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Rubio Secures Administration’s Support For Venezuela Sanctions, But Questions Remain About Policy Toward Colombia And Cuba

Nov 19, 2014 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) questioned President Obama’s deputy secretary of state nominee, Antony Blinken, regarding U.S. policy toward Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba.

In his testimony, Blinken announced that the Obama Administration now supports the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, a bill sponsored by Rubio authorizing sanctions on individuals involved in serious human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela.

Regarding U.S. policy with respect to Colombia, Rubio asked whether the Obama Administration would ever consider commuting the sentences of Colombian drug traffickers currently imprisoned in the U.S.. Although the nominee pledged to consult closely with Rubio and the committee on such a policy, he did not categorically rule out the possibility.

Lastly, Rubio questioned Blinken about any future unilateral changes to U.S.-Cuba policy absent democratic reforms on the island nation. When given several opportunities to categorically rule out the possibility of unilateral changes to Cuba policy, Blinken demurred.

Video of the full exchange is available here.

Following the hearing, Rubio issued the following statement:

“I am encouraged that the Obama Administration finally announced its support for legislation pending before the Senate that would impose visa and financial sanctions on individuals committing human rights abuses in Venezuela. In addition to the visa freezes the administration is already implementing against such individuals, they should immediately freeze the financial assets of these individuals. With respect to Colombia, it is important that the U.S. make clear that Colombian drug traffickers serving in U.S. prisons will serve out their sentences, regardless of what demands may be made in negotiations with the FARC. On Cuba, I am very concerned that President Obama’s nominee to be John Kerry’s deputy at the Department of State passed up several opportunities today to categorically rule out the possibility of unilateral changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba. Unless Cuba begins an irreversible democratic transformation, the U.S. should not reward the Castro regime with unilateral concessions from us that enrich the regime and help it repress millions of Cubans.”