Congress moves closer to issuing sanctions on accused Venezuelan human right violators

U.S. economic sanctions would ban entry to the U.S. and freeze assets

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Venezuelan celebrity Maria Conchita Alonso, an opponent of President Nicolas Maduro, and Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., pose for a picture in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Although Florida lawmakers bipartisan push met with opposition from President Barack Obama's administration, Congress was moving closer Friday to imposing U.S. economic sanctions on accused Venezuelan human right violators.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., celebrated a victory Friday, as the bill she introduced moved forward in the House. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced another in the Senate.

In front of a House committee, Ros-Lehtinen said there were lawmakers who did not support U.S. sanctions, because they wanted to wait for peace talks. She said that President Nicolas Maduro -- who was condoning the violence -- had the organization that was running the talks in his "pocket."

"Here is a solution for peace, stop shooting the students," Ros-Lehtinen said.


Ros-Lehtinen and Rubio want Venezuelans accused of being involved in the violent crackdown to not be allowed into the U.S., and to freeze their assets in the U.S.

"Human right violators in Venezuela" who "spend their weekend in Miami" should be sanctioned, Rubio said during a Senate committee hearing Thursday. Some who are a "propaganda arm of Venezuela," Rubio said, live in a multimillion mansion in Miami's exclusive Cocoplum.

Marco Rubio on Venezuela

Florida lawmakers working in favor of sanctions:

Democrats: Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. Joe Garcia, Rep. Lois Frankel, Rep. Frederica Wilson, Rep. Patrick Murphy, Rep. Corrine Brown, and Rep. Alan Grayson.

Republicans: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, and Sen. Marco Rubio, who some political experts consider may be a presidential candidate in 2016.

Senate committee learns Obama administration does not endorse sanctions

During the Senate hearing Thursday, former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela Patrick Duddy said the situation was "unsustainable" but he did not endorse the sanctions.

The Department of State reported some opposition leaders urged  the U.S. not to go forward with economic sanctions, and an assistant secretary said the measure is not always effective on stopping human right abuses.

"These are not isolated incidents or the excesses of a few rogue actors," Human Rights Watch's Jose Miguel Vivanco said.

Download testimony: Former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela

Download testimony:  Human Rights Watch's José Miguel Vivanco

Download testimony: Economist Moisés Naím

Download testimony: U.S. assistant secretary of state Roberta Jacobson

Download testimony: U.S. assistant secretary of state Thomasz P. Malinowski

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