WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced legislation today to provide humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and increase sanctions on the Venezuelan officials responsible for the ongoing crisis there.
The lawmakers’ legislation comes on the heels of renewed anti-government protests in Venezuela and recent attempts by President Nicolás Maduro to strip legislative powers from the National Assembly and re-write Venezuela’s constitution.
The bill would strengthen sanctions on Venezuelan officials responsible for undermining democracy and engaged in widespread public corruption. It would also provide funding for essential medicines and nutrition for the Venezuelan people.
“The United States stands clearly on the side of the Venezuelan people calling on President Maduro to cease undermining democracy, release all political prisoners, respect the rule of law, and respect human rights,” Nelson said in a speech on the Senate floor last month.
Nelson recently sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to fully enforce and, if necessary, expand sanctions against those responsible for the ongoing violence in Venezuela.
Following is a section-by-section summary of the legislation:
Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act of 2017
Sec. 2 – Findings: Includes findings on the growing economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela; recognizes the presence of more than 100 political prisoners.
Sec. 3 – Sense of Congress: Calls on Venezuelan President Maduro to permit humanitarian assistance, immediately release all political prisoners, and seek assistance from international financial institutions; expresses support for a negotiated solution to Venezuela’s crisis.
Sec. 4 – Humanitarian Assistance for the People of Venezuela: Authorizes $10 million for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to work through independent non-governmental organizations to provide essential medicines, nutritional supplements, and technical assistance to improve distribution of medicine and food.
Sec. 5 – Requirement for Strategy to Coordinate International Humanitarian Assistance: Requires the U.S. Department of State and USAID to establish a multi-year strategy to engage Latin American and Caribbean governments and multilateral institutions to secure financial and technical assistance in response to growing humanitarian challenges in Venezuela.
Sec. 6 – Support for OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter: Recognizes the rupture of constitutional order in Venezuela and urges the U.S. Department of State to take additional steps in support of efforts by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) to advance diplomatic initiatives that restore Venezuelan democracy.
Sec. 7 – Support for International Election Observations Missions and Democratic Civil Society in Venezuela: Authorizes $500,000 to support future OAS election observation missions and $9.5 million for democratic civil society organizations working to defend human rights.
Sec. 8 – Support for Caribbean Countries: Recognizes the role that Caribbean countries can play in addressing the crisis in Venezuela and expresses support for U.S. initiatives to advance Caribbean energy independence.
Sec. 9 – Concerns and Report on the Involvement of Venezuelan Officials in Corruption and Narcotics Trafficking: Requires the U.S. State Department and U.S. Intelligence Community to prepare an unclassified report with a classified annex on the involvement of Venezuelan government officials in corruption and the illicit drug trade.
Sec. 10 – Sanctions on Persons Responsible for Public Corruption and Undermining Democratic Governance in Venezuela: Codifies additional targeted sanctions on individuals undermining democratic governance and involved in corruption in Venezuela that were in Obama Administration Executive Order 13692.
Sec. 11 – Concerns over PDVSA Transactions with Rosneft: Recognizes that potential control by Rosneft, a Russian government-controlled entity currently under U.S. sanctions, of Citgo assets would pose a significant risk to U.S. national security and energy security; calls on the President to take all necessary steps to prevent Rosneft from gaining control of U.S. energy infrastructure.