April 03, 2019

Cardin, Bipartisan Group Introduces the VERDAD Act, Comprehensive Legislation to Help Restore Democracy in Venezuela

Legislation significantly expands U.S. humanitarian assistance, strengthens tools to combat kleptocracy and human rights abuses, advances reconstruction planning, and establishes U.S. policy in support of diplomatic solution to Venezuela’s crisis

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, along with Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), 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.) introduced new comprehensive 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 Venezuelan people continue to suffer as Nicolas Maduro tries to hold on to his dictatorship. The VERDAD Act is an all-in commitment from Congress to the Venezuelan people and a sign of hope that they can find a peaceful resolve the political, economic, and humanitarian crises in their country,” said Cardin. “With this bipartisan legislation, we stand resolutely with the people of Venezuela, providing for concrete actions and resources that will bring relief to those in need and support Venezuelans in restoring democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in their country.”

“As Maduro’s recalcitrant regime continues to stumble towards the total collapse of Venezuela, the United States Congress is coming together in a bipartisan manner to put teeth behind our support for the Venezuelan people as they seek to restore democracy and address a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented proportions in our hemisphere,” said Menendez. “The VERDAD Act provides the Trump Administration with the necessary diplomatic tools to move beyond presidential promises towards a substantive and peaceful strategy that allows Venezuelans to protect their human rights, advance their democratic values, and end the nightmare that has been the Maduro reign of terror.”

“As Maduro and his gang of narco-terrorists thugs continue holding the Venezuelan people hostage under their failed socialist regime, the United States Senate is sending a clear bi-partisan message by introducing the VERDAD Act (Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development Act),” said Rubio. “This legislation will offer needed humanitarian assistance and support for Venezuela’s long path to democratic order.”  

“The Maduro regime has bankrupted Venezuela – destroying its democracy and economy in the process,” said Durbin. “Venezuelans are desperate to rejoin the community of democracies, and interim President Guaidó and his talented colleagues are brave patriots who see a more hopeful and democratic future for the Venezuelan people. I’m proud to help introduce this bill with Senator Menendez, which shows our commitment to a thoughtful, peaceful, and democratic transition as provided for in the Venezuelan constitution.”

“Venezuela should be a natural ally of the United States,” said Cruz. “At the hands of Nicolas Maduro, the Chavistas have utterly decimated the nation's economy and disintegrated its political institutions. The VERDAD Act provides increased and effective humanitarian relief to the region, and strengthens international engagement to stabilize the energy sector. Critically, this bill sanctions corrupt officials, narco-traffickers, and human rights abusers, while providing incentives for military officials who break from the Maduro dictatorship. This is a powerful moment for the people of Venezuela, and America must stand ready to help build a better tomorrow.”

“Maduro has created a humanitarian disaster. I traveled to the Colombia-Venezuela border and witnessed some of the immense pain felt by families who fled their homes after they couldn’t access food or medicine,” said Kaine. “We should pass the VERDAD Act to increase humanitarian relief, promote peace and liberty for Venezuelans, and formally support interim President Guaido’s efforts to return the country to democracy.”

“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 Young. “Hoosiers, like Todd Leininger, remain in custody in Venezuela and feel the pain of this regime on a daily basis. It’s time to stand with the people of Venezuela and hold those in power accountable.”

“By standing with the people of Venezuela, the United States is standing for freedom,” said Graham. “Strong American leadership is indispensable in moments like this and history will record that the United States was on the side of the people yearning to be free – not with their oppressor.”

“Venezuela is facing political, economic, and humanitarian crises caused by the illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro,” said Bennet. “The United States must stand with our regional partners and allies in addressing humanitarian needs in the region and holding the corrupt Maduro regime accountable. This legislation is a strong bipartisan demonstration of U.S. commitment to the people of Venezuela as they seek to restore the rule of law and democracy in their country.”

“This is a critical moment both in the history of Venezuela and in U.S. relations in the Western Hemisphere,” said Coons. “The regime of Nicolás Maduro has been a disaster from an economic, democratic, and humanitarian perspective. I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation to support the Venezuelan people, help restore democracy in the country, and advance a political resolution to the crisis.”

“Maduro’s only priority is to hold on to power–not caring that his actions are causing the suffering of millions. He must be removed,” said Cassidy. “This legislation stands with the Venezuelan people and pushes towards a more prosperous, democratic Venezuela.”

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

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

Increased Humanitarian Relief for Venezuela

  • Authorizes $400 million of new humanitarian assistance.

Addressing Maduro Regime’s Kleptocracy

  • Prohibits granting and mandates revocation of visas for the family members of sanctioned individuals and establishes a waiver with conditions to lift visa restrictions.
  • Removes sanctions on designated individuals not involved in human rights abuse if they recognize Venezuela’s Interim President.
  • Requires the State Department to work with Latin American and European governments to implement their own sanctions.

Supporting the Reconstruction of Venezuela

  • Requires the Departments of State, Treasury and Justice to lead international efforts to freeze, recover, and repurpose the corrupt financial holdings of Venezuelan officials;
  • Accelerates planning with international financial institutions on the economic reconstruction of Venezuela, contingent upon the restoration of democratic governance.

###