This bill re-expresses U.S. commitment to the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, which was passed in 2014 and states that the United States is working toward a “mutually beneficial relationship” with Venezuela based on respect for human rights. The original bill condemns government-sanctioned violence in Venezuela and calls the two countries to work together on issues of counter-narcotics, counterterrorism, and other public security concerns.
The original Human Rights act included a requirement for the U.S. President to impose sanctions against individuals in Venezuela who commit human rights violations. These sanctions, which are set to expire at the end of 2016, freeze the U.S. assets and ban travel to the U.S. for anyone (including government officials) who has contributed to violence against or the illegal arrest of anti-government protesters. In March 2015, President Barack Obama issued an executive order following through on these sanctions.
The current bill would prevent this provision from expiring this year, and would extend it through 2019.
The current bill also recommits to the original bill’s acknowledgement that Venezuelan governmental mismanagement has caused economic hardship, violence, and loss of freedoms within the country. The original bill directed the United States to work with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU) to support Venezuelan aspirations for peace and democracy. It also directed the Chairperson of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to update Congress on the obstacles to accurate news and information in Venezuela, and U.S. strategies for helping overcome these obstacles.