Three House Subcommittees held a joint hearing Friday on Venezuela and whether that country is in violation of U.S. policies that might lead to further economic sanctions.
Late last month the State Department hit Venezuela's state-run oil company, PDVSA, with sanctions after finding that the company had violated the embargo against Iran. Though the sanctions prevent U.S. companies from doing some business with PDVSA, they don't prohibit Venezuela from exporting oil to the U.S. under its CITGO brand.
Subcommittee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said that he believes Venezuela is increasingly willing to partner with countries that are hostile to the U.S. He expressed his frustration with the Obama Administration and accused it of not providing officials the subcommittee has requested to testify.
Members of the subcommittees wanted to know whether Venezuela or its state-run industries might be engaged in other activities that violate U.S. or international rules- like drug trafficking, supporting Hezbollah and similar groups, and allowing Iran to use Venezuelan banks to circumvent current sanctions against that country.
The hearing also looked at what effect, if any, the current sanctions have had on Venezuela. Subcommittee Chairman Connie Mack (R-FL) said in a statement that the State Department’s actions are "welcome, (but) the slow and inadequate response has been frustrating....The U.S. needs to move quickly to cut off (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chávez’s source of revenue, and bring an end to both his influence in Latin America and his dangerous relationship with the terrorist-supporting Iranian regime before it’s too late.”
Members also discussed whether U.S. actions may actually be helping President Chávez, since he's been able to portray the sanctions as violations of Venezuela's sovreignty. Chávez took to his Twitter account to comment, saying "Sanctions against the Fatherland of Bolivia? Imposed by the Gringo imperialist? Well, welcome Mr. Obama, don't forget we are the children of Bolivar!"