The United States has increasingly used sanctions in recent years to serve a range of foreign policy goals. For example, the United States has imposed a broad range of sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. The United States has also imposed sanctions on Venezuela targeting those involved in actions or policies undermining democratic processes or institutions. Sanctions may place restrictions on a country’s entire economy, targeted sectors of its economy, or individuals or corporate entities. Economic restrictions can include denying a designated entity access to the U.S. financial system, freezing an entity’s assets under U.S. jurisdiction, or prohibiting the export of restricted items.
A number of federal agencies play a role in implementing sanctions—including developing policy, identifying targets, and prosecuting violators. The Departments of Treasury, State, and Commerce each have units dedicated to implementing sanctions. For instance, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is the largest federal office dedicated to implementing sanctions. However, this office has faced challenges hiring staff to meet its growing workload—such as competition with other agencies and the private sector, and long lead times for acquiring needed security clearances. Federal agencies also face other challenges in effectively implementing sanctions and assessing their effectiveness.
Federal agencies do not conduct comprehensive assessments that measure how effective sanctions are in meeting U.S. foreign policy goals. Challenges to measuring the effectiveness of sanctions include difficulties in isolating sanctions’ effects from other factors, shifting policy goals and objectives, and the lack of reliable data.
U.S. agencies have taken steps to identify and mitigate any potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions on Venezuela. For instance, Treasury maintains a call center and email account through which humanitarian organizations can receive assistance with challenges related to sanctions. However, Treasury does not systematically track and analyze information from these inquiries to identify trends or recurring issues that could help ensure U.S. sanctions do not disrupt humanitarian assistance.
U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Supplies for Venezuelans