It happened with little fanfare Thursday: The U.S. Senate agreed to three more years of sanctions against key officials of the Venezuelan government, a law pushed by South Florida legislators to punish President Nicolás Maduro’s government. The extension passed in the Senate by unanimous consent. The back story of how it all happened, however, is far more interesting than the easy vote suggests.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio took to the Senate floor Wednesday to ask his colleagues to extend the 2014 sanctions, co-sponsored with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and set to expire at the end of this year. The law lets the U.S. freeze assets and deny visas for Venezuelan officials deemed responsible for violence and political arrests that roiled the South American country in 2014. It prompted Maduro and his government to brand Menendez, Rubio and other South Florida lawmakers “terrorists” and ban them from Venezuela.