San Francisco, May 20th 2014. (venezuelanalysis.com)- Earlier this afternoon in Washington, the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate approved 13 to 2 the “Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act.” The bill includes sanctions on key individuals of the Venezuelan government and at least $15 million to “defend human rights… and strengthen the rule of law.”
The Menendez Bill
Committee chair, democrat Robert Menendez, who played a lead role in the writing of the proposed legislation, plans to present the bill before the whole Senate within the coming weeks.
The legal measures proposed are in regards to recent anti-government protests that have reached levels of extreme violence in certain Venezuelan cities, resulting in 42 dead, 800 injured, and millions of dollars of public property damaged, including the burning of multiple universities.
Menendez said the US can’t “play the role of bystander” while Venezuelan president is going to “dangerous extremes to silence political dissent.”
"The U.S. should always be on the side of human rights around the world," said another lead supporter, Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio.
Rubio has prepared list of Venezuelan military and government officials who would be targeted for sanctions if the bill were to pass. Among those listed are attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz and the head of operations for the National Guard, Manuel Quevedo.
Earlier this month another piece of similar legislation, the Venezuelan Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, promoted by Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, passed the corresponding foreign committee of the U.S. Congress. It has yet to be addressed by Congress as a whole.
Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, has attended the senate hearings and expressed concern on behalf of the White House.
"This is not a U.S.-Venezuela issue," she said. "We have strongly resisted attempts to be used as a distraction from Venezuela's real problems."
She has displayed equal unease that the bill might distract from the important dialogue that is taking place between the Venezuelan government and the opposition.
Appeal to the UN
Even before the bill passed today’s Senate committee, Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua expressed outrage at what he considers repeated US “interference” in Venezuelan affairs.
On Thursday Jaua announced his plan to present a formal claim to the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
“We’ve had enough of the United States assuming a role that belongs to multilateral bodies, Jaua said Thursday. “We must remember that as a free and independent nation we do not recognize the United States parliament… as a legislative [force] over Venezuela. There are basic principles of the United Nations Charter that must be respected.”
The minister has called a meeting with the UNASUR, to be held next week in Ecuador. He plans to bring with him a “dossier of all the declarations of interference posed by representatives of the United States, starting with president Obama, Secretary [of State John] Kerry, and others…”