Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says she is concerned there is going to be more bloodshed in Venezuela after three people died in fresh protests.
“[President Nicolas] Maduro is taking advantage of this to continue his assault on democracy. In fact, today, the latest is this: he’s called the peaceful protesters a name that you know is going to justify him taking further criminal action, an armed terrorist insurgency. Now these are peaceful student activists. They’re not armed. I fear the worst is going to be happening in the coming days,” the Florida Republican told Newsmax TV’s John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on “America’s Forum” Friday.
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Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida’s 27th congressional district, became the first Cuban American and Latina in Congress when she was elected in 1989. She was also the first Republican woman elected to the House from Florida, and is currently the most senior Republican woman in the House.
She is highly critical of President Barack Obama’s policy on Venezuela, saying, “[Maduro] wants to take over Venezuela in the same way that the Castro brothers have, and that’s why this administration looking the other way is just not an answer. We have no foreign policy to speak of, no real policy direction, especially in Latin America.
“I’ve written a letter to the president and it was signed in a bipartisan manner, calling on the president to take action similar to the action that he’s taken against Russian human rights violators in the Ukraine, but knowing that the president will probably not take action on Venezuela. I have filed a bill that does the same thing. It would deny visas so that they can’t come to the United States, we’d be blocking property, we would freeze the assets, and prohibit all sorts of financial transactions to members of the Maduro regime who are responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses against the citizens of Venezuela.”
Ros-Lehtinen continued, “The assembly of citizens in Venezuela is getting greatly curtailed. They’re limiting the access to print and broadcast media and what we’ve seen is that one of the things that we should do is reduce imports of Venezuelan oil. This would prevent Maduro regime from using the profits from the sale of petroleum to further oppress and further violate the human rights of the people of Venezuela. ”
She also had harsh words for the Organization of American States, calling it dysfunctional. “Even more so than the United Nations and we fund them — we fund 40 percent of this terrible body. They get 40 percent of their budget from you, the American taxpayer, and our bill says that our permanent representative to the OAS has got to use the voice, the vote, the influence, to defend what has long been the factor that has entered into U.S. and Latin American relations, which is the inter-American democratic charter,” she said.
“We’re doing all we can to help the folks who have been detained, the peaceful protestors, and just like the Cuban regime Maduro likes to blame the U.S. for his own failure. But the reality is that Maduro’s the one who has been responsible for the trampling of human rights. Do you know the economic situation, the food shortages, high inflation? This is a country that had all the natural resources and all the money and yet people don’t even have toilet paper. ”
Ros-Lehtinen said she is also concerned about organized crime from Latin America spilling over into the U.S. “What we have seen is that when the U.S. is looking the other way, when we’re looking at what’s happing in Ukraine, we’re looking at Syria, we’re looking at Iran—as well we should because those are problem areas for us— but what happens is that the drug traffickers and the cartels and the thugs, including terrorists, will make their way into the United States,” she warned.
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By Lisa Barron