Kaine, Rubio, Cardin, & Hagerty Introduce Bill to Support Human Rights in Venezuela
Bill would direct U.S. to support extension of UN Fact Finding Mission in Venezuela
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Bill Hagerty (R-TN), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), introduced the Assuring that the Fact-Finding Examination Continues to Track (AFFECT) Human Rights in Venezuela Act, bipartisan legislation to help support human rights in Venezuela. The bill would direct the U.S. government to support extending the mandate of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission (FFM) in Venezuela, which currently expires in September 2024. For years, Nicolás Maduro’s regime has committed systemic and horrific crimes against the Venezuelan people. In 2019, the UN established the FFM in Venezuela to investigate extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture, and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, including sexual and gender-based violence, committed since 2014. The FFM has published several extensive reports documenting evidence of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Venezuela.
“Maduro and his cronies continue to commit horrendous human rights abuses against the Venezuelan people. Their abuses have led more than seven million Venezuelans to flee their homes since 2014 and created one of the largest humanitarian and migration crises in the world. The U.S. cannot turn a blind eye to these crimes,” said Kaine, Chair of the SFRC Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, & Global Women’s Issues. “Extending the UN Fact Finding Mission is critical to investigating these grave human rights violations and helping ensure accountability and justice. Supporting human rights in Venezuela will also help address the urgent displacement crisis in the region and the root causes of migration to the U.S.”
“At a time when anti-American and left-leaning governments in our region actively lobby on behalf of the Maduro narco-regime, the U.S. must reaffirm its pursuit of accountability for the criminal dictatorship in Venezuela as well as its violations of the human rights of the Venezuelan people. As Maduro and his thugs continue to commit possible crimes against humanity in torture centers such as El Helicoide, we must support international investigations of these violations at the U.N. and the OAS,” said Rubio, Ranking Member of the SFRC Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
“The Venezuelan people continue to suffer at the hands of the Maduro regime, which has stifled free speech, silenced political opposition, and engaged in the arbitrary detainment and torture of its own citizens. Under these dire circumstances the UN Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Venezuela has proved itself a valuable resource to document and expose crimes against humanity by government officials,” said Cardin. “Our legislation will require the U.S. to use its voice and leverage at international fora to call for the extension of the FFM while these conditions persist, as well as assist efforts to secure the release of wrongfully detained Americans and all political prisoners in Venezuela.”
“The illegitimate Maduro regime in Venezuela provides a beachhead for malign Chinese, Russian, and Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere and economic lifeline to communist Cuba; has created one of the world’s largest refugee crises; and supports illicit drug smuggling and money laundering,” said Hagerty. “The United States must use its voice, vote, and influence to extend the international Fact Finding Mission in Venezuela and ensure that the Maduro regime is held fully accountable for its egregious abuses against the Venezuelan people and efforts to repress government critics.”
Specifically, the AFFECT Human Rights in Venezuela Act would:
- Require the Secretary of State to use the voice, vote, and influence of the U.S. at the UN to extend the FFM mandate until a democratic resolution to the Venezuelan crisis is achieved and to offer assistance as necessary to ensure the FFM can complete its work;
- Urge the FFM to raise early warnings of further deterioration of the democracy and human rights situation in Venezuela ahead of the country’s expected 2024 and 2025 elections;
- Require the President to instruct the U.S. Ambassador to the UN to:
- Work with relevant UN authorities to secure the release of wrongfully detained foreign nationals, including Americans;
- Advocate for a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Venezuelan regime’s use of political prisoners as leverage;
- Urge the UN and related agencies to address the humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people, including refugees and migrants in third countries; and
- Push UN member states and other donors to support United Nations funding appeals to help address the Venezuelan crisis.
- Require the President and Secretary of State to review and give due consideration to the FFM’s reports when forming U.S. policy toward Venezuela; and
- Require the Secretary of State to submit a report on these actions to the appropriate House and Senate committees within 90 days of enactment and annually until the expiration of the FFM mandate.
Companion legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-25), Mike Waltz, (R-FL-6), Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), and María Elvira Salazar (R-FL-27).
Full text of the bill is available here.