Washington, DC –U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the Administration’s announcement today to apply visa restrictions against human rights abusers in Venezuela.
“Today’s announcement sends an unambiguous and direct message to President Maduro, members of his Administration, and the Venezuelan government: the United States will never tolerate systemic human rights violations conducted by a merciless government against its own people. The Administration’s visa sanctions are an important step in the right direction, but more hard hitting sanctions are needed. The Maduro regime will not go unpunished for violating the human rights and freedoms of its people.
“Since February, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan citizens have assembled to protest the country’s political and economic crisis. The freedom to assemble peacefully was met with shocking levels of violence, brute force, and the systemic violation of human rights by President Maduro and his state-sanctioned armed thugs. Human Rights Watch has documented more than 40 deaths, 50 cases of torture, and over 2,000 unlawful detentions. While opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez remains jailed for simply leading peaceful protests, not one Venezuelan government official has been held accountable for any wrongdoing.”
Chairman Menendez is the author of the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014. It requires President Obama to impose targeted sanctions – including asset freezes and additional visa bans – on individuals 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.
This bipartisan legislation also authorizes $15 million in new funding in the FY2015 budget to defend human rights, support democratic civil society organizations, assist independent media, and strengthen the rule of law in the face of the massive violence and repression being carried out by President Maduro.
The legislation was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is pending before the Senate.