Legislation Strengthens Venezuelan Civil Society, Calls for Targeted Sanctions in Response to Grave Violations of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Washington, DC – Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) joined by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 today.
This bipartisan legislation authorizes $15 million in new funding in the FY2015 budget to defend human rights, support democratic civil society organizations, assist independent media, and strengthen good governance and the rule of law in the face of the massive violence and repression being carried out by President Maduro against peaceful protesters.
It also requires President Obama to impose sanctions on persons that have been involved in serious human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators and others in Venezuela or that have directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person due to their legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly.
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Chairman Menendez outlining the framework for legislative action on Venezuela.
“The volatile situation in Venezuela clearly illustrates that undermining democracy leads to political chaos and economic instability. This legislation establishes in no uncertain terms that the state-sanctioned violence of the Maduro regime demands a vigorous and swift response,” Menendez said. “We will not stand idly-by in the face of the ongoing human rights violations taking place in Caracas and throughout the country. This legislation serves as a sharp warning to members of Venezuela’s government, security forces, and armed civilian groups involved in violence that the United States does not tolerate this conduct and will respond accordingly to help strengthen Venezuelan civil society, while applying targeted sanctions against those responsible.”
Section 1. Short Title: Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014.
Section 2. Findings: This section presents key findings regarding Venezuela’s growing economic crisis; alarming levels of criminal violence; and erosion of democratic governance, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Section 3. Sense of Congress: This section states that it is the sense of the Congress that 1) the United States seeks a mutually beneficial relationship with Venezuela based on respect for human rights and the rule of law, and a productive relationship on issues of public security, including counternarcotics and counterterrorism; 2) that the Government of Venezuela is responsible for the chronic mismanagement of its economy, the levels of violence in the country, and for undermining democratic governance; and 3) these crisis conditions prompted the demonstrations taking place throughout Venezuela.
Section 4. U.S. Policy Towards Venezuela: This section recognizes that it is the policy of the United States to 1) support the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people as defined under the Inter-American Democratic Charter; 2) work in concert with the members of the Organization of American States – as well as the European Union – to ensure the immediate end of violence against protesters and a peaceful resolution of the current crisis in Venezuela; and 3) hold accountable government and security officials responsible for or complicit in the use of force against antigovernment protestors.
Section 5. Sanctions on Persons the President Determines Are Responsible for Violence in Venezuela: This section requires the President to impose sanctions on persons that he determines 1) have perpetrated, ordered or directed significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses in Venezuela against persons associated with the antigovernment protests in Venezuela, including current and former officials of the Government of Venezuela or 2) have directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly. Sanctions to be imposed by the President would include 1) asset blocking - using all powers granted to the President by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to block and prohibit all transactions in property; and 2) exclusion from the U.S. and revocation of visas – denying visas, excluding from the United States, and revoking visas and other documents in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Section 6. Support for Civil Society in Venezuela: This section authorizes $15 million in new funding in FY2015 to 1) defend human rights, 2) build the capacity of democratic civil society, 3) support independent media outlets and unrestricted access to the internet, 4) improve government transparency and accountability, and 5) assist civil society activists, journalists and protesters that have been targeted for their activity.