VENEZUELA; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 101
(Senate - June 26, 2014)

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[Pages S4117-S4118]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. RUBIO. Madam President, there is a topic I would like to discuss 
before we leave for the Fourth of July recess and return to our States. 
One is an enormous story in my home State and, in particular, in my 
hometown of Miami, and that is the ongoing crisis in Venezuela. I have 
been talking about it for the better part of 3 months with regard to 
what is occurring there. It is pretty straightforward. There is an 
authoritarian government in Venezuela that has cracked down on the 
people in Venezuela, has crushed any sort of political dissent or tried 
to crush any form of political dissent. If a person is an outspoken 
critic of the Venezuelan government, they either wind up in jail or in 
  In fact, the President of Venezuela, someone who won a fraudulent 
election just a year and a half ago, has now begun to turn on people in 
his own party when they dare to criticize him.
  But the evidence is clear. First of all, the Venezuelan economy today 
is a disaster. The state of the Venezuela economy today is increasingly 
reminiscent of what is happening in Cuba: shortages of basic items, the 
inability to buy a bar of soap or toilet paper or toothpaste. The 
shortages are extraordinary.
  We are talking about one of the richest countries in the hemisphere--
a nation blessed with a talented and educated population and with 
natural resources, and particularly oil--and this guy in charge of that 
country has ruined Venezuela and its economy. That in and of itself is 
worthy of condemnation.
  But what is even more apparent is how he has cracked down on 
political dissent in Venezuela. We have documented how over 40 people 
have now lost their lives in protests on Venezuela--by the way, 
protests that began when a student was sexually assaulted at a 
university. They protested the lack of security, and the security 
forces of Venezuela responded--not by going after the assailants but by 
going after the student protesters. Since then, opposition leaders have 
been jailed, Members of the opposition in the Parliament have been 
removed from their seats, and Venezuela continues to spiral out of 
  There have been gross human rights violations in Venezuela at the 
direction of the Venezuelan Government by organisms of the Venezuelan 
Government and extragovernmental organizations as well.
  So in light of what is happening in Venezuela, and in light of the 
fact that so many people who live in Florida are impacted deeply by 
what is happening in Venezuela--because they are originally from there, 
because they have family there or because they conduct business there 
or because they care about what happens in our hemisphere--because of 
all of these things, not only have I been talking about this issue on 
the Senate floor but we began to take action.
  The first thing we did was we passed a resolution from this Senate--
and I thank my colleagues; it passed unanimously--condemning these 
human rights violations. I know sometimes we sit around here and 
wonder: What is the point of these resolutions?
  They matter. I cannot tell you how many people are aware of what we 
have done here in the Senate, just speaking out and condemning these 
violations and making it very clear whose side we are on. We are on the 
side of the democratic aspirations and the rights of the people of 
  The second thing we did is we worked through the process here because 
unlike the way Maduro runs his government in Venezuela, here we have a 
republic and this Senate is an important part of that republic. We 
filed a bill to sanction individuals--not the government, not the 
country--individuals in the Venezuelan Government responsible for these 
human rights violations. In fact, in the committee I named 25 of them. 
That piece of legislation--that law--sanctioning the leaders in 
Venezuela passed the committee almost unanimously with bipartisan 
  Let me take a moment to thank Senator Menendez, the chairman of that 
committee, for his leadership on this issue and my colleague from 
Florida Bill Nelson for his leadership on this issue, even though he is 
not on the committee. When we held a hearing on the issue of Venezuela, 
he went to the hearing and he attended an event we did in Miami with 
the Venezuelan community to talk about this reality.
  That bill passed out of our committee. In addition to passing out of 
this committee, a very similar bill passed out of the House under the 
leadership of Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. Both the Senate and the 
House--and they passed it off the floor of the House.
  So the Venezuelan sanctions bill is ready for action here on the 
floor of the Senate. Knowing that it was a noncontroversial issue, that 
there is almost unanimous support for it, I have attempted to pass this 
bill by something we call unanimous consent, which basically means that 
the cloakrooms call the respective offices and they ask all of the 
Members: We are going to try to pass this bill. Do you have an 
objection? The reason why we do it that way is so we can save time so 
we have the time available to debate these other issues that are before 
us--especially on an issue that is not controversial. We pass a lot of 
law around here that way.
  Unfortunately, there have been some objections--one from each side. I 
am happy to report that one of those two objections has been removed. 
It came from the Democratic side. The majority removed their objection. 
So it appears this bill is ready to move forward, but for the objection 
of one colleague of ours, who has the right to object, and who, quite 
frankly, has objections to it that he believes strongly about and we 
are respectful of.
  What I am asking for at this point is--given that objection--when we 
come back from the recess, I am hoping that one way or another we will 
get a chance to vote. This is an issue that virtually every Member of 
the Senate but for one or two--at this point it appears one--is 
supportive of. I hope we can pass it because it is important. It will 
matter. This is not sanctions, for example, like the ones we have seen 
in the past on other countries. These are extremely targeted. These are 
targeted against individuals in the Venezuelan Government who have 
directed or carried out gross human rights violations.
  They will be impactful because many of these people in the Venezuelan 
Government who are conducting these human rights violations actually 
spend their weekends in the United States. They fly on the private jets 
they bought with stolen money to the United States to stay in their 
fancy condominiums or their mansions. They shop at our stores. They 
parade up our streets. And then Monday morning they go back to work 
full time violating human rights.
  So these sanctions will matter. These human rights violators in 
Venezuela have investments in the United States. In fact, when they 
steal money from Venezuela, often times they use straw companies and 
straw purchasers to invest that money in our economy--predominantly in 
Florida, but also in other places.
  There is no reason in the world why they should not be sanctioned for 
what they have done. There is no reason in the world why we should not 
be going after these individuals for what they have done.
  One of the cornerstones of our foreign policy must always be the 
protection of human rights anywhere in the world where they are 
challenged or oppressed. This gives us an opportunity to speak in a 
clear voice in a part of the world that, quite frankly, both parties 
have been guilty of neglecting. I have spent plenty of time around here 
talking about what is going on in Syria and what is going on in Iraq, 
and that

