Bob Corker Blocking Venezuela Sanctions Bill

Bipartisan bill to sanction human rights abusers stalled

Sen. Bob Corker (R.,Tenn.) / AP
April 5, 2014

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) is said to be standing in the way of a bipartisan bill aimed at sanctioning human rights abusers in Venezuela, where anti-government protesters have come under violent attack by supporters of its socialist government.

The bipartisan bill introduced in March by Sens. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) would impose sanctions on those responsible for violently targeting Venezuela’s anti-government protesters who are seeking to depose Socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The bill had been sent last month to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Menendez serves as chairman.

However, Corker is currently obstructing Menendez from adding the bill to the committee’s mark-up agenda, effectively delaying any action on it and preventing it from moving forward, according to Senate insiders familiar with the situation.

Rubio hinted that the bill was hitting delays during a recent interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.

Asked by Hewitt how the sanctions legislation is proceeding, Rubio responded, "We’ve kind of been tied up a little bit in the Foreign Relations Committee."

Rubio noted that some senators may be experiencing "sanction fatigue," a reference to the pitched battle earlier this year to impose new sanctions on Iran.

"I think some of our members have what I would call sanctions fatigue, but I don’t think, we don’t have the luxury of getting tired when it comes to foreign relations and foreign policy," Rubio said. "This is a big world, and America is involved in every part of it. It has to be because of who we are and what it means to world stability."

When reached by the Washington Free Beacon, Corker said in a statement that he is seeking to have a hearing on the bill before it goes to mark-up.

"With ongoing diplomatic efforts to support dialogue in Venezuela, the committee needs to hear first from the administration about what the U.S. strategy is and how targeted-sanctions would help advance that strategy," said Corker, who is the foreign relations committee’s ranking member.

Lawmakers such as Rubio and Menendez say that the bill is being considered at a critical time in Venezuela’s history.

Anti-Maduro protesters who have been rallying in the streets have been met with violence by pro-government forces, who have already killed dozens.

"The Government of Venezuela has responded to antigovernment protests with violence and killings perpetrated by public security forces, and by arresting and unjustly charging opposition leader Leopoldo Lopes with criminal incitement, conspiracy, arson, and intent to damage property," the bill text states.

The opposition movement’s leader was ousted from the country earlier this week, sparking further outrage at Maduro’s government for undermining the rule of law.

The Menendez-Rubio bill would sanction any person associated with persecuting opposition forces. The sanctions include the blocking of assets, economic penalties, and the revocation or denial of visas for those implemented in human rights abuses.

House lawmakers such as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) have slammed the Maduro government and called on Congress to take greater action against the Venezuelan government.

"It has been very difficult for us to get a clear answer from the administration about what they will or won’t do in Venezuela," Ros-Lehtinen recently said. "Right now Maduro’s acting with impunity because the United States is not paying attention."

She has authored her own bill that also would impose sanctions on Venezuela.

European nations have already begun to take action.

Spain announced on Friday that it had canceled the sale and distribution of anti-riot gear to Maduro’s government.