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Miami Hearing Shines Light On Human Rights In Cuba, Venezuela

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- U.S. officials traveled to Miami to take up human rights issues in Cuba and Venezuela.

The hearing being held, is meant as a form of checks and balances on the administration's efforts to renew ties with Cuba and to shine a light on human rights issues in Venezuela.

As part of the hearing, witnesses to such violations testified at a Miami-Dade location - a location considered appropriate for the matter.

"This is the home of so many victims of the Castro regime and the Venezuelan regime," said U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo. "They have contributed a lot to this community and to this country."

U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan focused heavily on human rights violations and freedom of expression in both countries.

"I am deeply concerned about the trajectory of both Cuba and Venezuela on these matters," said Duncan who is the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

But Cuba dominated the hearing. Duncan said despite various meetings with Cuban officials, the issue of human rights is lacking in conversations with the island nation.

"The Administration has made no real effort with the Cubans to prioritize human rights or property claims issues. They haven't even scheduled one single meeting in all their bilateral discussions to raise these issues," said Duncan.

Related: State Dept.: Obama Could Ease Cuban Embargo Without Human Rights Demands

All this comes as a senior state department official said President Barack Obama could relax the U.S. trade embargo without first demanding human rights progress from Cuba.

The Obama administration announced their efforts to normalize relations with Cuba back in December 2014, saying the embargo has not worked to help those in the island nation. The United Nations has also condemned the controversial embargo. Last month,  the assembly voted in favor to lift it.

Related: U.N. Condemns Controversial Cuban Embargo

The hearing is also focusing on violations in Venezuela, specifically violence against protesters and political prisoners.

"The number of political prisoners in Venezuela has even surpassed those in Cuba," said Duncan. "The harsh reaction by the Maduro regime against these protesters resulted in the deaths of more than 43 people, and almost 900 people were injured."

He said the government has also detained those who were giving food, water and other types of assistance to protesters.

Duncan concluded his remarks with a call to act on the issues at hand.

"U.S. Congress must do more to hold the Obama Administration accountable for their actions on these issues, and I believe the United States must do a better job communicating a clear message of support to the victims of human rights abuses in Cuba and Venezuela and to both regimes that such repression is utterly deplorable and must end," said Duncan.

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