U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who has been pushing the Obama administration to impose targeted sanctions on individuals committing human rights violations in Venezuela, renewed his push Thursday, urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow a vote of the bill he is championing.
In the process, he called out Senate colleague Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, for putting a hold on the bill just before senators left town for the August recess.
His letter to Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, doesn’t name Landrieu, but notes that the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had reached into the U.S. political process: “Just last month, as the Senate was about to pass the sanctions bill that unanimously passed the House, Maduro’s regime found a way to influence our legislative process. Even though the legislation would have targeted individuals only and posed no threat to American jobs or Venezuelan firms, a Venezuelan government-controlled oil company with operations in the U.S. succeeded in convincing a member of the Senate’s Democratic majority to block the bill’s passage.”
In a recent opinion article in a Louisiana newspaper, Rubio and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., did single her out:
“Not surprisingly, the Venezuelan government opposes these sanctions and, just as the Senate was about to unanimously pass legislation to impose them earlier this month, Maduro’s regime succeeded in finding a senator to block them: Mary Landrieu.”
Politico, a Washington-based news organization, reported last month that Landrieu was concerned about the impact the bill could have on Citgo, which is owned by Venezuela’s national oil company, to import crude oil to a refinery in Louisiana.
In a statement Thursday, Landrieu said she was only looking for a minor change to the bill. “Once a simple sentence is added to the bill that protects these 2,000 workers who make it possible for everyone who owns a car in Louisiana to fill up their gas tanks each week, I will be happy to support the legislation,” she said.
Rubio is asking Reid for an up-or-down vote on the bill, which he co-sponsored.
Since February, Venezuelans protesting Maduro’s regime have been met with often-brutal state-sanctioned violence that’s resulted in deaths, detentions and torture, according to political leaders and human rights observers. U.S. politicians from both parties have urged the Obama administration to intervene more forcefully to help mitigate the violence, but the administration has taken a more cautious approach, saying it doesn’t want to make the situation worse.