By Senator Marco Rubio, Representative Bill Cassidy
September 2, 2014
For too long, Venezuelan regime officials have been oppressing innocent Venezuelans, pillaging that country’s wealth, traveling to the U.S. to splurge, and then return to Venezuela to carry on with their repression. At the very least, it should be U.S. policy to not allow these practices to continue.
In June, the House passed its bill unanimously. Not surprisingly, the Venezuelan government opposes these sanctions and, just as the Senate was about to unanimously pass legislation to impose them earlier this month, Maduro’s regime succeeded in finding a senator to block them: Mary Landrieu.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee assured Landrieu that the bill would not affect Louisiana jobs and has no bearing on Citgo’s operations in the U.S.
When the Senate reconvenes in September, she and the Democratic majority will face an important choice about whether the U.S. will continue to stand up for human rights, or whether we will allow repressive strong men like Nicolas Maduro to dictate America’s human rights policy.
This issue and this sanctions legislation is about human rights and is specifically targeted at individuals in Venezuela’s government who abuse them. It has nothing to do with jobs and energy policy.
It has to do with responding to the violent crackdowns we’ve seen in the streets of Caracas, and standing in solidarity with young Venezuelan leaders like Leopoldo Lopez, who’s been sitting in jail for months for opposing the regime so passionately and courageously. It has nothing to do with a Citgo oil refinery in Louisiana, as Landrieu and the Venezuelan regime would like Louisianans to believe.
While many honest, hard-working Americans are currently employed by Citgo, the reality is that a request by its officers to block or weaken this legislation is as good as a request from the highest levels of the Venezuelan government. Therefore, the U.S. Senate should move to vote on this bill in September without any special carveouts for Venezuela’s human rights violators.
In recent times, our two states — Florida and Louisiana — have seen the lengths to which the Chavez-Maduro regime in Venezuela will go to entrench itself in power. When Venezuela held its most recent presidential “election,” in October, 2012, the regime chose New Orleans as its expatriate polling location for Venezuelans living in the U.S. who were eligible to vote.
To enhance participation, the regime could have chosen South Florida, which is home to the largest Venezuelan community in the U.S. Instead, the regime opted to make it harder — and make travel longer - for all these Venezuelans who have escaped Chavez’s disastrous socialist state to cast their votes against him.
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