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Florida, and the nation, are deeply concerned about Venezuela

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There is an old saying that states "may you live in an interesting time." With conflict raging in Venezuela, Ukraine, and Syria, as well as other smaller conflicts throughout the rest of the planet, the current world situation can very easily be considered to be quite interesting indeed.

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Since early March, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has lead the Congress in standing up for the rights of the people of Venezuela in their continuing struggle against the de facto totalitarian regime of President Nicolás Maduro and his government. His initial call for action began on March 9, when he lambasted the Organization of American States (OAS) resolution regarding the Venezuela crisis.

“This should also be a wake up call for people throughout Latin America and freedom fighters in the hemisphere to redouble our efforts to stand with the people of Venezuela. We must actively push back against creeping authoritarianism and stand strongly in defense of individual freedoms and democratically functioning institutions elsewhere in the hemisphere."

On March 10, the Senator,in his standing as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed deep concern over the violence in Venezuela, and urged Vice President Biden to speak out against the ongoing wave of repression during his official visit to Chile and the Dominican Republic.

In a letter to the Vice President, Rubio detailed the atrocities committed against the Venezuelan people by President Nicolás Maduro and his regime, calling on Biden to defend human rights and democracy, and challenge regional tolerance to the violence and instability plaguing the nation.

“As you travel to the region, please be aware that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be considering a resolution calling on the Obama Administration to place sanctions on regime official responsible for the recent carnage,” Rubio added. “This is a key moment in Venezuela's history and the region as a whole. The U.S. simply cannot stand and watch as authoritarians destroy decades of hard fought democratic gains and move the Western Hemisphere backwards towards a repeat of the instability and repression that plagued much of the 20th century.”

On March 11, Senator Rubio (R-FL) welcomed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s unanimous approval of S. Res. 365, which he co-sponsored with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The resolution condemns Nicólas Maduro’s deadly wave of repression in Venezuela and calls for sanctions on regime officials.

“You have a very serious crime problem in Venezuela," Rubio stated. "The students of Venezuela were protesting crimes that occurred on campus and took to the streets a few weeks ago to protest. The government cracked down, but not on the criminals, they cracked down on the students, leading to broader protests. And what you have now is all-out acts of violence not just committed by uniformed agents of the government, but they have these groups they set up called colectivos, which basically are militias of un-uniformed individuals riding motorcycles, armed with guns and weapons who are pulling up to these protests and basically firing into the crowd. There are now 20 people dead in Venezuela, over 500 injured, over 1000 have been jailed. Of the 20, 11 of gunshot wounds directly attributable to these government groups. Another was run over by a government vehicle. This is all occurring right underneath our nose, in this hemisphere."

On March 13, the U.S. Senate passed, by unanimous consent, S. Res. 365, which condemns the deadly wave of repression in Venezuela and calls for the U.S. government to impose sanctions on the regime.

“The murderers and thugs responsible for the crackdown against innocent Venezuelans need to be named, shamed and punished,” added Rubio. “With the full weight of the U.S. Senate behind sanctions, now is the time to increase the pressure on the Maduro regime.”

On the same day, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), along with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), introduced the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014.

This bipartisan legislation authorizes $15 million in new funding in the FY2015 budget to defend human rights, support democratic civil society organizations, assist independent media, and strengthen good governance and the rule of law in the face of the massive violence and repression being carried out by President Maduro against peaceful protesters.

“The full U.S. Congress has spoken loudly and clearly that we stand with the Venezuelan people as they exercise their fundamental rights, and we condemn the Maduro regime’s deadly wave of repression,” said Rubio.

It also requires President Obama to impose sanctions on persons that have been involved in serious human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators and others in Venezuela, or that have directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person due to their legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly.

On March 14, Rubio urged Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to meet with South Florida’s Venezuelan community while on an official visit to the area.

In a letter to Secretary Lew, Rubio expressed concern over the ongoing human rights crisis plaguing Venezuela as a result of President Nicólas Maduro and his repressive regime, encouraging Lew to gain insight from Miami’s Venezuelan community considering the Treasury Department’s critical role in enforcing various sanctions on the nation’s regime and its enablers.

“It is critically important that you use this visit to Miami to better understand the nature of the crisis and the urgent need for U.S. sanctions and support for the Venezuelan people’s democratic aspirations,” added Rubio. “I hope we can work together in the coming weeks as the U.S. Senate moves to consider this much needed legislation. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my office if we can be of assistance in facilitating meetings with leaders in South Florida’s Venezuelan community."

The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 legislation now stands a better than average chance of being passed by the full Senate, and will hopefully lead to positive and fundamntalchange for the people of Venezuela.

“I hope we can get passage of [the legislation] here on the floor so we can send a clear signal to the people of Venezuela," added Rubio in a speech on March 27. "The people of the United States of America are on your side, we support your cause, we will not forget what you are going through, we will not abandon your aspirations. We stand for the liberty and the freedom of all people, including those who do not live here with us.”

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