The introduction Dec. 20 of the Venezuelan Democracy Act by two Republican lawmakers aims to ensure Washington doesn’t get burned by promises coming from Caracas.
The bill, introduced by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jim Risch (R-ID), is in response to recent policy concessions to the Maduro regime by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.
“The bill would require the president to certify that Venezuela has made tangible steps toward re-establishing democracy and the rule of law before lifting U.S. sanctions on the [Nicolas] Maduro narco-regime,” according to details published Dec. 20 in a statement on Rubio’s personal website.
“Following a series of concessions from the Biden Administration to the criminal narco-regime in Venezuela, we must reaffirm our commitment to prioritize a designated date for free and fair presidential elections for a democratic transition of power and the full respect for human rights of the Venezuelan people,” Rubio said in the statement, referring to a recent concession granted to Chevron Corp.
In late November 2022, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Chevron General License No. 41, which authorizes the oil giant to produce and lift petroleum or petroleum products produced by its joint ventures in Venezuela.
RELATED: Column: Much Ado About Venezuelan Sanctions
The easing of sanctions comes as Maduro’s government has agreed to commence negotiations in Mexico City with Venezuela’s opposition factions in an attempt to solve to the country’s long-running political stalemate.
Washington’s stipulated “free and fair” elections have long been a key aim of the negotiations in Mexico. But, the easing of sanctions prior to Venezuelan presidential elections slated for 2024 has not been well received by many U.S. lawmakers or Venezuelan exiles across the U.S.
The U.S. and other countries around the world deemed the Venezuelan presidential election of 2018 as fraudulent and continue to view Maduro’s government as non-democratic.
Key components of the act seek to:
- Maintain current sanctions until there is a transition to democracy;
- Block Venezuela’s memberships in the Organization of American States (OAS), inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF);
- Allow U.S. humanitarian aid but block foreign assistance from countries backing Maduro’s regime or any non-democratic successor;
- Assess whether Maduro’s regime is deemed a foreign terrorist organization; and
- Establish a U.S. policy toward a transition government.
“As I’ve said before, any change in U.S. policy toward Venezuela must be contingent on a transfer of power from the Maduro regime to a democratically elected government,” Risch said. “As such, my legislation would condition the removal of U.S. sanctions on the Maduro regime on a standards-based transition to democratic order in Venezuela.”
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