Venezuela's regime comes under Florida fire

Venezuela's Maduro regime and the investment bank Goldman Sachs could be in the crosshairs of Florida politicians heading toward the 2018 legislative session.

A high-profile attack on Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly —- amid celebrations of the nation's independence day Wednesday —- and Goldman Sachs' purchase in May of $2.8 billion in bonds for Venezuela's state-run oil company have helped ratchet up oratory in Florida against the leadership of the South American country.

State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, announced Wednesday he intends to introduce legislation —- directed at Goldman Sachs —- calling for Florida to divest itself from companies doing business with the Maduro regime.

"The Maduro regime has a horrific and escalating record of human rights abuses, including a death toll of more than 70 people killed in peaceful protests since April, and in the state of Florida ought to have no part in it,” Rodriguez said in a prepared statement.

Rodriguez, who is running for Congress next year, also asked state agencies not to wait for legislative action to begin severing ties with Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs manages $478 million in what is known as the state's “Long Duration Portfolio.” The overall portfolio totals $8.2 billion.

Not to be outdone, Gov. Rick Scott followed Wednesday by declaring that he will introduce a proposal before the state Cabinet's Aug. 16 meeting that will ask the trustees of the State Board of Administration —- comprised of himself, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis —- to prohibit the state from doing business with any organization supporting the Maduro regime.

“Floridians stand with the people of Venezuela as they fight for their freedom, and as a state, we must not provide any support for Maduro and his thugs,” Scott, who is expected to run for U.S. Senate next year, said in a prepared statement.

The State Board of Administration, which oversees Florida's pension system, holds 687,581 shares of Goldman Sachs stock worth $318.2 million, according to Rodriguez.

Scott didn't say if his plans will result in divesting from existing contracts and agreements or simply from making future deals.

Scott spokesman John Tupps said more details on the proposal will be provided before the Cabinet meeting
The Goldman Sachs deal has brought outrage from South Florida politicians, who have long criticized Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami-Dade County Republican, echoed Venezuelan opposition leaders in tweeting last month that the Goldman Sachs deal is a financial “lifeline” for the Maduro regime.

And from the floor of the U.S. House on June 7, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, another Miami-Dade Republican, pointed to dire living conditions in Venezuela and suggested that Goldman Sachs is “adding to the people's misery."

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