On December 10, 2014, the US Congress passed the “Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014” to impose certain new targeted sanctions against government officials involved in the February-to-May antigovernment protests in Venezuela. It is expected that this bill will be signed into law by the President in the near future.
The available sanctions are blocking of property interests (e.g., designation as a “Specially Designated National” (“SDN”)) and visa bans for current or former officials of the Government of Venezuela or any person acting on behalf of the Government of Venezuela, whom the President determines:
“(1) has perpetrated, or is responsible for ordering or otherwise directing, significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses in Venezuela against persons associated with the antigovernment protests in Venezuela that began on February 4, 2014;
(2) has ordered or otherwise directed the arrest or prosecution of a person in Venezuela primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly; or
(3) has knowingly materially assisted, sponsored, or provided significant financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, the commission of acts described in paragraph (1) or (2).”
The proposed sanctions explicitly exclude any sanctions on the importation of goods.
Whether the US government would impose more comprehensive sanctions against Venezuela is uncertain at this point. Once the bill is signed into law, the ultimate effect of these sanctions will depend upon implementation decisions (e.g., designation of SDNs by way of executive orders).
As a related matter, as previously discussed in our earlier blog post (available here), in November 2014 the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security amended the Export Administration Regulations by issuing a final rule to impose license requirements on the export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) of certain items to or within Venezuela when intended for a military end use or end user. This final rule was also in response to the Venezuelan government’s violent repression of the Venezuelan people during the February-to-May antigovernment protests in Venezuela.