May 21, 2019

Breaking down Canada’s enhanced sanctions on Venezuela

Canada’s recently expanded sanctions against Venezuela, announced in April, could result in risk for Canadian firms doing business in the country.

Undoubtedly, organizations and individuals with commercial interests in Venezuela will remain watchful of the political climate.

The sanctions, made under the Special Economic Measures Act, now target a total of 113 individuals, many of whom are high level officials connected to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

They prohibit any Canadian from:

  • Selling or buying property that is owned, held or controlled by persons on the sanctions list or a person acting on behalf of a listed person;
  • Entering into any business transaction that is related to a person on the sanctions list or prohibited by the Regulations of the Special Economic Measures  Act;
  • Providing any services that relate to any transactions prohibited by the Special Economic Measures  Act;
  • Providing any goods, wherever situated, to a listed person or a person acting on behalf of a listed person; and
  • Providing any commercial services to or for the benefit of a listed person.

The United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has also imposed sanctions and has continued to add members of the Maduro regime to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. American citizens and organizations are prohibited from operating in the financial sector with persons on that list. Despite this, OFAC has indicated it will ensure humanitarian assistance and personal remittances continue to flow to the citizens of Venezuela.

Maduro’s regime has been blamed for participating in the repression and persecution of the interim government led by Juan Guaido, censorship, excessive use of force against civil society, and undermining the independence of the judiciary and other democratic institutions.

Following elections in December 2015, when a coalition of opposition parties won a majority in the National Assembly, Maduro declared a state of emergency and proceeded to systematically strip the powers of Venezuela’s National Assembly. Countries from around the world have refused to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s regime. In September, 2017, a group of countries including Canada and the United States called upon other states to take economic sanctions against individuals of Maduro’s regime.

As a response to what many felt was an illegitimate election, Juan Guaido, the President of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president of Venezuela on January 23, 2019. Many nations, including Canada and the United States, have supported the National Assembly and recognized Guaido as the Interim President of Venezuela.

Undoubtedly, organizations and individuals with commercial interests in Venezuela will remain watchful of the political climate.