Press Releases

Rubio: “[I]t is more important than ever for the American public and lawmakers to clearly understand the nature of the situation in Venezuela and its repercussions for American interests and the Western Hemisphere. … It is vital that the U.S. government stand with those Venezuelans who have bravely called out the brutality and dishonesty of the Maduro government.”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Global Narcotics Affairs, today called on Secretary of State John Kerry to provide Congress and the American people a full assessment of the political, economic, and security crisis provoked by the incompetence of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.

In a letter to Kerry, Rubio asked the administration to provide answers and information regarding the violent repression of Venezuelan demonstrators, the Cuban regime’s involvement, the independence of Venezuela’s government institutions, and the Venezuelan National Guard’s links to drug trafficking operations, among other topics. Kerry is scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. EDT.

“Please provide an assessment of the Venezuelan military’s involvement in the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations that began in February,” Rubio wrote. “What effect does the ongoing crisis have on the Venezuelan armed forces? Is the command structure loyal to President Maduro and likely to remain so? Does the Venezuelan military pose a threat to peace and the return of democracy in Venezuela? How would you describe the Cuban presence in Venezuela today, including its security and intelligence interactions? Please describe the level of involvement of the Cuban government in the internal affairs of Venezuela. 

“What is the current condition of government institutions in Venezuela, including the level of separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judiciary?,” Rubio asked. “Is the government of Venezuela considered ‘democratic’ as defined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter?

“Please provide an assessment of the Venezuelan National Guard’s involvement in illicit trafficking and other trans-national criminal activities,” Rubio continued. “Please provide an update on the presence of Venezuelan individuals designated as ‘kingpins’ under OFAC procedures in high-level positions in the Venezuelan government, including in the security apparatus.”

A PDF of the letter is available here.

The full text of the letter is available below:  

April 7, 2014 

The Honorable John F. Kerry
United States Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

The deteriorating crisis in Venezuela deserves urgent attention by the U.S. government. I am deeply concerned about the Maduro government’s brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations and the Administration’s half-hearted response to this dire situation, the outcome of which could have serious and long lasting effects on U.S. interests. 

Since February 4, 2014, tens of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets in reaction to the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators by the government of Nicolás Maduro and its failure to provide basic goods, ensure public safety and promote economic opportunities necessary to meet the most rudimentary needs of the population.

To date, the government’s barbaric repression has resulted in 39 deaths, more than 2,200 detentions, and at least 50 documented cases of torture. There is evidence that several of these atrocities are being committed by uniformed members of the Venezuelan National Guard, a component of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, as well as paramilitary elements of the so-called “People’s Guard” that is closely affiliated with the National Guard. We have additional reports of radical leftist armed groups as well as Cuban regime intelligence officials and operatives working on behalf of the Maduro government to intimidate opposition members and, at times, carry out attacks against protesters.

As you would agree, it is more important than ever for the American public and lawmakers to clearly understand the nature of the situation in Venezuela and its repercussions for American interests and those of the broader Western Hemisphere. Therefore, I appreciate your assessment on the following concerns.

Please provide your assessment of the Venezuelan military’s involvement in the current crisis, especially since the beginning of the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in February. What effect does the ongoing crisis have on the Venezuelan armed forces? Is the command structure loyal to President Maduro and likely to remain so? Does the Venezuelan military pose a threat to peace and the return of pluralist democracy in Venezuela?  How would you describe the Cuban government’s links to Venezuela today, including its security and intelligence interactions? Please describe the level of involvement of the Cuban government in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

Since March 17, the Maduro government has arrested and summarily convicted at least five democratically-elected opposition mayors, and is taking steps to selectively prosecute Assemblywoman Maria Corina Machado, a leading opposition member in Venezuela’s national legislature. The government’s actions are facilitated by the fact that 80 percent of Venezuelan judges and 95 percent of public prosecutors have not been properly installed in their posts, and instead serve under a provisional status hostage to Maduro’s whims. Other supposedly independent human rights guarantors in the Venezuelan system, such as the ombudsman, have attempted to deny the use of torture against demonstrators.

What is the current condition of government institutions in Venezuela, including the level of separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judiciary? Can the government of Venezuela be considered “democratic” as defined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter?

As you know, a July 2009 GAO report (GAO-09-806) stated that the so-called Bolivarian National Guard is deeply involved in the trafficking of illicit narcotics. Please provide an assessment of the Venezuelan National Guard’s involvement in illicit trafficking and other trans-national criminal activities. Please provide an update on the presence of individuals designated as “kingpins,” under OFAC procedures, in high-level positions of the Venezuelan government, including in the security apparatus.

As you know, U.S. policy on the Western Hemisphere, especially in Venezuela, is of great importance for my constituents in Florida and our nation’s interests in the Western Hemisphere. It is vital that the U.S. government stand with those Venezuelans who have bravely called out the brutality and dishonesty of the Maduro government.

I appreciate your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Marco Rubio
United States Senator