Puebla, Mexico, July 8, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The US House of Representatives approved Wednesday new sanctions aimed at freezing assets linked to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his top officials.
The proposed legislation was approved by the Senate in April, and is expected to be signed into law soon by President Barack Obama.
Venezuela has responded by calling on Obama to refuse to sign the bill, arguing it undermines the international rule of law, and non intervention.
“The imposition of unilateral sanctions on Venezuela demonstrates the double standards of the US government,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“On the one hand, the US claims to be in favour of a dialogue in Venezuela, and at the same time, with this political gesture, encourages … anti-democratic elements and the violent opposition to continue to sabotage our efforts to maintain peace,” they said.
The move effectively extends sanctions first passed by Congress in 2014, which allowed the US government to bring sanctions against high level Venezuelan officials, including travel bans.
One of the co-sponsors o the bill, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), called on Obama to “fully implement these sanctions and use all the tools at his disposal”.
“By extending these sanctions, we are reinforcing our commitment to those innocent people in our hemisphere who are subject to the abuses of the Maduro regime,” he said in a statement.
The bill’s second co-sponsor, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), accused Maduro of “systemic abuses of authority”.
“I urge our partners and allies in the Hemisphere and around the world to adopt similar measures to pressure the Maduro regime and to stand strong together in support of Venezuela’s civil society,” he said.
Rubio and Menendez have been two of Congress’ staunchest critics of Venezuela. During his time as a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez used his position to accuse the government of Caracas of widespread corruption.
Menendez voluntarily stepped down from the committee in 2015, after the US Department of Justice indicted him on a slew of criminal corruption allegations. The senator was hit with a total of 14 counts, including allegations of bribery.
Relations between Venezuela and the US have hit an all time low in recent years.
In March, 2015, Obama infuriated Venezuelan leaders by declaring the country a national security threat. The two countries haven’t exchanged official ambassadors in around six years, and both nations have repeatedly expelled lower level diplomats in a range of tit-for-tat disputes.
In June, both governments announced plans to begin talks to improve ties.