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Reading: Into the shadows: sanctions, rentierism, and economic informalization in Venezuela


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Into the shadows: sanctions, rentierism, and economic informalization in Venezuela


Benedicte Bull ,

Universitetet i Oslo, NO
About Benedicte

Benedicte Bull is professor of political science at the Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM) at the University of Oslo, where she leads the Norwegian Network of Latin America Research and the Oslo Academy of Global Governance. Her research focuses on the role of business and elites in development and environmental governance in Latin America and international institutions.

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Antulio Rosales

Universitetet i Oslo, NO
About Antulio

Antulio Arael Rosales is a PhD in Global Governance from the University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs. His PhD thesis centred on the historical evolution of state treatment of Foreign Investment in the oil sector of Venezuela and Ecuador, integrating insights from Obsolescing Bargaining Models (OBM) and constructivist literature. He has also published on the contributions of Latin American intellectual history to development and International Political Economy thought as well as regional integration mechanisms.

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This article studies the effects of sanctions on different economic sectors in Venezuela, framed as a rentier capitalist state. We analyse four sectors: hydrocarbons, agriculture, manufacturing, and what we call “emerging sectors” (mining and cryptocurrency activities). We argue that sanctions and counter-strategies employed by the state have produced multiple transformations, such as the informalization and criminalization of the economy, which undercut the recovery of Venezuelan economic development and democracy. These effects manifest in an increase in the barter-economy, de facto dollarization, the expansion of activities such as mining and cryptocurrency use, and the spread of illegal actors and military intervention in critical sectors. This study is inscribed in comparative and international politics traditions, related to the interactions of international constraints with domestic political economy actors and structures. Through a qualitative approach, we fill an important gap both in the literature on Venezuelan sanctions, and on sanctions more broadly. 

Resumen: Hacia las sombras: Sanciones, rentismo e informalización económica en Venezuela

El artículo estudia los efectos de las sanciones en diferentes sectores económicos en Venezuela, visto como un estado rentista. Analizamos cuatro sectores: hidrocarburos, agricultura, manufacturas y lo que denominadmos “sectores emergentes” (actividades mineras y de criptomonedas). Sostenemos que las sanciones y contra-estrategias empleadas por el Estado han producido múltiples transformaciones, como la informalización y criminalización de la economía, que socavan la recuperación del desarrollo económico y la democracia venezolana. Estos efectos se manifiestan en un aumento de la economía de trueque, dolarización de facto, la expansión de actividades como la minería y las criptomonedas, y la propagación de actores ilegales e intervención militar en sectores críticos. Este estudio se inscribe en tradiciones políticas comparativas e internacionales, relacionadas con las interacciones de las restricciones internacionales con los actores y estructuras de la economía política nacional. A través de un enfoque cualitativo, llenamos un importante vacío tanto en la literatura sobre sanciones venezolanas, como sobre sanciones en general.

How to Cite: Bull, B., & Rosales, A. (2020). Into the shadows: sanctions, rentierism, and economic informalization in Venezuela. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (109), 107–133. DOI:
Published on 13 May 2020.
Peer Reviewed


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