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Rubio Condemns Venezuelan Dictator for Murdering Protesters, Names More Thugs Who Should Be Sanctioned for Crimes
Washington, D.C. – Speaking on the U.S. Senate floor today, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) condemned Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro for murdering protesters opposed to his illegitimate power grabs, and called out the members of Venezuela’s supreme court who have helped Maduro dismantle the country’s democratic institutions. Rubio also named several other individuals who should be sanctioned for their crimes, and reiterated the need for the United States to stand with the people of Venezuela.
The full speech can be watched here, and a full transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
May 17, 2017
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Rubio: I come to the floor today to speak about an emerging crisis in our hemisphere, in the nation of Venezuela. It’s been covered extensively in the press and I wanted to come today with an update and a suggestion, a request of the administration about a step that we can take.
First of all, I am very pleased that today our ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, scheduled a discussion at the U.N. Security Council with regards to Venezuela. It was not an open press discussion, but again it showed extraordinary leadership and I want to thank her for the work and for doing so. This deserves attention.
This is, by the way, Venezuela is a country that’s blessed with natural resources. It was once Latin America’s richest country. But today the people of Venezuela are literally starving, its financial system has collapsed, and if you’ve seen from the press reports, massive protests in the street.
Its once proud democracy is now in the hands of a dictator, Nicolás Maduro, and his cronies and his thugs that have plunged that nation into a constitutional crisis. They’re using violence and bloodshed to suppress and silence citizens speaking out against the regime’s corruption and its abuse of political prisoners.
What the people of Venezuela are calling for is pretty straight forward: free-and-fair elections is called for under the constitution of that country. A return to representative democracy, the democracy they once had, and they’re paying for it, for these requests, with their blood and even their lives.
According to the most recent reports, dozens of people have been killed, that includes teenagers. The Washington Post reported yesterday the recent death of 18-year-old Luis Alvarez, who was killed by a bullet to the chest, and of 17-year-old Yeison Mora Cordero, who died from a bullet to the head.
I want to say that there were two reports today in the press of great interest. One from The New York Times, one’s from The Washington Post. Both documented the plight of members of the national guard who have been tasked with this job of suppressing the protests in the street. And the gist of the articles were this: that these people that are putting on these uniforms, they didn’t sign up for this. They signed up for security, they signed up to protect the people of Venezuela, not to oppress them. They too are suffering from poor food. There was one article that basically breakfast in the morning for the national guard in Venezuela consists of a boiled carrot or a potato. And then they’re sent to the streets for hours and then they come back and maybe have an arepa, which is a corncake, and if they’re lucky some butter.
They too are suffering through this. And here’s the most enlightening part of it. A lot of their family members, their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, loved ones, husbands, wives, girlfriends, and boyfriends, are on the other side of the protest line. Their fellow Venezuelans are on the other side and they’re being tasked to do this. And I just say to them, remember what your oath was. To the members of the national guard in Venezuela, remember that your job is to protect the people of Venezuela, not to oppress them.
Beyond what we see there, the innocent people dying because of this dictatorship trampling the will of the people and destroying their democratic institutions, one of specific things that Maduro has done to become a dictator is he has undercut and, quite frankly, tried to wipe out the authority of their National Assembly, which is their unicameral legislative body.
And the way he’s done that is by hijacking the supreme court of the country. They call it the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, and it’s packed – literally packed – with puppets who do his bidding.
As an example these puppets recently ruled that they would rescind the democratic powers vested to the elected members of the National Assembly by the constitution of that country. In essence, they ruled the National Assembly no longer had legislative authority. The protests were so massive, even within the government, that they had to backtrack from that ruling.
But here’s what’s interesting. This is a recent opinion piece written by Francisco Toro and Pedro Rosas in The Washington Post. It said it best, here’s the headline: “Beware Maikel Moreno, the hatchet man who runs Venezuela’s supreme court.”
