POLITICS

President Obama signs Venezuelan sanctions into law

FILE - In this April 13, 2010 file photo, members of the National Revolutionary Militia hold up their weapons and a painting of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at an event marking the 9th anniversary of Chavez's return to power after a failed 2002 coup, in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela has found yet another way to honor the late leader who launched Venezuela’s socialist revolution. A state-sponsored ballet about his life premieres on Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, with dozens of performers recounting Chavez’s life, from humble roots, to failed coup, to international fame. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

FILE - In this April 13, 2010 file photo, members of the National Revolutionary Militia hold up their weapons and a painting of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at an event marking the 9th anniversary of Chavez's return to power after a failed 2002 coup, in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela has found yet another way to honor the late leader who launched Venezuela’s socialist revolution. A state-sponsored ballet about his life premieres on Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, with dozens of performers recounting Chavez’s life, from humble roots, to failed coup, to international fame. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

A bill that will sanction Venezuelan government officials accused of being behind a crackdown on protesters that left dozens dead was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Thursday.

The president's signature was widely expected after the measure was approved by both legislative chambers last week. 

The bill authorizes sanctions that would freeze the assets and ban visas for anyone accused of carrying out acts of violence or violating the human rights of those opposing the South American nation's socialist government.

Last summer, the State Department imposed a travel ban on Venezuelan officials who were accused of abuses during street protests that left dozens of people dead.

The bill was a bipartisan effort and was co-authored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

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Venezuela's government made no immediate comment. But legislator Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly, has criticized the action.

"We reject sanctions as arbitrary, as immoral and because no one has the right to impose sanctions on anyone else in the world," said Cabello, who is seen as one of the most influential members of Maduro's governing socialist party.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said the bipartisan legislation signals the U.S. will not tolerate impunity of violations of human rights in Venezuela.

"We support the calls of democracy and freedom by the people of Venezuela," she said.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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