Foreign Relations Committee Passes Bill Condemning Maduro, Supporting Venezuelans

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a resolution condemning the violent repression in Venezuela as a key proponent of the bill lamented how the news cycle has pushed the democracy activists' quest off the front pages.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the resolution condemning President Nicolas Maduro’s attacks on Venezuelan protesters and calling 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.”

A House version, introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), passed 393-1 a week ago. The "no" vote was Rep. Tom Massie (R-Ky.), who also recently was the lone vote against a resolution supporting Israel.

“This is an issue that’s kind of lost in the news lately given some of the other things that are going on around the world," Rubio said in the committee hearing. "...You have a very serious crime problem in Venezuela. The students of Venezuela were protesting crimes that occurred on campus and took to the streets a few weeks ago to protest. The government cracked down, but not on the criminals, they cracked down on the students, leading to broader protests. And what you have now is all-out acts of violence not just committed by uniformed agents of the government, but they have these groups they set up called colectivos, which basically are militias of un-uniformed individuals riding motorcycles, armed with guns and weapons who are pulling up to these protests and basically firing into the crowd."

"There are now 20 people dead in Venezuela, over 500 injured, over 1000 have been jailed. Of the 20, 11 of gunshot wounds directly attributable to these government groups. Another was run over by a government vehicle," he said.

Rubio added "this is all occurring right underneath our nose, in this hemisphere. So I would encourage as many of our colleagues as possible to co-sponsor this."

“The fact that the United States of America and the U.S. Senate recognizes what’s happening in Venezuela and speaks out, as we have done here today, matters to these people. It truly does inspire them and lets them know that not only are they not forgotten, but that we care and are on their side. And I think that’s important. Any time in the world when people stand up and claim their universal rights as human beings to freely express themselves and to address their legitimate concerns about the direction of their country, they should not be met with bullets," he said. "And that’s what’s happening in Venezuela, and every time that happens, the people of our country need to be firmly on their side.”