Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have introduced a resolution condemning President Nicolas Maduro’s attacks on Venezuelan protesters and calling on those who have committed human rights violations to be held responsible.
The resolution “reaffirms U.S. support for the people of Venezuela in their pursuit of the free exercise of representative democracy,” “deplores the use of excessive and unlawful force against peaceful demonstrators,” calls on Maduro to disarm government-supported militias or vigilante groups and allow a third-party investigation into deadly attacks, and calls on the U.S. “to work with other countries in the hemisphere to actively encourage a process of dialogue between the Government of Venezuela and the political opposition.”
It also calls on President Obama to “immediately impose targeted sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against individuals planning, facilitating, or perpetrating gross human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and other members of civil society in Venezuela.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney this week conveyed the impression that Washington wants to stay out of the crisis as much as possible.
“Despite what the Venezuelan government would like to lead people to believe, this is not a U.S.-Venezuela issue. It is an issue between Venezuela and its people,” Carney said. “We’ve been clear all along that the future of Venezuela is for the Venezuelan people to decide.”
Menendez said “now is the time to pursue a course of targeted sanctions by denying and revoking visas, and freezing the assets of Venezuelan officials complicit in the deaths of peaceful protestors.”
“Human rights violators should be held accountable for the crimes they committed and their presence should not be welcome in our nation. Venezuelans today are denied basic rights, freedoms, and the ability to peacefully protest the dire economic circumstances caused by President Maduro and his government,” Menendez said. “We stand with the Venezuelan people and the brave opposition leaders in their pursuit to build a more hopeful Venezuela that embraces a bright future while discarding a failed past.”
Rubio, who has been called “el loco de los locos” by Maduro in response to his harsh criticism of the hand-picked Chavez successor, said Venezuelans “deserve to have their voices be heard, and they deserve the world’s leading defender of human rights to be on their side.”
“Nicolás Maduro and his thugs must be held accountable for the atrocities committed against the people of Venezuela, including unjust incarcerations, violent repression and killing of innocent protestors,” Rubio said.
“This Resolution urges President Obama to immediately impose targeted sanctions that are already possible under existing law and encourage a process of dialogue between Venezuela’s government and the political opposition. It is time for the United States to support the Venezuelan people’s pursuit of a safe and democratic way of life, as guaranteed under their constitution.”
Rubio planned to meet with members of the Venezuelan community, along with Florida Governor Rick Scott and Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, at a restaurant in Doral, Fla., today.
The Florida senator gave a powerful speech on the floor of the upper chamber this week in which he vowed a sanctions effort and propped up photos of the fallen.