The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill to impose sanctions on individuals who are suspected of committing human rights violations against the people of Venezuela.
In a voice vote, House members approved the Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), would deny Venezuelan human rights violators visas to enter the United States. It would also freeze any assets they hold in the U.S. and prohibit them from carrying out financial transactions.
We are here to condemn the ongoing human rights abuses being committed in Venezuela and to answer the cries of the people of Venezuela, Ros-Lehtinen said on the House, moments before the vote on Wednesday.
The bill comes in response to the anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela that have left hundreds injured and more than 40 people dead, including Venezuelan beauty queen Genesis Carmona. Protestors have accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduros government of the violence.
The violent demonstrations began on Feb. 12 as Venezuela celebrated National Youth Day. That day, hundreds of students took to the streets all across Venezuela to protest Maduros inability to stem violent crime and improve the countrys economy, which has been marred by soaring inflation and shortages of goods.
Since then, these students and the Venezuelan people as a whole have been met with intimidation, with violence, with imprisonment simply for calling for the respect of human rights and democratic change, Ros-Lehtinen said.
Ros-Lehtinens bill has bipartisan backing. Its supporters include Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who also took to the House floor on Wednesday to speak in support of imposing sanctions on Venezuela.
Castro noted that in March, the House passed a resolution that encouraged a process of dialogue between the government of Venezuela and the political opposition to end the violence.
I continue to believe that dialogue is the best way out of this crisis, Castro said. In the meantime, the legislation that we are considering today makes it clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye to human rights violations.
Ros-Lehtinens bill now heads to the Senate for a vote. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a similar bill proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
The idea of imposing sanctions against Venezuela faces opposition from Obama administration officials who, according to the Associated Press, say sanctions risk undermining mediation efforts in Venezuela and straining relations between the U.S. and Latin American partners.
Maduro also expressed opposition to the proposed sanctions on Tuesday through his radio and television show dubbed In Contact With Maduro.
Any law approved by U.S. Congress to sanction Venezuela is illegitimate, and we wont recognize it, the Venezuelan president said. We reject it, and well fight it around the world.