(Washington, DC) – U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and a bi-partisan coalition of South Florida lawmakers have filed legislation that would require the United States Department of State to step up monitoring and provide Congress with threat assessments and strategies to curb Russian military influence in Venezuela.
“The growing military relationship between Nicolas Maduro and Vladimir Putin will severely obstruct any effort to restore real democracy in Venezuela,” Rep. Wasserman Schultz said. “This kind of military alliance poses an imminent threat to our allies in the region, namely Colombia, and will only strengthen the foothold of Maduro’s brutal regime.”
The Russian-Venezuelan Threat Mitigation Act was also co-sponsored by Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart, (FL-25), Donna Shalala (FL-27), and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26). It would require the State Department to quickly supply Congress with threat assessments and strategies to deal with Russian-Venezuelan cooperation. It also requires an assessment of risks posed by any Kremlin acquisition of CITGO’s United States energy infrastructure holdings.
Russian and Venezuelan military entanglements have increased in recent years. Joint forces took part in a 10-hour exercise across the Caribbean in December, which included Tu–160 nuclear-capable bombers. Kremlin-linked military contractors have reportedly been deployed there recently. The Maduro regime has also turned to the Russian Federation, one of its strongest political allies, for financial support during its current economic crisis.
Maduro’s regime has come under intense international pressure as the humanitarian, economic and political crisis worsens there. Growing food and medicine shortages, along with political crackdowns, have set off intense protests. It has also triggered wide-spread international recognition of National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the nation’s interim president.
“We must not allow Russia to provide Maduro with the defense and military resources that he will use to further repress and brutalize the Venezuelan people, or engage in anti-American activities at our doorstep. Russia’s actions in Venezuela threaten our national security and bolster the Venezuelan people’s oppressors,” Rep. Diaz-Balart said. “I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation that will require greater oversight and attention to the deepening partnership between Putin and the Maduro regime.”
“The United States, the European Union, Venezuela’s own neighbors, and most importantly, the people of Venezuela are clear: we stand united with Interim President Guaidó and his legitimate government as they lead Venezuela towards democracy with new free and fair elections,” Rep. Shalala said. “The South Florida delegation has come together to introduce bills that grant TPS status to Venezuelans, ban arms exports, and authorize humanitarian aid to Venezuelans. I am proud that we have come together once more to take a stand for freedom and democracy with the introduction of this bipartisan legislation responding to the increasingly troublesome defense relationship between the Maduro regime and Russia.”
“The Venezuelan people cannot restore stability and democracy to their country without humanitarian aid, but neither can they restore them with the specter of Russian forces looming behind them, propping up Maduro’s illegitimate regime,” Rep. Mucarsel-Powell said. “That is why I think this bill is such a crucial part of the effort our delegation is making to address the many facets of aid the Venezuelan people need to rebuild their democracy.”