Skip to main content

tv   Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing on Venezuela  CSPAN  March 7, 2019 10:03am-12:37pm EST

10:03 am
. good morning i'd like to welcome everyone to this hearing on the foreign releases subcommittee on the western hemisphere, transnational crimes. human rights and women's issues.
10:04 am
we have a huge portfolio in the subcommittee. but the hearing is about the united states and venezuela and the path to democratics transition and obviously it's timely and urgent. and we have two panels today. the first panel we hear from two witnesses from the executive brafrm. the honorable mark green, the administrator at u.s. aid and the honorable elliott abrams our u.s. special representative for venezuela. thank you for being here. i know our members are interested in the topic. we have a second panel of non-government experts. mr. eric farnsworth and dr. kringt arnson of the direct of the lantden america programs. eric was with us last year around this time speaking about the summit of the americas. thank him for joining us again. and and so forth. and before i go to the opening remarks the chairman of the full committee is with us. senator risch and his leadership on the committee is off to a great start. i wanted to recognize him for some remarks at the outset.
10:05 am
>> well, thank you very much, chairman rubio for holding in subcommittee hearing. it's one of what i hope will be many in consultation with yourself as you know and with the other subcommittee chairman. we are encouraging having these kind of hearings that are able to drill down better than the whole committee can on specific issues regarding specific regions. my hope is -- and i know i share this with you that this hearing are will underscore our support for the venezuelan people and for the legitimate president of venezuela, juan guaido. i think our friends in the media would be very helpful as we try to transition towards much more stability there to refer to mr. maduro as the ex-president of venezuela and not as the president. there is only one president of
10:06 am
venezuela right now. excuse me. there is only one president of venezuela right now. and that is juan guaido. the venezuelan people are to be commended for using the rule of law to transition, as civilized people do, section 233 of the constitution provided for a way to make a change. they have done so. they have done so properly. they have done so under rule of law as civilized people do. and we in america want to recognize that and extend our appreciation for that and do all we can to help the venezuelan people accomplish what they set out to do under section 233 of the constitution. finally, let me say this is not a partisan issue. this is a bipartisan issue. i think everyone recognizes and we need to pursue it in that vain. again, thank you very much mr. chairman. and we'll -- i'm here to support
10:07 am
you in your efforts to do this. >> thank you for coming this morning. i want to begin my remarks by answering the question of widow why should we care. >> it's the most important question we must always answer any time the u.s. takes a foreign policy step. that is why should america care about what's happening and in particular why should america care about what's happening in venezuela and democracy and the support for the interim government of president juan guaido? the -- let me begin by saying the first reason is that the humanitarian political and economic crisis is not just a venezuelaen crisis. it's a regional crisis. since the year 20143.4 million -- by my estimates, venezuelan have fled venezuela. that is 10% of the nation's population. that is has left the country. as a point of reference it would be the equivalent if we said so% of the u.s. population left over five years it would be the equivalent of every person living in florida, maryland and massachusetts. leaching the country over a
10:08 am
5-year period. beyond that, over 80% of them have migrated into the region into latin america. about half in columbia. in one country. today columbia in particular but also peru and other are bearing the bankrupt. >> the united nations projectsed that if all things continue on the current path this year alone -- i mean the current path before the events of january they estimated this year alone another 2 million venezuelans will leave the country. and i'm here to tell you that if another 2 million people leave on top of the 3.5 or 3.4 that already left and 80% stay in latin america, it will deteriorate and potentially collapse the public services of columbia and severely impact the same in peru and ecuador and other nations. in has the potential to be a regional catastrophe of epic proportions.
