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MEDIA ADVISORY: U.S. announces sanctions on Venezuela officials

Jul 30 • 394 Views • View Comments

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U.S. announces sanctions on Venezuela officials

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Federal officials announced today that the U.S. government will impose sanctions on two dozen high-ranking Venezuelan officials linked to human rights abuses.

The administration announced it will block or revoke the visas of twenty four prominent Venezuelan officials in the wake of a crackdown there on anti-government protestors.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and other lawmakers called for such sanctions in legislation they filed recently. While the bill includes the sanctions announced today it would go farther by blocking access to financial assets of officials linked to human rights abuses.

“The administration’s action is a good first step,” said Nelson. “But if the violence continues, we will need to look at even tougher sanctions.”

Following is the administration’s announcement today and a copy of the legislation Nelson is co-sponsoring:

Press Statement
Marie Harf
Deputy Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 30, 2014

Venezuela in recent months has witnessed large-scale protests by demonstrators concerned about deteriorating economic, social, and political conditions. Government security forces have responded to these protests in many instances with arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force. We have seen repeated efforts to repress legitimate expression of dissent through judicial intimidation, to limit freedom of the press, and to silence members of the political opposition.

Taking this into consideration and pursuant to Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Secretary of State has decided to impose restrictions on travel to the United States by a number of Venezuelan government officials who have been responsible for or complicit in such human rights abuses.

With this step we underscore our commitment to holding accountable individuals who commit human rights abuses. While we will not publicly identify these individuals because of visa record confidentiality, our message is clear: those who commit such abuses will not be welcome in the United States.

We emphasize the action we are announcing today is specific and targeted, directed at individuals responsible for human rights violations and not at the Venezuelan nation or its people.

S.2142

Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014

113th CONGRESS
2d Session
S. 2142

To impose targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters in Venezuela, to strengthen civil society in Venezuela, and for other purposes.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
March 13, 2014

Mr. MENENDEZ (for himself, Mr. RUBIO, Mr. NELSON, and Mr. KIRK) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations

A BILL

To impose targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters in Venezuela, to strengthen civil society in Venezuela, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014′.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) The Central Bank of Venezuela and the National Statistical Institute of Venezuela have stated that the inflation rate in Venezuela was 56.30 percent in 2013, the highest level of inflation in the Western Hemisphere and the third highest level of inflation in the world behind South Sudan and Syria.

(2) The Central Bank of Venezuela and the Government of Venezuela have imposed a series of currency controls that has exacerbated economic problems and, according to the World Economic Forum, has become the most problematic factor for doing business in Venezuela.

(3) The Central Bank of Venezuela and the National Statistical Institute of Venezuela have declared that the scarcity index of Venezuela reached 28 percent in December 2013, which signifies that one in 4 basic goods is unavailable at any given time.

(4) Since 1999, violent crime in Venezuela has risen sharply and the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, an independent nongovernmental organization, found the national per capita murder rate to be 79 per 100,000 people in 2013.

(5) The international nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch recently stated, `Under the leadership of President Cha.AE2vez and now President Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and the erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, censor, and prosecute its critics.’.

(6) The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 of the Department of State maintained that in Venezuela `the government did not respect judicial independence or permit judges to act according to the law without fear of retaliation’ and `the government used the judiciary to intimidate and selectively prosecute political, union, business, and civil society leaders who were critical of government policies or actions’.

(7) The Government of Venezuela has detained foreign journalists and threatened and expelled international media outlets operating in Venezuela, and the international nongovernmental organization Freedom House declared that Venezuela’s `media climate is permeated by intimidation, sometimes including physical attacks, and strong antimedia rhetoric by the government is common’.

(8) Since February 4, 2014, the Government of Venezuela has responded to antigovernment protests with violence and killings perpetrated by public security forces, and by arresting and unjustly charging opposition leader Leopoldo Lopes with criminal incitement, conspiracy, arson, and intent to damage property.

(9) As of March 13, 2014, 23 people had been killed, more than 100 people had been injured, and dozens had been unjustly detained as a result of antigovernment demonstrations throughout Venezuela.

SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS REGARDING ANTIGOVERNMENT PROTESTS IN VENEZUELA AND THE NEED TO PREVENT FURTHER VIOLENCE IN VENEZUELA.

It is the sense of Congress that–

(1) the United States aspires to a mutually beneficial relationship with Venezuela based on respect for human rights and the rule of law and a functional and productive relationship on issues of public security, including counternarcotics and counterterrorism;

(2) the United States supports the people of Venezuela in their efforts to realize their full economic potential and to advance representative democracy, human rights, and the rule of law within their country;

(3) the chronic mismanagement by the Government of Venezuela of its economy has produced conditions of economic hardship and scarcity of basic goods and foodstuffs for the people of Venezuela;

(4) the failure of the Government of Venezuela to guarantee minimal standards of public security for its citizens has led the country to become one of the most violent in the world;

(5) the Government of Venezuela continues to take steps to remove checks and balances on the executive, politicize the judiciary, undermine the independence of the legislature through use of executive decree powers, persecute and prosecute its political opponents, curtail freedom of the press, and limit the free expression of its citizens;

(6) the people of Venezuela, responding to ongoing economic hardship, high levels of crime and violence, and the lack of basic political rights and individual freedoms, have turned out in demonstrations in Caracas and throughout the country to protest the inability of the Government of Venezuela to ensure the political and economic well-being of its citizens; and

(7) the repeated use of violence perpetrated by the National Guard and security personnel of Venezuela, as well as persons acting on behalf of the Government of Venezuela, in relation to the antigovernment protests that began on February 4, 2014, is intolerable and the use of unprovoked violence by protesters is also a matter of serious concern.

