By BRADLEY KLAPPER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is moving closer to imposing economic penalties against Venezuela's government.
A Senate committee will hold a hearing on sanctions Thursday. A House panel is expected to finalize on Friday its version of a bill authorizing penalties.
The legislation in both chambers is relatively modest. It centers on $15 million in new funds to promote democracy. It also bans visas for Venezuelan officials tied to suppressing protests by students, opposition leaders and others and freezes their assets.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida says the message sanctions send is most important at a time when human rights groups accuse Venezuelan security officials of arresting, torturing and even killing unarmed demonstrators.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Rubio says, "This is happening in our very own hemisphere."
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