In late January the United States announced widespread sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned energy company PDVSA, ratcheting up pressure on the repressive regime of Nicolas Maduro in an attempt to force a democratic transition. Upon cutting off Venezuela’s primary source of hard currency, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton predicted the government’s downfall within a few weeks.
Three months later, Maduro still sits in Miraflores, the presidential palace. Even this most oil-dependent of governments has remained afloat, at least so far. In part its resilience comes from cutting spending on basic necessities for the population: Food, medicine, even electricity.
But it also reflects the regime’s access to dollars through other means. Drug trafficking, illegal mining and other contraband also bring in billions in hard coin to the regime. And as sanctions increase the deprivation and desperation of Venezuela’s people, one of these growing streams will come from remittances, money sent home by Venezuelans who were already abroad, or who have swelled the recent tide of the more than 3 million who have fled, most of them in the last three years.