With conditions worsening in Venezuela, even as the Maduro regime tries to rally its supporters against the U.S., two Florida Republicans are focusing on that South American nation.
Last week, as starvation continues to impact Venezuela, the Maduro regime put its army on notice, insisting that the U.S. military could soon be a threat. Last month, Fox News reported that 75 percent of Venezuelans had lost almost 20 pounds over the past year as that nation continues to face food shortages.
Appearing at the 2017 Latin American Summit on Monday, Gov. Rick Scott announced he would bring out a proposal for the Legislature to vote on early next year ensuring state agencies do not do business with companies working with the Maduro regime. This is not the first time Scott has proposed the state government should not work with supporters of the Maduro regime. Earlier this year, the State Board of Administration (SBA) backed Scott’s proposal to ensure the state government does not invest in companies connected to the Maduro government.
Scott explained on Monday why he was opposed to the Maduro regime.
“In Florida, we have been absolutely clear – the brutal government of Nicolas Maduro must end and the people of Venezuela must be given total freedom and democracy now,” Scott said. “Earlier this year, my resolution was passed by the State Board of Administration to make sure that Florida state investments do not support the Maduro regime. Now, we are building on this action. Today, I’m proud to announce that during the upcoming legislative session, I will propose additional measures to continue to advocate for human rights and democracy for the people of Venezuela. My new proposal holds the Maduro regime accountable by making the steps we took this year permanent in Florida law. It also extends this action to all state agencies, prohibiting Florida’s state government from investing in any company doing business with the regime. I also call on all local governments and businesses to do what I’m advocating for at the state level and not do business with those that support the Maduro regime. Companies can choose to either support the Maduro regime, or to seek investments from the state of Florida – not both.
“Let me be clear- this proposal is aimed squarely at the Maduro regime – not businesses who provide much needed goods and services to the Venezuelan people,” Scott added. “Florida continues to stand with the people of Venezuela and steadfast against any government that oppresses its people and denies freedom and human rights.”
Scott’s office noted more details will be coming on the governor’s proposal in the weeks to come.
In the meantime, on Capitol Hill, a proposal backed by a key South Florida Republican offering aid to the Venezuelan people continues to build momentum.
U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, the top Democrat on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who used to chair that committee, are championing the “Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act” which would make the State Department and USAID Administrator provide humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people. The proposal would also make the American ambassador to the UN push that body for assistance for the Venezuelan people. Engel and Ros-Lehtinen have the support of nine other members of the Florida delegation as Republican U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSantis and Mario Diaz-Balart and Democrats U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are co-sponsoring the proposal.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the proposal towards the end of last week.
“Venezuela’s oil reserves should make it the wealthiest country in South America. But President Maduro has squandered that potential and instead, the people of Venezuela are literally starving to death. It’s past time that we take direct action relieve the suffering going on in Venezuela,” Engel said after the committee passed his proposal. “I’m grateful to Representative Ros-Lehtinen for working with me on this bill and for her tireless advocacy for human rights. We need to continue raising the alarm and pushing back against the Maduro government’s relentless assault on the rule of law.”
From the other side of the aisle, Ros-Lehtinen had kind words for Engel and stressed why the bill was needed.
“Eliot Engel continues to be one of the leading voices in our Congress who stands up for freedom and his decision to spearhead legislation regarding Venezuela humanitarian effort is a testament to his commitment to advance democratic principles in many parts of the world,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The House Foreign Affairs Committee has once again proven, in a bipartisan manner, that it stands with the people of Venezuela and against their oppressor Nicolas Maduro. This bill calls for a plan to be created to provide health and medical supplies as well as basic food commodities to the people of Venezuela through independent and credible non-governmental organizations. This important piece of legislation also states that the United States and the United Nations must urge the corrupt Maduro regime to permit the delivery of international humanitarian assistance to address the food and medical shortages without delay. I am honored to work with my friend Eliot on this measure and look forward to bringing it to the House floor for its consideration very soon.”
A similar proposal was brought out in May by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Mary., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The Senate version had seven other original co-sponsors including U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
“Venezuelan civilians are being harmed and killed by their own government as the dictator Maduro and his thugs use violence to suppress peaceful pro-democracy protests,” Rubio said when he helped unveil the proposal in May. “The United States must stand with and support the Venezuelan people as they struggle to defend their rights and restore constitutional mechanisms and bring back democracy in their country.”