The United States has waited too long to get involved in Ukraine
and take a stand against President Viktor Yanukovych, says Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
"This has been simmering for a long time. The big protest began in November, as we know, when the president of Ukraine rejected this expected deal for closer integration with the European Union, but [the protests are] also an expression of the resentment that's been long simmering against the corruption and the economic mismanagement of the government," the Florida Republican told John Bachman on Newsmax TV's "America's Forum."
"And for the president of Ukraine, he signed this horrible anti-protest law that restricted free speech and restricted media from criticizing the government. So protesters obviously have been taking to the streets, and they've seized regional government buildings all over the country, and what we've seen is a deliberate targeting of journalists by the government."
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Ros-Lehtinen acknowledged that the Obama administration said Wednesday it would bar 20 senior members of the Ukraine government from traveling to the United States, but warned it could be too little too late. "It's taken an awfully long time. The violence has escalated," she said.
Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida's 27th congressional district and is the most senior Republican woman in the House, served as Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 2011 to 2013.
Asked what other steps can be taken with regard to Ukraine at this point, she responded, "We have been working with all of the panelists on our committee, and Eliot Engel and Ed Royce had passed a resolution that we hope will be followed up with real sanctions. We've got to do these targeted sanctions on all of these government officials. The videos are clear. You can see who these people are. They've committed these acts, or they ordered it, or they supported acts of violence against peaceful citizens in Ukraine, and it's a true rollback of democracy movements."
As the first Cuban American and Latina elected to Congress, Ros-Lehtinen also expressed her support for the anti-government protesters in Venezuela
and said the White House should punish the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.
"They have also taken to the streets, and they are unarmed, and the police and the Cuban forces, with the Venezuelan forces, are beating them. There have been deaths in Venezuela as well, and we need to have those targeted sanctions. I have a bill with [Democrat Rep.] Albio Sires of New Jersey to say anyone who commits these human rights violations should not be allowed in our country. This is a privilege to come to the United States. It's not a right," she said.
As for whether she would consider taking more robust action against them, Ros-Lehtinen said, "It's lamentable that the United States has taken the back seat in so many of these crises that we've seen overseas. I understand that people are war fatigued with Iraq and Afghanistan, and Karzai's not helping us one bit, and so people say, 'eh, forget about these guys.'
"But we see this bloodshed never ending in Syria, we see human rights protesters being shot and killed in Ukraine, student leaders, peaceful dissidents in Venezuela also being shot and killed," she added.
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