A top E.U. court on Friday threw out a bid by Venezuela to cancel damaging sanctions imposed by the bloc because of the deteriorating rights situation in the crisis-hit country.
The General Court of the E.U., the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, ruled that the attempt by lawyers for President Nicolas Maduro‘s government to annul E.U. sanctions – which ban EU-based companies from exporting certain goods there – was inadmissible.
The E.U. brought in a raft of measures in November 2017 to ban the export of arms and equipment that could be used for repression, as political protests against Maduro grew.
Since then, individual travel bans and asset freezes have been imposed on 18 members of the Venezuelan regime, though the U.S. has been pressing Europe to do more.
The Luxembourg-based court said that because the sanctions do not target the Venezuelan state directly, the Caracas government’s case was inadmissible in law.
“At most, the contested provisions are likely to have indirect effects on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in so far as the prohibitions imposed … could have the effect of limiting the sources from which the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela can obtain the goods and services in question,” the three-judge panel said.
The court has yet to rule on challenges filed by 10 of these officials against these measures – including one by Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez.
In addition to the measures enacted by the E.U., the United States has escalated sanctions against Venezuela under the Trump administration, culminating in the announcement of a near-total economic embargo in August.
The U.S. and most European countries recognize Juan Guaido, an opposition figure and self-declared interim president, the “legitimate” leader of Venezuela. In recent months, the Trump administration has ramped-up efforts to oust Maduro from power, supporting several failed coup attempts.
A study from economists Mark Weisbrot from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Jeffery Sachs from Columbia University estimated that prior U.S. sanctions, imposed in two main stages by the Trump administration since 2017, have resulted in the deaths of about 40,000 Venezuelans.
The study finds that sanctions prevented a possible recovery from an economic downturn spurred by a major drop in oil prices around 2016. The economists argue that measures amount to “collective punishment,” creating dire conditions as the Venezuelan people face shortages of food, medicine, and other vital goods and services.