EspañolAfter many months of toing and froing, on Monday the US Senate passed a bill to impose sanctions on Chavista officials — an effort to punish human-rights abuses during the anti-government protests in Venezuela earlier this year. The conflict with demonstrators led to over 40 fatalities, and dozens remain under arrest.
Now, the House of Representatives will have to pass the bill before next Thursday, the last day of congressional sessions, if they want President Barack Obama to sign it into law this year.
The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, if signed into law, would authorize President Obama to freeze assets in US territory and suspend visas of the officials accused of human-rights violations.
“Today [for Monday], the United States Senate sent a clear and unequivocal message to the Government of Venezuela,” affirmed Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and author of the bill. “For too long, Venezuelans have faced state-sponsored violence at the hands of government security forces and watched their country’s judiciary become a tool of political repression.”
“These sanctions will go after [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro regime officials and thugs who have spent all of 2014 authorizing and carrying out assassinations, beatings, unjustified incarcerations, kangaroo court trials, and absurd indictments of its political opponents and innocent Venezuelans demanding a better future,” explained Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), also author of the bill.
In case the bill is signed into law, the US president will bear the power to impose sanctions against anyone who has “perpetrated, or is responsible for ordering or otherwise directing, significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses in Venezuela … and those who provided financial and material assistance to commit those acts.
The White House has not confirmed whether they will apply sanctions if the House approves the bill.
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, one man with influence over President Obama, said in his November hearing confirmation before Senate that he “would not oppose moving forward with additional sanctions” against Venezuela.
In July 2014, the State Department suspended visas of Venezuelan high officials, including members of the judiciary, police, and army, as well as ministers and advisers of President Maduro, according to a Department of State spokesman.
This is the second attempt of the Congress to pass sanctions against Maduro’s government. Earlier this year, in May, the House passed a similar bill that was blocked in the Senate.
The vote on the sanctions came just 48 hours after Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu was defeated in a runoff election. Landrieu led the efforts to block the legislation in the Senate, citing concerns over the dismissal of hundreds of jobs in Lousiana’s Citgo refinery, a subsidary of the Venezuelan government-owned oil company PDVSA.