WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to sanction Venezuelan officials involved in brutal repression of protestors in the oil-rich South American nation. H.R. 4587 – the Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act,
was designed to punish officials in the regime of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro who are responsible for committing human rights violations. The measure was passed in a voice vote in which no objections were heard on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m pleased that the House of Representatives has acted to punish the thugs of the Maduro regime for brutally repressing and violating the human rights of those seeking to exercise their basic freedoms of speech and assembly in Venezuela," said U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who sponsored the legislation.
"The passage of this bill clearly shows that my colleagues and I are committed to supporting the Venezuelan people’s struggle for democracy, rule of law, and liberty, and that we will not look the other way when an abusive autocrat brutalizes his own people."
- Denies visas to enter the United States, blocks property, freezes assets, and prohibits financial transactions to members of the Venezuelan regime who are responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses against the citizens of Venezuela;
- Denies visas to enter the United States, blocks property, freezes assets and prohibits financial transactions to members of the Venezuelan regime who have engaged in censorship against individuals or media outlets disseminating information in relation to protests in Venezuela;
- Calls on the President to transmit to Congress a strategy to promote internet freedom, access to information, and to encourage Venezuela to abide by the Principles enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter; and
- Directs the United States Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at the OAS to defend and protect the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and strengthen the independent Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance the protection of human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Passage of the bill was not assured, as earlier in the week, 14 Democratic members of Congress had sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama against the sanctions.
Six of the 14 signers of the letter were members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and included Representatives John Conyers, Henry "Hank" Johnson, Karen Bass, Barbara Lee, Raul Grijalva, James McGovern, Sam Farr, Chellie Pingree, Keith Ellison, Jan Schakowsky, Emmanuerl Cleaver, Jose Serrano, Michael Capuano, and Peter Welch.
Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus had expressed support for former Venezuela President Hugo Chavez and some had recently travelled to Cuba.
At the same time, 3 other Florida members of the Congressional Black Caucus were co-sponsors of the sanctions bill, including Representatives Corrine Brown, Frederica Wilson, and Alcee Hastings.
Other Co-Sponsors of HR 4587 included Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Joe Garcia (D-FL), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Steve Stockman (R-TX), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Christopher Smith (R-FL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Ted Poe (R-TX), Ted Yoho (R-FL), and Sean Duffy (R-WI).
Florida Senator Marco Rubio has sponsored a similar bill in the Senate. That bill was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week and awaits action on the Senate floor.
"I hope that the Senate can act swiftly to pass the House version of the bill so that we can send it to the President’s desk as soon as possible to ensure that those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable,” said Ros-Lehtinen.
46 people have been killed, over 1000 injured and over 3000 arrested since the protests began in February. Protests were initially against insecurity and the highest murder rate in the world, but the Maduro regime's harsh crackdown on innocent student protestors brought more protestors into the streets against the repression, widespread shortages, 60% inflation, and an unconvertible currency that has lost 88% of its value in the last 3 months. Many protestors, including Harvard-educated Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, and Opposition San Cristobal, Tachira state Mayor Daniel Ceballos and San Diego, Carabobo state Mayor Enzo Scarano, have been in jail for months. In what is seen as widespread rebuke of the Maduro regime, special elections the Government called on Sunday to replace the jailed Mayors were won by the wives of the unjustly incarcerated Mayors with as much as 87% of the vote.
HR4587 Venezuela Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act by Latin American Herald Tribune
Congress BC Letter to Obama Against Venezuela Sanctions 27 May 2014