U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the growing unrest in Venezuela, and the arrest of prominent dissidents, including Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma by the Maduro regime’s security forces.
The full text of his remarks is below:
“Mr. President, I stand here today to speak about the devastation befalling Venezuela, the people raging in the streets against unfair elections, the dissidents being seized from their homes and detained by security forces, and those starving without food and water.
“Venezuela — once one of the most richly resourced countries in Latin America — is being dismantled by Nicolas Maduro and his flailing Chavista regime. It is a human tragedy, impacting more than 30 million people who are literally witnessing society collapse around them.
“The numbers sadly speak for themselves — according to estimates from the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s GDP contracted by almost 20% last year, with inflation reaching some 550% and unemployment spiking to more than 21%. The Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela estimates that the country suffers from an 85% shortage of medicine and a 90% deficit of medical supplies, including those needed to treat various types of cancer.
“Men and women, young and old, are going hungry. Thanks to Maduro’s destruction of the Venezuelan currency, flour, cooking oil, and other basic commodities have disappeared from store shelves. Students and teachers leave their classrooms for hours on end to stand in line hoping to receive a loaf of bread as a week’s meal. The most vulnerable are going on what are called “Maduro diets” — skipping meals and reducing their food consumption. And Maduro’s response? The would-be dictator has threatened to seize businesses that don’t produce enough and has told Venezuelans that doing without makes them tougher.
“Thousands of Venezuelans have crossed borders in search of food and medicine, while Maduro and his cronies spin conspiracies and rail against phantom enemies on state media. The situation is so dire that the regime has begun “rewarding” some of its most loyal supporters with toilet paper.
“Alongside the disintegration of Venezuela’s economy is the specter of Maduro’s growing dictatorship. We have just witnessed the sham election of a so-called Constituent Assembly, which Maduro intends to use to try to rewrite Venezuela’s Constitution, to crush what is left of its free political institutions, and to consolidate his grip on power. His electoral commission lied about the turnout and downplayed the number of government workers whom the regime pressured to participate. While Maduro preached dialogue on television, his security forces were busy rounding up political opponents and murdering peaceful demonstrators.
“This was not Maduro’s first power grab. Earlier this year, his handpicked Supreme Court temporarily dissolved Venezuela’s duly elected National Assembly and stripped its members of immunity in what the head of the Organization of American States called a “self-coup.” The regime backtracked only after ferocious pressure and condemnation.
“But this week’s actions make plain Maduro’s intent to complete the process begun under his mentor, Hugo Chavez, to transform Venezuela into a full socialist dictatorship.
“We’ve seen that socialism doesn’t work. We’ve seen the ravages of government control of the economy the Venezuelan people are suffering, and when combined with dictatorship, it is a toxic mix.
“Maduro’s actions must not continue unchallenged. I support the Treasury Department’s sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials, including Maduro, placing him in the ignominious company of Kim Jong-un and Robert Mugabe. We must keep the pressure on, and continue to isolate and delegitimize Maduro’s regime. For behind Maduro can be found China, with its billions in infrastructure investment, and Russia, with its growing control over Venezuela’s energy sector, and Iran, whose Hezbollah proxy launders money with Maduro’s acquiescence.
“Yet Maduro is not without opposition. Brave men and women in the tens of thousands have taken to the streets to demand a better future for themselves and their families. Many dozens have been killed by the regime’s security forces and hundreds have been detained. These freedom-loving people represent the best of Venezuela and fearlessly follow in the footsteps of generations of dissidents against socialist repression.
“Just yesterday, Maduro’s security forces seized two prominent opposition leaders – Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma – for daring to criticize his regime on social media. These two men were carted away in the middle of the night, leaving their loved ones traumatized and frantic without information. To Lilian and Mitzy, the wives of these two extraordinary men, I want to say that you two are some of the strongest people that I have ever been blessed to meet with. You inspire me. Your husbands fight inspires me, and millions of Americans and people across the globe. And I urge you to continue to stand and fight on behalf of your husbands and the many others that are held captive by the Chavista government. I look forward to welcoming Leopoldo and Antonio back in freedom and I hope playing leading roles, leading a free Venezuela, a post-Maduro Venezuela.
“Members of my own family have lived through this sort of oppression in Cuba, where a lawless government can raid your home without warning, arbitrarily detain your relatives and neighbors, and ensure that you hardly, if ever, see them again. And to Lilian and Mitzy, I tell you I will continue to raise my voice and to call for action, real action to help Leopoldo, Antonio, and every other Venezuelan willing to stand and risk everything to live in a free, prosperous, and democratic country.
“It is well past time to consign Chavismo to the dustbin of history.
“To the millions of Venezuelans waiting in lines for food, and clothes, and medicine, struggling with galloping inflation, fearful of Maduro’s henchmen detaining their friends and families or gunning them down in the streets, and thinking themselves helpless in the face of their country’s decay. You are not alone and should not be afraid. America and our allies will help see you through this crisis and help you recover. Each new outrage from the Maduro regime only makes our solidarity with you grow. You are strong and Maduro is weak. You are Venezuela’s future and Maduro is its past. You will win and Maduro will lose. Venezuela is not the private preserve of a bus driver-turned-authoritarian-thug in a tracksuit, but instead Venezuela is a proud and free nation with a glorious past and an even greater future.
“Through its words and deeds, the Maduro regime has abandoned what little legitimacy it might have had. When this regime expires, Venezuela will restore its place at the forefront of Latin America and become a good friend and partner to America once again. We stand with the Venezuelan people as your friend, against this socialist oppression and we tell you there are brighter days ahead, brighter days of economic cooperation, of energy growth, of abundance of prosperity, of throwing off the shackles of totalitarianism.
“Estamos contigo Venezuela, tus mejores días están por venir!”