PRESS RELEASE | U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, today warned the Maduro regime in Venezuela that its upcoming snap election would be considered illegitimate if it failed to meet basic established standards, and called for free and fair election for the Venezuelan people.
“The Venezuelan government under President Maduro has taken a series of repressive and undemocratic actions that threatens its own people and has isolated it from the world. It has called a snap election to maintain its grip on power, using food rationing to influence votes during a period of severe food shortages and widespread malnutrition.
“We call on President Maduro and his government to delay the election at least six months to allow for a legitimate campaign and an electoral process that meets established international standards. In order to ensure minimum standards for free and fair elections, President Maduro must also release all political prisoners, including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and American citizen Josh Holt; allow all candidates and political parties to participate in the election; reform Venezuela’s discredited election commission; halt the despicable practice of tying food rations to votes; allow accredited international election monitors access to all phases of the election process; and fully reinstate the democratically-elected National Assembly. Quite simply, President Maduro should have the courage and decency to allow the Venezuelan people the same fair and open process afforded Hugo Chavez when he first won at the ballot box.
“The United States can also do more to help the people of Venezuela in moving their country back toward democracy and the rule of law. That is why we will be introducing bipartisan legislation in the coming days that represents a much-needed comprehensive approach to Venezuela’s political, economic, and humanitarian crisis.”
In February, Durbin and Menendez led a group of ten Democratic senators in introducing a resolution condemning repressive and undemocratic actions taken by the Venezuelan government, and calling for free and fair elections for its people.
In 2017, the senators introduced bipartisan legislation, the Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act, which directs the State Department to work through nongovernmental organizations to provide public health commodities, basic food commodities, and related technical assistance to Venezuela.
In 2014, Menendez introduced the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, which became law.
Ukraine remembers the Holodomor genocide
Around the world today, Ukrainians will put out candles and wheat stalks to mark Holodomor Memorial Day. Between 1932 and 1933, the Communist government of the Soviet Union inflicted a famine on the people of Ukraine. Although the Soviet Union formed in 1922, the Bolsheviks had trouble implementing their new programs. Many people in Ukraine refused to join the collective farms, and otherwise resisted the Communist agenda.
Stalin and other Soviet leaders created a plan to crush this dissent. They would starve the Ukrainians out with an artificial famine. That is why the period is known as the Holodomor. Translated from Ukrainian, Holodomor means “to inflict death by hunger.”
The making of a famine
Leading up to 1932, the Soviets killed or exiled landowners and community leaders. This eliminated many of the most skillful farmers, as well as individuals that might lead a resistance.
Then the quotas were implemented. Ukraine is an extremely fertile country and has little trouble growing grain. But the Soviet quota system in 1932 was raised dramatically, so that all of the crops were seized by the government. Any food that had been stockpiled was also confiscated. The people were left with nothing. Many areas were then actually blockaded by the military to prevent relief aid from coming in.
Even as thousands of people per day were dying of starvation, Soviet propaganda denied that there was any famine at all. Food was being grown. But Soviet policies kept that food from the people to ensure Ukraine was punished for its resistance to Communist rule.
Aftermath of the famine
Current estimates put the death toll at seven to ten million. Most of these people were ethnic Ukrainians. Because of the deliberate targeting of ethnic Ukrainians and their independent identity, several nations have recognized the Holodomor as a genocide. Most nations, including the US, have stopped short of calling the Holodomor a genocide due to the political nature of the term “genocide.” Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, however, did call it a “systematic genocide,” in his statement this year.
To learn more about the Holodomor, visit holodomorct.org.
When Poland saved Europe from the Soviets
The aftermath of WWI was not a world without war. The famous November 11th Armistice ended one war, but it did not live up to hopes it was the end of the “war to end all wars.” Several other conflicts, which were overshadowed by WWII, started shortly after the formal end of WWI. One of the most important of these conflicts was the Polish-Soviet War of 1919. This war between the newly created Soviet Union and the newly restored nation of Poland helped slow the spread of communism across Europe.
