Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Madam Speaker, today I rise for those who cannot speak freely in Venezuela. Widespread demonstrations have broken out throughout Venezuela to protest an oppressive regime that seeks to silence the people and deny their fundamental freedoms of expression and the right to assembly.
After years under Chavez and now Maduro, those brave men and women are expressing themselves in a united, clear voice that what they want is what should be rightfully theirs: respect for human rights and a true democracy in Venezuela. In response, as you can see here, Maduro and his thugs treat them like criminals.
Over the past weeks, Madam Speaker, 14 people have been killed by Maduro's forces; over 100 have been unjustly detained. But because Maduro controls the major media outlets, he has silenced many of those who attempt to draw attention to the plight of the Venezuelan people and instead cast the blame on the United States for all of the country's ills. The nerve of him.
Blaming the United States for his own domestic problems seems to be the modus operandi for Maduro, but the Venezuelan people are smarter than that. They recognize that this is just another scheme of Maduro's.
The regime tried to silence its people by blocking images on Twitter, as Venezuelans turn to social media to show the world the ugly reality that they are going through.
As the violence in Venezuela continues to escalate, responsible nations in the hemisphere and throughout the world have a moral obligation to stand with the people of Venezuela against the forces of fear and oppression. We must be the voice for those suffering under this repression. At the same time, we must condemn the violent actions of the Maduro regime against people who are yearning for liberty, justice, democracy, respect, and for human rights.
This fight for democracy and human rights isn't the struggle of Venezuelans only. It is the struggle of all who seek to advance the cause of human dignity and freedom.
How we respond matters. Madam Speaker, it is a test of our commitment to the ideals of freedom and democracy for everyone, not just for a few.
It is also a test of our resolve. Other oppressive leaders in the region are watching us to see if we back up our lofty words with action, so we must not equivocate. We must not waver.
We must stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and we must be the voice for those who are being silenced by this repressive regime, because our inaction would only serve to embolden other rogue regimes that seek to fight back the tides of democracy.
Throughout the Western Hemisphere, Madam Speaker, we have seen these regimes, such as Venezuela and the one in Cuba, work together to oppress and silence civil society.
Just yesterday, in my native homeland of Cuba, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a leading Cuban pro-democracy advocate and a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, was unjustly arrested by agents of the Castro regime for expressing his support for Leopoldo Lopez in Venezuela, one of the leading opposition figures who remains in military jail as we speak.
We must send a unified message to these and other repressive leaders that we will not look the other way when they commit heinous acts against their own people. We must show them that the world is watching and that they will face serious consequences for their transgressions.
That is why, Madam Speaker, I have proposed House Resolution 488, that expresses solidarity with the people of Venezuela who yearn for freedom, for democracy, and dignity.
I commend the Government of Panama for calling for an urgent meeting of Latin American foreign ministers at the Organization of American States, OAS, to address this ongoing crisis in Venezuela. Sadly, this response is an exception, as other countries in the hemisphere remain deafeningly silent.
I call on the OAS to demonstrate its commitment to the principles of its Inter-American Democratic Charter and support the Venezuelan people's right for democratic reforms to be respected in their country and respect for human rights.
I urge the United States administration to make a priority of supporting the Venezuelan people's aspirations for democracy and liberty, and I urge my colleagues in the Congress to join me in this important call for solidarity.