In-Depth: Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) introduced this bill to prohibit the export of defense articles and crime control materials from the U.S. to Venezuelan security forces:
"We cannot allow Nicolás Maduro to continue to steamroll democracy and act with impunity. The people of Venezuela have spoken and demanded that Maduro to step down, but their peaceful efforts have led Maduro’s security forces to resort to violence in the streets of Venezuela, as they often have since Maduro took power. Our bill will ensure that crowd control items, like riot gear and tear gas, will not be placed in the hands of Maduro’s cronies and security forces and used against peaceful protestors. I thank my Republican and Democratic colleagues for joining our effort to help bring peace and freedom to Venezuela.”
Rep. Shalala adds that the Trump administration’s crackdown on Maduro’s government has garnered bipartisan support:
"There are always going to be issues on which we agree. And for those of us that have large Venezuelan populations and who care about the future of Latin American democracy, this is an issue on which we can join together."
Original cosponsor Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) adds:
“Maduro and his cronies have built a despotic regime that rules using fear, corruption, oppression, and violence against an unarmed civilian population that seeks to restore democracy and peace to their country. The Venezuelan people have rejected Maduro’s illegitimate reign, and the United States must support their attempts to peacefully rebuild their nation. Russia and Cuba, who have consistently propped up Maduro and enabled his tyrannical abuses have blood on their hands by continually providing support to this autocrat. I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan proposal led by Congresswoman Donna Shalala, which will ensure that no U.S. made articles inadvertently end up in the hands of the Maduro regime to be used against the Venezuelan people.”
However, Rep. Shalala believes most Democrats don’t share Khanna’s and Omar’s views on Venezuela:
"That's their opinion. [They’re] two people. Name 100. I'll name 100 that are supportive of the efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela, who also believe its appropriate for us to protect the Venezuelan people from the security forces."
Some Democrats—most notably Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN)— have expressed concerns about the U.S. meddling in a foreign political dispute and imposing crippling sanctions that could harm a Venezuelan population already grappling with widespread food and medicine shortages. In a tweet on January 23, 2019, after Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the second-highest ranking Senate Democrat, released a statement supporting President Trump’s recognition of Guaidó, Rep. Khanna wrote:
“With respect Senator Durbin, the US should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, polarized conflict. Let us support Uruguay, Mexico, & the Vatican's efforts for a negotiated settlement & end sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse.”
This bill has nine bipartisan cosponsors, including seven Democrats and two Republicans.
In the current session of Congress, other legislation on Venezuela has been introduced to increase humanitarian aid to the country and provide Venezuelans in the U.S. with immigration protections under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.
Of Note: Venezuela is currently undergoing an unprecedented economic, humanitarian, security, and refugee crisis consisting of extreme food and medicine shortages, severe infant and child malnutrition, rampant crime, and government-sponsored repression. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that inflation rates in the country could reach 10,000,000 percent in 2019.
The Trump administration is taking a strong stance against Maduro’s government by recognizing National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president; issuing broad sanctions against Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), the nation’s largest state-owned oil and natural gas company; and offering $20 million in humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people. In a tweet on January 27, 2019, national security advisor John Bolton said:
"Any violence and intimidation against U.S. diplomatic personnel, Venezuela's democratic leader, Juan Guiado, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response.”
In late January 2019, with the international community’s support, Guaidó became the interim president of the country pursuant to Venezuela’s constitution. However, Maduro continues to control aspects of Venezuela’s corrupt security forces, which are aided by implanted Curban foreign intelligence operatives.
However, Latin America is especially sensitive to the idea of U.S. intervention in its affairs, as the American military and intelligence community’s actions have shaped the region’s politics from the Mexican-American War in 1846 onwards. Additionally, Brazil — the Southern Hemisphere’s largest country and one of the first nations to recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president — has taken intervention off the table by saying that it “does not participate in intervention” as part of its foreign policy.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / emarys)