WASHINGTON (AP) — Fourteen Democratic members of Congress are voicing opposition to authorizing unilateral U.S. sanctions against Venezuela ahead of a House vote Wednesday.
The bill instructs the Obama administration to compile a list of human rights abusers in the Venezuelan government, freeze their assets and ban them from the United States. Foreign relations committees in the House and Senate have overwhelmingly approved it.
Administration officials are opposed. They say sanctions risk undermining mediation efforts in Venezuela and straining relations between the U.S. and Latin American partners.
The Democrats led by Michigan Rep. John Conyers wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday backing his administration. They also urged an exchange of ambassadors with Venezuela after a four-year hiatus. Violent unrest has gripped Venezuela for months. Forty-two people have been killed since February.
In Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro welcomed the Democratic lawmakers' initiative, saying he hopes "there is a bit of wisdom" in Washington.
"Thank you for taking this initiative to try to raise awareness and stop, with the conscience of the people of the United States, stop any insolent madness," the socialist leader said Tuesday night in his radio and television show, "In Contact With Maduro."
"Any law that is approved in the United States Congress to sanction Venezuela is spurious," he added. "We will not recognize it."
Associated Press writer Jorge Rueda in Caracas contributed to this report.