Nelson Says 'Venezuelans Are Starving,' Urges More Sanctions On Regime's Leaders

Apr 19, 2017
Originally published on April 19, 2017 1:25 pm

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson was in Miami Tuesday with a message about Venezuela: People there “are starving.” 

Nelson was briefed on Venezuela’s crisis by Admiral Kurt Tidd, who heads the U.S. Southern Command in Miami. Oil-rich Venezuela is suffering the worst economic collapse in modern Latin American history. And its socialist regime has become a quasi-dictatorship. Nelson said a record 18,000 Venezuelans sought asylum in the U.S. last year.

As a result, he urged the Trump administration to increase legal and economic sanctions on abusive Venezuelan leaders.

“A lot of these guys have bank accounts in the U.S. [and] they love to come to the U.S.," Nelson said at a press conference at his Coral Gables office.

"Yank their visas, freeze their bank accounts and increasingly make it hurt on these people that are perpetrating the violence.”

But Latin America experts like Craig Deare, the National Security Council's former Western Hemisphere Affairs director, says there is little else the U.S. can do. 

Deare, now a professor of international security studies at the National Defense University in Washington D.C., told WLRN at Florida International University this week that the administration has to convince Venezuela’s neighbors to pressure the regime to restore democracy, especially elections that have been delayed or canceled.

“This is a concern for the U.S., but it's not a problem we can fix," said Deare. "I would have hoped for a more active role from the region. And I hope the administration is engaging counterparts throughout the region to do it.”

More massive anti-government street marches are set to take place across Venezuela this week.

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