Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) took to the Senate floor today to highlight the widespread corruption in the institutions of the government in Venezuela. He warned of the serious consequences of failed leadership, failed economic policies, a societal breakdown, human rights abuses, and a de facto political coup that is currently taking place in Venezuela.

“[I]t’s gotten so bad that today, their so-called President, the incompetent Nicolas Maduro, announced that government employees are only gonna work two days a week – Mondays and Tuesdays,” said Rubio. “Government offices will now only be open two days a week because they don’t want them turning on the lights. This is the state of one of the richest countries in the world and one of the richest countries in the hemisphere.

“The first thing we should do is we should be active at the Organization of American States (OAS) as it considers the situation in Venezuela and they should be asked that voting members recognize the humanitarian and political crisis in Venezuela,” he continued. “The United States should ask our allies in the region, countries that receive an extensive amount of aid from this country – Haiti, Colombia, the Central American nations, our neighbors up north in Canada, among others – to support this effort.

“What’s happened in Venezuela is nothing short of a coup d’etat, a de facto coup,” Rubio added. “And the Organization of American States, if it has any reason to exist anymore, it should be to defend democracy in the region. It is the reason why we have an Organization of American States. We will soon find out whether that organization is even worth continuing to exist if it cannot pronounce itself collectively on the outright violation of democracy in the nation that purports to be a democratic republic.

“Sanctions – we have imposed sanctions on human rights violators, not sanctions on the people of Venezuela, not sanctions on the government, on human rights violators. Many of whom steal money from the Venezuelan people and invest it in the United States. … And that’s why we impose sanctions on them. There will be an effort here, I hope, in the next day or so, to extend those sanctions for another three years,” Rubio concluded.

A transcript of Rubio’s full remarks is available below. A video is available here, and a broadcast quality video is available for download here.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Senate Floor Speech
April 27, 2016
https://youtu.be/26wFKBJVzDs

Senator Marco Rubio: “Venezuela is a country in our hemisphere, it’s in total crisis, total chaos. And it’s because of a number of things – failed leadership, failed economic policies, a complete societal breakdown, human rights abuses, and now a de facto political coup, that have plagued the country for about 15 years. This all started with Hugo Chavez and is now continued with Nicolas Maduro, his successor.

“Let’s talk about the first cause of the disaster that’s now befallen on the people of Venezuela – failed leadership.

“For over 15 years now, Venezuela has been ruled by two strongmen who have mismanaged the country with an iron fist, they’ve squandered its vast wealth in natural resources, they’ve imprisoned political opponents, they’ve corrupted all of the country’s political institutions to ignore the will of the people and to entrench their power.

“Failed leadership, by the way, that has only gotten worse because the successor to Hugo Chavez is a completely, incompetent person. On top of the fact that he’s a strongman, he’s incompetent; I mean he just does not know what he is doing.

“And the result is this wealthy country with a highly educated population being led by someone who quite frankly isn’t qualified to lead anything, much less a nation of the stature of Venezuela.

“The second thing is failed economic policies. Venezuela today suffers from shortages across the board. For example, there’s a shortage of medicines and medical equipment, which means, and this is not an exaggeration, people are literally dying because their doctors cannot prescribe drugs that aren’t available, and the hospitals and the clinics don’t have the equipment needed to conduct surgeries.

“So [if] you speak to medical professionals in Venezuela, they will tell you that there are simple medications that could save the life of an individual. They can’t do anything about it. I had someone tell me today, they asked a doctor, ‘What do you do when one of your patients is about to die?’ And they say, ‘Nothing, we comfort them as they die, we don’t have basic medicines to deliver them.’

“And unlike the case of Cuba, by the way, where they’re always saying it’s because of the embargo the United States has, which of course is ridiculous, another topic for another day, there is no embargo on Venezuela. There [are] no sanctions on Venezuela and its people. And so as a result there’s no explanation for this.

“The supermarkets are bare. The shelves are completely bare. People there cannot buy food or even basics like toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes, anything. In addition to the government’s political censorship efforts, its economic policies also help censor in the sense that there are shortages of paper that independent newspapers need to print their editions.

“So here’s another Machiavellian move that the government has made. There’s a shortage of paper, and they make sure that the independent press has no access to paper. Well, if you don’t have paper you can’t print a newspaper.

“Things are so bad in Venezuela today that The Economist earlier this month compared Venezuela to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe 15 years ago. And the reason why that is an unbelievable comparison is because as I said earlier, Venezuela has one of the largest, if not the largest, oil reserves in the world. They have a highly educated population. They have a well-established business class of professionals. And their economy last year shrank by 5.7%. And this year it will sink by another 8%.

“This is a country that now has rolling blackouts, an energy rich country that has rolling blackouts. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that today, their so-called President, the incompetent Nicolas Maduro, announced that government employees are only gonna work two days a week – Mondays and Tuesdays. Government offices will now only be open two days a week because they don’t want them turning on the lights. This is the state of one of the richest countries in the world and one of the richest countries in the hemisphere.

