Text: H.R.4229 — 113th Congress (2013-2014)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (03/13/2014)


113th CONGRESS
2d Session
H. R. 4229


To seek international sanctions against the Government of Venezuela with respect to foreign persons responsible for or complicit in ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses against citizens of Venezuela, and for other purposes.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

March 13, 2014

Ms. Ros-Lehtinen (for herself, Mr. Diaz-Balart, Mr. Sires, Mr. Salmon, Ms. Wasserman Schultz, Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Deutch, Mr. Garcia, Mr. Bilirakis, and Ms. Frankel of Florida) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on the Judiciary, Ways and Means, and Financial Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To seek international sanctions against the Government of Venezuela with respect to foreign persons responsible for or complicit in ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses against citizens of Venezuela, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Venezuelan Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act”.

SEC. 2. Definitions.

In this Act:

(1) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES.—The term “appropriate congressional committees” means—

(A) the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives; and

(B) the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.

(2) SENSITIVE TECHNOLOGY.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The term “sensitive technology” means hardware, software, telecommunications equipment, or any other technology that the President determines is to be used specifically to—

(i) restrict the free flow of unbiased information; or

(ii) disrupt, monitor, or otherwise restrict freedom of speech.

(B) EXCEPTION.—The term “sensitive technology” does not include information or informational materials the exportation of which the President does not have the authority to regulate.

SEC. 3. Findings.

Congress finds the following—

(1) On February 12, 2014, also known in Venezuela as the National Youth Day, students began protesting in several cities against Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro’s inability to stem violent crime, his undemocratic actions, and a rapidly deteriorating economy marked by high inflation and shortages of consumer goods.

(2) On February 12, 2014, a judge issued an arrest warrant for Leopoldo López, leader of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, for unfounded allegations in connection with the student protests.

(3) On February 17, 2014, the Government of Venezuela notified the United States Department of State that it had declared 3 consular officers at the United States Embassy in Venezuela personae non gratae.

(4) On February 18, 2014, opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to Venezuelan authorities, was arrested, and unjustly charged with criminal incitement, conspiracy, arson, and intent to damage property.

(5) Leopoldo López is currently being held in a prison at a military facility.

(6) Nongovernmental human rights organizations have alleged that the charges brought against Leopoldo López appear to be a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country.

(7) As of March 13, 2014, there have been 24 people killed, over 100 injured, and many persons unjustly detained in relation to pro-democracy demonstrations throughout Venezuela.

(8) On February 19, 2014, President Obama criticized the Government of Venezuela for arresting protesters, called for their release, and urged the government to focus on the “legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people”.

(9) According to the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 for Venezuela, “The principal human rights abuses reported during the year included corruption, politicization in the judicial system, and government actions to impede freedom of expression and restrict freedom of the press. The government did not respect judicial independence or permit judges to act according to the law without fear of retaliation. The government used the judiciary to intimidate and selectively prosecute political, union, business, and civil society leaders who were critical of government policies or actions. The government harassed and intimidated privately owned television stations, other media outlets, and journalists throughout the year, using threats, fines, property seizures, targeted regulations, arrests, and criminal investigations and prosecutions.”.

(10) According to the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 for Venezuela, “The following human rights problems were reported by NGOs, the media, and in some cases the government itself: unlawful killings, including summary killings by police elements; torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions and lack of due process rights that contributed to widespread violence, riots, injuries, and deaths in prisons; inadequate juvenile detention centers; arbitrary arrests and detentions; corruption and impunity in police forces; political prisoners; interference with privacy rights; corruption at all levels of government; threats against domestic NGOs; violence against women; anti-Semitism in the official media; trafficking in persons; violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and restrictions on workers’ right of association.”.

(11) According to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report of 2013 on Venezuela, “Nicolás Maduro, further weakened the independent media, reduced the opposition’s ability to serve as a check on government policy, and made threats to civil society groups.”.

SEC. 4. Actions at the Organization of American States.

The Secretary of State shall direct the United States Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at the Organization of American States to defend and protect the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and strengthen the independent Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance the protection of human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere, especially in Venezuela.

SEC. 5. Imposition of sanctions on certain persons who are responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses committed against citizens of Venezuela or their family members.

(a) In general.—The President shall impose sanctions described in subsection (c) with respect to each person on the list required by subsection (b).

(b) List of persons who are responsible for or complicit in certain human rights abuses.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a list of persons who are officials of the Government of Venezuela or persons acting on behalf of the Government of Venezuela, who the President determines, based on credible evidence, are responsible for or complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses against citizens of Venezuela or their family members.

