DORAL, Fla. – The Obama administration needs to take a "stronger position" on Venezuela--- mostly through economic sanctions against the administration of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro -- U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Thursday at a press event held at a restaurant frequented by Venezuelan exiles.
Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, also announced hearings on the crisis in Venezuela. He said prominent members of the anti-Maduro opposition groups will be invited to testify.
Rubio described the hearings as an opportunity to "present the reality of what is happening in Venezuela."
While Rubio said he wanted the Obama administration to apply more pressure on the Maduro government, especially in response to their harsh crackdown on opposition protesters, the junior senator from Florida also faulted Republicans for not paying more attention to the South American country.
"I don't think either party has given it the attention it deserves," Rubio said." I think if we can create a strong bipartisan consensus in the Senate, I think the White House will follow."
"Both of us feel very strongly that the government in the United States should take a stronger position, should enact sanctions," Nelson said to a throng of TV cameras.
"You could start yanking some visas from people who are supporting this violence who want to come to United States,” Nelson said. “You can start getting some messages across very quickly.”
Rubio said no date has been set for the Senate hearings.
Asked by Fox News what he hopes the hearings accomplish, and if he foresees the situation in Venezuela improving, Rubio said: "I don't think it will ever get better as long as Nicolas Maduro and his cronies are in power.”
“We hope that these hearings will call attention to the reality of what is happening in Venezuela so that the American public knows clearly what is happening in our own hemisphere,” Rubio said in the interview.
“Our hope is that it serves as a foundation for significant sanctions against the Maduro government and against those stealing money from the Venezuelan people and becoming rich as a result."