House passes bills meant to pressure Venezuela's Maduro

LUIS ALONSO LUGO
Pedestrians walk past closed businesses in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Much of Venezuela remains without electricity as a new power outage spread across the country. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has approved three bills aimed at stepping up U.S. pressure against the government of Venezuela's embattled president, Nicolas Maduro.

One would add new restrictions on the export of tear gas, riot gear and other items that could be used for crime control.

The second measure urges the Trump administration to provide up to $150 million in humanitarian aid.

The third would require the State Department and intelligence agencies to provide an assessment about the threat from Russian influence in the South American country.

The three bills were adopted unanimously Monday evening.

The U.S. and more than 50 other nations have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president of the country. They say Maduro wasn't legitimately re-elected last year.

On Tuesday, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to determine if the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua should face mandatory U.S. sanctions for conducting significant transactions with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors.

The Trump administration already has imposed sanctions on Venezuela and a commercial embargo on Cuba, but Menendez refers to measures adopted under 2017's Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act as a specific response to cooperation with Russia.

Menendez sent his letter only days after Russian military personnel arrived in Venezuela to support Maduro.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.

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Luis Alonso Lugo on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo