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Young Introduces Bipartisan VERDAD Act to Help Restore Democracy in Venezuela

April 4, 2019
By

 Senator Todd Young 1-5-18

U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) joined Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and 12 other Senators to introduce new bipartisan legislation to help restore democracy and address the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

The most comprehensive effort to date to confront the crisis in Venezuela, the Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance and Development (VERDAD) Act  drastically increases humanitarian assistance, expands current tools to address kleptocracy, formally recognizes and supports the Interim President of Venezuela’s efforts to restore democracy and prosperity in the country, and accelerates planning with international financial institutions to advance the country’s post-Maduro reconstruction.

“The Maduro regime has created a humanitarian crisis and turned the proud nation of Venezuela into a land of deep suffering. I am proud to join with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to introduce this comprehensive bill that will ease human suffering, sanction human rights abusers and narco-traffickers, and help restore the Rule of Law and democracy in Venezuela,” said Senator Young. “With a Hoosier in custody in Venezuela, the pain of this regime reaches all the way to Indiana. It’s time to stand with the people of Venezuela and hold those in power accountable.”

Todd Leininger from Bloomington has been imprisoned in Venezuela since April 2014 when he was convicted by a Venezuelan court in the midst of anti-government protests. Many questions remain over the due process afforded to Leininger during that trial. Additionally, in November 2018, a San Cristobal court ordered Leininger’s release, yet the Venezuelan authorities have refused to comply with the order.

Former Venezuelan hostages have spoken of the deplorable conditions inside Venezuelan prisons, which are nothing short of horrific. From drinking water shortages to severe unsanitary conditions, there is concern for Leininger’s life if immediate action is not taken.

Senator Young has been working with the White House and the Department of State to secure Leininger’s release and to ensure that his case remains a high priority. While those efforts are underway, this legislation is aimed at holding those in power in Venezuela accountable for the continued detention of Todd Leininger and many others.

Additional bill sponsors include Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

A summary of the VERDAD Act can be found here and the full text can be found here. Key elements of the legislation include:

  • Support for Venezuela’s Interim President and Recognition of the Venezuelan National Assembly

o   Establishes U.S. policy to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the Venezuelan crisis.

  • Increased Humanitarian Relief for Venezuela

o   Authorizes $400 million of new humanitarian assistance.

  • Addressing Maduro Regime’s Kleptocracy

o   Prohibits granting and mandates revocation of visas for the family members of sanctioned individuals and establishes a waiver with conditions to lift visa restrictions.

o   Removes sanctions on designated individuals not involved in human rights abuse if they recognize Venezuela’s Interim President.

o   Requires the State Department to work with Latin American and European governments to implement their own sanctions.

  • Supporting the Reconstruction of Venezuela

o   Requires the Departments of State, Treasury and Justice to lead international efforts to freeze, recover, and repurpose the corrupt financial holdings of Venezuelan officials.

o   Accelerates planning with international financial institutions on the economic reconstruction of Venezuela, contingent upon the restoration of democratic governance.