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In an interview with MSNBC host and Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Venezuela has been a "scourge" and there are no civil rights there. He said he has “no respect” for how the country is being managed, and said Venezuela would be in top 5 or 10 of most oppressive governments in the world. Venezuela’s Congress recently asked the courts to prohibit nearly two dozen news executives from leaving the country while they are sued for defamation by the government.

But on Friday, a group of 16 Democratic members of Congress sent an open letter to President Obama, as the Huffington Post reported, asking that sanctions against Venezuela be lifted. "Beyond negative impacts on regional cooperation, the sanctions may actually hinder human rights and dialogue inside Venezuela," wrote the legislators. Among the signatories were Arizona Democratic congressman Raúl Grijalva and Bronx Democratic congressman José Serrano.

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