Today, the United States Senate approved a bill to sanction Venezuelan officials involved in the human rights violations that took place in the country following the protests earlier this year. Bill S-2142 (titled, “Venezuela Defence of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014) first entered the senate on May 20 of this year. The full text of the bill can be found here.
The bill was introduced by Senator Robert Mendez (D-NJ), and was co-sponsored by senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), John McCain (R-AZ), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Among the behaviours condemned in the bill are the “unjust” arrest of Leopoldo Lopez, the fact that no Venezuelan security forces member shave been brought before justice for the human rights violations committed during the protests, and the threats of violence against media personnel who were covering the protests.
The bill calls for the blocking of financial assets in the United States and for prohibiting entry and revoking the visas of Venezuelan officials considered to be responsible for the human rights violations highlighted by the bill.
While the bill does not specifically name the officials to be affected by the bill, it does grant President Obama the power to impose sanctions on anyone he determines has personally perpetrated, ordered, or in any way assisted human rights violations.
Senator Mendez spoke on the important of the bill, saying:
We in the United States have an obligation to shine a bright spotlight on Venezuela’s abuses and must object to the severe human rights violations committed by the Maduro government and his paramilitary thugs.
The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, where it will face a vote. If the bill passes, it will go to the desk of President Obama, who will then sign it into law.
Maduro was quick to brush aside this development, saying:
Who’s the U.S. Senate to sanction Bolivar’s homeland? (…) We do not accept the imposing of these imperialist sanctions. You should learn to respect Bolivar’s homeland. We are the heirs of Ayachucho, we are the sons of Bolivar, the sons of Chavez.
They want to dare Venezuela with sanctions and threats. I think that if they are imposed, President Obama, these crazy sanctions – you’ll make a big mistake, because whoever touches the nerve of the love Venezuelans feel for their homeland is playing a game with history. President Obama, return to balance with Venezuela, because Commander Chavez’s Venezuela will not let itself be intimidated.
National Assembly Approves 2015 Budget
Several weeks after the 2015 budget was initially introduced, the National Assembly approved the government’s spending plan for the next calendar year today.
Of particular interest are the assumptions for 2015 off of which the budget works:
- Oil will cost an average of $60 per barrel: While it’s difficult to predict long-term oil prices, they have recently plummeted to around $62 per barrel, down 40% since June of this year.
- The inflation rate will be somewhere around 25-30%: The country’s exact annual inflation rate is currently unknown, but it was 63.4% by August of this year.
- GDP will grow 3% in 2015: Economic forecasts for next year have not been stellar. Economists predict everything from a default within 5 years and the IMF predicts a recession both for this year and for 2015. Just today, economist ex-Banco Central de Venezuela economist Jose Guerra announced that the Venezuelan economy shrank 4.4% in 2014.
It is extremely important to note that when Maduro says that possible U.S. sanctions are a threat to Venezuela, or an attack on Venezuela, he is deliberately obscuring the truth. The sanctions will not target Venezuela or the Venezuelan people. The sanctions will only target officials deemed to be responsible for human rights abuses. The sanctions will not target the Venezuelan economy, or Venezuelan industry, or even ordinary Venezuelans. The sanctions will only target a handful of individuals – high ranking government and military officials – who, in one way or another, are alleged to have been involved in committing grave crimes against the Venezuelan people.
Maduro shows his character when he hides behind the Venezuelan people and feigns outrage at a wrong that has not – and will not – be committed against them.