in order for the rivalry between Venezuela and the United States government to be put at rest. To not address such issues is to not advocate for the millions of lives suffering due to starvation and dehydration. The first step in not only solving this crisis but repairing relations between the two countries is to remove the sanctions, an action that can only help the citizens of Venezuela.

This Op-Ed was written by Cole Woody, a Foreign Policy & Defense intern at ONC prior to our Fall 2021 semester. 


“Breaking International News & Views.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 

Kurmanaev, Anatoly, and Isayen Herrera. “Venezuela's Water System Is Collapsing.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2019, 

Rendon, Moises, et al. “Unraveling the Water Crisis in Venezuela.” CSIS,

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