10:09 am
already at that level. that's reason alone to care about it because the united states will be directly impacted by that, in particular because of our close partnership with columbia. the bottom line is if moldenhauer of remains in power and things don't get better it threatens to the tryingary cataclysmic crisis. our crossest ally our improving recommendation with ecuado aren't important replace with peru. the second reason to care the plaurd o crime family and regime actively not secretly, not covertly, actively participates in the trafficking of cocaine. planes filled with cocaine operate out of venezuelan airfields under the auspices and protection of the venezuelan military. and they deliver cocaine to airstrips in central america. that cocaine is then handed over to drug networks. drug networks that along the way destabilize el salvadoran and honduras and guatemala. hpt exacerbating the migratory patterns on the southern border
10:10 am
and the united statesed ends in the united states in our streets. and in the hands of americans. all under the auspices of the moldenhauer of regime who charges a fee for this the service of escorting drug shipments out of venezuela. by the way, if you don't pay them the fee they shoot down the play plane. if you pay the fee they get representative rich and you get to traffic kroik opinion. and we see the flights and they're protected. the 13 reason we care is moldenhauer of regime provides safe harbor to the lechlt n that kills 20 police cadets in a bombing innia. and provide safe herebier to other terror groups. these groups operate openly. openly in camps within venezuelan territory, not hidden camps, not covert clandestine camps, open camps you can see from commercial satellite minimalry and stanl attacks from columbia and they too traffic in drugs destined for the united
10:11 am
states and do it with the support and cooperation and the protection of the maduro regime who by the way also gets a cut of those proceeds. the fourth reason we should care is that the regime is openly and repeatedly invited russia and vladimir putin to conduct military operations in our hemisphere from their territory. they have offered them openly air and naval base free and charge for the russians to operate from. two nuclear capable russian bombers flew a mission into the caribbean sea from an air base in vens la opinion. and the maduro has close ties to iran. as we speak maduro is working to offer is the iranians tons of gold stolen from the gold reserves of venezuela in exchange for iranian projects and services and there are no projects or services offered by the iranian regime that are good for the united states. and sixth, as if we needed more
10:12 am
reasons to care and see in the thirst for harped currency the maduro regime is err represent trabl mining for gold to sell in global markets and in a way creating an irreversible ecological and environmental disaster in sensitive areas of venezuela. and future venezuelan and frankly the region will pay a prays for this extraordinary economic catastrophe that is hat not received nearly enough attention. thy destabilizing partner in serk. driving violence in north america exacerbating illegal migration. pumping cocaine in the streets. providing putin a military foothold in our hem fear. providing gold to iran destroying the national -- the environment. it's a compelling reason to care about what's happening. the maurd o regime is a clear danger and threat to the national interests and i would argue national security of the united states. in sadly is not a new issue for
10:13 am
me. it's been in the news a lot lately but i've been working on it this topic with senator menendez since 2014, 2013. and we've been working closely speaking out about this since that time. the situation grows more dire by the day. it's hard to imagine. the venezuela was once the wealthiest country in south america. not 100 years ago not 50 years but within the lifetime of everyone in the room. now people of venezuela are the subject of daily blackouts, empty store shelves pch shortages of food and medicine and dehumanizing scramble to survive. and less anyone this is the product of sanctions that's a fraud and lie. this has been going on for years because they've stolen the money. they steal all of the money. none of the proceeds none of the money they make from any of this goes into the hands of anyone but a small group of cronies living a life of luxury around the world. their families do while the
10:14 am
people of venezuela suffer. the 3.4 million people that left venezuela over the last five years left well before any sanctions imposed over the last five weeks. and previously to that by the way all sanctions were imposed on individuals not on the government not on the economy. in the 2018 a study found that 90% of venezuela's estimated 31 million live in poverty and worse. venezuelan citizens involuntary lost on average 24 pounds in the previous year. which is a stunning statistic when all of the leaders are overweight. all the leaders of venezuela are overweight yet the people on average losing 24 pounds in a year. chronic infections, diseases are rampant and hospitals lack adequate supplies to care for patients. we have here posted i believe picture one shows a malnourished child in the hospital in caracas, venezuela. these are images we are used to seeing from other regions of the world not the western
10:15 am
