US Congress Calls for Sanctions Against Venezuela

Members of the U.S. Congress recently called for sanctions against Venezuelan officials following a report that implicates the country’s military in a corruption scheme tied to the distribution of scarce food in Venezuela, reported The Associated Press (AP) on January 23.

The statement serves as a response to an AP report released last month that targeted Venezuelan high-ranking military officials, including Rodolfo Torres and his predecessor General Carlos Osorio. The report accused the leaders of receiving kickbacks from government contracts for food imports and exports and profiting by seizing and selling rice, corn, flour, and other staples at exorbitant rates.

In recent months, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has given the military increased control of the country’s food supply amid widespread shortages and soaring prices.

“When the military is profiting off food distribution while the Venezuelan people increasingly starve, corruption has reached a new level of depravity that cannot go unnoticed,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) likewise called on President Donald Trump to prioritize the sanction of officials named in the report. Other members of Congress, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) echoed calls for further sanctions and urged US companies to cut ties with Venezuelan firms linked to corruption on any level.

Venezuelan congressman Carlos Berrizbeitia said that the country’s opposition will do all that it can to stop officials from participating in food trafficking—regardless of whether the U.S. imposes sanctions.

“We welcome help from any country interested in investigating corruption in Venezuela, but we also have to keep up pressure on our own institutions to make sure they function properly,” he said. “We need to do everything possible to ensure [the government] doesn’t rob a single dollar more from the food budget while the country is going hungry and people are eating from the trash,” he continued.

The Venezuelan government has not addressed the accusation and the potential effect of future U.S. sanctions remains unclear.