Bipartisan Senate Bill Seeks to Help Restore Democracy in Venezuela

April 5, 2019 by Sean Trambley

This week, a bipartisan group of Senators led by Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced new comprehensive legislation to help restore democracy and address the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

The most comprehensive effort to date to confront the crisis in Venezuela, the Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance and Development (VERDAD) Act drastically increases humanitarian assistance, expands current tools to address kleptocracy, formally recognizes and supports the Interim President of Venezuela’s efforts to restore democracy and prosperity in the country, and accelerates planning with international financial institutions to advance the country’s post-Maduro reconstruction.

“As Maduro’s recalcitrant regime continues to stumble towards the total collapse of Venezuela, the United States Congress is coming together in a bipartisan manner to put teeth behind our support for the Venezuelan people as they seek to restore democracy and address a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented proportions in our hemisphere,” Menendez said. “The VERDAD Act provides the Trump Administration with the necessary diplomatic tools to move beyond presidential promises towards a substantive and peaceful strategy that allows Venezuelans to protect their human rights, advance their democratic values, and end the nightmare that has been the Maduro reign of terror.”

“As Maduro and his gang of narco-terrorists thugs continue holding the Venezuelan people hostage under their failed socialist regime, the United States Senate is sending a clear bi-partisan message by introducing the VERDAD Act (Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development Act),” Rubio said. “This legislation will offer needed humanitarian assistance and support for Venezuela’s long path to democratic order.”  

Key elements of the legislation include:

  • Expressed support for Venezuela’s interim president and recognition of the Venezuelan National Assembly. The bill also establishes U.S. policy to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the Venezuelan crisis.
  • Authorizes $400 million of new humanitarian assistance.
  • Prohibits granting and mandates revocation of visas for the family members of sanctioned individuals and establishes a waiver with conditions to lift visa restrictions.
  • Removes sanctions on designated individuals not involved in human rights abuse if they recognize Venezuela’s Interim President.
  • Requires the State Department to work with Latin American and European governments to implement their own sanctions.
  • Requires the Departments of State, Treasury and Justice to lead international efforts to freeze, recover, and repurpose the corrupt financial holdings of Venezuelan officials.
  • Accelerates planning with international financial institutions on the economic reconstruction of Venezuela, contingent upon the restoration of democratic governance.

The legislation was cosponsored by Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Ben Cardin, D-Md., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tim Kaine, D-Va., Todd Young, R-Ind., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,Michael Bennet, D-Colo., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Chris Coons, D-Del., Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Josh Hawley R-Mo.

A summary of the VERDAD Act can be found here and the full text can be found here.

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