MIAMI (CBSMiami) – An announcement by the U.S. Secretary of State concerning new sanctions on two dozen high-ranking Venezuelan officials linked to human rights abuses was met with party line reaction by some of Florida’s top politicians.
The administration announced it will block or revoke the U.S. 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) said he and other lawmakers called for such sanctions in legislation they filed recently. While their bill includes the travel sanctions, it also calls for 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.”
U.S Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL) was an original co-sponsor of the Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act which passed the House of Representatives unanimously and levies further comprehensive sanctions on Venezuelan officials who have committed human rights abuses.
“It is no secret that Maduro’s cronies may pledge their allegiance to the socialist revolution but then spend weekends vacationing in Miami living the lavish lifestyle they denounce back home,” said Gacia in a statement. “Today, we sent the message that you cannot brutally trample on the basic rights and civil liberties of your citizens then turn around and enjoy all the benefits of a free, democratic society in the U.S.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz commended the Obama administration for taking action against the Venezuelan officials who have perpetrated “egregious human rights violations against the citizens of Venezuela.”
“In February of this year, thousands of Venezuelans bravely took to the streets to peacefully demand basic freedoms and respect from their government. The Maduro regime’s response was a violent crackdown on the rights of free speech and expression. Since then, instead of confronting the deteriorating economic conditions that compelled many to protest in the first place, the government has continued its harmful and repressive acts against its citizens,” according to a statement from Wasserman Schultz’s office.
“While we should continue to support efforts that will resolve the current crisis in Venezuela, these 24 officials, including cabinet officials, agency heads, senior officers in the Venezuelan military the national police, mayors and a judge, must be held accountable for their actions. The United States will not allow these human rights violators into our nation,” the statement concluded.
Reaction from the other side of the political aisle felt the sanctions didn’t go far enough.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, said she’d like to see the Obama administration enact full penalties against what she called “Maduro’s thugs.”
“Denying visas to Venezuelan officials is a good step forward but this action is long overdue and does not go far enough. Not only should we deny visas to Maduro’s cronies but we should also expand those visa restrictions to immediate family members of human rights violators and freeze their assets and property in the U.S.,” said Ros-Lehtinen in a statement. “In the aftermath of the Venezuelan regime pulling out all the stops to protect and give a safe haven to a notorious narco-trafficker, it’s disappointing that the Obama Administration has yet to implement strong sanctions against the Maduro regime.”
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) agreed with Ros-Lehtinen that the adminstration should have issued stiffer penalties.
“Today’s announcement by the U.S. State Department is an insufficient answer to the serious problems in Venezuela. In the face of the Maduro regime’s ongoing egregious human rights violations, eroding democracy and the rule of law, the Obama Administration responds with a weak slap on the wrist more than a year after the world witnessed an increase in these abuses. These weak actions today will do little to change the regime’s affinity for attacking peaceful civilians, launching bogus criminal charges on pro-democracy opposition leaders, and using live ammunition and torture of arrested protestors.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the sanctions are a welcome first step but more are needed. Rubio’s office noted that the announcement comes on the heels of the senator’s calls to action in which he urged President Obama to impose visa sanctions and asset freezes on the Maduro regime.
“The U.S. government should use every tool at our disposal to hold the Maduro regime accountable for its human rights violations,” said Rubio. “The Obama Administration has taken an important first step by announcing visa bans that would restrict the travel of human rights violators and their families to the U.S. This action should be followed up with asset freezes as well.”