Press Release

December 5, 2022
Cardin, Kaine, Rubio & Hagerty Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Human Rights in Venezuela

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin, (D-Md.) Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and all members of the SFRC, introduced the Assuring that the Fact-Finding Examination Continues to Track (AFFECT) Human Rights in Venezuela Act, legislation to help support human rights in Venezuela. Cardin is Chair and Hagerty is a ranking member of the SFRC’s subcommittee with oversight responsibility for the State Department and international operations. Kaine is Chair and Rubio is Ranking Member of SFRC’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. This legislation would direct the U.S. government to support extending the mandate of the UN Fact Finding Mission (FFM) in Venezuela—an investigation into ongoing human rights abuses being perpetrated—until the crisis in the country is resolved. It also requires further action by the U.S. government to support human rights in Venezuela. This introduction comes as the Maduro regime and the Venezuelan opposition have resumed talks and agreed to a humanitarian fund to be implemented by the United Nations.

“For years, the Maduro regime has repressed political opposition and engaged in gross human rights violations. The United Nations has identified over 3,000 abuses amounting to crimes against humanity committed by Maduro and other high-ranking officials since 2014, including instances of gender-based violence, torture, and extra-judicial killings. The UN Fact Finding Mission is a critical tool in identifying human rights violators and ensuring they face justice,” said Cardin. “The United States must support the extension of the Mission’s mandate until Venezuela’s electoral and humanitarian crises are fully resolved.”

“Maduro’s narco-terrorist regime aligns itself with China, Russia, and Iran, and poses a significant threat to security, prosperity and human dignity in the Western Hemisphere,” said Hagerty. “The United States must use its voice, vote, and influence to extend the international Fact Finding Mission in Venezuela and ensure that the Maduro regime is held fully accountable for its egregious abuses against the Venezuelan people.”

“The resumption of talks between the Maduro regime and Venezuelan opposition, including agreement on a critical humanitarian fund to be administered by the UN, is a promising and welcome development. But it’s important to remember that Maduro and his regime continue to commit grave crimes and human rights violations against their own people. They have allowed the forced recruitment and exploitation of children as soldiers by gangs, caused over seven million Venezuelans to flee their homes, fanned the flames of food insecurity, and pushed Venezuela to become one of the world’s largest refugee crises,” said Kaine. “Extending and bolstering support for the UN Fact Finding Mission in Venezuela is an urgent and necessary step to help support human rights in the country. By protecting human rights in Venezuela and holding Maduro accountable, we can also begin to address the root causes of migration from Venezuela to the U.S.”

“While the Maduro narco-regime actively seeks international legitimacy from far left governments in our region, the free world must remember the criminal nature of this despotic dictatorship,” said Rubio. “The people of Venezuela have been subjected to unimaginable hardships, as documented by the UN Fact Finding Mission. We have a moral duty to fight for justice and ensure Maduro and his thugs are held accountable.”

The FFM in Venezuela was established in 2019 to investigate extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture, and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment since 2014. The FFM has published several extensive reports documenting evidence of human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, in Venezuela.

The AFFECT Human Rights in Venezuela Act would help ensure that the FFM is able to continue its crucial work. Specifically, the legislation would:

  1. Require the Secretary of State to use the voice, vote, and influence of the U.S. at the UN to extend the FFM mandate until a democratic resolution to the Venezuelan crisis is achieved and to offer assistance as necessary to ensure the FFM can complete its work;
  2. Urge the FFM to raise early warnings of further deterioration of the democracy and human rights situation in Venezuela ahead of the country’s expected 2024 and 2025 elections;
  3. Require the President to instruct the U.S. UN Ambassador to:
  4. Work with relevant UN authorities to secure the release of wrongfully detained foreign nationals, including Americans;
  5. Advocate for a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Venezuelan regime’s use of political prisoners as leverage; and
  6. Urge the UN and related agencies to address the humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people, including refugees and migrants in third countries.
  7. Require the President and Secretary of State to review and give due consideration to the FFM’s reports when forming U.S. policy toward Venezuela; and
  8. Require the Secretary of State to report on these actions to the appropriate House and Senate committees within 90 days of enactment.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Albio Sires (NJ-08) and Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and 10 of their House colleagues.

Full text of the AFFECT Human Rights in Venezuela Act is available here.