(2) UPDATES OF LIST.—The President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees an updated list under paragraph (1)—

(A) not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act; and

(B) as new information becomes available.

(3) PUBLIC AVAILABILITY.—The list required under paragraph (1) shall be made available to the public and posted on the Web sites of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of State.

(4) CONSIDERATION OF DATA FROM OTHER COUNTRIES AND NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS.—In preparing the list required under paragraph (1), the President may consider credible data already obtained by other countries and nongovernmental organizations, including organizations in Venezuela, that monitor the human rights abuses of the Government of Venezuela.

(c) Sanctions described.—The sanctions described in this subsection are ineligibility for a visa to enter the United States and sanctions pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.), including blocking of property and restrictions or prohibitions on financial transactions and the exportation and importation of property, subject to such regulations as the President may prescribe, including regulatory exceptions to permit the United States to comply with the Agreement between the United Nations and the United States of America regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations, signed June 26, 1947, and entered into force November 21, 1947, and other applicable international obligations.

(d) Termination of sanctions.—The provisions of this section shall terminate on the date on which the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that Venezuela has—

(1) unconditionally released all political prisoners and opposition leaders;

(2) ceased violence, unlawful detention, torture, and abuse of its citizens;

(3) cooperated fully with an independent investigation into the killings, arrests, and abuse of peaceful political activists and prosecuted the individuals responsible for such killings, arrests, and abuse; and

(4) ceased infringing on freedom of expression and attacking independent media.

SEC. 6. Imposition of sanctions with respect to the transfer of goods or technologies to Venezuela that are likely to be used to commit human rights abuses.

(a) In general.—The President shall impose sanctions described in section 5(c) with respect to each person on the list required under subsection (b) of this section.

(b) List.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a list of persons who the President determines have knowingly engaged in an activity described in paragraph (2) on or after such date of enactment.

(2) ACTIVITY DESCRIBED.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—A person engages in an activity described in this paragraph if the person—

(i) transfers, or facilitates the transfer of, goods or technologies described in subparagraph (C) to Venezuela, any entity organized under the laws of Venezuela, or any national of Venezuela, for use in or with respect to Venezuela; or

(ii) provides services (including services relating to hardware, software, and specialized information, and professional consulting, engineering, and support services) with respect to goods or technologies described in subparagraph (C) after such goods or technologies are transferred to Venezuela.

(B) APPLICABILITY TO CONTRACTS AND OTHER AGREEMENTS.—A person engages in an activity described in subparagraph (A) without regard to whether the activity is carried out pursuant to a contract or other agreement entered into before, on, or after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(C) GOODS OR TECHNOLOGIES DESCRIBED.—Goods or technologies described in this subparagraph are goods or technologies that the President determines are likely to be used by the Government of Venezuela or any of the agencies or instrumentalities of the Government of Venezuela (or by any other person on behalf of the Government of Venezuela or any of such agencies or instrumentalities) to commit serious human rights abuses against the people of Venezuela, including—

(i) firearms or ammunition (as such terms are defined in section 921 of title 18, United States Code), rubber bullets, police batons, pepper or chemical sprays, stun grenades, electroshock weapons, tear gas, water cannons, or surveillance technology; or

(ii) sensitive technology (as defined in section 2(3)).

(3) SPECIAL RULE TO ALLOW FOR TERMINATION OF SANCTIONABLE ACTIVITY.—The President shall not be required to include a person on the list required under paragraph (1) if the President certifies in writing to the appropriate congressional committees that—

(A) the person is no longer engaging in, or has taken significant verifiable steps toward stopping, the activity described in paragraph (2) for which the President would otherwise have included the person on the list; and

(B) the President has received reliable assurances that such person will not knowingly engage in any activity described in such paragraph (2) in the future.

(4) UPDATES OF LIST.—The President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees an updated list under paragraph (1)—

(A) not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act; and

(B) as new information becomes available.

(5) FORM OF LIST; PUBLIC AVAILABILITY.—

(A) FORM.—The list required under paragraph (1) shall be submitted in unclassified form but may contain a classified annex.

(B) PUBLIC AVAILABILITY.—The unclassified portion of the list required under paragraph (1) shall be made available to the public and posted on the Web sites of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of State.

SEC. 7. Imposition of sanctions with respect to persons who engage in censorship or other related activities against citizens of Venezuela.

(a) In general.—The President shall impose sanctions described in section 5(c) with respect to each person on the list required under subsection (b) of this section.

