Engel, Ros-Lehtinen Introduce Bipartisan Legislation Supporting Venezuelan People

Lawmakers Push for Multilateral Efforts on Humanitarian Assistance and Democracy in Venezuela

May 25, 2017

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Chairman Emeritus of the Committee, today introduced legislation to provide humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and to work through the United Nations and the Organization of American States to support democracy and human rights in the country. The Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act of 2017 (H.R.2658) also aims to combat widespread corruption among government officials in Venezuela. Earlier this month, similar legislation was introduced by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“With its massive energy resources, Venezuela should be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It marks a profoundly sad day when the international community must come together to consider how to most effectively provide food and medicine to the Venezuelan people,” said Rep. Engel. “While I strongly support targeted sanctions that hold corrupt and abusive Venezuelan officials accountable, U.S. policy toward Venezuela cannot be based on sanctions alone. This legislation calls on USAID and the State Department to develop a strategy to provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuela while at the same time instructing our Ambassador to the United Nations to work with partners to multilaterally address the country's crisis. I am pleased to partner with Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen in introducing this crucial legislation.”

“I am proud to be the Republican lead alongside my colleague Eliot Engel on this important legislation that promotes humanitarian assistance to the people of Venezuela, calls for the release of all political prisoners, and codifies into law sanctions against individuals in the Maduro regime responsible for public corruption,” said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. “This legislation is necessary because it calls for the State Department and USAID to establish a plan to provide humanitarian resources to the people of Venezuela through credible independent non-governmental organizations and calls on the United Nations to become more engaged on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Venezuela. The United States Congress will continue to lead the way in a bipartisan manner to raise the awareness about the human rights abuses ongoing in Venezuela and we will continue to hold Maduro accountable for his human rights violations and his regime’s incitement to violence against innocent civilians.”    

Representatives Albio Sires (D-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) are original cosponsors of the legislation.

In Depth: The Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act

Humanitarian Assistance for the People of Venezuela: Authorizes $10 million for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to work through independent non-governmental organizations to provide essential medicines, nutritional supplements, and technical assistance to improve distribution of medicine and food.

Strategy to Coordinate International Humanitarian Assistance: Requires the U.S. Department of State and USAID to establish a multi-year strategy to engage Latin American and Caribbean governments and multilateral institutions to secure financial and technical assistance in response to growing humanitarian challenges in Venezuela.

Supports Efforts at the United Nations on the Humanitarian and Political Crisis in Venezuela: Requires the President to instruct the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations to use her voice and vote to place the humanitarian and political crisis in Venezuela on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. Further requires the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations to use her voice and vote to secure the votes for a Presidential Statement and potentially a resolution at the U.N. Security Council on the need for the Venezuelan government to lift bureaucratic impediments to humanitarian assistance.

Supports OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter: Recognizes the rupture of constitutional order in Venezuela and urges the U.S. Department of State to take additional steps in support of efforts by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) to advance diplomatic initiatives that restore Venezuelan democracy.

Supports International Election Observations Missions and Democratic Civil Society in Venezuela: Authorizes $500,000 to support future OAS election observation missions and $9.5 million for democratic civil society organizations working to defend human rights.

Concerns and Report on the Involvement of Venezuelan Officials in Corruption and Narcotics Trafficking: Requires the U.S. State Department and U.S. Intelligence Community to prepare an unclassified report with a classified annex on the involvement of Venezuelan government officials in corruption and the illicit drug trade.

Sanctions on Those Responsible for Public Corruption and Undermining Democratic Governance in Venezuela: Codifies additional targeted sanctions on individuals undermining democratic governance and involved in corruption in Venezuela that were in Obama Administration Executive Order 13692. Encourages the President and Secretary of State to urge partner nations at the United Nations and Organization of American States to impose sanctions similar to those imposed by the United States on Venezuela.

Concerns over PDVSA Transactions with Rosneft: Recognizes that potential control by Rosneft, a Russian government-controlled entity currently under U.S. sanctions, of Citgo assets would pose a significant risk to U.S. national security and energy security; calls on the President to take all necessary steps to prevent Rosneft from gaining control of U.S. energy infrastructure.

Report on Russian Government Activities in Venezuela: Requires the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Intelligence Community to prepare an unclassified report with a classified annex that describes the full extent of Russia’s cooperation with the government of Venezuela and the country’s armed forces.

Calls on Venezuelan authorities to permit humanitarian assistance and immediately release all political prisoners.