The United States should temporarily suspend the punishing sanctions it has placed on the leaders and economies of Iran and Venezuela and bolster humanitarian aid in order to help both countries deal with worsening outbreaks of the coronavirus, 11 Democratic senators argued in a letter to the Trump administration Thursday afternoon.
“As these countries struggle to respond to their domestic health crises, U.S. sanctions are hindering the free flow of desperately needed medical and humanitarian supplies,” the senators wrote in the letter, which was led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“While the shortcomings of these national governments are largely due to their endemic corruption, mismanagement, and authoritarian behavior, broad-based U.S. sanctions have exacerbated the failing medical response,” the letter said. “The Iranian and Venezuelan regimes are American adversaries, but the good people of these nations are not our enemy.”
The senators called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to temporarily suspend sanctions that may “impede” the delivery humanitarian assistance in Venezuela and Iran for 90 days and said the administration should clearly authorize the delivery of medical equipment like testing kits to the countries. The senators also said the administration should provide “unconditional aid” to Iran and Venezuela through a third-party country or organization.
The letter added to the increasing calls on President Donald Trump to ease the sanctions he has placed on Venezuela and Iran, the latter of which now has nearly 30,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,000 deaths linked to COVID-19. But the administration has refused to back down, saying this week it would not suspend or limit sanctions on Iran even in the midst of the crisis.
Trump has taken an even more aggressive approach toward Venezuela, where he has wielded sanctions as the primary...