SEC. 4. UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD VENEZUELA.

It is the policy of the United States–

(1) to support the people of Venezuela in their aspiration to live under conditions of peace and representative democracy as defined by the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States;

(2) to work in concert with the other member states within the Organization of American States, as well as the countries of the European Union, to ensure the peaceful resolution of the current situation in Venezuela and the immediate cessation of violence against antigovernment protestors;

(3) to hold accountable government and security officials in Venezuela responsible for or complicit in the use of force in relation to the antigovernment protests that began on February 4, 2014, and similar future acts of violence; and

(4) to continue to support the development of democratic political processes and independent civil society in Venezuela.

SEC. 5. SANCTIONS ON PERSONS RESPONSIBLE FOR VIOLENCE IN VENEZUELA.

(a) In General- The President shall impose the sanctions described in subsection (b) with respect to any person, including a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela or a person acting on behalf of that Government, that the President determines–

(1) has perpetrated, or is responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses in Venezuela against persons associated with the antigovernment protests in Venezuela that began on February 4, 2014;

(2) has directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly; or

(3) has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided significant financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, the commission of acts described in paragraph (1) or (2).

(b) Sanctions Described-

(1) IN GENERAL- The sanctions described in this subsection are the following:

(A) ASSET BLOCKING- The exercise of all powers granted to the President by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) to the extent necessary to block and prohibit all transactions in all property and interests in property of a person determined by the President to be subject to subsection (a) if such property and interests in property are in the United States, come within the United States, or are or come within the possession or control of a United States person.

(B) EXCLUSION FROM THE UNITED STATES AND REVOCATION OF VISA OR OTHER DOCUMENTATION- In the case of an alien determined by the President to be subject to subsection (a), denial of a visa to, and exclusion from the United States of, the alien, and revocation in accordance with section 221(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1201(i)), of any visa or other documentation of the alien.

(2) PENALTIES- A person that violates, attempts to violate, conspires to violate, or causes a violation of paragraph (1)(A) or any regulation, license, or order issued to carry out paragraph (1)(A) shall be subject to the penalties set forth in subsections (b) and (c) of section 206 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1705) to the same extent as a person that commits an unlawful act described in subsection (a) of that section.

(3) EXCEPTION TO COMPLY WITH UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS AGREEMENT- Sanctions under paragraph (1)(B) shall not apply to an alien if admitting the alien into the United States is necessary to permit the United States to comply with the Agreement regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations, signed at Lake Success June 26, 1947, and entered into force November 21, 1947, between the United Nations and the United States, or other applicable international obligations.

(c) Waiver- The President may waive the application of sanctions under subsection (b) with respect to a person if the President–

(1) determines that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States; and

(2) on or before the date on which the waiver takes effect, submits to the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Banking Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives a notice of and justification for the waiver.

(d) Regulatory Authority- The President shall issue such regulations, licenses, and orders as are necessary to carry out this section.

(e) Definitions- In this section:

(1) ADMITTED; ALIEN- The terms `admitted’ and `alien’ have the meanings given those terms in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101).

(2) FINANCIAL INSTITUTION- The term `financial institution’ has the meaning given that term in section 5312 of title 31, United States Code.

(3) MATERIALLY ASSISTED- The term `materially assisted’ means the provision of assistance that is significant and of a kind directly relevant to acts described in paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (a).

(4) UNITED STATES PERSON- The term `United States person’ means–

(A) a United States citizen or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence to the United States; or

(B) an entity organized under the laws of the United States or of any jurisdiction within the United States, including a foreign branch of such an entity.

SEC. 6. SUPPORT FOR CIVIL SOCIETY IN VENEZUELA.

(a) In General- The Secretary of State shall, subject to the availability of appropriations, directly or through nongovernmental organizations–

(1) defend internationally recognized human rights for the people of Venezuela;

(2) build the organizational and operational capacity of democratic civil society activists and organizations in Venezuela at the national and regional level;

(3) support the efforts of independent media outlets to broadcast, distribute, and share information beyond the limited channels made available by the Government of Venezuela;

(4) facilitate open and uncensored access to the Internet for the people of Venezuela;

(5) improve transparency and accountability of institutions that are part of the Government of Venezuela;

(6) provide support to civil society organizations, activists, and peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela that have been targeted for exercising internationally recognized civil and political rights, as well as journalists targeted for activities related to the work of a free press; and

(7) provide support for democratic political organizing and election monitoring in Venezuela.

(b) Strategy Requirement- Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit a strategy to carry out the activities described in subsection (a) to–

(1) the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives; and

(2) the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.

(c) Authorization of Appropriations-

(1) IN GENERAL- There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of State $15,000,000 for fiscal year 2015 to carry out subsection (a). Amounts appropriated for the activities set forth in subsection (a) shall be used pursuant to the authorization and requirements contained in this section. Additional amounts may be authorized to be appropriated under provisions of law.

(2) NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENT-

(A) IN GENERAL- Funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to paragraph (1) may not be obligated until until 15 days after the date on which the President has provided notice of intent to obligate such funds to–

(i) the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives; and

(ii) the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.

(B) WAIVER- The President may waive the requirement under subparagraph (A) if the President determines that failure to waive that requirement would pose a substantial risk to human health or welfare, in which case notification shall be provided as early as practicable, but in no event later than 3 days after taking the action to which such notification requirement was applicable in the context of the circumstances necessitating such waiver.

CONTACT(S):
(202) 224-1679; (202) 309-1985
Ryan Brown, press secretary
Emily Rogers, deputy press secretary
Madeline Joyce, press assistant
Dan McLaughlin, deputy chief of staff, communications

 

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