Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lend my voice to those who are being brutally silenced by the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela.
After 15 years of suffering under Hugo Chavez's rule, the people of Venezuela have watched their liberties continue to be violently stripped away as Maduro further radicalizes the country's failed policies.
These policies produce the highest inflation rates in Latin America, leading to shortages of such basic goods as milk and toilet paper, and sending Venezuela into a desperate downward economic spiral that worsens every day.
The corruption that is enabled by the Maduro government and its supporters has also contributed to a society that is plagued by rampant violence. In this country of 30 million inhabitants, nearly 25,000 homicides were committed last year alone.
Worse still, the vast majority of these murders went unpunished, creating a climate of impunity that leaves ordinary citizens paralyzed by fear and hopeless about their own future and the future of their country.
As if this was not harsh enough, Mr. Speaker, Venezuelans are now facing the regime's repressive and violent actions. Weeks ago, Maduro and his cronies unleashed a bloody crackdown on students as they demonstrated against the regime's failed policies and peacefully demanded their basic human rights and democratic freedoms.
These students are expressing the sentiments of millions of Venezuelans who are sick and tired of the regime's destructive policies and fear for what may happen next. These students were exercising freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, yet Maduro responded to their brave calls of liberty with tear gas, rubber bullets, beatings, and live ammunition.
As the number of Venezuelan protesters swelled to the millions, Maduro has only stepped up the violence and his attempts to silence his critics by censoring radio and social media platforms.
By controlling the flow of information and the major media outlets, Maduro perpetuates his absurd conspiracy theories which cast blame on everyone, but himself, for this crisis of democracy in Venezuela.
Through the use of intimidation, unjust detentions, and violence, Maduro has followed the familiar playbook of other rulers who fear the desire of their citizens to live in freedom and under the rule of law.
This is especially the case with the brutal Castro tyranny, which has the biggest stake in keeping Maduro in power because of its mutual disdain for freedom, for democracy, for liberty, for the rule of law, and because of Castro's dependence on Venezuelan oil.
We have witnessed the Castro regime parachute in their own hired guns to help the Maduro regime continue its oppressive tactics against the people of Venezuela.
Since the countrywide protests began on February 12, Maduro's regime has murdered at least 14 Venezuelans, injured or unjustly detained hundreds more, and committed the worst abuses against protesters as stories of torture and other human rights violations continue to pour in.
This relentless repression will continue and intensify unless the United States and the international community speak with a unified voice and help to promote the rule of law, the human rights, and the democratic aspirations of the Venezuelan people.
I hope that we will be able to say that we did not stand idly by as the Venezuelan people were brutally repressed and that we had a voice in making sure that people knew what was going on in Venezuela. I hope that we will be able to say that we stood for justice, that we stood for peace, that we stood for human rights, that we stood for freedom, and that we stood for the rule of law at the moment when these were needed the most.