The United States will now be able to impose punitive measures on Venezuelan government officials involved in a crackdown on protesters against the Maduro administration, or on those who have carried out acts of violence or violated the human rights of political opponents.
U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday signed into law the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, which allows him to freeze all assets and deny visas to any government official of the Nicolas Maduro administration who meets the designed criteria. The measure builds upon existing travel bans.
“This is a day of forceful action, the moment when Congress is speaking in united opposition against the human rights violations committed in Venezuela by the Maduro government, said US Senator Robert Menendez, who co-sponsored the bill along with Senator Marco Rubio.
More than 40 people were killed in the anti-government protests which took place in Venezuela between February and May. Many protestors remain locked up 9 months later, including opposition leader Mayor Leopoldo Lopez and two other mayors.
The sanctions won’t touch the general population, but the Maduro spin machine is likely to hype up their impact, said Cynthia Arnson, the director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. The sanctions on Venezuela will serve the exact same function” as the embargo on Cuba, she predicted. “It’s a way of deflecting attention from the failure of the government and onto the U.S.”
Meanwhile, in reference to the latest developments in the US-Cuba rapprochement, Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said Obama has vindicated the actions of the Castro government, virtually guaranteeing profound human rights abuses on the island will continue.