hemisphere. this is the condition of children dying -- dying in venezuelan hospitals. the pan american health organization has indicated that outbreaks of diphtheria measles and malaria spread in the country. by which also has a regional impact. other areas of public health concerns include hiv, hiv aide patients denied medications. and are going to die if they don't receive delivery of the medications not to mention increase in maternal and infant toerlgtsly and limited care for life threatening king, perhaps the most compelling of those is those in need of dialysis. without objection i would like to introduce for the record on the paho response on the need to protect the venezuela and neighboring countries. these are important statistics to keep in mind. shortages in food and medicine total collapse of social services have created a humanitarian crisis as i mentioned earlier migration
10:16 am
flows that are destabilizing the entire region, including as i already mentioned venezuela's neighbors. i witnessed that firsthand in my visit to kaukta columbia. i would say this with a sense of urgency i can't overstate. venezuela because of graft and corruption and the unwillingness of the maduro regime to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered in the country by anyone frankly although they claim they are open to it they still deny a humanitarian crisis despite compelling evidence to the contrary over the next few weeks venezuela a going to enter a feared of suffering. no nation in our hemisphere has confronted that in modern history. as of today venezuela as abouts six, seven days left of fuel supplies. this this in the most oil rich country in the world. and this is because they destroyed the domestic production capacity. venezuela is a handful of days away from running out of basic staples, wheat and corn meal and cooking oil, because of complete
10:17 am
and utter mismanagement. i assure you none of the regime crony are going hungry. but millions of venezuelan will go hungry and exasser gaited in way we have not seen. i regret to report that the venezuelans are suffering the most dramatic shortage they faced, the implications of which we can't predict but none due to any of the actions taken by the united states up to this point. it is entirely the result of the fact that its leaders have stolen literally everything they can get their hands on and continue to do that to this moment. the regime in fact has used the suffering as a political weapon. 42% of the people in venezuela depend on a government food program any call c.l.a.p. first of all it's also the subject of corruption that food is imported. the cronies steal a percentage of it to resell on the private market for profit opinion and then the rest is distributed to those compliant or loyal to the regime if you go a maduro rally you get food. if you don't show up you don't
10:18 am
get your c.l.a.p. box if they vote for maduro you get shadow food if you don't the vote or photo vote for him you don't get food. it's a weapon. this is why he objects to the humanitarian aid because he doesn't want to lose the leverage he has over the people of venezuela by using food and medicine as a weapon. that's why the united states and our partners from around the world have provided and stationed food and medicine on the border to try to avoid in humanitarian catastrophe. not to politicize but to prevent the -- not just human suffering but additional mass migration that threatens to destabilize the region. because dplieing people is the food is one of the ways the government controls the population that's why two weeks ago we watched the maduro regime violently and brutally block food from entering the country. any regime who has threatened by food and medicine that tells you everything you need to know about them. they didn't block it by the way.
10:19 am
they burned it. set it on fire. you see in picture two a truck carrying aid burned on the bridge. set on fire by armed criminal gangs of the maduro regime. aid by the way that non-violent civilians begged them to allow in in picture here you see a woman kneeling in front of the national guard officials. begging them to permit the entrance of humanitarian aid. the regime's response was not just to use military force but nef armed par military gangs. armed these par military gangs that operate in the scooters they have armed them and done worse armed felons. released felons from jail and told them go out and kill people. and earn your freedom that way. i want at this with the indulgence of the committee with a brief 30 second video. it's a member of the maduro military i want you to read the caption what he says were the
10:20 am
orders as he crossed the border. [ . i declare myself loyal to juan guaido president and commander ner chief juan guaido. the government wants to massacre the people. the government wants to massacre the people. the orders are to kill the people, to release the collective o bes be armed gangs and release prisoners on the streets to attack the people. that's not me say going. that's not a u.s. politician saying it. that is a member of the national -- of the armed forces of venezuela saying it as he
10:21 am
crossed the border. the orders were to kill people. in fact at one point he says blom which means led. use lead, bullets against the people that's what it means. and they've grown more brad brazen. the a crewy detained by moldenhauer ho and cameras seized and not returned because any didn't like the questions he asked. any literally detained them took cameras and haven't released them. just yesterday another u.s. journalist cory weddell was arrested by the military intelligence services in an early morning raid and held for 12 hours and put on an airplane and sent back. an effort to intimidate the press. s in an the effort to send a matej to the press you report on things we don't like this is how we treat you. and in the month of january alone maduro detained 24 journalists including thes u.s. citizens detained for hours as i -- i want to include a document in the record with the number of jourmists detained they're from all over the world. and without objection i want to introduce that into the record.
