In response to alleged human rights abuses and the recent crackdowns on civil protest, both houses of Congress have drafted potential new legislation to sanction Venezuela. Both measures are in response to reports that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has met demonstrations protesting high inflation, scarcity of basic goods, and mismanagement of the country's oil wealth with repression. The House bill was passed by a voice vote on May 29; however, the Senate version is unlikely to advance to the floor unless the situation in Venezuela worsens with mass protests and increases in violence.
S. 2142, championed by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), seeks to provide the President with the authority to block and prohibit all transactions in all property and interests in property of persons responsible for the violence in Venezuela, as well as to prohibit the travel of designated persons to the United States. S. 2142 also appropriates $15M in Fiscal Year 2015 funds for civil society assistance directly or through nongovernmental organizations.
In comparison, H.R. 4229 is broader and includes not only similar blocking sanctions to S.2142, but also export control restrictions relating goods or technologies that are likely to be used to commit human rights abuses, as well as persons who engage in censorship against the citizens of Venezuela. Further, it calls for a reduction in the importation of petroleum and petroleum-origin products of Venezuelan origin to the United States. H.R. 4229 calls for $3M to be used as assistance to civil society in Venezuela.
S.2142 passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 20. Again, it has not yet been scheduled for a floor vote, nor has Senator Reid (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader, indicated when it might be scheduled. The Administration has consistently argued that sanctions would be counterproductive, but on May 21 during a visit to Mexico City, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to relax this position, warning of the possibility of sanctions as the Administration's patience with the Venezuelan government is growing thin.