Lawmakers push for Venezuela sanctions

House and Senate leaders of the Foreign Relations Committees introduced legislation Thursday that would place sanctions against Venezuelans violently suppressing democratic protesters in the country.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced S. 2142, the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as a lead co-sponsor. 

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Their bill pledges $15 million to support democratic efforts by protesters facing violent retaliation from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. It would also require President Obama to impose sanctions against those perpetrating the violence.

“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.”

Menendez said passage of the law would send a “sharp warning” to the Venezuelan government.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced a similar measure in the House on the same day. 

H.R. 4229, the Venezuelan Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, would impose sanctions on members of the Venezuelan regime and calls for a reduction on U.S. imports of Venezuelan oil. But her bill does not include any aid for protesters.

“With at least 24 killed and more than 100 injured by the Maduro regime over the past three weeks, the United States has a moral obligation to support the people of Venezuela in their pursuit of democratic ideals and to punish those responsible for violating human rights and basic freedoms,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We will take action to ensure that those who stomp on the rights and dignity of others will be held accountable.”

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