Today We Are Witnessing a Long-Overdue Reckoning for the Maduro Regime
Tuesday I delivered the keynote address at the Center for a Secure Free Society's event entitled: ‘The VRIC: Tracing the roots of Venezuela, Russia, Iran & China security & intelligence cooperation.' Last year, I secured language in the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 mandating a report that describes Russia's security cooperation with American adversaries in the Western Hemisphere including Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. In February, I sent a letterto the Trump administration with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) voicing concerns regarding Hezbollah's growing influence in and over Venezuela.
It is a momentous day to be discussing Venezuela. Today is a day that has the potential to have enormous long-term repercussions. Today we are witnessing a long-overdue reckoning for the Maduro regime. All of us are concerned and are watching the day-to-day developments. We are glad to see opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez freed from captivity. That is something I have long called for. But at the same time, there remains a threat, escalating by the minute, that Maduro and his thugs will stop at nothing to try to cling to power, and that violent clashes will escalate. The regime should know that the United States will hold them accountable for their conduct in the hours and days to come, for any violence, or any atrocities in which they participate.
The United States has an opportunity to pursue "targeted policies" in response to alliances and cooperation between bad actors, including Venezuela, Cuba, and Russia.
Today, the world's bad actors sustain themselves and each other through alliances and cooperation that is ever more brazen. This emerging dynamic is dangerous, but provides the United States with an opportunity to pursue targeted policies in response that enhance our national security. Venezuela would have collapsed long ago if it did not get outside support from countries like Cuba and Russia. It's important for Americans to understand the depth of the cooperation between Cuba and Venezuela and also between Russia and Venezuela.
This year, I introduced a bill that would counter the Maduro regime's illicit trade in precious metals, which has enabled to the regime to sustain itself and its oppression of the Venezuelan people, by adding such transactions as a consideration for designations for primary money laundering concern.
One of the areas where Maduro has seen fit to plunder Venezuela, concerns gold. Globally gold has become a key way that bad actors conduct illicit financial activities. In Venezuela, the gold trade is Maduro's best and perhaps his last lifeline. In 2018 alone, Venezuela exported $900 million worth of gold to Turkey. What we need to bring about Maduro's downfall are smart, targeted sanctions aimed at the financial nexus he uses to keep his regime afloat. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Turkey has been making large purchases of gold, almost certainly including illicit purchases from Venezuela. It is time to recognize that gold and other precious metals are a modern currency of choice for terrorists, despots, and others who have been cut off from the global financial system. To cut off this lifeline I've introduced legislation that says: if a country or bank conducts precious metal transactions that are subject to sanctions, such as moving gold for Venezuela or Iran, that the Secretary of Treasury can take those transactions into account when deciding about a broader conclusion that such country or bank shall be designated as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern.
I urge the Venezuelan military officials and generals to stand with the people of Venezuela and the legitimate government of interim president Juan Guaidó.
To the protesters, to the demonstrators who are standing up for freedom, who are speaking out against oppression, know that your voice is heard, it is heard not just throughout Venezuela but across the globe. To the generals, over 3,000 generals, you have a choice to make: will you and your families bare the shame for decades to come of standing with a corrupt, oppressive, illegitimate dictator who has helped bring the proud country of Venezuela to its knees; or will you instead make the right choice for your family, for your future, and for your country? Will you stand with the people of Venezuela? Will you stand with democratic institutions and legitimate governments? Will you stand for freedom, economic freedom?
We may see substantially more suffering in the hours and days to come if the generals make the wrong decision. I tell each of you there will consequences if you participate in war crimes or atrocities against the people. Firing at protesters is making a decision. You, your children, and your children's children will bear the shame of the wrong choice, and those generals with the courage to make the right choice, you likewise have the ability to be heralded by history. As patriots, as heroes who chose to stand with the people instead of a corrupt guy. This is a moment where change is in the air. For the sake of the people of Venezuela, for the sake of the people of America, for the sake of the people of the world, I hope and pray that you take the right course.
My full remarks may be viewed here