U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is calling on the Trump administration to expand sanctions against human-rights abusers in Venezuela.
In a letter today to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Nelson urged the administration “to fully enforce and, where appropriate, expand sanctions on those responsible for continued violence and human rights violations perpetrated against the Venezuelan people.”
Nelson made the request in response to a recent attempt by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the Supreme Court to strip legislative powers from the opposition-controlled National Assembly. The attempt was one of several by Maduro to undermine Venezuela’s democracy in recent years.
In addition to calling for expanded sanctions, Nelson urged Tillerson to work with the Organization of American States and the international community to help resolve the ongoing crisis.
In 2014, following President Maduro’s crackdown on a student-led opposition protest, Nelson and others sponsored legislation directing then-President Obama to impose sanctions on those responsible for the violence, human-rights violations and politically-motivated arrests.
“The United States stands clearly on the side of the Venezuelan people,” Nelson wrote in today’s letter. “The situation is dire, and I stand ready to work with you in support of the Venezuelan people’s struggle for democracy.”
A copy of Nelson’s letter to Tillerson is available here. And here’s the text:
April 5, 2017
The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Tillerson:
I write to express my concern about the deeply troubling situation in Venezuela, and especially for the Venezuelan people, who continue to suffer at the hands of President Nicolás Maduro’s Government.
Last week, allies of President Maduro on Venezuela’s Supreme Court stripped the National Assembly of its legislative powers. Only after significant criticism did the Court reverse its decision, apparently at the direction of President Maduro himself.
These attempts to further undermine Venezuela’s democracy are only the latest in President Maduro’s creeping dictatorship. He has repeatedly and violently suppressed protestors and jailed his political opponents in violation of their human rights. He has used the Supreme Court to block members of the National Assembly from taking office and overturned the laws it approved. He also thwarted opposition efforts to recall him via national referendum, and in so doing, was able to appoint a Vice President with reported ties to the Hezbollah terrorist group and now sanctioned for drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan people suffer the consequences of this political, humanitarian, and economic crisis. Venezuelans are dying because of severe shortages of food, medicine, and staple products. The economy is in freefall and crime and corruption are rampant. Last year, a record 18,000 Venezuelans sought asylum here in the United States, more than any other nationality.
The United States stands clearly on the side of the Venezuelan people in calling on President Maduro to cease undermining democracy, release all political prisoners, and respect the rule of law and human rights. I urge you to work with the international community, including the Organization of American States, to help resolve the crisis and alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelan people. Additionally, I urge you to fully enforce and, where appropriate, expand sanctions on those responsible for continued violence and human rights violations perpetrated against the Venezuelan people.
The situation is dire, and I stand ready to work with you in support of the Venezuelan people’s struggle for democracy and human rights.