OAS Permanent Council Holds Special Meeting on Venezuela Migration Crisis

Alexis Ludwig, Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative, addresses the OAS special meeting on the Venezuela migration crisis, September 5, 2018. (OAS Photo)

Remarks by Alexis Ludwig

Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative

September 5, 2018

Thank you Madam Chair, and distinguished presenters. The United States is pleased that the Secretary General, with the support of the Colombian government, has requested the convocation of this important session of the Permanent Council.

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

We extend our gratitude to the Colombian government for its active efforts within the Lima Group and the OAS. We also commend Colombia’s recent announcement to regularize the status of nearly half a million Venezuelans in Colombia.

Madam Chair, it is important to emphasize that the situation in Venezuela is not a natural disaster – but entirely manmade and therefore preventable and avoidable. Through its flagrant mismanagement and rampant corruption, the Maduro regime has created a catastrophic economic and political crisis that is forcing thousands to flee the country every day in search of food and medicine.

Moreover, there is no prospect for any lasting solution to the crisis that doesn’t address its root manmade cause. Absent a lasting solution, the problem we are gathered here to address is likely to grow worse.
To date, the Maduro regime has rejected multiple offers of international assistance, and refused to publish basic health data, in a perverse effort to deny the scale of the humanitarian crisis it has created. In the meantime, the Venezuelan people are unable to afford, and in many cases even locate, supplies of basic food and medicine.

The spiraling effects of Venezuela’s political and economic crisis have dire humanitarian consequences. As prices rise and wages fall, parents are coming home with empty pockets and children are going to school with empty stomachs; crumbling infrastructure has disrupted water and sanitation services; and a collapsing health system has led to rising malnutrition and increases in once-rare diseases, creating serious public health concerns in Venezuela and beyond its borders in the region.

Madam Chair, President Maduro should unconditionally allow international food and medicine assistance to reach the neediest in Venezuela. We call on him yet again to do so immediately.

We appreciate the generosity and compassion of countries throughout the hemisphere who are hosting hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing the crisis in their country. In addition to Colombia, these include Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Guyana, Suriname, Panama, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba and Curaçao.

We also commend the humanitarian contributions made by all donors and encourage additional contributions to the appeals of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other international organizations working in the region to meet growing needs.

For our part, the United States is increasing our assistance to reach Venezuelans in Colombia and other neighboring countries who are unable to live in their country due to the ongoing crisis created by the Maduro regime. Our assistance is provided in partnership with national, departmental, and local efforts.

The United States is providing more than $46 million in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable Venezuelans who have fled their country and for the neighboring communities that are hosting them.

The State Department’s Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration (PRM) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) work closely with UNHCR, IOM, World Food Program, and other international organizations to ensure there is a coordinated international response. In FY 2017 and to date in FY 2018, the U.S. government has provided over $46 million in humanitarian funding for the Venezuela response.

We will continue to work with partners in the region to address the growing needs of communities affected by this crisis, and are evaluating additional assistance.

But to reiterate the self-evident, 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 long-term economic reforms; to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; to the Venezuelan constitution; and, to free and fair elections with credible international monitoring.

To this end, we again urgently call on Venezuela to accept an on-site visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Madam Chair – lasting economic reforms remain critical to solving this crisis. Responsible management of the Venezuelan economy is required. Such policy improvements could begin now, simply by the regime relaxing currency controls, deregulating prices, and easing private-sector import restrictions to allow for the food, medicines, and other commodities to come in at the scale the Venezuelan people need, while facilitating broader economic development.

Simply put, Maduro and his regime have devastated Venezuela’s democracy and economy – and they alone bear the responsibility for the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

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. To this end, the United States stands prepared to amend our sanctions posture in response to positive, significant, and sustained behavior changes by the government.

In closing Madam Chair, the United States will continue to work with the international community and partners in the hemisphere in support of the Venezuelan people and their desire to live in a democratic society.

Thank you Madam Chair.