The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials guilty of human rights violations in suppressing anti-government protests.
The bill would deny them U.S. visas and freeze their U.S. assets.
Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro stressed that the sanctions would not touch the average Venezuelan citizen. He said the country's oil industry and economy also be would unaffected.
A Senate panel approved a similar bill last week. It will now be sent to the entire Senate.
Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that the Venezuela government has been a "total failure" in keeping its promises to the opposition, including a deal to free jailed protesters.
Many poor Venezuelans still support socialist President Nicloas Maduro. But others say they are fed up with crime, inflation and food shortages.