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Top economists & UN experts condemn US sanctions on Venezuela. Not newsworthy enough for the media?

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ
Top economists & UN experts condemn US sanctions on Venezuela. Not newsworthy enough for the media?
As the Trump administration continues to wage economic warfare against Venezuela, experts and economists continue to slam the illegal and deadly measures — and the media continues to completely ignore their warnings.

To experiment, simply Google the phrase “condemns US sanctions” (with the quote marks) and you’ll quickly learn from multiple mainstream media sources that North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and Russia are not big fans of US sanctions. It's an easy, uncomplicated narrative: Washington punishes the ‘bad guys’ and the bad guys complain about it.

It seems Google knows less about the UN Human Rights Council, which has explicitly condemned US sanctions on Venezuela, stating that they are “disproportionately affecting the poor and the most vulnerable classes.”

The individual UN experts and economists who have spoken out about the fatal effects of sanctions on civilians are hardly front and center in the coverage, either — that is, if they are lucky enough to garner any at all. Turn on any mainstream US news channel and the situation is even worse, as so-called analysts cheerlead endlessly for regime change across the airwaves.

Also on rt.com ‘Making people pawns & hostages’: UN rights expert slams US sanctions war on Iran, Cuba & Venezuela

The latest high-profile figure to speak out against US economic warfare is Idriss Jazairy, UN rapporteur on sanctions and human rights. Not mincing his words, he denounced US “regime change through economic measures” and said Washington was making “pawns and hostages” out of ordinary people. Such economic strangulation, he warned, leads directly to “denial of basic human rights” and has “never been an accepted practice of international relations.”

One would think such comments might arouse interest from journalists, who are (supposedly) concerned with the human rights of Venezuelans. Seems not. No major US outlet has picked up on Jazairy’s statement.

A little more luck was had by former UN rapporteur to Venezuela and international law expert Alfred de Zayas, when he spoke out against the “direct nexus” between sanctions and death. His comments garnered some coverage in the UK and Irish press (Independent and Examiner) but major US media again showed little interest. Are you noticing a pattern here?

More recently, analysis by prominent economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs for the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), found that US sanctions have led directly to the premature deaths of 40,000 Venezuelans. The sanctions also “fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population” under the Geneva and Hague Conventions, the report said.

Also on rt.com Civilians are the real victims (and targets) of Trump’s Venezuela sanctions

That report was dutifully buried by most of the media, too. Fox News did deign to cover it briefly, but only to dismiss it as a spurious “attack” on the Trump administration by kooky left-wing thinkers.

Most US journalists have also ignored an open letter signed by 70 scholars, including Noam Chomsky, condemning the sanctions. They have also given no mention to human rights NGO Fundalatin, which has special status at the UN and concluded that US measures are “one of the fundamental causes” of the country's worsening economic crisis.

Yet, instead of even minimally honest coverage, the media continues to discuss sanctions as though they are a squishier and softer method of intervention that target only the elite and ultimately help the poor — or, if they’re feeling really bold and adventurous, they frame the measures as a kind of necessary or lesser evil than all-out war (how generous!).

They don’t like to be called out on their misleading coverage, either. Media and political figures were apoplectic with rage last week, when rogue freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) dared to denounce US “bullying” of Venezuela and said the use of sanctions added to the economic “devastation.” They had plenty of airtime to denounce Omar for saying something they don’t like — not so much to actually report on the facts.

But these condemnations are not merely ‘opinions’ or speculation. It’s a simple fact that the measures used by the US to strangle and starve Venezuela’s economy are illegal, destructive and greatly exacerbating an already dire economic crisis. No matter how hard the media may try, there is no way to convincingly claim that they do not hurt ordinary citizens, because such a claim is simply contrary to reality. It’s classic US regime change strategy; make life as miserable as possible for civilians in an effort to force a popular uprising, making it easier to install a puppet of Washington in the target country.

Just imagine for a second, that de Zayas, Jazairy, Weisbrot, Sachs and others were condemning ‘Russian sanctions’ on some other struggling population. The outrage would be plastered across the front pages of newspapers and bellowing endlessly from CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

Watchdogs like FAIR and Media Lens have highlighted the media’s failure to accurately cover sanctions and their deadly results, but the morally bankrupt reporting was hardly unexpected; it’s simply an extension of their jingoistic coverage of the crisis in general, which has been filled with lies and misrepresentations.

A FAIR survey of US opinion journalism on Venezuela conducted between January and April found that a total of zero opinion pieces in the New York Times or Washington Post took positions against regime change — and the situation was much the same on TV. FAIR called corporate news coverage of Venezuela “a full-scale marketing campaign for regime change” — in other words, war propaganda.

Also on rt.com Hawks at the wheel: Bolton and Pompeo ‘steering US towards confrontation everywhere’

It is utterly baffling how a media which decried Trump as an evil maniac over comments about immigrants from “sh*thole countries” like El Salvador and Haiti and a Latin American “invasion” at the southern border, could now suddenly turn around and unquestioningly believe that his entire administration has the best interests of the Venezuelan people at heart, even after top officials have admitted publicly that the number one US priority in Venezuela is access to oil for US corporations.

Yet, that is the level of voluntary delusion we are dealing with when it comes to US interventions and regime change — the one topic that can whip Democrats, Republicans and the entire media up into a disturbing nationalistic fervor.

Trump administration officials met at the Pentagon last week to discuss “military options” for Venezuela, perhaps ready to up their game from cruel economic warfare to something even worse — and once again, we can count on the media to bang the war drums alongside them.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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