10:22 am
the oas secretary general has said that this quote, the systematic attack against the civilian population in venezuela includes murders. and torture and it's evident in the eyes of international community we are in the presence of crimes against humanity. end quote. one of those civilians who has of today spent 212 days in jail is a 29-year-old member of the national assembly, the democratically elected national assembly. place basically the legislative body. a former venezuelan student leader. dragged out of his home by masked thugs for simply voicing opposition against the regime. his sister rafaela whom my office has been in touch with and also a student leader in her own right is with us today. i want to take this moment to recognize her i thank her for joining us today. she does it at personal risk but that's how important the cause it for mere and the people she represents. your presence your voice and support of not just your brother
10:23 am
but also for the hundreds if not thousands of political prisoners in venezuela is a testament to the suffering of the venezuelan people and the injustice committed by the maduro regime. moldenhauer of doesn't do any of this on his own. it's done with the help of three specific nefarious actors. the enslaved island nation of cuba's government which is infiltrated all of the security forces and the did he fact o control of the country. i'm not exaggerating this. anyone knowing anything about this will tell you cuban agents are all through every level of the government. russia which continues to provide twhem opportunity to evade advantages and support them international for ultimate and china. which goes around acting like they're the non-interference people but in fact are helping lead maduro effort to block the internet. among tactics used by the regime i've outlined the armed gangs known at collective os nef a presence in the amazon state wrp the traffic of gold mining has
10:24 am
devastated the environment and created unforeseen programs problems for the economy. picture number five up here is a picture of those armed gangs and how they use them in the streets. it was these gangs with elements of the military thatten who the 23rd of february carried out a massacre whose toll is not fully known np a massacre of members of venezuela's indigenous communities on the border with brazil. who were seeking to help get humanitarian aid into the country and that's our final picture a injured indian. gnat he was to the area indigenous community who has been the subject of a massacre. that history will write about pch and whose numbers we doept not fully know. unfortunately that massacre has been largely ignored in the mainstream media. as outlets as they opened fire and military and other irregular forces and opened fire on them and prevented the delivery of aid from the brazilian border. but fortunately the world is waking up to the true nature of
10:25 am
this crisis. 54 nations, not the united states, alone, 54 nations vast majorities majorities of the nation fs of hem fear including the leadership of the limba group which the united states isn't a member but involves the important regional partners we have have recognized juan guaido as the legitimate interim president of vaenz venezuela. last week the united states introduce add resolution at the you know security council supporting juan guaido and calling for free and fair elections supported by a majority of the members of the security counsel. you can of course guess who vetoed. china and russia. before i close i want to recognize and i want to hang the many, many venezuelans in the u.s. and abroad here with us today. i know there are mm traveled in from florida and other parts of the united states. i want to applaud your perseverance and your fight in this cause. and i would close with this message to those here in the room and watching elsewhere.
10:26 am
especially those in venezuela. your fight for freedom and restoration of democracy is our fight. and the free wormed has not and will not forget you. maduro ace regime believes he can wait us out. that's been his strategy all along. hold on wait it out the world will lose focus, stop paying attention move to other things and the opposition will fracture. we're not forgetting about it. we're not losing attention. we'll be on this as long as it takes and no matter how hard it is. it is in our national it interests. it does honor to our legacy as a nation that believes in the dignity and human rights of all people. and it is something that we have strongly committed to as i hope you will take away from the hearing today, there may be debates about tactics but there is no debate i believe no real disagreement among our parties here in the united states that the people of venezuela deserve far better than to be in the grips of a criminal organization as they are today. with that, i want to introduce the ranking member, senator
10:27 am
cardin. i know also the ranking member of the full committee is here and has been very engaged. i would open up to him for however you want to handle that afterwards. >> thank you, mr. chairman. first on behalf of the democratic members i want to congratulate you on your chairmanship of this subcommittee. i look forward to working with you. i very much appreciate that the very first hearing of our subcommittee is on venezuela. your comments, particularly the closing comments, i believe represent the consensus of both parties here on this committee. and that is that the maduro regime has no legislate macynd the venezuelan people deserve a democratic government that will protect their human rights. i think this is the -- the right hearing for us to start. and i look forward to working with you. i also appreciate the fact that you acknowledge senator menendez, our ranking member of the full committee. when he complete mo my opening
10:28 am
comments i would ask he be recognized for opening statement. senator menendez has been our leader in this hemisphere our leader now globally but leader on this hemisphere and certainly his statements in regards to venezuela echo and have been in leadership of many of the statements you have made in your opening statement. lastly let me thank the patience of our witnesses we're a bit more lengthy in opening comments. i hope the chairman will bes foll tolerant of the clock because i think the seriousness of the subject, the timeliness of this subject and the importance of us working with the trump administration to help the people of venezuela could not be more urgent. i very much appreciate the importance of this subject. the venezuelan people have suffered the consequences of this tragic, man-made humanitarian and human rights crisis for far too long. through the endures resilience
10:29 am
and perseverance they have an historic opportunity to restore democracy, prosperity and the rule of law to their country. mr. chairman, i wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the staggering corruption, mismanagement, authoritiarianism and criminality used by the maduro regime and his loyalists to oppress the people of venezuela. decades of slow erosion of democratic forms and human ritz with the seven irk motivations of a dirk tart precipitated this crisis. it's tragedy that the maduro regime would rather feed their own groed than allow millions of hungry venezuelan children and families to access the food and humanitarian aid they desperately need. as you pointed out, the loss of body weight of the average venezuelan is shocking. 24 pounds. according to the -- a is it in 2017 process it's the moldenhauer of diet.
