Treasury Department Should Stop Obstructing Property Rights

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Friday, October 30th, 2020, 2:30 PM PERMALINK

For decades, tyrannical socialist leaders in Venezuela wreaked havoc on the country’s economy, raising taxes, and pursuing countless other job-killing policies that inflicted suffering on the Venezuelan people. 

In one example of the attempt to nationalize the economy, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez seized a gold mine from a private company, Crystallex. Since that unlawful seizure, Crystallex has pursued legal action and was ultimately allowed to pursue a stake in oil company CITGO, Venezuela’s largest asset in the United States. While the legal process has been long, this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Venezuela’s latest attempt to get off the hook for the costs incurred by its former dictator.

Moving forward, this process should be allowed to proceed so that property rights and the rule of law are upheld. Any effort which results in the Treasury department interfering in this case by shielding Venezuela should be rejected.

The fact is, this is an important dispute that has major implications for the preservation of property rights around the world. Conservatives, including ATR have previously written to Secretary Mnuchin in opposition to Executive Action from the Trump Administration that would harm property rights owners. 

While the Administration ultimately did not issue an Executive Order, the Treasury Department – through an obscure office called the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) - has refused to grant the necessary license needed by aggrieved property rights owners like Crystallex to move forward on reclaiming its due. 

This bureaucratic blockade has continued in the face on numerous unanimous court decisions in favor of Crystallex and has the same effect of denying justice that an Executive Order would. Other Administration agencies, including the State Department and Department of Justice have made the case that the United States’ overarching foreign policy goals in Venezuela justify Treasury’s continued inaction.

These arguments from the United States and Venezuelan government are wrong and must be rejected. The Trump Administration must realize that the promotion of democracy abroad and property rights are not mutually exclusive goals, and that a license blockade by the Treasury Department sends a clear signal to dictators around the world that their confiscation of property will go unpunished. 

Instead of continuing down this path, Secretary Mnuchin and the Treasury Department should end its use of OFAC to deny the pursuit of private property rights. 

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Photo Credit: Mattia Panciroli

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