Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today welcomed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s unanimous approval of S. Res. 365, a resolution condemning Nicólas Maduro’s deadly wave of repression in Venezuela and calling for sanctions on regime officials. Rubio sponsored the resolution with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The resolution now awaits consideration by the full U.S. Senate.
Prior to the committee’s unanimous approval, Rubio delivered the following remarks in favor of its passage:
“This is an issue that’s kind of lost in the news lately given some of the other things that are going on around the world. […] You have a very serious crime problem in Venezuela. The students of Venezuela were protesting crimes that occurred on campus and took to the streets a few weeks ago to protest. The government cracked down, but not on the criminals, they cracked down on the students, leading to broader protests. And what you have now is all-out acts of violence not just committed by uniformed agents of the government, but they have these groups they set up called colectivos, which basically are militias of un-uniformed individuals riding motorcycles, armed with guns and weapons who are pulling up to these protests and basically firing into the crowd. There are now 20 people dead in Venezuela, over 500 injured, over 1000 have been jailed. Of the 20, 11 of gunshot wounds directly attributable to these government groups. Another was run over by a government vehicle.
“This is all occurring right underneath our nose, in this hemisphere. So I would encourage as many of our colleagues as possible to co-sponsor this.
“Here’s my last point. When I first got to the Senate, I used to see all these resolutions and say, ‘Well, this is just paper. Who does this matter to?’ This matters. They pay attention to this. I did an interview on CNN [en Español] a few weeks ago, and I have heard repeatedly from students in Venezuela who saw the interview and were uplifted by it.
“Because what does the government and what do oppressors tell people when they rise up and speak on behalf of their rights? ‘Nobody cares about you. Nobody’s paying attention. You don’t matter to anybody.’
“The fact that the United States of America and the U.S. Senate recognizes what’s happening in Venezuela and speaks out, as we have done here today, matters to these people. It truly does inspire them and lets them know that not only are they not forgotten, but that we care and are on their side. And I think that’s important. Any time in the world when people stand up and claim their universal rights as human beings to freely express themselves and to address their legitimate concerns about the direction of their country, they should not be met with bullets. And that’s what’s happening in Venezuela, and every time that happens, the people of our country need to be firmly on their side.”
Feb 27 2014
Washington, D.C. – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced a Senate Resolution (S. Res. 365) deploring the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Venezuela, calling for full accountability for human rights violations, and supporting the right of the Venezuelan people to live freely and democratically.
“This action sends an unequivocal message by condemning the violence perpetrated against innocent Venezuelans by President Maduro, Venezuelan security forces, and armed pro-government supporters,” said Chairman Robert Menendez. “Now is the time to pursue a course of targeted sanctions by denying and revoking visas, and freezing the assets of Venezuelan officials complicit in the deaths of peaceful protestors. Human rights violators should be held accountable for the crimes they committed and their presence should not be welcome in our nation. Venezuelans today are denied basic rights, freedoms, and the ability to peacefully protest the dire economic circumstances caused by President Maduro and his government. We stand with the Venezuelan people and the brave opposition leaders in their pursuit to build a more hopeful Venezuela that embraces a bright future while discarding a failed past.”
“With the Venezuelan people struggling and sacrificing for freedom, liberty and human rights, they deserve to have their voices be heard, and they deserve the world’s leading defender of human rights to be on their side,” Rubio said. “Nicolás Maduro and his thugs must be held accountable for the atrocities committed against the people of Venezuela, including unjust incarcerations, violent repression and killing of innocent protestors.
“This Resolution urges President Obama to immediately impose targeted sanctions that are already possible under existing law and encourage a process of dialogue between Venezuela’s government and the political opposition,” Rubio added. “It is time for the United States to support the Venezuelan people’s pursuit of a safe and democratic way of life, as guaranteed under their constitution.”
A PDF of the resolution is available here, and the full text of the resolution is below:
Resolution deploring the violent repression of peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela, calling for full accountability for human rights violations taking place in Venezuela, and in support of the Venezuelan people’s right for the free and peaceful exercise of
Whereas the Government of Venezuela’s chronic mismanagement of its economy has produced inflation that exceeds 50 percent annually, currency shortages, economic distortions, and the routine absence basic goods and foodstuffs.
Whereas the Government of Venezuela’s failure to guarantee minimal standards of public security for its citizens has led the country to become one of the most violent in the world, with the per capita homicide rate in the city of Caracas exceeding 115 per 100,000 people.
Whereas the Government of Venezuela has taken continued steps to remove checks and balances on the executive, politicize the judiciary, undermine the independence of the legislature through use of executive decree powers, persecute and prosecute its political opponents, curtail freedom of the press, and limit the free expression of its
Whereas on January 23rd, 2014 National Representative Maria Corina Machado and Mr. Leopoldo López, leader of the political party “Popular Will”, among others, called on the
Venezuelan people to gather on street assemblies and debate a popular, democratic and constitutional “ way out” of Venezuela’s crisis of governability
Whereas since February 4, 2014, the people of Venezuela – responding to ongoing economic hardship, high levels of crime and violence, and the lack of basic political rights and individual freedoms – have turned out in demonstrations in Caracas and throughout the country to protest the Government of Venezuela’s inability to ensure the
political and economic well-being of its citizens.
Whereas the government of Nicolás Maduro responded to the mass demonstrations by ordering the arrest without evidence of senior opposition leaders, including Mr. Leopoldo Lopez, Carlos Vecchio, and Antonio Rivero, and by violently repressing peaceful demonstrators with the help of the Venezuelan National Guard and groups of armed, government-affiliated civilians, known as ‘collectives’;
Whereas, on February 18, 2014, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to Venezuelan authorities, was arrested, and charged unjustly with criminal incitement, conspiracy, arson, and intent to damage property;
Whereas the Maduro government has sought to censor information about the demonstrations and the government’s violent crackdown by blocking online images and threatening the few remaining uncensored domestic media outlets;
Whereas Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro threatened to expel the United States news network CNN from Venezuela and has taken off the air the Colombian news channel NTN 24, which transmits in Venezuela, after news outlets reported on the nation-wide
Whereas the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released a statement on February 14, 2014, which `expresses its concern over the serious incidents of violence that have taken place in the context of protest demonstrations in Venezuela, as well as other complaints concerning acts of censorship against media outlets, attacks on organizations that defend human rights, and acts of alleged political persecution’
Whereas, as of February 27, 2014, there have been 13 people killed, over 100 injured, and dozens have been unjustly detained due to pro-democracy demonstrations throughout Venezuela: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, that the Senate,
Reaffirms U.S. support for the people of Venezuela in their pursuit of the free exercise of representative democracy as guaranteed by the Venezuelan constitution and defined under the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States;
Deplores the use of excessive and unlawful force against peaceful demonstrators, and the inexcusable use of violence and politically-motivated criminal charges to intimidate the country’s political opposition;
Calls on the Government of Venezuela to disarm and dismantle the system of ‘colectivos’ or ‘collectives’, and any other government-affiliated or supported militias or vigilante groups;
Calls on the Government of Venezuela to allow an impartial, third-party investigation into the excessive and unlawful force against peaceful demonstrations on multiple occasions since February 4th, 2014;
Urges the President to immediately impose targeted sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against individuals planning, facilitating, or perpetrating gross human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and other members of civil society in Venezuela; and
- Calls for the United States to work with other countries in the hemisphere to actively encourage a process of dialogue between the Government of Venezuela and the political opposition through the good offices of the Organization of American States so that the voices of all Venezuelans can be taken into account through their country’s constitutional institutions as well as free and fair elections.