Senators are trying to steer attention to the repression in Venezuela as President Nicolas Maduro continues to crack down on democracy activists and politicians under the cover of a busy news cycle.
“And I recognize there’s been new stories about an airline that’s been tragically potentially lost or has been lost, we don’t know the full outcome of that yet. I know that the situation with Ukraine has captivated the attention of the public, and rightfully so,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on the Senate floor yesterday.
“Since February 4 of this year, Venezuelans have been taking to the streets to complain about their government. And these Venezuelans are from all walks of life, but it’s truly been motivated by young people, by students. The origins of this public discontent are important to understand because they are not just purely political,” Rubio continued, detailing the “political abuses, the corruption, and the economic disaster of the Venezuelan government.”
“…I am less than pleased, by the way, with our own government’s reaction. This is not a partisan issue, but I have to say this. President Obama has expressed he’s ‘concerned’ about this. To his credit, the Vice President was stronger in condemning the Maduro regime. We’re not just ‘concerned’ about this. We should be outraged about this. Just as we’re outraged when things go wrong in other parts of the world and weigh in with sanctions — and we should. And our voices — and we should. This is happening in our own hemisphere, right underneath our nose, and it is shameful that the leadership of our government has so far not done more to address this. But we can change that. And I’m hoping that we will.”
Rubio is spending the next few days pushing sanctions “against individuals and companies associated with the Maduro regime so they know there are consequences for what is happening her” at the Foreign Relations Committee.
Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) issued a statement yesterday on Venezuela, saying he’s “truly alarmed by the speed at which President Maduro is eliminating the remaining vestiges of democracy in Venezuela.”
“The removal of three elected members of Venezuela’s National Assembly – Maria Corina Machado being the most recent – is blatantly unconstitutional and nothing short of authoritarian. The silencing of opposition voices in the National Assembly marks yet another sad episode for Venezuelans seeking to enjoy the freedom of a functioning democracy,” Menendez said.
“I call on leaders throughout the hemisphere and around the globe to condemn President Maduro’s illegitimate and undemocratic actions. As we await the results of the visit to Caracas by foreign ministers of South American countries, it is my hope that they will demand decisive steps to secure the release of all political prisoners, prevent future arrests of opposition leaders and halt further attacks against political opponents,” the chairman continued. “Finally, it is my sincere desire that the ambassadors to the Organization of American States live up to the expectations of their citizens by taking a stronger stance in defense of human rights and democracy in Venezuela.”
Rubio said sanctions need to move through the committee and come to the Senate floor “so we can send a clear signal to the people of Venezuela.”
“If the United States of America will not stand up and be a strong voice on behalf of people who all they seek is freedom and liberty that our own founding documents say belong to all people, rights given to them by their Creator — if the United States of America will not be a forceful voice, what nation on Earth will?” he said.