A resolution expressing support for Venezuelans fighting against socialist President Nicolas Maduro will come to the House floor for debate on Tuesday.
The measure introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, passed unanimously in the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee.
It joins a growing congressional chorus of lawmakers trying to turn the Obama administration’s attention toward the deadly crisis in the South American country.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have introduced a resolution condemning 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.”
Ros-Lehtinen said she’s “optimistic” that her bill will sail through the House.
“I hope it will pass so that we send a swift and strong message to Maduro that the United States House of Representatives has taken notice of the developments in Venezuela, and we will not allow these transgressions to pass quietly,” she said. “But this resolution can only be the first step to hold Maduro and his fellow regime thugs accountable for their violent response and their abuses of the Venezuelan people’s liberties and human rights.”
Ros-Lehtinen started circulating a letter among her colleagues directly asking Obama “to take immediate actions against Maduro and other Venezuelan officials who are responsible for violations of their people’s human rights.”
“We are calling for the president to enact immediate sanctions against these officials, under authorities granted to him under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), including denying them visas to enter the United States, blocking their property and freezing their assets in the U.S., as well as prohibiting them from making any financial transactions in the U.S. This letter already enjoys bipartisan support, and I hope the president will recognize the severity of this issue and do the right thing and take these important steps,” she said.
“However, I will file a bill this week that would force the implementation of these sanctions even if the president chooses not to use these authorities under IEEPA,” the chairwoman stressed. “Now is not the time to dither or to sit on the fence. The United States must stand up for the people of Venezuela, and for the American ideals of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights. Failure to hold Maduro and his officials accountable would be irresponsible and a failure of American leadership.”