Wasserman Schultz: Obama ‘looking’ at Venezuela sanctions, should act on immigration

President Barack Obama’s administration is considering imposing sanctions on Venezuelan officials culpable in that nation’s repression and who travel to and hold bank accounts in the United States, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Monday.

“There should be sanctions on individuals. ... The administration is looking at those,” said Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, citing an unnamed “high-level” state department official she spoke with earlier in the morning.

A measure to impose individual sanctions on Venezuelan apparatchiks was introduced last week in the U.S. Senate by Republican Marco Rubio and co-sponsored by Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson.

Wasserman Schultz said she’s also speaking to the administration about Obama taking executive action to clear up the immigration status of some Venezuelans in the United States.

Wasserman Schultz’s colleague, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, was the first to call on Obama over the immigration issue. Garcia, D-Miami, appeared with Wasserman Schultz at a closed-press “listening session” Monday with Venezuelan residents and business owners in South Florida.

Garcia is also co-signing a letter that calls on Obama to unilaterally impose individual sanctions against Venezuela. The letter is being drafted by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami.

Ros-Lehtinen plans later this week to introduce House legislation that codifies her call for more individual sanctions, which differ from general sanctions in that they target specific people and prevent them from traveling here or using U.S. banks. Garcia backs that legislation, too.

Wasserman Schultz said she would need to look at the letter and the legislation before committing to back them. She did express concerns, however, with imposing broader economic sanctions on Venezuela.

Wasserman Schultz said opposition leaders indicated broad sanctions could help Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claim the U.S. is trying to undermine his country and effect a coup. She also pointed out that some Venezuelan officials are already subject to individual sanctions.

Though overshadowed globally by the Russian invasion of Ukrainian-held Crimea, the protests and suppression in Venezuela have had an impact on Florida, home to at least 117,000 Venezuelans, according to the 2012 Census. More than three-quarters of them live in South Florida.

Wasserman Schultz lives in Weston, which has the second-highest concentration of Venezuelan residents behind Doral, represented by Republican Mario Diaz-Balart. Ros-Lehtinen’s and Garcia’s districts also have sizable numbers of Venezuelan residents.

Wasserman Schultz, Garcia and Diaz-Balart supported Ros-Lehtinen’s other resolution, introduced last week in the House, that condemns the violence in Venezuela and calls for more Democracy there.

But despite the broad bipartisan accord over Venezuela, the parties and politicians are still getting their partisan digs in.

Wasserman Schultz singled out Miami-Dade’s Republican Party for sending out an email last week that claimed Garcia was “nowhere to be found” over the issue of Venezuela.

“At a certain point, party politics needs to be set aside,” Wasserman Schultz said.

But Wasserman Schultz’s news conference featured Garcia and Miami-Dade’s Democratic chairwoman, Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, and no Republicans. Wasserman Schultz also made sure to mention GOP’s role in blocking immigration reform.

“The deep concern, particularly around immigration issues in Venezuela,” Wasserman Schultz said, “is that because comprehensive immigration reform unfortunately has been stalled by the Republicans, we want to make sure that the Obama administration is able to have all the information they need to use the tools the president has at his disposal.”

She pointed out that the president said at his State of the Union speech that he would use executive actions where he could and where Congress failed to act.

Said Garcia: “With the stalled immigration talks, there is a central issue in the Venezuelan community: People are under deportation orders that are deferred, asylum claims that are not being granted, work visas to businesses that the Venezuelan government has either bankrupted or confiscated. And so we need clarification.”

On Friday, Rubio said at an event in Doral that Venezuelans pleading asylum now have more grounds to do so.

Gov. Rick Scott, who joined him, was more measured in his remarks, saying “We have a system for asylum in our country. The president’s got to follow that and look at every individual case.”

Scott, though, blasted Obama for not doing enough. The governor said he asked the president at a governor’s meeting four days earlier to consider sanctions, but Obama hadn’t spoken up.

Asked about Scott’s comments, Garcia said they’re to be disregarded because the governor has no real role in foreign affairs, similar to a “dog-catcher in Broward.”

“I’m sure they think their views are important someplace,” Garcia said. “I don’t think they are really important to what’s going on.”

Read more Venezuela stories from the Miami Herald

A resident waits for transportation to a new home after being evicted from the world’s tallest slum, the Tower of David, a half-built skyscraper that was abandoned in the 1990s and was transformed by squatters into a vertical ghetto, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Officials and armed soldiers began moving out the first of thousands of squatters who have lived for nearly a decade in a soaring, half-built skyscraper in the heart of Caracas.

    End comes for notorious Venezuelan vertical slum

    The beginning of the end came for the world's tallest slum Tuesday as officials began evicting thousands of squatters from a haphazard community inside the half-built Caracas skyscraper known as the Tower of David.

A mural of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez covers a street wall in the 23 de Enero neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, July 17, 2014. In 2010, Chavez pushed Venezuela’s Congress to ban U.S. funding in the name of protecting the country’s sovereignty. The  ban subjects violators to fines of as much as twice all foreign money received, and bars them from running for public office. Foreigners in Venezuela who provide such aid can be deported.

    US funds political groups in Venezuela despite ban

    Almost four years after Venezuela enacted a law to bar the U.S. from funding groups frequently critical of the socialist government, millions of the American dollars the administration tried to ban still flow to these organizations, an analysis by The Associated Press shows. Much more U.S. support is under consideration.  

Residents dole out rations after a water truck makes a delivery. Many of Caracas' poor complain about making ends meet. Now they have to buy water.


    Caracas' poor go thirsty amid political strife and poor planning

    Venezuelans have learned to live without sugar, cooking oil and even toilet paper, but a water shortage in the capital have left the city's poor high and dry.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category