Long-suffering Venezuelans, bracing for more hardship, expressed conflicting emotions Tuesday.
“No dictator has been ousted due to an embargo,” said Neyda London, a 54-year-old store manager in Caracas. “It didn’t work in Cuba, and unfortunately it’s not going to bring the end of Maduro and his allies.”
But Rángel, 63, said Venezuelans need to sacrifice “if we ever want to overthrow this dictatorship.”
“If we’re not willing to suffer,” he said, “I don’t think we can ever get over this.”
Trump’s executive order imposes a full embargo on Maduro’s government, putting the country on a footing similar to Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria. The measure freezes all property and assets of the government and its officials, and prohibits transactions with Venezuelan entities including the central bank and the state oil company.
The oil-rich nation, locked in a political stalemate between Maduro’s government and the U.S.-backed opposition, has struggled for years under hyperinflation, power outages and widespread shortages of food, water and medicine. More than 4 million people have fled.
Venezuelan officials on Tuesday denounced what they called “economic terrorism.”
“They have said that this U.S. executive order is only against Maduro,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said in a televised address. “No. This order attacks the entire population of Venezuela, all its sectors.”
Government officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Analysts said it was too early to predict whether the new sanctions would accelerate Maduro’s departure. The U.S. embargoes on Iran, North Korea and Syria have failed to dislodge their leaders. The head of the United Nations’ regional body for Latin America said last year that the U.S. embargo on Cuba had cost the Caribbean island $130 billion over nearly six decades, but the communist government established there by Fidel Castro remains in power.
“There is no doubt that the new sanctions will severely limit the government’s maneuvering power,” said Luis Vicente Leon, director of the Caracas polling firm Datanalisis. “But it will also affect the lives of all the residents of Venezuela, who will be directly impacted.
“The most complicated part is that it’s not clear at all that this will help oust Maduro or accelerate the solution to the problem because the key aspects that are holding Maduro to power, the military and territorial control, are firm.”
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó expressed support for the embargo, saying it would protect the country’s assets and prevent foreigners from doing business that maintains Maduro’s government.
In a Twitter thread Monday, he noted that it included “humanitarian exceptions regarding food and medicines and protects the private sector that doesn’t do business with the dictatorship.”
“This action is result of the pride of an unviable and indolent usurpation,” Guaidó tweeted. “All those who sustain it, benefiting from hunger and the pain of Venezuelans, should know that it has consequence.”
Ordinary Venezuelans spoke of the possibility of more shortages.
“We would have to see if it is exactly the same as the Cuban embargo,” said Jorge Rojas, a 31-year-old computer systems engineer in Caracas. “I don’t know the real impact it will have on the nation, but almost every product that we have here in Venezuela is imported, and that could be a real problem.
“I’m waiting. It’s still too soon to get anxious about it.”
But José Gregorio Maduro — no relation to the president — was worried. Sales at his seafood shop are down 60 percent this year. He blamed the United States, in part, for imposing sanctions on the state oil company.
The 54-year-old merchant said the embargo “will affect the everyday citizen.”
“How much more can we survive in such disgrace?” he asked.
The political stalemate here has dragged on for months.
Nicolás Maduro claimed victory last year in elections widely viewed as fraudulent. The National Assembly declared Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader in January, and he quickly won backing from the United States and more than 50 other countries.
Guaidó has led massive crowds of supporters in the streets of Caracas and around the country in demanding Maduro’s ouster along with free and fair elections. But in the months since an April 30 uprising failed to spur the military to turn against Maduro, the movement has struggled to maintain momentum.
Polls show that the number of people who believe Guaidó will succeed in ousting the government in the short term has dropped since February. Refugees arriving at Colombian border cities in recent weeks said they had delayed plans to leave Venezuela while watching the opposition movement grow, but had lost hope that change would come this year.
Yont Esposito, a 30-year-old letter carrier in Caracas, said he was preparing for inflation.
“In a few weeks, prices will start to rise further, and the government will use the excuse of the embargo,” he said. “But any help is welcome, especially now that opposition leaders aren’t doing much.”
Opposition leaders and government officials have been meeting for talks mediated by Norway aimed at resolving the stalemate. The sides concluded a fourth round last week in Barbados without a resolution.
The United States is skeptical of the talks. Maduro has accused the United States of sabotaging the process.
“Every time a round of dialogue is coming, the government of the United States perversely comes out to make decisions,” he said in a televised speech last week. “Illegal decisions. Stupid decisions about supposed sanctions, because they think that because of a sanction we will tremble.”
Venezuela’s foreign ministry said Tuesday the sanctions would not stop the government from pursuing the dialogue.
Interior designer Marisol Mesa, 60, expected conditions here to get worse. But she said she supported anything that could help bring down Maduro.
“It’s a great way to hurt these thieves,” she said. “Maybe we’ll be in a bad shape for a while. But how much worse can it be?”