10:30 am
while moldenhauer of inner circle enrich themselves with billions of dollars of ill gotten funds, the venezuelan people lack basic necessities will living in fear of being killed, robbed or kidnapped by criminal groups operating with impunity and even outright government approval as you pointed out in your opening statement. today caracas has the sad distinction of being the world's most dangerous city. under the dire circumstances .venezuelan are fleeing in record numbers, estimated 3 million fled over the past five years. resulting in a freejee crisis unprecedented in this hem fear. our latin american neighbors have given refuge to hls of fleeing venezuelans. and i applaud their efforts. it's been extremely challenging for the surrounding countries. i had a chance to talk to administrator green about in yesterday. it's incredible what the surrounding countries are doing in order to meet the needs. the i'm aware, mr. chairman that your home state of florida is also receiving fleeing
10:31 am
venezuelans. the crisis hits close to home for many of my constituents in maryland as well. this is truly a regional crisis affecting the entire hemisphere, as you pointed out for all the reasons both moral and practical, the crisis in venezuela commands our attention. i support the u.s. and oas and other donor efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. including those fleeing the country. as i talked with administrator green yesterday, we can get access in regards of those outside of venezuela. but within venezuela it's much more difficult. i similarly support the use of economic tools pick global magnitsky sanction foss target the worst 0e6ders. target provide accountability and prevent criminals in the regime from using the banking system to hide stolen assets. you know, they don't want to keep the assets in venezuela. they would like to be able to do that dploeblly. we can prevent that. i call on a partnerships to consider imposing their own
10:32 am
magnitsky like sanctions on the regime to amplify the impact. regime officials should not be loutd to hide proceeds of the corruptions overseas and send family members to live abroad in luxury while the country starves. as we are well aware, there are also clear steps that the maduro regime can take to get themselves delisted from sanctions. knows currently keeping in illegitimate government should know it's not fo late to do the right thing. our partners and allies in latin america and worldwide formed a powerful chor us calling for a peaceful return to democracy in venezuela. more than 50 countries joined us to in recognizing the legislate macy of the guaido government. i hope oerps continue to do so. the united states along with you are oh global partners can help the interim government resolve the crisis peacefully so that venezuelan people can finally
10:33 am
fully reclaim their country. i really do appreciate the witnesses that are here today. i really look forward, mr. abrams and administrators green we thank you for your long service to our country and continued service to our country. and, mr. chairman, with your permission i would like to yield to the ranking member of the full committee senator menendez. >> senator menendez. >> well, let me start off by commending senator rubio, chairman rubio and senator cardin for convening today's hearing. i think it's a critically important timely one that we are talking about, the western hemisphere. nothing rises in my mind higher at this moment than venezuelan a of course following that nicaragua as well. and by thanking administrator green and the special envoy abrams for being with us today, i think the one thing that should walk away from this hearing is that today democrats and republicans are united as one on behalf of the people of
10:34 am
venezuela. on recognizing interim president juan guaido as the legitimate interim president of venezuela and in our pursuit of democracy and human rights for the venezuelan people. venezuela is as a yos roads where a dictator clings to power amidst the ruins of a failed state and where democratic actors seek a peaceful transition and reconstruction of the country and society. the maduro regime has inflicted widespread suffering on the venezuelan people. i think the chairman made his opening remarks very extensive on this question. from a man made humanitarian crisis to an economy in free fall, to the violence perpetrated by security forces, collective os and the regime death squads. maduro is a criminal dictator who has destroyed a country. his election and inauguration are illegitimate. not because we say it. but the world says it. and his grip on power comes only from the oppression of his people.
10:35 am
the assets he has stolen from them and the military leaders he has paid for their loyalty. the fact that he has closely advised by cuba enrolled by russia and china only complicates the matters. there is a it democratic process by which memgs of the legitimately members of the national assembly exercised power under the constitution to designate juan gade p.o. as the interim president of venezuela. embracing this process to restore dpkz in venezuela it was critically important more than 50 countries recognize guaido as the interim president. this unprecedented coalition spans our hemisphere and the world from canada, columbia, argentina, ecuador braz. and france, spain, germany and japan to mention a few. i strongly support the administration administration's decision to ren guaido as well as efforts to expand sanctions against specific individuals and to work with regional partners
10:36 am
to deliver needed humanitarian aid. and i believe firmly in the full use of u.s. political and economic pressure to kret the conditions necessary for a negotiated solution that includes maduro depart yur and venezuela's peaceful return to dpkz. we must ask where do we go from here? as the guaido government works to restore democracy, the global community must not waver in support for the venezuelan people. in 2014 when i was kmarm of the foreign relations committee we passed the first set of sanctions and efforts to restore democracy to venezuela. last week i authored bipartisan legislation to extend temporary protected status to venezuelans in the united states. and in the coming weeks i plan to introduce comprehensive legislation aimed at pressuring the maduro regime further and helping the venezuelan people rebuild their country. my legislation will expand
10:37 am
humanitarian existence. my bill includes provisions to increase pressure on the regime. but it will also send a message, particularly to the military inside of venezuela. and to regime officials. if you want a future in venezuela and if you want a future free of u.s. sanctions that will follow you anywhere in the world, then you must recognize the legitimate interim president juan guaido. and you must not have blood on your hands. you must not have blood on your hands. however, for our economic and financials sanctions to be truly effective they must be matched by axes from allies. we must by example encourage our partners to make similar investments. during my travel to europe, for the munich security conference last month, i took every opportunity to raise venezuela with european leaders.
