Rubio jokes summer plans 'ruined’ after Nicaragua bans him over sanctions against Venezuela

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)  (AP2012)

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is not happy about the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, and he has decided to strike back at the two members of Congress who were major forces behind the legislation that called for implementing them.

Ortega said he is banning U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Florida Republicans, from visiting Nicaragua.

"Just like they [U.S. officials] have their lists, we can make our own lists in Latin America of those who shouldn’t enter our country,” Ortega said to reporters during a meeting with Venezuelan officials who were in Nicaragua, according to the Miami Herald.

Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen, two of the most vocal members in Congress on human rights violations in Venezuela and Cuba – which are close allies of Nicaragua – made light of the travel ban.
Rubio tweeted: "Oh no! My summer vacation plans are ruined!"

Ros-Lehtinen said she was proud to elicit such a response from Ortega, whose Sandinista government has received about $3 billion in aid from Venezuela since 2007, according to The Herald.

"It's a badge of honor to be banned by a thug like Ortega. These authoritarian heads of state like Ortega, Maduro and the Castro brothers like to intimidate those who disagree with them and they use their power randomly and ruthlessly," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement quoted by the Herald. "I'm not worried about being banned in Nicaragua. What frightens me is the erosion of fundamental human rights throughout our hemisphere. I'm proud of the law that Marco, [Sen.] Bob [Menendez] and I wrote that penalizes human rights violators in Venezuela and we'll work to place violators on that list, ban or no ban."

Last week, Congress cleared and sent to President Barack Obama legislation directing him to levy sanctions against Venezuelan government officials involved in a crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The Senate passed a bill Monday evening and the House approved the measure by voice vote Wednesday evening.

It authorizes sanctions that would freeze the assets and ban visas of individuals accused of perpetrating acts of violence or violating the human rights of those opposing the South American country's socialist government. 

During the summer, the State Department imposed a travel ban on Venezuelan officials accused of abuses during a months-long street protest movement in the winter and spring that left dozens of people dead.

Moves such as the travel ban by Ortega are hardly unusual against U.S. lawmakers.

In March, Russia banned U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and five other federal lawmakers from traveling there in retaliation for U.S. economic sanctions imposed against that nation for actions against the Crimea region in Ukraine.

Menendez said the ban meant little to him compared with the unjust actions by Russia against the Ukraine and Crimea.

Like Rubio did over the Nicaragua ban, Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, mocked Putin’s declaration that he could not visit Russia.

"I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen," he said in the statement posted to his website.

Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican from Indiana, said the ban would not affect his life.

"While I'm disappointed that I won't be able to go on vacation with my family in Siberia this summer, I am honored to be on this list," said Coats in a statement to the website Slate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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