WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing Wednesday, President Obama’s deputy secretary of state nominee, Antony Blinken, discussed U.S. policy toward Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba.
In his testimony, Blinken announced that the Obama Administration now supports the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, a bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio authorizing sanctions on individuals involved in serious human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela.
Blinken said Washington had refrained from pushing for sanctions in the past few months to allow diplomatic efforts by some Latin American countries to secure the release of opposition leaders from jail and nudge Caracas toward electoral reform.
But those efforts had failed, Blinken said, and as a result "We would not oppose moving forward with additional sanctions," he said. ""We would look forward to working with you to go further."
"I am encouraged that the Obama Administration finally announced its support for legislation pending before the Senate that would impose visa and financial sanctions on individuals committing human rights abuses in Venezuela," said Senator Rubio. "In addition to the visa freezes the administration is already implementing against such individuals, they should immediately freeze the financial assets of these individuals."
Regarding U.S. policy with respect to Colombia, Rubio asked whether the Obama Administration would ever consider commuting the sentences of Colombian drug traffickers currently imprisoned in the U.S.. Although the nominee pledged to consult closely with Rubio and the committee on such a policy, he did not categorically rule out the possibility.
"“With respect to Colombia, it is important that the U.S. make clear that Colombian drug traffickers serving in U.S. prisons will serve out their sentences, regardless of what demands may be made in negotiations with the FARC," said Rubio.
Lastly, Rubio questioned Blinken about any future unilateral changes to U.S.-Cuba policy absent democratic reforms on the island nation. When given several opportunities to categorically rule out the possibility of unilateral changes to Cuba policy, Blinken demurred.
"On Cuba, I am very concerned that President Obama’s nominee to be John Kerry’s deputy at the Department of State passed up several opportunities today to categorically rule out the possibility of unilateral changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba. Unless Cuba begins an irreversible democratic transformation, the U.S. should not reward the Castro regime with unilateral concessions from us that enrich the regime and help it repress millions of Cubans,” concluded Rubio.
US Senate Resolution Calling for Sanctions on Venezuela for "Violent Repression" by Latin American Herald Tribune
27 Venezuela Human Rights Violators That U.S. Senator Marco Rubio Calls to Be Sanctioned by Latin American Herald Tribune
H.R. 4587 by Latin American Herald Tribune