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Congressman Albio Sires Joins Rep. Shalala in Introducing Legislation to Restrict Arms Sales to Venezuelan Dictator Nicolás Maduro & His Security Forces

Jan 31, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – Congressman Sires joined Congresswoman Donna Shalala (D-FL) in introducing her first bill titled “the Venezuela Arms Restriction Act,” bipartisan legislation to prohibit the export of defense articles and crime control materials from the United States to the security forces of Venezuela. These tools are often used by the illegitimate Maduro regime to attack its own people, often with lethal consequences.

"We cannot allow Nicolás Maduro to continue to steamroll democracy and act with impunity,” said Rep. Shalala. “The people of Venezuela have spoken and demanded that Maduro to step down, but their peaceful efforts have led Maduro’s security forces to resort to violence in the streets of Venezuela, as they often have since Maduro took power. Our bill will ensure that crowd control items, like riot gear and tear gas, will not be placed in the hands of Maduro’s cronies and security forces and used against peaceful protestors. I thank my Republican and Democratic colleagues for joining our effort to help bring peace and freedom to Venezuela.” 

Under the Maduro regime’s gross mismanagement, Venezuela’s once thriving economy has collapsed and its people are sicker, poorer, and less free. Since coming to power in 2013 after the death of leader Hugo Chavez, Maduro has undermined Venezuela’s democratic institutions. In May 2018, he won a snap election that has been widely acknowledged by the international community as being illegitimate. Currently, the National Assembly of Venezuela is the only remaining legitimate democratic institution within the country, with Juan Guaidó, the president of the National Assembly, recognized as the interim president of the country until free and fair elections are held.

On Jan. 23, millions of Venezuelans took to the streets in Caracas and around the world to protest the authoritarian regime of Nicolas Maduro, while demanding a return to democracy, respect for human rights, and basic needs, like access to food and medicine. Tragically, at least 40 protesters have died in recent protests, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office. These individuals paid the ultimate price and were killed at the hands of Maduro’s special forces for peacefully calling for a democratic Venezuela.

Some of the items included in the legislation are already restricted by virtue of an annual determination, since 2006, that Venezuela does cooperate fully with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. This legislation codifies these restrictions and adds articles that are used for crime control such as tear gas and riot gear.

Joining Rep. Shalala in introducing the bill are Representatives Albio Sires (NJ-08), Mario Díaz-Balart (FL-25), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Jennifer González Colón (PR), Darren Soto (FL-09), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26).

“Maduro and his cronies have built a despotic regime that rules using fear, corruption, oppression, and violence against an unarmed civilian population that seeks to restore democracy and peace to their country. The Venezuelan people have rejected Maduro’s illegitimate reign, and the United States must support their attempts to peacefully rebuild their nation,” said Rep. Albio Sires. “Russia and Cuba, who have consistently propped up Maduro and enabled his tyrannical abuses have blood on their hands by continually providing support to this autocrat. I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan proposal led by Congresswoman Donna Shalala, which will ensure that no U.S. made articles inadvertently end up in the hands of the Maduro regime to be used against the Venezuelan people.” 

“As the Venezuelan people continue to courageously call for free, fair, and democratic elections, we must carefully ensure that no tools originating in the United States may be used by Maduro’s thugs to silence the opposition. Donning riot gear, utilizing tear gas, and other tools of intimidation to quell protests are common practices for Maduro’s security and armed forces,” said Rep. Díaz-Balart. “The U.S. Congress continues to support the Venezuelan people in denying resources to the brutal Maduro regime. Venezuelans have made it abundantly clear: Maduro is illegitimate, and it is time for a democratic transition under the leadership of constitutionally interim President, Juan Guaidó. I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation, and look forward to continue working with my colleagues in support of the Venezuelan people and their democratic aspirations.”

“For years, Nicolas Maduro used the weapons of force and anti-democratic processes to maintain power over the Venezuelan people, resulting in a painful decline into chaos, suffering and starvation. The Venezuela Arms Restriction Act would make it harder for Maduro’s security forces to bully the Venezuelan people, by preventing the export of tear gas, riot gear and other weapons of intimidation that his regime uses to silence dissent and strangle democracy,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz.

“We must support the brave men and women in Venezuela who are fighting for democracy, dignity, and a brighter future. The U.S. and the international community should stand with the people of Venezuela who want to restore freedom and democracy in their country, and this bill is a good step toward achieving that,” said Rep. Murphy.

 “The Venezuela Arms Restriction Act builds on what the Administration and Congress have done to further isolate the Maduro regime from receiving any assistance that may be used to oppress the people of Venezuela,” said Rep. González Colón. “Since the election of Juan Guaido, Maduro has been desperate to cling on to power and has ordered his security forces to double down on repressing and targeting innocent civilians, including children. Whether it is through prohibiting surveillance equipment or defense articles to go to Maduro or through additional sanctions against his inner circle, we must stand strong in our commitment to support Venezuelans’ constitutional right to free, fair and transparent elections. This bipartisan bill will continue to maintain the pressure on the regime while also sending a clear message to Russia, Cuba, and Iran that the U.S. will remain vigilant in their actions to enable Maduro and his abuses.”

“I am proud that as a delegation and as a caucus we are working together to simultaneously lift up the Venezuelan people and restrict the tools Maduro’s regime has been using to attack and suppress Venezuelans. I have stood by the Venezuelan people in their struggle to restore their democracy. No American should – knowingly or unknowingly – be complicit in providing Maduro’s regime tools to continue his oppression. I’m honored to join Representative Shalala in this effort,” said Rep. Mucarsel-Powell.

The full text of the bill can be found HERE.