I answered a question in Spanish on Quora. Translation of question:
How do you explain that the US claims to aid the Venezuelan people by imposing sanctions that prevent the government from importing foods and medicines?
The main source of the confusion that reigns among Venezuelans is that their economic crisis is due to several factors and most Venezuelans attribute it either to Maduro alone or to the US alone based on their political perspective (patriots vs traitors). These factors include:
1. The drop in oil prices due to an increase in extraction by the Saudis in 2014. (Oil market expert Andrew Topf wrote for oilprice.com in 2014 that Saudi Arabia has a long history of manipulating oil prices for political reasons and attributed the 2014 price reduction to a US-Saudi plot with the goal of harming Russia, Syria and Iran (but it is also possible that they had Venezuela in their sights.) Anyway we can say beyond the shadow of doubt that there was manipulation by the US and/or its allies.
2. Management errors by President Maduro. For example, the president maintained a protected dollar exchange rate for many years, causing hyperinflation of consumer prices. Recently, after consultation with President Putin in Moscow, he eliminated that policy and reinstated a floating rate. (https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-47153468). Another mistake was the lack of diversification of the economy. Venezuela needs to develop, for example, agriculture in order to reduce its dependence on imports. In addition, more jobs are needed. Putin is helping the people with the construction of a Kalashnikov plant, which will create jobs. China is also negotiating for the development of new industrial projects, including some not related to petroleum.
3. The sanctions, and an embargo, by the US. Many think that all American measures against Venezuela began in recent months. This is far from the truth and this myth is pure pro-Washington propaganda, which has spread throughout the West to exonerate the US and blame the government of Nicolás Maduro for the economic crisis that the country is suffering.
Venezuela has been harmed in international trade and investment since the time of President Pérez:
Our translation of a passage from the above-linked article:
"The secret agreements with the United States of 1990 and 1991 on Foreign Investment signed during the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, consist of 3 instruments from which a series of laws, norms and procedures were generated that reconstructed the commercial and investment relationship in favour of US capital ... "
Later during the government of George W. Bush, sanctions were imposed against PDVSA due to the fact that that company insisted on being sovereign.
Our translation of a passage from the above-linked article:
"... the sanctions [were] imposed to prohibit PDVSA from receiving loans from the Bank of Exports and Imports (Eximbank) of the United States."
Since oil exports were the source of income for the entire country, these sanctions were an existential threat to the Venezuelan people themselves and not just to the government.
Obama also imposed high tariffs on Venezuelan exports:
"There is a commercial blockade in progress initiated with the Obama Decree that the US uses as a legal basis. The first measure has been to remove Venezuela from the General System of Tariff Preferences of the USA, to be executed in 2017, affecting 4400 Venezuelan products that will now pay high tariffs in that market.
"Its validity and the secrecy about the companies that are protected under its terms constitute a clear disadvantage for the nation."
On top of that, a devastating Trump sanction came into effect in August of 2017! The media spread very little information about this, so that the people would mistakenly believe that the crisis caused by these measures was the result of an alleged mismanagement by Maduro.
Our translation of quotes:
"The US Government adopted a set of measures in August 2017 that prohibits transactions and financial agreements with the Government of Venezuela and with the Venezuelan state oil corporation (PDVSA)."
This measure practically blocked the vital income of the Venezuelan people, severely worsening the life, safety and health of Venezuelans.
But we may wonder why the US invests so much energy and effort in harming the Venezuelan people. The answer is that Washington wants to overthrow any government that does not bow to the US and that it does not serve the interests of the US, defending its own sovereign interests instead. It has always been like this. The US does not tolerate complete sovereignty of any other country.
And if there are Venezuelans who think that a US puppet government, for example, the government headed by Juan Guaidó, could get the US to change its policy toward the people in order to restore their prosperity, they are skating on thin ice.
Iraq: an example from recent history of what may await Venezuela
The US imposed severe sanctions on Iraq in 1991 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and waged war on Saddam Hussein twice. However, after the last war in 2003, the UN (mainly controlled by the US) waited 7 years to lift the sanctions, until December 2010. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12004115). Apparently, the US wanted to punish the Iraqi people for what their president had supposedly done! So will the poor Venezuelans have to continue to groan under sanctions and suffer a severe economic crisis even if the country bows to the hegemon of the north?
This vindictive behaviour of Washington is constant and no country can escape it.
Another example: Ukraine
In 2014, the USA, through governmental and non-governmental organizations (USAID, NED, a George Soros Open Society foundation, etc), supported by representatives of European governments (Germany, Holland, for example), instigated an illegal and violent coup against the legitimate government of Ukraine. As a result, democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovich - who had good relations with Moscow, and was later replaced by a puppet named by the State Department - was overthrown - illegally, because the coup violated the Ukrainian constitution. (This mirrors the appointment of Guaidó by Mike Pence, a flagrant violation of the Venezuelan constitution, which demands independence and prohibits foreign meddling in its official policies).
The Ukrainian coup was successful largely because the Europeans who participated in the coup had promised to admit Ukraine as an "associate member" of the EU.
The gullible Ukrainians were hopeful of receiving aid, investments and loans from the EU. They made the mistake of trusting the US and its allies.
Their hopes were dashed. Europe denied them aid and membership in the EU based on the high rate of corruption in the country and also because there were major fascist elements in the government and (para)military, which spooked Germany in particular. President Poroshenko, known for being a drunkard and mentally unstable, broke all treaties with Russia, which were sources of much income for the people, and stopped paying for the Russian gas that the country onsumed - which led to the suspension of the supply. It also threatens Russia constantly with making war and to this day continues illegally shelling the Russian-speaking Donbass in violation of the Minsk treaty. Thanks to the disastrous economic management of the US-backed government, Ukraine could not pay its foreign debts. Finally, in 2018, the IMF declared that Ukraine - which before the coup enjoyed a certain prosperity - was the poorest country in Europe, attributing that status to the high degree of corruption that reigns in the country.
And what is the USA - the country that brought Ukraine into this situation – doing to solve its crisis?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Instead it is sending lethal arms to Kiev to kill innocent civilians in Donbass.
So, Venezuelans, do you want to bet on the support of the great northern hegemon to help you resolve your crisis? Think about it!