Humanitarian Groups Face Banking Challenges as Venezuelan Sanctions Escalate
19 Aug 2019

The prospect of hefty fines for skirting U.S. sanctions on Venezuela has made some banks skittish about doing business with the humanitarian organizations distributing food and other supplies in the troubled South American country.

Independent nonprofit groups in Venezuela have had U.S. bank accounts closed and transactions frozen as financial institutions take precautionary steps to comply with sanctions, according to aid workers.

The U.S. has ratcheted up its use of sanctions against Venezuelan officials to put pressure on President Nicolás Maduro’s regime, which the Trump administration considers corrupt and illegitimate. Under the Maduro regime, the country’s economy has collapsed and its residents face food and water shortages.

Last week, the U.S. escalated its campaign by imposing an economic embargo against the government of Venezuela.

With stronger U.S. sanctions in effect, the United Nations and other groups are concerned the financial sector’s compliance practices could further complicate the work of humanitarian aid organizations, whose work has been caught in the center of rising tensions between the Maduro regime and the international community.

The Treasury Department has taken steps to address the issue. The agency’s Office of Foreign Assets Control last week outlined the legal authority aid groups and other firms have to operate in the country. The authorizations and accompanying guidance were intended to send a message to compliance executives: do your part to keep humanitarian assistance flowing.

“We want the compliance community to be aware of these authorizations,” Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in an interview. “We want to make sure that humanitarian goods continue to flow into the country.”

By Kristin Broughton and Dylan Tokar, The Wall Street Journal, 16 August 2019

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

Photo (cropped): The Photographer, via Wikimedia Commons

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