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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by the Press Secretary on Venezuela

Today President Obama issued a new Executive Order to implement and expand upon the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014.  Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems. 

We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents.  Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent.  We have consistently called on the Venezuelan government to release those it has unjustly jailed as well as to improve the climate of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.  These are essential to a functioning democracy, and the Venezuelan government has an obligation to protect these fundamental freedoms.  The Venezuelan government should release all political prisoners, including dozens of students, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and Mayors Daniel Ceballos and Antonio Ledezma. 

The only way to solve Venezuela’s problems is through real dialogue – not detaining opponents and attempting to silence critics.  The Venezuelan people deserve a government that lives up to its commitment to democracy, as articulated in the OAS Charter, the Inter American Democratic Charter, and other fundamental instruments related to democracy and human rights. 

We’ve seen many times that the Venezuelan government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela.  These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan government to deal with the grave situation it faces.

It is unfortunate that during a time when we have opened up engagement with every nation in the Americas, Venezuela has opted to go in the opposite direction.  Despite the difficulties in our official relationship, the United States remains committed to maintaining our strong and lasting ties with the people of Venezuela and is open to improving our relationship with the Venezuelan government.