¿Funcionan las sanciones económicas?

CAMBRIDGE – Como se está hablando en las noticias de las sanciones económicas occidentales contra Rusia, el Irán y Cuba, es un buen momento para hacer balance del debate sobre hasta qué punto funcionan dichas sanciones. La respuesta breve es la de que por lo general las sanciones económicas tienen efectos sólo moderados, aun cuando puedan ser un medio esencial de demostrar determinación moral. Si las sanciones económicas van a desempeñar un papel cada vez más importante en el arte de gobernar del siglo XXI, podría valer la pena reflexionar sobre si han funcionado en el pasado.

Como observan Gary Hufbauer y Jeffrey Schott en su clásico libro al respecto, la historia de las sanciones económicas se remonta al menos a 432 a.C., cuando el estadista y general griego Pericles dictó el llamado “decreto de Megara” como reacción ante el rapto de tres mujeres de Aspasia. En los tiempos modernos, los Estados Unidos han aplicado sanciones económicas con miras a la consecución de diversos objetivos, desde los intentos del gobierno de Carter en el decenio de 1970 de fomentar los derechos humanos hasta los intentos de impedir la proliferación nuclear en el de 1980.

Durante la Guerra Fría, los EE.UU. aplicaron también sanciones económicas para desestabilizar a gobiernos hostiles, sobre todo en Latinoamérica, aunque parece que desempeñaron un papel menor, incluso en los casos en los que el régimen cambió más adelante. Las sanciones económicas aplicadas a Servia a comienzos del decenio de 1990 no disuadieron de la invasión de Bosnia. Desde luego, el castigo simbólico por parte del Gobierno de los EE.UU. del famosísimo ajedrecista Bobby Fischer (por jugar una partida en Belgrado que violaba las sanciones) no dio alivio a la asediada ciudad de Sarajevo.

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