US Lawmakers Call on Trump to Impose New Sanctions on Venezuela
A bipartisan group of 34 U.S. lawmakers urged President Donald Trump to apply new sanctions against Venezuela’s Bolivarian government, alleging that it supports corruption, human rights abuses, and “terrorism.”
Cuban-American right-wing congresspeople Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, co-authored a letter sent to Trump endorsed by 32 other republican and democratic lawmakers.
The letter calls on Trump to investigate alleged drug trafficking and support for so-called Middle Eastern terror groups by the country’s new vice president, Tareck El Aissami, AP reported.
“Decisive, principled action in response to unfolding developments in Venezuela as one of the first foreign policy actions of your administration would send a powerful message to the Maduro regime and the Venezuelan people,” lawmakers said in the letter.
In addition to sanctioning Venezuelan officials and launching an investigation into the Bolivarian government’s alleged ties to terrorism, the U.S. lawmakers want to boost funding for right-wing opposition groups operating within the country.
Since 1999, the year former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took office, the U.S. government has provided opposition groups with hundreds of millions of dollars. Since 2014, US$5 million has been allocated in the federal budget to finance opposition activities inside the South American country, the Daily Mail reported.
These are the same groups that are responsible for the guarimbas — the violent practice of blocking roads, lighting tires on fire, and firing rocks and other materials at Venezuelan police. Members of opposition groups have also been caught hoarding and illegally selling foodstuffs for personal profit.
Despite the Venezuelan opposition’s well-recorded criminality, the bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is instead choosing to combat the democratically-elected government’s alleged “crimes.”
The lawmakers claim Venezuelan officials in charge of distributing food rations are “profiting” from shortages, citing a December 2016 report by AP. The investigation, however, quotes unsubstantiated claims made by opposition residents and former officials hostile to the incumbent government.
The lawmakers also claim El Aissami has connections to the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, which they say automatically makes him complicit in supporting “terrorism,” but provided no evidence to back that accusation.
Trump’s administration has not commented on proposed plans to sanction and investigate Venezuela. Maduro’s administration continues to speak out against U.S. efforts to destabilize the democratically-elected government.