Landrieu blocks bill again

Published 2:09 pm Sunday, September 21, 2014

For the second time this summer, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., blocked passage of a bipartisan Senate bill to impose economic sanctions against Venezuela.

Landrieu’s move came on Tuesday as the Senate sought to pass the bill by unanimous consent. Landrieu is concerned that passing the bill in its current form could result in the loss of up to 2,000 jobs at the Citgo refinery in Lake Charles.

Citgo is owned by PDV America Inc., a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company. PDV America Inc. purchased Citgo in January 1990.

Introduced in the Senate in March by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 seeks sanctions against Venezuelans who abused the human rights of those who participated in anti-government protests that began in Caracas in February.

If enacted, the law would empower the president to block and prohibit all transactions of property between the U.S. and Venezuela. It would also authorize the president to deny or revoke all visas from Venezuela to the United States in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Will Dempster, spokesman for Landrieu, said the senator will continue to block the bill’s passage until language is added that protects jobs from being lost at the local refinery.

“We still have concerns about the bill, that the legislation as drafted is having a negative effect on commerce, the normal commerce that is required to do business on a day-to-day basis at the Citgo refinery in Lake Charles,” Dempster said. “We are continuing to have these discussions with the Foreign Relations Committee. But until our concerns are addressed, this bill isn’t going anywhere.”

The bill’s introduction to senators prompted Citgo Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Rafael Gómez Abreu to send a three-page letter to Landrieu on July 29, asking that the Senate fully consider the economic effects the bill could have on the company’s Lake Charles refinery.

“It is important to be certain that families in Louisiana and consumers across the country do not have to pay the high price for any unintended consequences of legislation that has not been carefully considered from all angles,” Gómez Abreu wrote.

In response, Landrieu blocked the bill’s initial passage with unanimous consent last month prior to the Senate’s August recess. Her move prompted Rubio and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, who is challenging Landrieu for her senate seat this fall, to co-write a rebuttal for The Advertiser newspaper in Lafayette.

“Venezuelan regime officials have been oppressing innocent Venezuelans, pillaging that country’s wealth, traveling to the U.S. to splurge, and then return to Venezuela to carry on with their repression. At the very least, it should be U.S. policy to not allow these practices to continue,” they wrote.

In a statement to the American Press on Friday, Cassidy said the Venezuela sanctions legislation targets individuals, not companies, and would have no effect on Louisiana jobs.

“Sen. Landrieu should use her ‘clout’ to champion freedom and democracy, not be an apologist for socialist governments,” Cassidy said.(MGNonline)