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Hearing of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - Venezuela


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement at a Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere hearing. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

"I remain increasingly concerned over the lack of action by the Obama administration against the human rights abuses in Venezuela. According to reports there are: 39 people killed; nearly 60 reported cases of torture; more than 2,000 people unjustly detained; and hundreds injured.

And what do we get from the Administration? Almost absolute silence!

Leopoldo Lopez who has been unjustly detained in a military prison for almost seven weeks now faces a 14 year prison sentence just for protesting peacefully to promote democratic principles.

And again, from the Administration? Crickets!

Has anyone from our embassy even visited Leopoldo behind bars, have we made that public? Will the U.S. accept the Venezuelan request to put an Ambassador in DC? At the Organization of American States as you know, opposition leader Maria Corina Machado was prevented from speaking the truth about the crisis of Venezuela and was stripped of her position in the legislature.

And what was the response from the Administration? Nada!

It is shameful that the Obama Administration continues to neglect the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

Maduro has accepted this proposal by UNASUR to broker peace talks between the government and certain factions of the opposition, and it's not supported by the opposition as a group. I remain very skeptical of this smoke and mirrors deal because I do not believe that UNASUR is an honest broker. The Venezuelan opposition cannot negotiate if they have a gun pointed at their head.

And Brazil has shown time and time again its unwillingness to support human rights. Colombia is at the mercy of Venezuela and the Castro regime due to its misguided negotiations with the FARC. Ecuador's Correa remains on the side of Maduro as he also tramples on democratic freedoms.

And yesterday Secretary Kerry testified in the Senate that the U.S. does not want to act in Venezuela because of these bogus negotiations. But these protests have been going on for two months. Now we're using this sham of the negotiations as an excuse to not help the opposition, at least not take action to help them in any way.

The President has issued an Executive Order to sanction Russian violators of human rights abuses and even up to last week , Mr. Chairman, the President issued an Executive Order authorizing sanctions for South Sudan. So I ask, why can the Administration not issue the same order today on Venezuela and hold human rights violators accountable?

So what kind of regime in Venezuela are we dealing with? As we know, it's a serial human rights abuser.

A GAO report from 2009 stated: "Venezuelan officials including those in the National Guard have been bribed to facilitate cocaine shipments across the border with Colombia...the Venezuelan National Guard poses the most significant threat because the Guard reports directly to the President." This example illustrates the direct authority by the executive over the National Guard that is responsible for the killings in Venezuela, with the help of the Castro regime, and involvement in narco-trafficking.

The Administration can do so much, Mr. Chairman, as you know. It is shameful to have this silence because Maduro hears the silence. Now we're going to use the excuse of this new negotiations period, but this negotiations ruse is a new trick, because the protests have been going on for weeks and we have not done anything.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman, on Haiti, I was glad to lead a bipartisan delegation to Haiti. And we were very happy to see improvements in our program but of course, there's so much left to be done. I would like to ask you about two specific items I witnessed during our trip.

First, we visited the SONAPI industrial park and met a factory owner named Steven Coles, and his company is interested in expanding his operations to the north at our Caracol Industrial Park in order to provide more quality jobs but it seems like USAID has not cooperated fully on this matter.

Second we also visited Project Medishare which is Haiti's only critical care and trauma hospital and run by a constituent of mine, Dr. Barth Green of the University of Miami. The hospital is having electrical problems and it wants to expand its operations and I hope that your office is able to help.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman."

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