The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation approving new sanctions targeting Venezuelan government officials Wednesday.
The bill calls on President Barack Obama to deny visas and freeze assets of Venezuelan officials accused of violating the rights of anti-government groups.
The sanctions will now head to the White House for final approval after being passed in the Senate earlier this week.
On Tuesday Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro described the measures as “insolent” and “imperialist.”
“I ask the government of the United States to respect Venezuela,” said Maduro. He warned sanctions will only worsen relations between Venezuela and the United States.
While Maduro’s officials could be targeted by the sanctions, no similar measures will be taken against anti-government groups that led a deadly wave of violence in the South American country earlier this year.
“For too long, Venezuelans have faced state-sponsored violence at the hands of government security forces,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairperson Robert Menendez stated earlier this week.
Senator Menendez co-sponsored the bill with Senator Marco Rubio, who have argued the sanctions are in the interests of the Venezuelan people.
However, the bill has been slammed as a “gimmick” by journalist and political analyst Z.C. Dutka from the independent news organization Venezuelanalysis.com.
“Senators Menendez and Rubio may act as though they are speaking for the majority of Venezuelans, but the truth is they're representing the interests of a pretty hardline faction,” she told teleSUR English.
Dutka referred to the anti-government groups that rallied behind the call for Maduro to resign in February.
While claiming to be non-violent, the anti-government groups' protests almost entirely comprised of violent attacks, including torching government buildings, attacking perceived leftists, and erecting street barricades.
The violence left at least 43 people dead — most killed by clashes at barricades or opposition violence.
“Aside from the burning of well-loved universities and hospitals, the vast majority of deaths during that time — over three dozen, including passersby, government supporters, and security officials — were caused by the protestors themselves,” Dutka explained.
“While not everyone is pleased with President Maduro's administration, only a small minority supports the violent tactics adopted by those militant protestors that made headlines,” she added.