Here’s what they wrote: “Moreno, is a former intelligence agent, was tried and convicted of murder in 1987, though the corroborating documents from the court system are no longer available. He spent just two years in jail before being released. He was then immediately implicated in a second killing, in 1989, for which he was charged but never tried.”
He was a loyalist of Hugo Chavez and he became a judge in the early 2000s.
“His career as a judge hit a snag in 2007,” Toro and Rosas note, “when he was removed from the bench for ‘grave and inexcusable errors’ after releasing two murder suspects against orders from the Supreme Tribunal. The government then handed him a new job as a diplomat. And after a few years out of sight, he was appointed a supreme court justice in 2014.”
And then in 2017, Moreno, not once but twice a killer, was appointed the chief justice of the Venezuelan supreme court. The Venezuelan supreme court is run by a murderer. Think about that. A convicted criminal is presiding over Venezuela’s supreme court.
So it’s no wonder the court’s members have acted as a rubber stamp for Maduro’s illegitimate power grabs. And they have created a political and a humanitarian crisis. Venezuelans, as I’ve said and it’s all over the place, are struggling to get basic goods, like food and medicine, access to basic services.
The Wall Street Journal reported Venezuelans have lost, on average, 19 pounds in the last year, not due to some incredible new diet, but due to the country’s food crisis. This is staggering. It is appalling. It is unconscionable. It cannot be tolerated. The Venezuelan people deserve a return to democracy. They deserve a government that respects the rule of law, the constitution.
It’s the responsibility, I believe, and the duty of the nations of the Western Hemisphere, including our nation, to help the Venezuelan people.
Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter states:
“In the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state, any member state or the Secretary General may request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation and to take such decisions as it deems appropriate.”
This is what must be done. Because if we fail to help the Venezuelan people in their time of need—and if the worst comes to pass —what will follow will not be confined to the Venezuelan borders.
The United States, as a result, I hope, should impose sanctions against corrupt individuals, not the government, not the people, individuals, responsible for human rights violations, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, undermining the country’s democratic process. President Obama began that process. President Trump actually sanctioned some additional people earlier this year, including the king pin drug dealer who now is the vice president of Venezuela, Tareck El Aissami.
And here’s some more people that he should sanction, the current president. He should target for sanctions Chavistas officials within the judiciary—all of these magistrates that have enabled Maduro’s takeover and that includes the murderer, who is the chief justice of their Supreme Court, Maikel Jose Moreno Perez. And others like him who are part of that constitutional group, so-called constitutional group within the supreme court of Venezuela. Many of whom have assets and money and use visas to travel freely within the United States.
Among these names people like Calixto Ortega, Arcadio Delgado, Federico Fuenmayor, Carmen Zuleta, Lourdes Suarez Anderson, Juan José Mendoza. These are the people that have helped in this coup d’état that has cancelled the democratic order in Venezuela and they should be punished for what they’ve done.
I will close by pointing to two things that are of deep concern. The first is this report today in El Nuevo Herald in Miami which basically cites that Maduro has now ordered the militarization of a border region with Colombia. We’re concerned about that because we’ve always feared that he would create some sort of a military pre-text to distract people from the crisis within the country.
And then, you’ve got these unusual behavior on the part of Maduro. For example, yesterday, he said that the Chavistas, the followers of Hugo Chavez, are the new Jews of the 21st century, basically comparing the Chavistas with the Jews who were exterminated during the Holocaust in World War II. These comments were broadcast on state television last night. This is incredible.
By the way, this is the same man who about a week ago was caught on camera with a straight face asking a cow to vote for a constitutional referendum that he is seeking to pass. I don’t even think the cow would support him at this point in Venezuela.
Mr. President, I hope President Trump in the next few days or weeks will act against these individuals who have carried out this coup d’état against democracy in Venezuela and who have plunged this proud nation and proud people into a constitutional, humanitarian and economic crisis.