WASHINGTON, DC – Tonight, the U.S. Senate approved the Extension of the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, a bill sponsored by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) that extends a 2014 law imposing sanctions against government officials and others in Venezuela who violate human rights, suppress political opposition, and commit violence against peaceful protestors.

“In December of 2014, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved our Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act because for 15 years, we watched as President Maduro and former President Chavez systematically dismantled democracy in Venezuela. They removed checks on the executive, corrupted the judiciary and the rule of law, usurped the powers of the legislature, politicized the military, and suppressed freedom of the press,” said Sen. Menendez. “Now, as Venezuela’s democratic deterioration continues down a path towards economic ruin, rampant criminality, and increasingly dangerous political polarization, the United States must continue to stand up to the Maduro regime by extending sanctions with real consequences for the principal actors responsible for Venezuela heading rapidly toward failed-state status.”

“We cannot afford to stop our efforts to combat the growing crisis in Venezuela. The Maduro regime continues to abuse human rights and has only expanded its political oppression since the original sanctions bill was signed in 2014,” said Rubio. “Maduro now controls Venezuela’s Supreme Court and uses it to nullify laws passed by the National Assembly. Just this month, the Supreme Court invalidated an amnesty law that would have freed 70 unjustly imprisoned opposition members. These abuses of power and violations of human rights are an affront to free people everywhere, and the United States has a responsibility to stand with the Venezuelan people by extending these sanctions.”

In 2014, President Obama signed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act into law, which Senators Menendez and Rubio sponsored in the 113th Congress. The law supports the people of Venezuela in their aspirations to live under conditions of peace and representative democracy as defined by the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States. It also mandates the imposition of sanctions against foreign individuals, including current or former officials of the Venezuelan regime and those acting on their behalf, who committed significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses against peaceful protestors and other innocent civilians or directed the arrest or prosecution of a person contrary to their legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly.

Since this bill was signed into law, the Maduro government has continued its attempts to intimidate political opposition and suppress peaceful protestors. Maduro is now using Venezuela’s Supreme Court to invalidate laws passed by the National Assembly. The Extension of the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 would combat these abuses of human rights and the rule of law by extending mandatory Venezuela sanctions for three years to December 31, 2019.