10:38 am
stressing the importance of coordinating our humanitarian and our sanctions efforts. and the interim president's push to organize new democratic elections. what i would caution is that the support that we have lent ungive kptically on venezuela does not include the use of force. these comments threaten the international skens us that has created an opening for positive change and a return to democracy. the despite our collective hopes the events of the last several weeks did not lead to the quick win that the administration seemed to expect. as we have learned throughout our history as a nation, confronting tyranny requires sustained commitment. it's increasingly clear the struggle for democracy and freedom in venezuela is going to take time, discipline and strategied based on the keen understanding of the complex situation on the ground. but maduro is not invincible. he is far from it.
10:39 am
since january 23rd more than 500 soldiers, several high ranking regime officials have deeffected including two generals and the former head of the intelligence service. moreover president guaido further exposed weakness by returning to venezuela on monday. doing so not by sneaking across the border but by landing at the caracas airport. we have a unique opportunity before us. so in closing, i know that i have heard that the administration has plan a, b, c and d. i look forward to hearing what those are at this hearing so we can understand how we can strategize together, coordinate together to achieve the ultimate goal. the freedom of the venezuelan people, the opportunity to restore democracy in venezuela. and to make it once again a nation among the family of hemispheric nations observing the rule of law democracy and the respect of people's rights. thank you, mr. kmarm.
10:40 am
>> thank you we begin with the witnesses mr. abrams. your micron. >> thank you, kmarm rubio and ranking member cardin and chairman risch, ranking member menendez. members of the committee thanks for the opportunity to testify here. we are witnesses in venezuela one of the worst humanitarian disasters ever in our hemisphere as you've said, the largest displacement of people in latin american people. well over 3 million venezuelans have fled to neighbor countries. this crisis as has been noted is all man made by a small veenl group acting without the slightest concern for the people of venezuela. the venezuelan people have the commitment of the united states government to work with them as they restore their democracy and rebuild the prosperity of their nation. first we keep building the pressure on nicolas moldenhauer ofr. we're putting an end to the use of perevesa as corruption.
10:41 am
we sbrt complemented cutting off vital sources of the crash are cash to the pockets of the gem. we apply full weight of individual sanctions on maduro supporters and revoking their own and family visa. working with the international community to freeze the regime's bank accounts across the globe. we are making it clear that it's never too late to change. we will provide off ramps to those who will support democratic change in venezuela and do what is right for the venezuelan people. we have at the same time answered interim president guaido's call for humanitarian help. i'm sure the administrative will have more to state. but the entire support of the united states is just short of $200 million. we have stocked warehouses full of food and basic medicines at the border and are seeking ways of bringing the supplies into venezuela and having them distributed to people in need. maduro and his cronies and some
10:42 am
of their cheer leaders abroad claim that the delivering of humanitarian assistance is a political show and a cover for military intervention and violation of venezuela's sovereignty. but let's be clear. only the maduro regime is using violence. only the regime is shooting at unarmed protesters and aid workers. only the regime has betrayed venezuela independent and sofrpt by submitting to cuban influence. in venezuela's military security and intelligence agencies as chairman rubio noted. only the regime uses food and medicine as a political tool for social control. their repeated mention of military intervention simply a employ designed to divide the broad unified international coalition of now 54 countries. supporting democracy in venezuela. it's becoming clearer that the great majority of the armed forces and the national guard do
10:43 am
not want to carry out the maduro regime's shameful orders. and the use of armed gangs suggests that maduro has reeled out about the loyalty of the venezuelan military. for those members of the armed forces still on the fence fearing retaliation by the maduro cuban accomplices. we ask them to show pride and patriotism. we believe they have a key role to play in rebuilding the homeland. interim president guaido and the political parties in venezuela's legitimate national assembly have allstated that the transition to a new post-moldenhauer of venezuela will be a multiparty inclusive process. it will include chavez followers and others who see a democratic future for venezuela led by the venezuelan people, not a dictator and a small, corrupt crew. we are grateful for the
10:44 am