“And then you have a total societal breakdown. Economic misery begets desperation, and you’re seeing that reflected in the lawlessness that plagues Venezuela. Crime rates are among the highest in the hemisphere, particularly the murder rate.

“But it stems from the top, at the highest levels of leadership. When you have an incompetent thug running the country – someone whose government intimidates opponents by using what they call, colectivos, which are nothing more than street gangs, to ride around in motorcycles causing all kinds of mayhem, shooting people and attacking people – it only contributes to the lawlessness.

“Do you know that Caracas, Venezuela, a beautiful city, is one of the most dangerous places in the world – comparable with warzones in terms of the murder rate? It’s basically every man and woman for himself or herself in Venezuela.

“Then you have atrocious human rights abuses. Since the Venezuelan government crackdown on demonstrators and political opponents began in February 2014, dozens of innocents have been killed, thousands have been beaten and targeted for intimidation, [and] hundreds have been jailed, including Leopoldo Lopez who has been a political prisoner now for more than two years. We need to demand the release of 115 political prisoners in Venezuela and respect their rights and those of their families.

“I heard another horrifying story today. Some of these political prisoners, most of them are men, when their wives go visit them in prison, those wives are strip-searched by male guards as an ultimate act of humiliating them. This is the situation in Venezuela. 

“And last but not least we have a de facto political coup by the Maduro regime: This country faces a real political and constitutional crisis. Maduro, for example, has stacked the country’s Supreme Court with his loyalists. And the Supreme Court is basically nullifying every law that the Congress there passes 

“The opposition won the election in the last cycle. By the way, they won because the discontent with the government is so massive that they couldn’t steal the election. It was so big that not even they could steal the election from them. So they sat this new Congress. He has stacked the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court is literally nullifying law after law. In fact, doing it not for judicial reasons, but for blatantly political ones.

“And Maduro basically ignores the law. The congressional branch there will pass a law with a veto proof majority – he just ignores it. Imagine passing a law out of the House, out of the Senate, sending it to the President, he can’t veto it, and he just ignores it, refuses to do it. This is the situation in our own hemisphere.

“And the result here is an incredible disaster of deep interest to us, by the way, because of all the uncertainty it’s causing in the region. So what can we do about it? Well first of all, it’s in our national interest.

“The current situation in Venezuela is happening in our hemisphere. It threatens to destabilize the region. It creates more pressure on their neighbors and our strategic ally, like Colombia, where Venezuelans have been fleeing to. This creates migratory pressures on the U.S. And the lawlessness is fueling organized crime – including drug cartels, which senior government officials in Venezuela have established links to – which impacts our entire region. For these reasons and more, the United States has a national interest in making sure Venezuela does not spiral even further out of control.

“The first thing we should do is we should be active at the Organization of American States (OAS) as it considers the situation in Venezuela and they should be asked that voting members recognize the humanitarian and political crisis in Venezuela. The United States should ask our allies in the region, countries that receive an extensive amount of aid from this country – Haiti, Colombia, the Central American nations, our neighbors up north in Canada, among others – to support this effort.

“Some of these countries, not Canada, but right now we are about to give hundreds of millions of dollars to these countries in Central America, in the Northern Triangle, the Alliance for Prosperity. I think that’s a good idea. But we should ask them to support what I hope we’ll try to do with the OAS.

“The same with Haiti. We have poured millions of dollars into Haiti’s reconstruction. We should use that as leverage to ask them to support something happening at the OAS.

“What’s happened in Venezuela is nothing short of a coup d’etat, a de facto coup. And the Organization of American States, if it has any reason to exist anymore, it should be to defend democracy in the region. It is the reason why we have an Organization of American States. We will soon find out whether that organization is even worth continuing to exist if it cannot pronounce itself collectively on the outright violation of democracy in the nation that purports to be a democratic republic.

“Sanctions – we have imposed sanctions on human rights violators, not sanctions on the people of Venezuela, not sanctions on the government, on human rights violators. Many of whom steal money from the Venezuelan people and invest it in the United States.

“Just yesterday, on the front page of the Miami Herald, a story that one of the individuals linked to the petroleum industry with the government in Venezuela, a billionaire, and you become a millionaire with these links by basically stealing the money, is the secret developer behind a major development in Miami, Florida.

“In my hometown, in my home state. You travel to Florida, you come down there, you let me know, any of my colleagues, and I will show you where these people live and I will show you the money they have stole[n] from the Venezuelan people and are living the highlife on weekends in Miami. You see them everywhere. And that’s why we impose sanctions on them. There will be an effort here, I hope, in the next day or so, to extend those sanctions for another three years.

“And finally I hope the United States uses our megaphone to highlight the corruption in the institutions of government in Venezuela and how they should not be tolerated. There is also a humanitarian component to this. We should help make sure the Venezuelan government is not stealing or otherwise standing in the way of the Venezuelan people getting the medicines and food that they need.

“For far too long the issues in this hemisphere have been ignored by administrations in both parties, by this Administration. We can no longer ignore this and I hope we give Venezuela and the Western Hemisphere the attention and priority that it merits. It is in our national interest to do so.”