House panel slams Venezuela crackdown

A House panel on Friday approved a bipartisan resolution urging the State Department to work with Latin American countries and institutions to denounce rising political violence in Venezuela.

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The resolution from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) calls on the U.S. to insist that the secretary general of the Organization of American States convene a permanent council meeting on the crackdown against students and others protesting leftist President Nicolas Maduro's policies. Passage by the House Foreign Affairs panel on the Western Hemisphere could set up a floor vote as early as next week. 

“I hope to bring this resolution to the House floor for a vote and pass it next week,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement after the vote. “The people of Venezuela don’t have a moment to spare; time is of the essence and I hope the United States Congress can send a swift and stern message to Maduro that we have taken notice of his actions, and we will not allow these transgressions to pass quietly and without repercussions."

Ros-Lehtinen said she was also penning a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to deny U.S. visas to Maduro and other government officials involved in alleged human rights abuses.

“The Administration already has the authority to deny these Venezuelan officials visas to enter the U.S., to block their property and freeze their assets in the U.S. and to prohibit any financial transactions they may make in the U.S.,” she said. “I will introduce a bill next week that would codify these steps into U.S. law, and I will continue to fight for the people of Venezuela who only wish to have a free and democratic country.”

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