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Public Statements

Supporting the People of Venezuela as They Protest Peacefully for Democratic Change

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, H. Res. 488 signals U.S. support for the people of Venezuela as they protest peacefully for democracy in the face of Nicolas Maduro's violent repression and his crackdown on those who express their opposition to his regime's failed policies.

We must take a clear stand because the Maduro regime has responded in a deeply undemocratic manner by forcibly repressing protesters, attempting to silence critics by blocking media outlets, and even authorizing the arrests of key opposition leaders such as Leopoldo Lopez.

As protests have swelled throughout the country, the actions of regime forces have led to the deaths of at least 15 and to the unjust detention of more than 100 freedom seekers.

It is incumbent upon the Organization of American States, the OAS, to act according to the principles of its Inter-American Democratic Charter and address this crisis of democracy. Yet recent history has shown us that the Secretary General of the OAS will not lead the way in this important effort. Thus, in the absence of his leadership, responsible nations in the hemisphere must act. They cannot remain silent.

The Panamanians have stepped up to the plate. They have proposed a ministerial meeting at the OAS, but regrettably, Mr. Speaker, that proposal has not moved forward. This resolution will send a clear message to the OAS and to Nicolas Maduro that the United States condemns these undemocratic actions.

We see the plight of the people of Venezuela, and we stand on their side in the struggle for democratic change. We stand together with the Women for Life, Mujeres por la Vida, who march clad in white through the streets of Venezuela peacefully, like their companions in the struggle for freedom in Cuba--Las Damas de Blanco, the Ladies in White.

We stand with the students who take to the streets demanding the release of their fellow students who have been unjustly detained, only to be met with the clubs and the teargas of Maduro's henchmen. And we stand together, Mr. Speaker, united with the people of Venezuela who wish to cast the yoke of repression and oppression and the influence of the Castro regime, which has been more than eager to help Maduro silence the oppression in Venezuela because it fears that the movement will sweep over the island of Cuba.

We must stand together and support those who seek freedom: freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the freedom from government abuse and government oppression. We must speak with a unified voice, Mr. Speaker, about the crisis of democracy in Venezuela and stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people in their spirited struggle.

But in the face of a determined autocrat who disregards expectations of right conduct and who is willing to use violence to impose his will on free citizens, well, Mr. Speaker, words are just not nearly enough. We must act, and we must act now. We must support those who are pleading for respect for democratic principles and for human rights in Venezuela.

I want to thank the chairman of our important committee, Chairman Royce, and my good friend, also, Ranking Member Eliot Engel, for getting this measure to the floor so quickly. I also want to thank their exceptional staff. I want to thank Congressmen Albio Sires and Mario Diaz-Balart, who have supported this resolution from the very beginning. Mr. Speaker, we have worked closely together in a bipartisan and a bicameral way, including with the State Department, to ensure that this is a strong, bipartisan resolution, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, this resolution can only be the first step to hold Maduro and his fellow regime thugs accountable for their terrible and violent response, and their abuse of Venezuelan people's liberties and human rights.

I have already begun circulating a letter amongst my colleagues in the House addressed to President Obama asking him to take immediate action against Maduro and other Venezuelan officials who are responsible for violations of their people's human rights.

We are calling for the President to enact immediate sanctions against those officials under authorities granted to him under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, including denying them visas to enter the United States, blocking their property, freezing their assets in the U.S., as well as prohibiting them from making any financial transactions in the U.S. This letter already enjoys bipartisan support. I invite my colleagues to join me in signing this letter, and I hope that the President will recognize the severity of this issue and do the right thing and take these important steps.
However, Mr. Speaker, I will file a bill this week that would force the implementation of these sanctions even if the President chooses not to use these authorities granted to him under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

Now is not the time to dither or sit on the fence. The United States must stand up for the people of Venezuela and for the American ideals of freedom, democracy, of the rule of law, of respect for human rights. Failure to hold Maduro and his officials accountable would be irresponsible and a failure of leadership.

On the resolution before us today, Mr. Speaker, I am optimistic that the U.S. House will pass my bill expressing support for the people of Venezuela as they protest peacefully for democracy. I hope that it will pass so that we can send a swift and strong message to Maduro that the United States House of Representatives has taken notice of the developments in Venezuela and that we will not allow these transgressions to pass by quietly.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate my strong thanks to the chairman of our committee, Mr. Royce, and to our esteemed ranking member, Mr. Engel. Both of them have been very present and very energized on the United States House of Representatives speaking in a clear voice in favor of democracy, the rule of law, freedom, and liberties being respected by the Maduro regime, and so far we have seen the opposite be true.

I want to again suggest to my colleagues that passing this resolution of solidarity with the peaceful protesters of Venezuela is an important first step, and we hope that those who support this cause will follow-up with my office and sign the letter to President Obama asking for economic sanctions against human rights violators and also cosponsor my bill that follows and tracks that same letter.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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