Gov. Rick Scott, appearing in Doral on Monday at a rally against the government of Venezuela, said he plans to move ahead with a proposal that would ban any organization that does business with the Nicolás Maduro regime from doing business with the state of Florida.
The governor did not explain how such a ban would work or what companies it would affect. His press office said they could not release specifics about the proposal.
Over the past two weeks, Scott has repeatedly said he is pushing for the Florida Retirement System Pension Plan to keep finance companies that do business in Venezuela from managing state funds, in hopes this will choke the flow of money to Maduro’s regime. The governor said he will ask the Florida State Board of Administration, which oversees the pension system, to vote in favor of the proposal during the Aug. 16 Cabinet meeting.
“This cannot keep going on, we will no longer stand idly by and allow business in the U.S. to fund Maduro’s regime anymore,” Scott told a crowd of hundreds of people, some of whom were waving Venezuelan flags and banners, outside El Arepazo restaruant in Doral.
State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, praised Scott for the proposal. Rodriguez said last week that he will file legislation next session calling for the state to divest any of its investments in all companies that are helping finance the Maduro regime.
Over the past 100 days, clashes between protesters and Venezuelan government forces have led to widespread panic and hundreds of arrests.
During Monday’s rally Scott, who was accompanied by Miami U.S. Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, didn’t mention any specifics about the ban on businesses. It was not clear, for example, if this would mean that state employees would not be allowed to buy airline tickets on Delta anymore, because the company flies weekly to Caracas.
Scott, who is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018, has been making frequent appearances in Miami lately.
In addition to the business ban, Scott called on Maduro to release all political prisoners and honor Venezuelans’ right to vote in a free election.
“We are going to stand together for freedom and democracy, and these movements in Venezuela and in Florida cannot and will not stop,” Scott said.
Vivian Behvens moved to Florida one year ago to escape the violence. Although she said she is happy to be free from the suffering, she fears every single day for her family still living in the country.
“My family is starving, scared and many have died,” Behvens said. “I fully support this plan because the people cannot suffer much more.”
If supporters of the plan were concerned about how Scott’s proposal would affect the people of Venezuela, they didn’t show it.
“The people are already dying and starving. They can wait this out because this will leave Maduro defeated,” said Sylvia Gomez, a Venezuelan immigrant who now lives in Coral Gables.
Leopoldo Lopez, founder of the Venezuelan political party Voluntad Popular and most recently a political prisoner, was released from military prison on Saturday, July 8 and is now under house arrest.
That, Scott said, isn’t good enough.
“We demand complete freedom for Lopez and all of the political prisoners,” he said.
After the governor’s speech, people rushed to the stage and took selfies with Scott, surrounding him with the yellow, blue and red of the Venezuelan flag.
“We are very hopeful of Scott’s plan”, Behvens said.