Rubio: Sanctions on Venezuela Remain in Place and ‘Will Actually Increase’

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) on Sunday lambasted Venezuela for holding a missionary hostage until his return to the U.S. Saturday, saying sanctions will only increase while the regime violates the country's constitution.

Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro had labeled Joshua Holt a top U.S. spy, despite the lack of evidence, and Rubio said he was glad Holt’s time as a hostage finally came to an end.

"I'm glad that Josh Holt is home. He didn't have anything to do with politics. He was a Mormon missionary, he went do there to meet up with his wife and bring her back to the United States at some point, and they took him as a hostage for over two years," Rubio said on CBS’s "Face the Nation."

He went on to say that releasing Holt would have no impact on the sanctions against Maduro’s regime, which has violated the country’s constitution to maintain power.

"This has nothing to do with broader issue of sanctions, however; those things stay in place. The administration made that clear. Policy has not changed," Rubio said. "Is there an opportunity? Yeah. Here's the opportunity: Venezuela returns to constitutional order."

"They have an elected national assembly. They have a constitutionally appointed supreme court. Both of those entities are not allowed to operate by the dictatorship," Rubio added. "Those things need to be put back in place. There needs to be free and fair and internationally supervised elections. Our sanctions are built on that. And when that happens, the sanctions go away. Until that happens, the sanctions remain and will actually increase."

Venezuela’s May 20 election drew widespread international criticism for failing to be fair and virtually guaranteeing Maduro’s victory. President Donald Trump has accused Maduro of being a dictator and levied strict economic sanctions on Venezuelan leaders.