Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today argued for the need to impose sanctions on individuals responsible for the grotesque human rights violations occurring in the midst of Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis. During the Committee hearing, Rubio listed the names of 23 people he believes are candidates for these sanctions.
Rubio is an original sponsor of the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, which authorizes sanctions on people involved in serious human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela.
“We are calling on identifying human rights violators in Venezuela, naming them by name, and sanctioning them for what they’ve done. And I just don’t understand how we can sit here and say that the time isn’t right to do that. I don’t understand how we can say we should wait for some point in the future, when the timing might be right to do that,” Rubio said. “Because by admission, what you’re saying is that, ‘If the Venezuela government does certain things over the next few months.’ That day may never come. And I just don’t understand how that can be our foreign policy.”
“The future of Venezuela belongs to the people of Venezuela. They must determine the direction of that country, and what sort of system of government and economics they want. But what we also want them to understand is that the United States will not stand by and idly watch as the rights of people, with whom we share this hemisphere, are systematically violated by an anti-American government – to top it all off – and ignore their plight,” Rubio added. “And we will endeavor to use, and I think in a bipartisan way I hope – and I know in this Committee that will be the case – in a bipartisan way, to use the influence and the power of the United States of America to firmly line up on the side of those who aspire to liberty, to freedom, and to respect of human rights.”
A transcript of the hearing is available below:
Senator Marco Rubio: “The purpose of this hearing is that there has been a bill filed in the Congress to sanction individuals related to, and in the government of Venezuela for human rights violations committed against their own people. There have been people murdered in Venezuela. There have been people detained in Venezuela indefinitely. Even as we speak, Leopoldo Lopez, his hearing has once again been indefinitely postponed. There was a young man sodomized in Venezuela by government forces. There have been women that have been threatened – they’ve been threatened to rape them in Venezuela by government forces and those aligned with the government.
“What we are talking about here are sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights violations. It is typical in this process to set up these straw men, ‘Oh, we’re not going to send boots on the ground. We’re not going to sanction the oil industry.’ The bill we have filed does not do any of that. We have filed a piece of legislation, and the purpose of this hearing is to call attention to human rights violations in Venezuela. And what we are saying is we should sanction human rights violators — who by the way, happen to be people that travel to the U.S. with impunity, buy properties in the United States, laugh at us along the way, invest in our banks, send their kids to our school. They have zero respect for this government.
“What I have heard here today in response is, ‘We don’t want to sanction these people because it might unite them against us.’ Let me give you a brief bulletin: They are already united against us. Other than the fact that when they come here to benefit from our free society on weekends in Miami, and then go back and live off their new found millions and billions that they’ve stolen from the people of Venezuela. This is not a hearing on oil sanctions. There is no bill before us to sanction oil in Venezuela. This is a bill that we are hopefully going to get to, to sanction human rights violators in Venezuela.
“What I have heard today is, ‘We should not sanction human rights violators because it might disrupt the process that is going on in Venezuela.’ Well, we sanctioned human rights violators in Russia. Why is what’s happening in Russia more important than what’s happening in Venezuela? We sanction human rights violators all the time — personally, individually. And we have their names. These aren’t even hard to find. These people brag about what they’re doing in Venezuela. The only difference between those sanctions – those people – and others, is they spend their weekends in Miami. They spend their weekends in Florida.
“Mr. Malinowski, you have in your statement, you talk about Globovision—which was once an independent television operation within Venezuela that actually covered news. What happened to Globovision? It was given over to allies of the Maduro regime and the Chávez regime. It is now a propaganda arm of Venezuela. Do you know where they live? You know where they live? They live in Miami. They own a multi-million dollar mansion in Coco Plum, in a very exclusive neighborhood in Miami. They drive up and down the streets in their fancy cars. They laugh at you, and they laugh at us because they know they can get away with these things.
“So I guess what I’m asking is—let me ask you this: Who in the opposition in Venezuela has asked you not to impose sanctions against human rights violators because it might disrupt the dialogue? Who has asked you not to do that? Either one of you, who has asked you not to impose sanction against human rights violators, among the opposition in Venezuela?”
Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson: “Senator, I’m just not comfortable sitting here and giving you individual names. Members of the […], who are participating in the dialogue, have discussed this with us.”
Rubio: “This is what you just told me: You’re not comfortable telling me their names because you fear for their safety. What kind of dialogue is that? What kind of dialogue is that, that the people involved in the dialogue can’t tell you what they really believe? That’s a fake dialogue.
“So is it the policy now of the United States that as long as this dialogue is somewhat successful, we’re going to forget the human rights violations? So we’ll just send a statement to condemn them, but we won’t do anything about it?”
Jacobson: “Absolutely not, and I think we’ve both said that we will speak out, we will make statements. But we will also consider those sanctions, as Assistant Secretary Malinowski said, we will keep considering that and we will use those when we think the time is right. We don’t think so right now.”
Rubio: “So there’s a timing element when it comes to human rights violations? In essence, there comes a time when human rights violations are ‘ripe?’”
Jacobson: “There’s a timing element when it comes to the response of a particular tactic on human rights violations, not our condemnation –”
Rubio: “Give me an example where we have held back on human rights violations sanctions because of timing, anywhere else in the world. Give me an example of when the U.S. has said, ‘We know you’ve committed human rights violations, but we’re not going to sanction you because we’re waiting for something else to happen.’ Give me an example of when we’ve done that successfully. Mr. Malinowski, you’ve been involved in this.”
Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski: “I mentioned Burma as a case where we’ve applied sanctions very effectively over time. There are still human rights violations going on in Burma, but we have a process, we have a democratic process, a process of dialogue. And in consultation with the opposition, we have not continued to impose additional targeted sanctions over the last couple of years, but remain ready to.”
Rubio: “Why did the dialogue happen in Burma?”
Malinowski: “In Burma?”
Rubio: “Yeah. What was one of the things that led to the dialogue being successful?”
Malinowski: “As I acknowledged a few moments ago, sanctions in that case did. We had an opposition in Burma that made very, very clear that, at that point, it was important, and useful and effective for the United States to –”
Rubio: “I agree with what you said. This is not a U.S.-Venezuela issue. This is for the Venezuelan people to decide what they want to do with the future of their politics. The purpose of our policy here is not to change the government of Venezuela, despite Maduro’s claims. That’s not for us to decide, that’s for the people of Venezuela to decide.
“What we’re saying is we have individuals that benefit greatly from the economy of the United States, particularly in my state. They benefit greatly from what they do in this country with our banks, our schools, our businesses. They invest with impunity throughout Florida and the country. These people also happen to be human rights violators or the associates of human rights violators, and all I’m saying is we should sanction them for what they did. This is not about changing the government in Venezuela, that’s for the Venezuelan people to decide. This is about punishing and shaming individuals responsible for human rights violations.
“And I guess, to your point Mr. Malinowski, I know your reputation. The first time we met was in a prison in Libya. Now, we weren’t living there, either one of us, I mean, we met there as we were touring it. But this is what you’ve dedicated your life to. I know you’re not here today to argue that we should somehow look the other way on human rights sanctions until the appropriate time.”
Malinowski: “Sanctions serve two purposes in a situation like this. One is accountability. And there are times when we impose sanctions on people who have done horrible things because they have done horrible things and because it’s the only thing we can do to make sure that they pay a price.
“There are other times when we impose sanctions and we determine the timing of the imposition of sanctions because we think there is a chance to make the kind of political progress that will end those human rights violations. Now in a country like North Korea, for example, there isn’t a scintilla of a chance that I see a political progress that’s going to free people from concentration camps. In a situation like that, the role of sanctions is to highlight the problem and to impose accountability. In Russia, there’s no dialogue.”
Rubio: “I know, but I can’t believe that your position, given your history, is that the United States must now – so now, our message to the people of Venezuela, and to those who have suffered at the hands of these brutal oppressors, is, ‘I’m so sorry that you were sodomized by the butt of a rifle, but we think, for the sake of your country, that we’re going to hold off shaming the people and sanctioning the people responsible for ordering that, because we think there might be some sort of dialogue that may one day allow you to own one newspaper that is free in Venezuela.’ Or, ‘We think there might be a day when you might technically allow them to let you protest somewhere at a time of their choosing and of their way.’
“How can that be our policy? How can the United States not firmly be on the side of people who are being violated in this systemic way? I just don’t understand how our foreign policy can be about that. We’re not asking for sanctions. We’re not calling for an oil embargo, or anything of that nature.
“We are calling on identifying human rights violators in Venezuela, naming them by name, and sanctioning them for what they’ve done. And I just don’t understand how we can sit here and say that the time isn’t right to do that. I don’t understand how we can say we should wait for some point in the future, when the timing might be right to do that. Because by admission, what you’re saying is that ‘If the Venezuela government does certain things over the next few months.’ That day may never come. And I just don’t understand how that can be our foreign policy.”
Rubio: “I want to summarize what your testimony has been here today. And that is largely that, in fact, there are systemic human rights violations happening within Venezuela on behalf of the government as a part of a strategy. Number two, you’ve stated that you do not find an objection, and in fact, many of you have advocated in favor of targeted sanctions against individuals responsible for these human rights violations.
“We’ve heard testimony from the State Department saying that they don’t think it’s the right time to do it. I strongly disagree, as I think most of the members that were here today would as well. It is never the wrong time to condemn and sanction individuals responsible for grotesque human rights violations. And to that end, I wanted to use my time here today to share with you the names of 23 individuals in Venezuela who I think we should nominate for that sort of sanction, based on many of the different things that you have all testified here today, and others.
Rubio: “That list is by no means comprehensive. It is the list of 23 people—I would list 50 people, if I could today. But at least 23 people, that today I wanted to share with you and everyone that I believe should be candidates for sanctions. And certainly any sort of sanctions would carry with them strong evidence of what these individuals have been responsible for.
“And I would just close by taking this moment, because I know that this will be listened to by government officials in Venezuela. I do believe that there are people within the government of Venezuela, in fact I know there are people within the government of Venezuela, that are quite uncomfortable with the direction that Nicolás Maduro and those around him have taken this country — not just because of the economic realities — but because of these violations. I know that there are professional military officers within the armed forces there that never signed up to be used as a way to oppress their own people.
“And I would just say to them that the intention of the policy of the United States is not to interfere in the internal affairs of any nation. The future of Venezuela belongs to the people of Venezuela. They must determine the direction of that country, and what sort of system of government and economics they want. But what we also want them to understand is that the United States will not stand by and idly watch as the rights of people, with whom we share this hemisphere, are systematically violated by an anti-American government – to top it all off – and ignore their plight. And we will endeavor to use, and I think in a bipartisan way I hope – and I know in this Committee that will be the case – in a bipartisan way, to use the influence and the power of the United States of America to firmly line up on the side of those who aspire to liberty, to freedom, and to respect of human rights. And that’s our intention here, and I pray and hope that, that’s the direction we will go in the weeks to come.”