WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in response to reports that a delegation of senior Biden administration officials met with the Maduro regime to discuss the release of arbitrarily imprisoned Americans and the potential purchase of Venezuelan oil:
“If the reports are true that the Biden administration is brokering the purchase of Venezuelan oil, I fear that it risks perpetuating a humanitarian crisis that has destabilized Latin America and the Caribbean for an entire generation. Nicolás Maduro is a cancer to our hemisphere and we should not breathe new life into his reign of torture and murder. As such, I would strongly oppose any action that fills the pockets of regime oligarchs with oil profits while Maduro continues to deprive Venezuelans of basic human rights, freedoms, and even food.
“Like every American president before him, President Biden has the solemn responsibility to seek to free Americans unjustly imprisoned abroad. I urge the immediate release of the nine Americans who have languished in the Maduro regime’s hellish prisons for far too long. However, as a matter of policy, the U.S. should always refrain from incentivizing our adversaries from taking American citizens hostages as bargaining chips.
“In the last month, the international community has come together in an unprecedented way to reject military aggression by Russia and stand up for democracy. But the Biden administration’s efforts to unify the entire world against a murderous tyrant in Moscow should not be undercut by propping up a dictator under investigation for crimes against humanity in Caracas. The democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people, much like the resolve and courage of the people of Ukraine, are worth much more than a few thousand barrels of oil.”