H.R. 4587, Venezuela Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act

H.R. 4587

Venezuela Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act

Date
May 28, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, May 28, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 4587, the Venezuela Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act, as amended, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 4587 was introduced on May 9, 2014 by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and was referred to the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees.  The bill was marked up by the Foreign Affairs Committee on May 9, 2014 and was ordered reported, as amended, by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4587 directs the President to impose sanctions against the Maduro regime in Venezuela, in an attempt to hold them responsible for human rights abuses committed by the regime.  The bill requires the Secretary of State to direct the U.S. Permanent Representatives to the Organization of American States (OAS) to use their influence to defend and protect the Inter-American Democratic Charter and advance the protection of human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere, especially in Venezuela.

H.R. 4587 imposes asset blocking and U.S. exclusion sanctions against any person acting on behalf of the government of Venezuela who has 1) perpetrated, or is responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses in Venezuela against individuals participating in protests that began in February; 2) directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly in relation to the protests; 3) knowingly materially assisted, sponsored, or provided support for those who committed human rights abuses related to the protests; or 4) engaged in censorship against individuals or media outlets disseminating information in relation to the protests.  The President is authorized to waive sanctions if it is in the national interest of the U.S. or if conditions in Venezuela have improved with regard to respect for peaceful protest and basic human rights.

H.R. 4587 also directs the President to transmit to Congress a list of persons who 1) transfer or facilitate the transfer of goods or technologies that are likely to be used to commit serious rights abuses to Venezuela; or 2) provide services with respect to such goods or technologies after their transfer to Venezuela.  Additionally, the Secretary of State is required to report to Congress on strategies to promote internet and information access freedom in Venezuela and to support the citizens of Venezuela in seeking free elections and the development of independent civil society.  Finally, the bill states that it is the policy of the U.S. to 1) support efforts to research and identify prisoners of conscience and cases of human rights in Venezuela; 2) offer refugee status or asylum in the U.S. to political dissidents in Venezuela if requested and consistent with U.S. law and national security interests; 3) offer to assist with the relocation of political prisoners to other countries if requested; and 4) publicly call for the release of Venezuelan dissidents by name and raise awareness with respect to individual cases of human rights abuse.  H.R. 4587 authorizes appropriations for the development of civil society in Venezuela and sunsets two years after the date of enactment.

Background

On February 12, 2014, also known in Venezuela as National Youth Day, students began protesting throughout the country against anti-democratic decisions and the economic policies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.[1]  The same day, a Venezuelan judge ordered the arrest of Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader, in connection with the protests.[2]  Two people were killed in the protests.  On February 17, 2014, the Government of Venezuela notified the State Department that it had declared three of its consular officers at the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela as personae non gratae.[3]  Eight U.S. government officials have been expelled from Venezuela in the last year.

On February 18, Lopez turned himself in to Venezuelan authorities and was arrested and charged with criminal incitement, conspiracy, arson, and intent to damage property.[4]  He is currently being held in prison at a military facility.  As of May 1, 2014, there have been 41 people killed, a reported 60 cases of torture, over 100 injured, and many detained in relation to pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the country.

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[1] Daniel Wallis and Diego Ore, “At Least Two Killed by Gunfire at Venezuela Protests Reuters (Feb. 12, 2014).
[2] Corina Pons and Anatoly Kurmanaev, “Venezuela President Calls Allies to Rival Opposition Protest”, Bloomberg (Feb. 17, 2014).
[3] Nelson Quiñones, ”Venezuela Orders Three U.S. Diplomatic Officials Out of the Country”, CNN (Feb. 17, 2014).
[4] Mariano Castillo and Catherine E. Shoichet, “Cheered by Supporters, Venezuelan Opposition Leader Surrenders”, CNN (Feb. 19, 2014).

Cost

According to the CBO estimates, implementing H.R. 4587 would cost $7 million over the 2014-2019 period, assuming appropriation of the specified amounts.  CBO estimates that this legislation would not have a significant effect on direct spending or revenue.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.