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United States and IMF Condemn Iran and Venezuela to Coronavirus Devastation

Burial site at Qom’s Behesht Masoumeh Cemetery Date: 15 March 2020 Source: https://www.mehrnews.com/photo/4878524/%D8%AA%D8%AF%D9%81%DB%8C%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%81%DB%8C%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%A8%D8%AA%D9%84%D8%A7-%D8%A8%D9%87-%DA%A9%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%86%D8%A7-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A2%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A8%D9%87%D8%B4%D8%AA-%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%B5%D9%88%D9%85%D9%87-%D8%B3-%D9%82%D9%85 Author: Mehdi Bakhshi

Reports out of Iran and Venezuela detail the devastating impact American sanctions are having on the two countries as they seek to prevent mass death and overwhelmed health services amid the global Coronavirus crisis.

Reports out of Iran and Venezuela detail the devastating impact American sanctions are having on the two countries as they seek to prevent mass death and overwhelmed health services amid the global Coronavirus crisis.

The latest pile-on to the bad news for the two pariahs in the Western world continued, this time at the hands of the International Monetary Fund and the United States. The IMF rejected a Venezuelan loan application of $5 billion dollars to help the country prepare for coronavirus.

An IMF spokesperson said the loan was rejected because member states do not agree on who is Venezuela’s democratically elected leader, President Nicolás Maduro or Juan Guaidó a US-backed politician who attempted an undemocratic takeover of the country.

Venezuela has a relatively low amount of confirmed cases at 36, but Venezuelan hospitals are reporting a lack of protective equipment for medical workers and intensive care beds.

The situation is much more dire in Iran, with 18,407 confirmed cases and 1,284 deaths as of March 18.

Despite the rapid spread of the virus in Iran, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced fresh sanctions on Iran Wednesday, in an attempt to further cripple the already tanking economy.

Iran: Why Now?

The United States alleges the sanctions are a response to rocket attacks from Tehran-backed militias. However, no group has claimed responsibility, and the attacks caused no casualties.

American action in the region has repeatedly been called into question, especially after the White House ordered the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani. Iran’s immediate ‘proportional response’ was much quieter than the explosive killing of Iran’s top military commander.

In a statement, Pompeo said, “our sanctions will deprive the regime of critical income from its petrochemical industry and further Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation.”

Critical income for Iran is undoubtedly needed to build out a more robust response to the devastating threat to the country’s economy and health.

In a video announcement, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, “the US government has vengefully refused to lift its unlawful and collective punishment.”

Zarif continued his harsh words and argued that America’s unilateralism is harming the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Iran is in a public health crisis, the United States has opted for further restrictions in an attempt to further its political agenda of regime change in Iran.

Hostile Actor

Similar to Iran, the United States, buffered by the international community, is weaponizing the spread of COVID-19 to pressure Venezuela into regime change.

Maduro has long criticized the IMF for its monetary policy and relationship with the Global South, but his willingness to come to the IMF for economic stimulus was met with predictably empty hands.

“As we have mentioned before, IMF engagement with member countries is predicated on official government recognition by the international community, as reflected in the IMF’s membership. There is no clarity on recognition at this time,” said an IMF spokesperson.

The United States is the largest shareholder in the IMF, and it could unilaterally decide to release the money to Venezuela. Venezuela was attempting to tap into a $50 billion fund set up to help developing countries cope with the virus.

Yet, the Donald Trump White House has elected for a hawkish policy towards Iran and Venezuela that extends to times of a worldwide health crisis.

Venezuela is also likely to be impacted by its biggest neighbor Brazil’s lackluster response to the pandemic.

Brazil announced it would shut its borders with Venezuela to prevent sick Venezuelans from crossing the border for medical treatment. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also faces nationwide criticism and protest over his lax response to the growing crisis.

Venezuela’s position is exacerbated by long-standing sanctions from the US and a broken relationship with hostile Brazil, a current American ally.

Alec Pronk

Alec is a freelance writer with an interest in both geopolitics and American domestic issues. He finished his Master's degree with a critical focus on government counterterrorism policies.

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