WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of
Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday to impose sanctions on
Venezuelans responsible for human rights abuses during anti-government
protests, despite Obama administration worries that they could threaten
talks seeking to ease the unrest.
The bill would authorize the Obama administration to deny U.S.
entry visas to Venezuelans deemed responsible for rights abuses
during three months of unrest and freeze their assets.
It passed by voice vote in the House, with backing from both
Republicans and Democrats. A similar measure approved by the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee has not yet come before the full Senate.
"The United States Congress must stand ready to act on the cause of
freedom and democracy around the globe," Florida Republican
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a House speech seeking
support for the bill.
Since anti-government demonstrations began in Venezuela in February,
at least 42 people have been killed and more than 800 injured. About
3,000 people have also been arrested, with more than 200 still
The unrest has been Venezuela's worst in a decade and drawn
attention to the OPEC oil producer's deep economic problems,
including soaring inflation and scarcities of basic goods.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor to the
late U.S. antagonist and leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez, has railed
against talk of sanctions from Washington. Venezuelan officials have
accused the opposition of plotting to topple Maduro in league with
A U.S. State Department official said last week the administration
did not support sanctions now because they risked torpedoing
negotiations between Maduro's government and the opposition to end