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Florida passes law blocking state investment in Venezuela

Thursday, March 08, 2018

MIAMI, United States (AFP) — Florida lawmakers on Thursday passed a law prohibiting the US state from investing in companies that have business ties with the Venezuelan government.

Citing the socialist government's "use of extreme violence and political persecution," the law will now appear before state governor Rick Scott, who has expressed backing for the measure in the past and is expected to sign the bill this week or next.

"Together, we will continue to shine a light on the unacceptable political tyranny and violence that is inflicted by Maduro and his ruthless thugs," Scott said in a statement.

The state Congress hopes the bill will go into effect by July 1 this year.

The law prohibits the State Board of Administration from investing in stocks or other securities with any company that has business links with Caracas.

Florida taxpayer money may also not be used to trade with financial institutions or companies that extend credit to the Venezuelan government or to buy bonds or services which might benefit President Nicolas Maduro's administration.

"This legislation strengthens Florida's opposition to Maduro's brutal and oppressive regime," said Republican representative Jeanette Nunez.

"I want to thank Governor Scott on his leadership and commitment to the Venezuelan people. Together, we will keep fighting to bring democracy to the people of Venezuela."

The bill was drawn up last July by Democratic Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez after the US investment giant bought up almost $3 billion in Venezuelan government bonds for around a third of their face value.

The deal sparked the fury of the Venezuelan opposition, who accused Goldman Sachs of supporting a "dictatorship."

Scott quickly expressed his backing for the legal measure, and met with Venezuelan community leaders in Florida.

"The Maduro regime is hurting and oppressing Venezuelan families more and more each day and I have been absolutely clear that the State of Florida will not stand for it," he said.

One of those leaders, Carlos Vecchio — exiled political coordinator of the centrist Voluntad Popular party — said he hopes the law will inspire other states to take similar action.