leadership of our partners in supporting humanitarian assistance for the people of venezuela. and supporting their demand for democracy. we are witnessing a historic shift in this hemisphere toward solidarity and shared interests. and with 54 countries that have now recognized guaido as interim president, we can be proud that we have helped galvanize a global effort to restore democracy and liberty to venezuela. each day courageous vends laen patriots struggle to make venezuela free process. often at their own peril. and interim president guaido has inject add new energy into the collective hope of those who want to return to a venezuela that benefits all venezuelan citizens, not just moldenhauer p.o. and the inner sick willing. so, mr. chairman we stand united by the venezuelan people. like the vast majority of venezuelans we believe the time
10:45 am
to end maduro's wholesale destruction of venezuela is now. and when venezuelas succeed in ending the dictatorship and restoring liberty it will show des pots and dictators not only in our hem fear but the rest of the world that people's desire for freedom cannot be extinguished. thank you, mr. chairman. members of the committee. ranking member cardin. chairman risch. ranking member menendez for having me here today. i look forward to answering your questions. >> administrator green. >> chafrm richer and ranking member menendez, chairman rubio, ranking member cardin, members of the subcommittee thank you for this opportunity to discuss the ongoing crisis in venezuela and thanks to all of you on both sides of the aisle for your leadership on in very important topic. so one of our challenges this morning may be that we're running out of terms to adequately capture the level of
10:46 am
suffering that venezuelan families are facing each and every day. hyperinflation, by some estimates approaching 2 million%, rampant food shortages wrecking the achblt countless families to make ends meet. according to the venezuelan society of petitionedics and child care, 807% of children under five are in some stage of malnutrition. nearly 90% of hospitals are experiencing medicine shortages. and almost as many are without reliable power or water. infectious deceases previously eliminated or controlled are surging. a diphtheria outbreak that began in july 2016 has now escalated to nearly 1560 cases, including 270 deaths. all of this affects the larger region. of the roughly 17,000 measles cases recently diagnosed in the region, most have been traced to
10:47 am
outbreaks inside venezuela. well over 3 million venezuelan have fred to neighbors countries. as was stated this is the largest cross border exodus in the history of the americas. of course, the crisis is all the more outrageous because it is entirely man made and regime driven. from government takeover of a few sectors of the economy to rampant auto crassy. from restoring government checks and balances and civil rights to forcing doctors and other professionals to flee, the regime caused a once prospersous nation to essentially implode. as if all of this weren't enough, maduro saves some of his worst for his treatment of humanitarian assistance. for one thing he heartlessly continues to claim in the face of all of the suffering and sorrow that there is no crisis, that his government is already fully providing for the
10:48 am
venezuelan people. as recently as 2016 he claimed the country's health care system was among the best in the world. far worse, his regime often uses his country's plight to increase his hold on power. he has regularly manipulated social assistance programs to reward supporters enrich cronies and influence votes. credible reports show he skimmed millions from social welfare programs and there is evidence that he has used identification cards in ways that tied food assistance to votes and political support for the regime. needless to say, usaid does not view the maduro regime or the networks it controls as an appropriate means for delivering relief. however, the good news is that we actually see reyes of hope for both a real humanitarian partnership and a more democratic, prospersous future in venezuela. that good news is the emergence
10:49 am
of juan guaido as interim president. officially recognized by the u.s. and more than 50 other countries. i have recently spoken with interim president guaido and his representatives. both by phone and in person. they thanked us for the usaid support for democracy in venezuela. that should be particularly gratifying to all of you, because of the democracy assistance programs for venezuela that you have invested in over the last five years on a bipartisan basis. this assistance was supported local organizations working on human rights. civil society, independent media, electoral oversight and the democratically elected national assembly. guaido's team is also requested our assistance in the efforts to begin addressing some of the urgent needs of every day venezuelans. u sachlt id with support from the departments of defense and state and others has responded. first we are continuing to
10:50 am
provide support to the surrounding region in the form of urgently needed food, health care, protection and shelter to both venezuelans and host communities. over the last two years our assistance assistance has totaled more than $195 billion. second, now that we have a leader with whom we can partner, we have taken steps to preposition humanitarian assistance close to the border for eventual delivery into venezuela. since february 4th the u.s. government has pre-positioned more than 525 metric tons of needed humanitarian assistance, food aid, emergency medical items, hygiene kits, water treatment units and nutrition products. this very day, deputy administer glick is accompanying our latest shipment of humanitarian assistance, medical supplies, aimed at helping hospitals and clinics. the u.s. government is hardly
10:51 am
