September 25, 2018

Menendez, Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Sweeping Legislation to Address the Humanitarian Crisis and Collapse of Governance in Venezuela

Legislation establishes a coordinated international humanitarian response, accountability for crimes against humanity, new tools to combat kleptocracy, and expanded sanctions

WASHINGTON D.C. – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Bill Nelson (D-Florida), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) last night introduced the Venezuela Humanitarian Relief, Reconstruction, and Rule of Law Act of 2018, a comprehensive bill that will expand humanitarian relief and increase economic, political and diplomatic pressure on the Venezuelan government in order to support the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore democracy and prosperity in their country.

As millions flee repression, hunger and destitution at home, Nicolas Maduro’s criminal regime has turned Venezuela into a failed state with implications across the region. With Venezuela’s humanitarian catastrophe growing daily, Maduro betrays his citizens’ most urgent needs, while his inner circle plunders state coffers and profits from drug trafficking,” said Menendez. “Today’s bipartisan legislation sets out a strategic and consequential response to the Venezuelan crisis, and it provides the humanitarian aid and political and economic pressure needed to put the country back on the path toward democracy.” 

“As the corrupt Maduro regime adopts a Cuba-style dictatorship and engages in crimes against humanity, including the use of forced starvation against its citizens for political coercion, it is vital for the United States and our partners to provide direct humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people,” Senator Rubio said. “Maduro’s socialist legacy has devastated a once-rich nation and vibrant economy. I am proud to work with my colleagues on a bipartisan bill to ensure our nation and our allies are prepared to help restore Venezuela’s rule of law.

“The Venezuelan people continue to suffer at the hands of the brutal and corrupt Maduro regime, and their once vibrant democracy has been taken over,” said Senator Nelson. “We must stand with them as they work to restore their democracy and find a way to provide badly-needed humanitarian assistance. The situation is dire, and I urge my colleagues to take up and pass this bill as soon as possible.”

“The economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has left many in need, and our country should stand with Venezuelans in their fight for democracy,” Senator Cornyn said. “I’m proud to support the people of Venezuela by providing humanitarian relief, recognizing the democratically-elected National Assembly, and advancing the rule of law.”

"I wish we had not reached this desperate moment.  I wish the Maduro regime would play by basic democratic rules and let the Venezuelan people freely decide their leaders.  I wish the Maduro regime had the courage to compete in a free and fair election.  But it didn’t,” said Senator Durbin. “So until it does, and until Leopoldo Lopez, Juan Requesens, and the many other Venezuelan political prisoners are freed, the National Assembly’s powers restored, and a legitimate democratic process is reestablished, I will continue to support pressure on this corrupt regime and sanctioning those responsible for the Venezuela’s misery.

“Venezuela’s decline under the oppressive Maduro regime is extremely concerning,” said Senator David Perdue, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “From the country’s plummeting economy to the deterioration of the rule of law, something has got to change. It is critical that the United States stands with the people of Venezuela and against this tyranny.”

“By offering more humanitarian assistance, stepping up sanctions and financial pressure in coordination with our regional and European allies, and investigating crimes against humanity by Maduro and his cronies, the United States will signal that we stand firmly with the Venezuelan people and support them in the long but necessary work to return their country onto the path of stability, democracy, and prosperity,” Senator Cardin said. “This legislation offers a comprehensive U.S. response to the nightmare Maduro has unleashed on his citizens, demonstrating our resolve to seek accountability for his crimes and support the rights, dignity, and aspirations of the Venezuelan people.”

A copy of the Venezuela Humanitarian Relief, Reconstruction, and Rule of Law Act of 2018 can be found here. Key elements of the legislation include:

Humanitarian Relief for Venezuela

  • $40 million of additional humanitarian assistance and a requirement for the State Department to hold a donors conference and advance efforts at the United Nations;

Restoring Democracy and Addressing the Political Crisis in Venezuela

  • Congressional support for international efforts to hold Venezuelan officials accountable for crimes against humanity;
  • $15 million of support for democratic actors and civil society.

Supporting the Reconstruction of Venezuela

  • A requirement for the Departments of State, Treasury and Justice to lead international efforts to freeze and recover the corrupt financial holdings of Venezuelan officials;
  • Accelerated planning with international financial institutions on the economic reconstruction of Venezuela, contingent upon the restoration of democratic governance;

Restoring the Rule of Law in Venezuela

  • Expanded sanctions on government officials, drug trafficking and money laundering, and Venezuelan government debt;
  • A requirement for the State Department to work with Latin American governments to establish their own sanctions programs and to increase sanctions coordination with European and Latin American partners;
  • Increased intelligence reporting on Venezuelan officials’ role in corruption and drug trafficking, as well as the role of foreign actors in Venezuela.

Cryptocurrency Sanctions

  • Codifying sanctions on Venezuela’s cryptocurrency and related technologies, and a report on the impact of cryptocurrencies on U.S. sanctions globally.


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