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Marco Rubio asks Barack Obama to sanction Venezuelan officials

By Andrew V. Pestano
Marco Rubio asks Barack Obama to sanction Venezuelan officials
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Wednesday sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to impose sanctions on several Venezuelan officials. Rubio also requested that Obama demand Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his regime release all political prisoners immediately. File Photo by Johnny Louis/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday urged President Barack Obama to sanction two Venezuelan electoral commission officials and a former interior minister over human rights abuses.

The Republican senator is requesting from Obama that the 2014 Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act be applied to the Venezuelan officials, which would impose visa bans and freeze the officials' financial assets in the United States.

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The sanctions, if Rubio's request is approved, would apply to Venezuelan National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena Ramirez, the council's Vice President Sandra Oblitas Ruzza and former Venezuelan Minister of Interior, Justice and Peace Miguel Rodriguez Torres.

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Venezuela is undergoing an economic and political crisis under the administration of President Nicolas Maduro, who is facing a recall referendum effort by the Venezuelan opposition. People in Venezuela for months have been finding that basic goods such as food and medicine are in short supply, missing or unaffordable.

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"Under Maduro's mismanagement and corruption, 20 percent of the population reportedly now only eats one meal a day. Reported shortages of medicine, including vaccines, are frightening. Newborn deaths have also been reported in Anzoategui's Razetti hospital because pregnant mothers are not receiving the proper nutrition to feed their babies," Rubio wrote to Obama in a letter. "The law mandates the imposition of sanctions against individuals who have committed significant acts of violence or human rights abuses. It is imperative that more corrupt individuals who have violated human rights ... are sanctioned under this law."

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Rubio also requested that Obama demand Maduro and his regime release all political prisoners immediately, that local elections be held as soon as possible and that Maduro "take concrete steps to allow the elected members of the National Assembly to carry out their work."

Last week, Venezuela's National Electoral Council, or CNE, released a recall referendum process timetable that could keep Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela in power until 2018 -- a ruling decried by the opposition as a favor to Maduro.

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