WWI and its aftermath saw many of the old empires in Europe collapse or be dissolved. Eastern-Europe was particularly affected by this political breakdown, with the loss of the German, Russian, and Austro-Hungrairan empires in quick succession. Newly created borders combined with newly created governments was a recipe for instability. Longstanding ethnic rivalries and the Bolsheviks’ dream of global communist revolution all but ensured this instability would lead to war.
Fighting broke out between Poland and the Soviets in 1919. After some initial success, the war turned against the Poles. Poor logistics and a manpower shortage hindered the Polish defenses. By August of 1920, the Soviet armies were closing in on their capital of Warsaw. It appeared that Warsaw and Poland were doomed. However, the Poles continued to resist.
On August 15th, Polish forces neutralized the radio communications of Soviet forces, giving the defenders a critical advantage. Over the next several days, forces under the leadership of Józef Piłsudski surprised and routed the Red Armies converging on Warsaw. With the tide turned, the Bolsheviks would be driven out of Poland over the following months.
Stopping the Soviet invasion of Poland was key to stopping the spread of communism in Europe. The communist movement in Russia was not the only significant communist party in Europe at the time. Other powers, including Germany, were dealing with their own communist threats after WWI. Although the German revolution had failed, there was still a communist movement in the country. If Poland had fallen to the Soviets, the Red Army would have been able to support the revolutionaries directly. This almost certainly would have caused Germany to fall to Communism, and add further momentum to the Soviet’s expansion.
Poland would eventually be conquered by the Soviet Union after WWII and suffer under Communism for the next several decades. But by resisting the Soviets in 1920, Poland served as an important check on the expansion of Communism before WWII, and thwarting their dreams of a worldwide revolution. In the centennial of Poland’s reformation, it is important to remember their numerous contributions to keeping the West free.
To learn more about the Poland-Soviet War, check out Infogalactic.
Trump: “I’ll be signing something” to “keep families together”
President Trump says he will sign an executive order this Wednesday afternoon ending family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Justice Department officials working on executive action to end immigrant family separation of children at border “We still have to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don’t stand for and that we don’t want,” Mr. Trump said during a Wednesday meeting with members of Congress at the White House. “So I’m going to be signing an executive order in a little while before I go to Minnesota. But at the same time I think you have to understand we are keeping families together, but we have to keep our borders strong.”
He called the measure “somewhat preemptive” but called on Congress to work towards a more permanent fix on the issue, saying that perhaps a more comprehensive immigration reform bill– one that may tackle the family separation issue, while also addressing security concerns, etc.– may be possible.
“Beyond this one problem of immigration— you can mention the word ‘comprehensive’ or you don’t have to use it,” Mr. Trump said. “A lot of politicians don’t like the word ‘comprehensive immigration reform,’ but I really think we have an opportunity to do the whole immigration picture and that’s what I’m looking to do ultimately. But right now we want to fix this problem and I think we’ll be able to do that.”
With this, he also called on Democrats for support.
“They really would like to have open borders where they can just flow in,” Mr. Trump said of congressional Democrats.
Family separation has seen a recent uptick due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal entry at the U.S.-Mexico border. Because any illegal border crossing is prosecuted, parents and children are separated during the legal process.
The president said child smugglers, which he cited as a major reason behind that parent-child separation policy Tuesday, “use these children as passports to get into the country.”
Addressing Mr. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence spoke publicly on the issue for the first time at the meeting, ultimately echoing Mr. Trump’s call for Congress to address family separation by a more permanent means.
“We don’t want families to be separated,” Pence said. “We don’t want children taken away from parents, but right now under the law, as we sit with these law makers, we only have two choices before us: number one, don’t prosecute people who come into our country illegally. Or, prosecute them and then under court cases and the law, they have to be separated from their children.”
Secretary Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were present at the White House meeting as well.
Mr. Trump also announced that he will be cancelling the congressional picnic Thursday, saying that it “didn’t feel right” to host the gathering while lawmakers and the administration work towards a solution on immigraiton.
“We want to solve this immigration problem,” Mr. Trump said.
This meeting marks Mr. Trump’s second meeting with Congress this week, following his meeting with House GOP members Tuesday, in the midst of a backlash over the separation of immigrant children from their parents who enter the country illegally through the southern border.