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The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a measure, sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., that would impose sanctions on people who carry out or order human rights abuses against citizens of Venezuela. Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquín Castro, a member of the committee, said the sanctions are a step the U.S. should take "swiftly" and are long overdue.

"There are things that happen in Latin American that if they happen in another part of the world, we would jump on them more quickly," Castro said in Friday's hearing. "The fact is this has gone on for months but we must act swiftly."

Castro also said current violence in Venezuela must be considered in context of the region's history of the 1970's and 1980's. In those years, Latin American countries had leaders who "disappeared thousands and thousands of people and we can never let that happen again," Castro said.