Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, today I would like to express my strong support for S.Res. 265, a resolution I co-sponsored deploring the violent repression of peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela, calling for full accountability for human rights violations taking place in Venezuela, and supporting the right of the Venezuelan people to the free and peaceful exercise of representative democracy.
Since February 4, 2014 the Venezuelan people have taken to the streets on a daily basis to express frustration with the country’s high inflation, corruption, food shortages, lack of press freedoms, lack of due process, violent crime, and other grievances. Addressing these legitimate concerns is a basic function of a democratic government. Instead, we’ve seen a crackdown on protests through unlawful use of force, a stifling of the media, and the detention of opposition leaders. Over 22 people have been killed, hundreds injured, and over a thousand people arrested during these protests.
The Venezuelan Government is an elected government, and as such, it should act like a democratic government by immediately addressing the core concerns of its people through meaningful dialogue, halting the use of force, and providing a safe space for the Venezuelan people to express their views peacefully. Without a genuine, transparent conversation to address the central concerns raised by the protestors, Venezuela faces a bleak future.
Contrary to comments by the Venezuelan government, this crisis is not about the United States; it is about the Venezuelan people. But the crisis does have implications for peace and security in the hemisphere and the broader international community. The United States always has stood and always will stand for basic freedoms, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press. We will not back down on protecting and promoting these universal values. Nor should the international community. It’s incumbent upon neighboring countries and regional organizations to be vocal during this critical point, to take a stand for universal human rights, and to expect the highest level of respect for representative democracy from its hemispheric neighbor.
Today, we see tension and unrest around the world. Each situation is unique; however, the desire for fundamental human rights is universally-recognized. I call on my colleagues and nations around the world to stand up for these basic freedoms and support a path toward a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Venezuela.
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