OAS Convenes Special Session to Address the Humanitarian Situation in Venezuela

On April 30, 2018, the OAS Permanent Council convened a Special Meeting to discuss - “The Humanitarian Situation Being Experienced by the Venezuelan People, and Its Impact on the Countries of the Region.” (OAS Photo)

Ambassador Carlos Trujillo
OAS Special Meeting of the Permanent Council
April 30, 2018

Thank you Mr. Chair. The United States is pleased to be one of the many member states requesting this important session today. We would like to thank this distinguished panel of experts for joining us today and sharing with member states their experiences from the field.

The United States remains very concerned about the struggle Venezuelan citizens face every day to meet their families’ basic needs.

Through its mismanagement and rampant corruption, the Maduro regime has created a catastrophic economic crisis that is forcing thousands to flee the country every day in search of food and medicine.

To date, the Maduro regime has rejected multiple offers of international assistance, and refused to publish basic health data, in a misguided effort to deny the scale of the humanitarian crisis it has created. In the meantime, the Venezuelan people are unable to afford basic food and medicine.

President Maduro should allow international food and medicine assistance to reach the neediest in Venezuela. We call on him to do so immediately.

We greatly appreciate the generosity and compassion of countries throughout the hemisphere who are hosting hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing the crisis in their country. These include Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Guyana, Suriname, Panama, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba and Curacao. We commend the humanitarian contributions made by all donors, and encourage additional contributions to meet growing humanitarian needs.

The United States has committed $21 million to provide food and healthcare assistance within Venezuela and aid neighboring countries to provide humanitarian support to the more than one million Venezuelans who have fled their country. And, we stand ready to do more.

Nonetheless, humanitarian assistance from the international community cannot on its own end the unnecessary suffering of the Venezuelan people. An enduring solution to this crisis will require a return to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; a return to the Venezuelan constitution; and, return to free and fair elections with credible international monitoring. With these points in mind, we again call on Venezuela to accept an on-site visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Lasting economic reforms are also critical to solving this crisis. Responsible management of the Venezuelan economy is required. Such policy improvements could begin without delay, simply by the regime relaxing currency controls, deregulating prices and easing private-sector import restrictions to allow for the food and medicines and other commodities to come in at the scale the Venezuelan people need, while facilitating broader economic development.

The Maduro regime claims U.S. sanctions are to blame for the country’s economic collapse. This is fiction. U.S. sanctions are directed at the behavior of members of the regime, not the people of Venezuela, and specifically allow trade and humanitarian delivery of food and medicine. Indeed, it is the regime that has politicized basic human necessities, by brazenly and cynically using CLAP bags, the “Carnet de la Patria” and the distribution of medicines as mechanisms for social and political control.

Mr. Chair and fellow delegates, I would add that the fact that humanitarian organizations and NGOs need to watch what they say in public simply underscores how the Maduro regime is committed to using food and humanitarian assistance as tools for political control and social coercion. Such regime behavior is unacceptable, the height of cynicism, and should be condemned by all people of good will – regardless of political persuasion or beliefs.

U.S. measures address the theft of Venezuela’s wealth by corrupt individuals in the Maduro regime, and aim to encourage the regime to restore democracy. Sanctions need not be permanent. The United States stands prepared to amend our sanctions posture in response to positive, significant, and sustained behavior changes by the government.

The United States will continue to stand with the international community and partners in the hemisphere in support of the Venezuelan people and their right to have a voice in their government through free and fair elections.

Let the suffering we have heard about today end. Thank you Mr. Chair.