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Senate Committee Approves Comprehensive Legislation to Help Restore Democracy in Venezuela

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today praised committee passage of the Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development (VERDAD) Act, the most comprehensive effort to date to confront the crisis in Venezuela. The bipartisan legislation will now move forward to be considered by the full Senate.

“Today, the United States takes a momentous step to support the Venezuelan people in this dark and difficult chapter of their struggle to take back their country from the Maduro regime and restore a democratic process,” said Senator Menendez. “Through this bipartisan effort grounded in shared goals and principled and vigorous diplomacy, we are setting up the structure for the Trump Administration to strengthen Venezuela’s burgeoning democracy movement. I thank my colleagues for their swift support of this legislation. In an era of partisan polarization, we have shown that alleviating the suffering of Venezuelans and supporting democratic, representative political processes is an area of bipartisan consensus and that the commitment of the United States to the Venezuelan people is unwavering.”

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is sending a strong bipartisan message of support to the people of Venezuela by marking up and passing the VERDAD Act,” said Senator Rubio. “Venezuela’s road to democratic order and restoration of the rule of law will demand significant support from the U.S., our regional allies and the international community. The U.S. will continue to provide much needed humanitarian assistance and help coordinate international support for a Venezuela post-Maduro.”

The VERDAD Act drastically increases humanitarian assistance, expands current tools to address kleptocracy, formally recognizes and supports the Interim President of Venezuela’s efforts to restore democracy and prosperity in the country, and accelerates planning with international financial institutions to advance the country’s post-Maduro reconstruction.

At today’s business meeting, the legislation was amended to include three bills approved by the House of Representatives to expand U.S. humanitarian assistance in Venezuela (H.R. 854), prohibit U.S. exports of arm sales to the Maduro regime (H.R. 920), and counter Russia’s presence and influence in Venezuela (H.R.1477).

The VERDAD Act was cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin(D-Ill.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.),  Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). 

A summary of the bill follows below:

Support for Venezuela’s Interim President and Recognition of the Venezuelan National Assembly

  • Establishes U.S. policy to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the Venezuelan crisis.

Increased Humanitarian Relief for Venezuela

  • Authorizes $400 million in new humanitarian assistance.

Addressing Maduro Regime’s Kleptocracy

  • Prohibits visas for the family members of sanctioned individuals, but establishes a waiver with conditions to lift visa restrictions.
  • Removes sanctions on designated individuals not involved in human rights abuse if they recognize Venezuela’s Interim President.
  • Requires the State Department to work with Latin American and European governments to implement their own sanctions.

Supporting the Reconstruction of Venezuela

  • Requires the Departments of State, Treasury and Justice to lead international efforts to freeze, recover, and repurpose the corrupt financial holdings of Venezuelan officials;
  • Accelerates planning with international financial institutions on the economic reconstruction of Venezuela, contingent upon the restoration of democratic governance.
  • Establishes that nothing in this legislation is an authorization of the use of military force against Venezuela.