On 18 December 2014, President Obama signed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 (Venezuela Act) (Pub. L. No. 113-278). The Venezuela Act was passed in response to the use of force by the Government of Venezuela against anti-government protests that began on 4 February 2014. Among other actions, the Venezuela Act directs the President to impose blocking sanctions and a travel ban on any person, including current or former Venezuelan officials, if they are found:
- To have perpetrated or to be responsible for significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses against persons associated with the anti-government protests;
- To have directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of assembly or expression; or
- To have knowingly materially assisted or provided significant support for the commission of such acts.
No persons have yet been designated under the Venezuela Act, and the authority to impose sanctions under the Act expires on 31 December 2016.