Amidst the public outrage and protests against Salt Bae and Nusr-Et Steakhouse, the meat slicing and salt pouring icon may have inadvertently stumbled into the world of U.S. economic sanctions, which currently target the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. While the U.S. government may investigate and enforce any applicable sanctions violations, these lamb chops also provide an interesting example of how economic sanctions work.
On Monday, Nustret Gökçe, commonly known as Salt Bae, posted a video on his Instagram account showcasing his meat slicing technique as he served President Maduro at a Nusr-Et location in Istanbul. Unbeknownst to Salt Bae, he may have also published evidence of a crime. On July 31, 2017, President Maduro was designated as a Specially Designated National (SDN) by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) under Executive Order 13692, which had declared the rampant corruption and human rights abuses in Venezuela to be a U.S. national emergency. Maduro was designated as an SDN for a number of reasons, including holding illegitimate elections, violating the human rights of voters and protestors, and, most relevant here, allowing tens of millions of Venezuelans to go hungry by “refus[ing] to import sufficient food for the Venezuelan people . . . and reject[ing] offers of humanitarian aid.”