[[Page S4118]]

is a very dangerous issue that is occurring there. The counterterrorism 
risks that are posed by ISIL in Iraq and Syria are dramatic and deserve 
a lot of attention. We have spent time on the floor talking about what 
has happened in Ukraine and Russia's illegal actions with regard to 
Crimea, and they deserve attention. We have spent some time even 
talking about the Chinese ambitions in the Asian-Pacific region and 
their illegitimate territorial claims.
  The only thing I am saying is that what happens in the Western 
Hemisphere matters too--that human rights violations in Venezuela are 
just as important as human rights violations in Africa or Europe or 
Asia or any other part of the world. Sometimes I feel as if they do not 
get the attention they deserve around here.

  This is our opportunity to show that this hemisphere is important and 
that what happens in our hemisphere matters. I want you to know that 
the people of Venezuela--particularly those students and those who 
desire a democratic and respectful future--they are watching. Every 
single time we do something on Venezuela here, we hear it in phone 
calls, on Twitter, on Facebook, in visits to our office and in emails 
and in letters. They are watching, they are listening, and they are 
  What I want people in the world to know and people in the hemisphere 
to know is that America does not simply care about stability; we also 
care about democracy and freedom and about human rights. This is our 
opportunity to put action where our words are.
  So I sincerely hope that when we return here in about 8 or 9 days we 
can find a way forward to get a vote on this. If we are unable to do 
this through the unanimous consent process, which they call a hotline, 
my intentions are to come to this floor and offer it as what they call 
a live unanimous consent, where I will stand here and do what the 
Senator from Texas just did--or tried to do--with regard to the IRS 
  I intend to come to this floor and propose this bill and ask for 
unanimous consent. If someone objects, then we will have a debate about 
that objection. Should that fail, then I hope we can have a vote 
scheduled. I promise it will not take any more than 15 minutes--or 10 
if you want to limit the vote to 10 minutes. But let's get this done.
  This is important. We have worked this the appropriate way. Often 
times, people come to the floor in the Senate and they pull a bill out 
of their pocket and say: Let's file it for messaging purposes. This is 
real. This is impactful. The House has already passed a version of 
this. Doesn't this issue at least deserve 10 minutes of the Senate's 
  So we are going to try to get this done one more time through 
unanimous approval. And we are going to work over the next 10 days to 
hopefully get everyone's support. But if we cannot do it that way, I 
hope we can schedule a vote on the Senate floor on this bill so we can 
go after and sanction those criminals in Venezuela who are stealing the 
money of the Venezuelan people and using the strength and the power of 
that government to attack their own people. I hope that will be a 
priority for us when we return. It deserves that attention.
  I appreciate the opportunity to address this issue today, and I wish 
for all my colleagues the next 10 days will be fruitful in your return 
to your home States, and I look forward to working with you on these 
issues when we return.
  With that, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Warren). The Senator from Massachusetts.