WASHINGTON – During a speech at the U.S. SouthCom's annual human rights conference Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said the U.S. can't forget about the crisis in Venezuela.
Nelson, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said increasingly hostile states such as Russia, China and Iran want to influence the hemisphere.
"There are forces ready to take our place: Whether it’s drug-traffickers or transnational criminal organizations, ... Their interests are not those of the people of the region," Nelson said. "And their interests are certainly not ours."
The Florida Democrat said there is bipartisan support in Congress for continued U.S. leadership in the hemisphere and he counts on the support of Sen. Marco Rubio.
Nelson wants the Treasury Department to sanction all of the members of Venezuela's new constituent assembly and to ban the import of Venezuelan crude oil into the U.S., a move that would affect Gulf Coast refineries.
"Nelson led a group of nearly two dozen lawmakers in calling on the administration to grant Temporary Protected Status to all eligible Venezuelans," Nelson's spokesman Ryan Brown said in a statement.