Hawks in US Congress Demand Tougher Sanctions Against Venezuela

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By Jeanette Charles for venezuelanalysis.com

Thirty-four US legislators submitted a statement to President Donald Trump advocating for greater sanctions against the Venezuelan government, reports the Associated Press. The letter was co-written by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) former chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Senator Menendez (D-New Jersey) sitting member of the Senate foreign relations subcommittee on Latin America.

“Decisive, principled action in response to unfolding developments in Venezuela as one of the first foreign policy actions of your administration would send a powerful message to the Maduro regime and the Venezuelan people,” stated the letter signed by an equal number of Republicans as well as Democrats.

The letter specifically calls on Trump to sanction Venezuelan government and military officials allegedly tied to corruption and human rights abuses citing an AP investigation focusing on corruption released in December 2016 as its key source.

Additionally,  US legislators advocated for increased U. funding for “democratic political processes, institutions and values that support human rights, freedom of information and independent civil society until the country returns to democratic governance.” Currently, US funding to Venezuela under the Economic Support Fund stands at $USD 6.5 million annually states the letter.

The call for greater “pro-democracy” aid is the result of an international campaign promoting intervention in Venezuela on the basis of unfounded human rights violations. The US lawmakers cite the case of “political prisoners” naming Leopoldo López, currently imprisoned and sentenced to 13 years for his role in the 2014 guarimba protest violence resulting in the deaths of 43 people and hundreds more severely injured.

The bipartisan call for intervention also urges an investigation into alleged drug trafficking and Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for his purported ties to Middle Eastern “terrorist groups” citing reports from the Wall Street Journal and American Interest

“Given these reports, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country, and his prominence in the regime, we urge the appropriate agencies to thoroughly investigate Tareck El Aissami’s conduct and activities,” the letter pressed.

Venezuelanalysis responded earlier this month to this international defamation campaign against El Assami calling the attacks racist in nature and unfounded.

Lastly, letter demands that the Treasury Department issue regulations to guarantee US companies do not benefit from the overpayment of food contracts in Venezuela as outlined by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977.

US lawmakers who also signed onto the letter including: Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Norma Torres (D-CA), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Dan Donovan (R-NY), Mia Love (R-UT), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Brian Mast (R-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA).

This letter’s release comes after Venezuelan National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara of the opposition along with lawmakers Armando Armas and José Gregorio Correa began a three day tour this week in the US to request a meeting with President Trump to request sanctions against Venezuela.

President Nicolás Maduro has denounced this behavior a “crime” and “treason”.

“These lawmakers are committing great crimes of treason, when they go to Washington to ask the new US government to intervene in Venezuela,” said Maduro during his weekly radio program Tuesday night.

Since his campaign trail, Trump has not publicly announced detailed US foreign policy plans in Venezuela. However, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s confirmed  his support for “regime change” in January.

Likewise, the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s threatened to resume efforts to intervene in Venezuela if the dialogue with the opposition does not move forward.

The two main co-sponsors of the letter, Ros-Lehtinen and Menendez have consistently advocated for US intervention namely in Cuba but across Latin America and the Caribbean on behalf of the right wing Cuban exile community.

This article originally appeared on Venezuelanalysis at https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/12926