(b) List of persons who engage in censorship.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a list of persons who the President determines have engaged in censorship or other activities with respect to Venezuela that—

(A) prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Venezuela; or

(B) limit access to print or broadcast media, including the facilitation or support of intentional frequency manipulation by the Government of Venezuela or an entity owned or controlled by the Government of Venezuela that would jam or restrict an international signal.

(2) UPDATES OF LIST.—The President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees an updated list under paragraph (1)—

(A) not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act; and

(B) as new information becomes available.

(3) FORM OF LIST; PUBLIC AVAILABILITY.—

(A) FORM.—The list required under paragraph (1) shall be submitted in unclassified form but may contain a classified annex.

(B) PUBLIC AVAILABILITY.—The unclassified portion of the list required under paragraph (1) shall be made available to the public and posted on the Web sites of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of State.

SEC. 8. Statement of policy on reduction in importation of petroleum and petroleum products of Venezuelan origin.

(a) Findings.—Congress finds the following:

(1) On May 24, 2011, the United States Government decided to impose sanctions on the state-owned oil company of Venezuela called Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) under the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (Public Law 104–172; 50 U.S.C. 1701 note), for delivering at least two cargoes of reformate to Iran between December 2010 and March 2011, worth approximately $50,000,000.

(2) In 2012, Venezuela was the fourth largest foreign supplier of crude oil to the United States.

(3) In 2012, the United States imported less barrels of total crude oil than in 2005.

(4) According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States imported approximately 24,000 barrels per day from Venezuela in 2013, compared to 29,000 barrels per day in 2012, a 17 percent decrease, and imports from Venezuela have fallen by nearly half since 2004.

(b) Statement of policy.—It should be the policy of the United States to reduce petroleum imports from Venezuela in order to prevent its leader Nicolás Maduro from using the profits from the sale of petroleum to fund his regime’s oppression and human rights violations against the people of Venezuela, and to continue the existing downward trend of petroleum imports from Venezuela.

SEC. 9. Comprehensive strategy to promote Internet freedom and access to information.

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State, in consultation with heads of other Federal departments and agencies, as appropriate, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a comprehensive strategy to—

(1) assist the people Venezuela to produce, access, and share information freely and safely via the Internet;

(2) increase the capabilities and availability of secure mobile and other communications through connective technology among human rights and democracy activists in Venezuela;

(3) provide resources for digital safety training for media and academic and civil society organizations in Venezuela;

(4) increase emergency resources for the most vulnerable human rights advocates seeking to organize, share information, and support human rights in Venezuela;

(5) expand surrogate radio, television, live stream, and social network communications inside Venezuela;

(6) expand activities to safely assist and train human rights, civil society, and democracy activists in Venezuela to operate effectively and securely;

(7) expand access to proxy servers for democracy activists in Venezuela; and

(8) discourage telecommunications and software companies from facilitating Internet censorship by the Government of Venezuela.

SEC. 10. Comprehensive strategy to ensure that Venezuela will uphold democratic principles.

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a comprehensive strategy to ensure that the Government of Venezuela will uphold—

(1) free, fair, and transparent elections—

(A) conducted under the supervision of internationally recognized observers; and

(B) in which—

(i) opposition parties were permitted ample time to organize and campaign for such elections; and

(ii) all candidates were permitted full access to the media;

(2) are showing respect for the basic civil liberties and human rights of the citizens of Venezuela;

(3) are substantially moving toward a market-oriented economic systems based on the right to own and enjoy property;

(4) are committed to making constitutional changes that would ensure regular free and fair elections and the full enjoyment of basic civil liberties and human rights by the citizens of Venezuela; and

(5) have made demonstrable progress in establishing independent judiciaries and electoral councils.

SEC. 11. Statement of policy on political prisoners.

It shall be the policy of the United States—

(1) to support efforts to research and identify prisoners of conscience and cases of human rights abuses in Venezuela;

(2) to offer refugee status or political asylum in the United States to political dissidents in Venezuela if requested and consistent with the laws and national security interests of the United States;

(3) to offer to assist, through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with the relocation of such political prisoners to other countries if requested, as appropriate and with appropriate consideration for the national security interests of the United States; and

(4) to publicly call for the release of Venezuelan country dissidents by name and raise awareness with respect to individual cases of Venezuelan country dissidents and prisoners of conscience, as appropriate and if requested by the dissidents or prisoners themselves or their families.

SEC. 12. Support for civil society in Venezuela.

Of the amounts authorized to be appropriated for environmental programs in Ecuador by the United States Agency for International Development, $3,000,000 shall be made available for assistance to civil society in Venezuela.