A blog post by a Venezuelan blogger outlines how, since 2009, various exporters of police equipment, including tear gas, have been supplying Venezuelan and Cuban security forces based mostly in Caracas. According to Alek Boyd’s research, he was able to document about $35 million in sales of arms, munitions as well as other law enforcement items such as tear gas.
Ordinarily this would make for dull news, but if you’ve followed recent events in the region then you can appreciate why this information makes for an interesting read. It also caught my attention because one of the legal issues I advise clients about include compliance with U.S. export control laws as well as economic sanctions.
For example, Americans need authorization from the U.S. government to sell to foreign governments, and police forces, items such as tear gas or other police equipment. The same goes for tanks, guns, ammunition, and whole host of military or high-tech dual-use items that are way too many to list here. For the purposes of this post, just keep in mind that if you’re in this line of work in the U.S., you need Uncle Sam’s OK to sell or export these items anywhere outside the US of A.
With respect to Boyd’s post and how it ties in to U.S. export controls, if it is correct, the U.S. persons involved in the alleged export of tear gas, guns, and even, swords, better have their export controls compliance shop in order. According to his research, he documented close to 150 transactions connected to the United States. There were also a lot of exports from a maker of police equipment in Spain.
Yesterday the Trump administration blacklisted a group of Venezuelan judges. A very welcome move that I hope will continue. Access to the U.S. market is a privilege, not a right. If you’re a foreign national engaging in crooked activities that involve violations of fundamental rights, stay put. You and your immediate family are not welcome in America. So, if you’re here and in the police equipment exporter business, you better be complying with U.S. export control laws or you may end up with large legal bills and hefty fines, for starters. Prison? Also possible.
With the ways things are deteriorating in Venezuela, who knows, it is very plausible that some of these U.S.-based exporters could receive a visit from federal officers with the Miami Field office of the FBI or the Office of Export Enforcement. The same goes for exporters in Spain. Spain has similar laws on the books, albeit not as tough as the U.S. export controls regimes.