BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- Florida lawmakers are calling for a fresh round of sanctions against Venezuela, after opposition leader Leopoldo López was sentenced to 13 years, nine months and 12 days in prison for his role in last year’s national protests.
Civil rights groups and legal experts said the case was marred by irregularities.
On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential hopeful, called on the Obama administration to fully implement the “Venezuela defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014,” which denies visas and freezes assets of human rights violators.
“Leopoldo López’s arrest, incarceration, show trial and prison sentence have all been a sham,” Rubio said in a statement. “The Venezuelan regime is robbing Leopoldo of his freedom, his wife of a husband, his kids of a father and the Venezuelan people of a leader committed to their democratic aspirations.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also a Florida Republican, called on the administration to slap sanctions on the judges, prosecutors and prison officials “involved in this politically motivated sentencing.”
“The malicious use of the judicial system as an instrument to punish and persecute dissent is only part of the problem with [President Nicolás] Maduro’s brutal regime that persists on ruling Venezuela with an iron fist,” she said. “I call on all responsible nations to condemn this miscarriage of justice and call for Leopoldo’s immediate, unconditional release.”
López, 44, was jailed in February of 2014 after leading a massive national strike that went on for weeks and left more than 40 people dead amid opposition and pro-regime clashes.