Texas GOP lawmaker visits Venezuela to meet with Maduro

Texas GOP lawmaker visits Venezuela to meet with Maduro
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A Texas Republican lawmaker privately traveled to Venezuela this week at the invitation of President Nicolás Maduro as part of a peacemaking mission, The Associated Press reports.

Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsGOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Top 10 events of 2018 that shaped marijuana policy Washington braces for lengthy shutdown MORE (R-Texas) met with Maduro during a two-day trip to the South American country, his spokeswoman confirmed to the AP. She said the trip related to his work over the past year to resolve issues in Venezuela.

The spokeswoman noted that Sessions chairs the powerful House Rules Committee, which pushes to ensure nations adhere to the rule of law and international standards.

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An unnamed U.S. official familiar with the trip arrangements told the news outlet that Sessions's trip was not taxpayer-funded and that the GOP lawmaker had received a letter of invitation from the Venezuelan government.

The official said that State Department officials were not invited to sit in on the GOP lawmaker's meetings as had been the case with meetings for Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin: Trump pressuring acting AG in Cohen probe is 'no surprise' Durbin after reading Green New Deal: 'What in the heck is this?' Sanders: 'Not crazy' about nixing the Senate filibuster MORE (D-Ill.), who also visited the country this week and met with Maduro and other officials. 

Durbin visited the country to negotiate the release of Joshua Holt, a Utah man jailed in Venezuela for two years on what the U.S. considers to be falsified weapons charges.

The Trump administration is considering sanctions on Maduro's government for human rights and civil liberties violations, a move which the Maduro government is anxiously trying to stop. Such sanctions would likely target the country's oil industry, its major export.

Maduro's government recently ordered the country's elections to be moved up to later this month, a move the U.S. and other countries have labeled undemocratic. In March, the State Department issued a statement in support of opposition political parties that have rejected calls for an April election.

“A free and fair election should include the full participation of all political parties and political leaders, the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, proper electoral calendar, credible international observation, and an independent electoral authority,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in the statement last month.