WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure authored by U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Donna Shalala, and Darren Soto, all from Florida, to defend democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. The measure, which was included in a larger government funding bill passed by the House today, increases support for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. State Department efforts in Venezuela by $3 million.
This funding will be used to support human rights defenders in Venezuela, help document abuses by the regime of Nicolás Maduro, support independent media outlets, and keep the hope of democracy alive in this increasingly authoritarian country. Current U.S. government efforts are being conducted with over 35 Venezuelan partners.
“The Maduro regime has proven itself to be cruel, incompetent, and anti-democratic. We must stand behind the proud Venezuelan patriots who are struggling to reclaim their country from the regime that is destroying it,” said Murphy. “There is a clear national security risk with having a failed state in our region. Protecting democracy in Venezuela is not only the right thing to do, but will also ensure our hemisphere remains safe and free.”
“Over the past two decades the Chavez and Maduro governments have usurped or paralyzed Venezuela’s democratic institutions. As we continue to stand with the people of Venezuela as they demand free, fair, and transparent elections, we must also work to buttress its institutions against future strongmen and autocrats,” said Shalala. “By increasing the funding to promote democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela, I hope that we can lay the foundation to build long lasting peace and prosperity alongside the Venezuelan people.”
“The whole world is finally witnessing the atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated by Maduro and his corrupt cronies. As Venezuelans continue to suffer gravely, we must support the brave Venezuelan people in their relentless fight for freedom,” said Soto. “At this point, empty words of solidarity are not enough. I’m proud to have joined Florida colleagues to increase funding for federal programs that will directly aid local groups in their efforts to restore democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela.”
According to Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, “conditions have grown sharply worse in recent years due to the continued concentration of power in the executive, and harsher crackdowns on the opposition.” The organization has lowered Venezuela’s ranking from “partly free” under Hugo Chavez to “not free” under Nicolas Maduro.
Nicolas Maduro has arrested and abused journalists, both Venezuelan journalists and foreign media workers—including a prominent American journalist operating in the country. Harassment from the government has led most independent radio, TV, and print outlets to close. At times, social media has been blocked, including during the April 30 uprising against Maduro. The Maduro regime is currently being investigated for crimes against humanity by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Organization of American States has similarly denounced the regime’s abuses. USAID initiatives that will be funded by the Murphy-Shalala-Soto measure are crucial to helping overcome government censorship and propaganda.
To see Rep. Murphy’s floor speech explaining the Murphy-Shalala-Soto measure, click here.
The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Legislative Branch, Defense, State, Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act of 2020 (H.R. 2470), which includes the Murphy-Shalala-Soto measure, now moves to the Senate for its consideration.