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nificant acts of violence or serious human rights
abuses against persons associated with the anti-
government protests in Venezuela."
The bill, a similar version of which was approved
by the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier
this month, would also authorise sanctions against
anyone who has provided assistance to government
security forces and commit 15 million dollars in
support for "pro-democracy" groups and inde-
pendent media in the South American nation.
"Today we took an important step forward to
punish human rights abusers in (President) Nicolas
Maduro s regime," declared Republican Sen. Marco
Rubio, who co-sponsored the bill with the Com-
mittee chair, Democratic Sen Robert Menendez.
"Now that thousands of innocent Venezuelans
have protested courageously and peacefully against
the failure that is this chavista government, we
can t allow the government s repression, violence
and murders to go unpunished," he said in a state-
ment after the 13-2 vote.
On a visit to Mexico yesterday, Secretary of
State John Kerry noted Congressional support for
sanctions and hinted that the administration may
feel compelled to impose them.
"Our hope is that the leaders, that President
Maduro and others, will make decisions that will
make it unnecessary for them to be implemented.
But all options remain on the table at this time,
with the hopes that we can move the (dialogue)
process forward," he said.
A number of experts, as well as senior admin-
istration officials, however, warned that the leg-
islation, however well-intended, could make mat-
"I think people are really frustrated about what s
happening in Venezuela," said Michael Shifter,
president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Wash-
ington-based hemispheric think tank here.
"But the US doesn t have a lot of leverage, and,
while sanctions make people feel good, I can t
imagine them accomplishing much except to give
Maduro another reason to attack the United States.
"It also risks alienating Latin American gov-
ernments," which, with the Vatican and under
the auspices of the Union of South American
Nations (UNASUR), have taken the lead in trying
to mediate Venezuela s divisions through dialogue
between Maduro and moderate opposition forces.
"I just can t imagine any Latin American gov-
ernments seeing this as a good idea or helpful
under present circumstances," he told IPS.
"One of the tacks that has been available to
(Maduro) to get out of the dialogue and major
compromises that it might force him to take is
the ability to reframe the protest movement and
the opposition as people in thrall to or actually
taking orders from the Empire as part of an
international conspiracy to de-stabilise the gov-
ernment and push Chavismo out of power," added
John Walsh, a Venezuela specialist at the Wash-
ington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
WASHINGTON---Pending legislation calling for
US President Barack Obama to impose sanctions
against key Venezuelan officials is unlikely to
defuse the ongoing crisis there and could prove
counter-productive, according to both the admin-
istration and independent experts here.
A bill approved overwhelmingly Tuesday by the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee would autho-
rise Obama to freeze any financial assets in US
institutions and cancel US visas for Venezuelan
officials deemed responsible for "directing sig-
unlikely to defuse tensions
"Today we took an important step
forward to punish human rights abusers
in (President) Nicolas Maduro's regime,"
declared Republican Sen. Marco Rubio,
who co-sponsored the bill with the
Committee chair, Democratic Sen Robert
"Now that thousands of innocent
Venezuelans have protested courageously
and peacefully against the failure that is
this chavista government, we can't allow
the government's repression, violence and
murders to go unpunished."
In this May 16 file photo,
Venezuela's President Nicolas
Maduro stands outside the
Miraflores Presidential Palace
where he received Palestine's
President Mahmoud Abbas, in
Caracas, Venezuela. Maduro
said May 29, the passage of
legislation to impose
sanctions on officials could
cause his country to shut
down its diplomatic missions
in the United States, but he
praised the Obama
administration's opposition to
the bill and said it has led him
to name a new top diplomat
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