On 18 December 2014, US President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that allows the US government to impose sanctions on Venezuelan government officials who are alleged to have violated protestors’ rights.
The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 targets current and former Venezuelan officials who directed “significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses against persons associated with the anti-government protests in Venezuela that began on 4 February”. Between February 2014 and May 2014 more than 40 people were killed in government protests in Venezuela.
The Act authorises the US government to impose asset freezes and visa bans on any person who has:
- perpetrated or is responsible for otherwise directing significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses against persons associated with the antigovernment protests in Venezuela that began on February 4, 2014;
- directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly; or
- knowingly materially assisted or provided significant financial, material, or technological support for the commission of such acts.