On November 7, 2014, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the US Department of Commerce issued a final rule imposing license requirements on the export of certain goods to Venezuela for a “military end use” or a “military end user.”  BIS imposed the license requirement on Venezuela in response to Venezuelan military involvement in direct violence against anti-government protesters, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries.

Background

The US government prohibits the export of goods that may enhance the military capabilities of states that threaten the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.  BIS thus imposes license requirements on certain goods on the Commerce Control List (CCL) when those goods are exported to certain countries for a “military end use” or a “military end user.”  Prior to this final rule, only China and Russia were subject to “military end use” and “military end user” restrictions. 

On February 18, 2014, the Venezuelan government arrested Leopoldo López, the leader of Venezuela’s primary opposition party, on charges of inciting violence during anti-government protests.  Protests subsequently escalated, resulting in numerous deaths and allegations of torture and human rights abuses by the Venezuelan military and police.  BIS has determined that the actions and policies of the Venezuelan military undermine the democratic process in Venezuela and threaten US national security. 

BIS restrictions on military exports complement Department of State visa restrictions on Venezuelan government officials involved in human rights violations. 

Military Export Restrictions on Venezuela

Section 744.21 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), 15 C.F.R. § 744.21, now requires a license to export certain items to Venezuela that are intended for a “military end use” or “military end user.”  An item is subject to the license requirement if it is:

  • Controlled under an export control classification number (ECCN) of the form “9x515”
  • Controlled under an ECCN in the “600 series”
  • Listed in Supplement No. 2 to Part 744 of the EAR

BIS defines a “military end use” as (1) incorporating an item into a military item, or (2) using an item to use, develop or produce a military item.  Military items are those on the US Munitions List, Wassenaar Arrangement Munitions List, or items on the CCL with an ECCN ending in “A018” or in the “600 series.” 

BIS defines a “military end user” as the national armed services, national guard, national police, government intelligence agencies, or any person or entity whose actions or functions are intended to support a “military end use.”

Applicants for a license must specify, among other things, all known information concerning the “military end use” and “military end users” of the item in Venezuela.  BIS will deny an application for a license when (1) the export of the item would make a material contribution to the military capabilities of Venezuela and (2) the export would result in advancing the military activities of Venezuela contrary to US national security interests.  BIS will apply these criteria to licenses for all exports to Venezuela, even if an applicant is seeking a license for another reason. 

Transactions are not subject to the new license requirement if they are pursuant to contracts signed before November 7, 2014.  Moreover, the restrictions do not apply where the export is to personnel, departments, or agencies of the US government.

Conclusion

The new prohibitions are similar to military end use controls that BIS imposed with respect to China and Russia.  See our previous advisory regarding the Russia-related restrictions.

Imposing restrictions on trade with the military of Venezuela is another in a series of targeted economic sanctions against Venezuela in response to violence against anti-government protestors.   The Obama administration likely will continue to enforce targeted measures related to Venezuela as long as the political crisis in the country persists.