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Rubio To Kerry: No More Mixed Signals On Venezuela, Time For Sanctions On Regime

May 14, 2014 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is calling on the Obama Administration to support targeted sanctions on individuals involved in human rights abuses and significant acts of corruption in Venezuela.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Rubio highlighted the troubling committee hearing testimony by Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs on May 8th.  At the hearing, Jacobson claimed the Administration is reluctant to impose sanctions on human rights abusers because Venezuela’s opposition had asked not to pursue these measures at this time. However, hours later, the leading Venezuelan opposition group explicitly rejected the claim.

“Either the State Department made a mistake, or it is relying on unfounded information as its basis for opposing sanctions on Venezuelan regime officials at this time,” wrote Rubio. “In either case, I am deeply troubled about the mixed signals and message of impunity the Administration is sending to the Maduro regime and its enablers as its repressive machine ramps up the brutality of human rights abuses inflicted on peaceful demonstrators, including more than 240 students arrested the morning of May 8 – the same morning the Senate Foreign Relations Committee examined these matters.

“I urge the administration to publicly support the immediate imposition of targeted sanctions on individuals involved in human rights abuses and outrageous cases of corruption in Venezuela,” Rubio concluded.

A PDF of the letter is available here, and the text is below.

Dear Secretary Kerry:

I am deeply concerned about the Administration’s half-hearted and dangerously unclear policies regarding the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela. I am particularly concerned about conflicting statements made by the Administration – at a Senate hearing and then to the media – regarding the Venezuelan opposition’s position on sanctions.

On May 8, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to assess Venezuela’s political crisis and the ongoing human rights abuses committed by Venezuelan government forces on peaceful demonstrators. At said hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson claimed the Administration had been asked by members of the opposition “who are participating in the dialogue” with the Maduro regime not to impose human rights violations sanctions at this time. Later that day, a statement by the United States Embassy in Caracas claimed that “members of the opposition participating in the dialogue” have “made the point that the United States Government should not undermine the current dialogue while it still offers a chance of progress.”

As you may know, Ms. Jacobson’s testimony was immediately questioned by senior representatives of the opposition participating in the so-called “dialogue”, including the general secretary of the umbrella opposition organization “Mesa de la Unidad” (M.U.D.), Mr. Ramon Guillermo Aveledo. The M.U.D. also made clear that it has never opposed or requested to postpone the imposition of sanctions on individuals committing human rights violations, or those involved in drug trafficking or corruption.

Either the State Department made a mistake, or it is relying on unfounded information as its basis for opposing sanctions on Venezuelan regime officials at this time. In either case, I am deeply troubled about the mixed signals and message of impunity the Administration is sending to the Maduro regime and its enablers as its repressive machine ramps up the brutality of human rights abuses inflicted on peaceful demonstrators, including more than 240 students arrested the morning of May 8 – the same morning the Senate Foreign Relations Committee examined these matters.

I urge the Administration to publicly support the immediate imposition of targeted sanctions on individuals involved in human rights abuses and outrageous cases of corruption in Venezuela.

Sincerely,

Marco Rubio