alone. a dozen plus countries have made concrete mention and five, including the u.s., have already taken steps to preposition assistance. in addition we know that private sector sources are attempting to respond to guaido's request. on february 23rd, interim president guaido and courageous venezuelan volunteers attempted to bring supplies from the international community, including some from usaid acos the border. unfortunately they were c confronted by security forces. it's clear the venezuelan people will not be deterd by maduro's brutality or cowardness and neither will the u.s. government. we will continue to support interim president guaido's efforts to deliver aid to his people and continue to support colombia and others who are hosting venezuelans who have fled. we recognize humanitarian
10:52 am
assistance, however badly it is needed, is treatment, not cure, and cannot address the root cause of the problem. so long as maduro and his cronies continue to crush the people, their economy and their hope, this crisis will worsen. they deserve a return to democracy, rule of law and citizen responsive governance. thank you, mr. chairman, thank you to ul of a you for your support, with that continued support, we will continue in our efforts to support the people of venezuela, the interim president, to restore democracy and prosperity. >> thank you. i'm not going to use the full opening time. i have three quick questions, mr. abrams. the first is, is it the policy of the united states to seek a peaceful solution in transition to democracy? >> yes, it is. >> you spent 100% of your time in search of a peaceful transition to democracy. >> that's correct. >> second, the maduro regime, let me ask you this, yesterday
10:53 am
ambassador boulton put out a statement in which he put foreign financial institutions on notice they will face sanctions for being involved in facilitating illegitimate transactions. what kind of sanctions are being contemplated? >> we have sanctioned a number of financial institutions already and going to expand the net. we have other institutions which i won't name because we don't want them to get advance node tis, but there will be more sanctions on financial institutions carrying out the orders of the maduro regime to steal funds from venezuela and hide it all around the world. >> my final question is, maduro's strategy is to wait us out and thinks if he can wait long enough we will get distracted and focus on something else, the opposition will fracture and hold on. it's the one way he has bought himself time. the other is five or four
10:54 am
instances these negotiations hes used to thel to buy time. is our commitment on this issue to be on it as long as it takes and no matter how hard it is? >> that's our commitment and i think it's both a bipartisan commitment and one that the congress and the administration share. >> thank you. senator? >> as we've all pointed out, there is strong bipartisan support for the administration's policies as it relates to the recognition of the interim president and the people of venezuela and illegitimacy of the maduro regime. this is happening in our hemisphere. 3 million people have left venezuela. mr. abrams, i take it that we are supporting the colombia decision to have an open border so those escaping the tragedy in venezuela are being welcomed in colombia? >> we are and trying to provide some financial support for
10:55 am
colombia to help defray the very large expenses that they are undertaking. >> i want to ask you a direct question, you know, we are judged not only by our words but also our actions. we know that there are venezuelans coming to our border. in previous times we've had open borders for those that are escaping persecution once they establish themselves as leaving an area where they're not safe, they can use asylum or we use temporary protective status. we've done both. in some cases we've had open policy, the cubans who came to america. what is the administration's policy in regards to those who are coming to our border? do you support their being welcomed here in the united states to seek asylum, and that they could be protected under tps status? >> we note that's a great concern of yours and senator rubio's who's introduced a bill
10:56 am
on this. mr. mendez. and we have this policy under review right now. i would say that there are 74,000 asylum applications right now from venezuela. >> what is there to review? you know, we all have pointed out the urgency of this situation. this is not a matter that can wait. i'm somewhat puzzled as to what there is to review? >> there are -- if one decides to move in that direction, there are a number of ways to do it. administratively, by tps. one of the things one has to decide is, what exactly are you going to do once you decide to protect venezuelans who are here? as i say, there are 74,000 here who applied for asylum, they are being protected, might say by the delays in that process, but they have come to the united states, and they're here asking us to allow them to stay here. >> i would just point out clarity here to me is extremely
10:57 am
important. we're asking the region, countries in the region to make extraordinary sacrifices in order to protect the life of people. our actions will be judged very much by what we do and when you say it's under consideration, that tells me that we are not acting in a timely way and that presents to me a challenge for us and our leadership in that region. >> well, thank you, senator. i will happily take this back to discuss with the secretary. as you know, it's not only a state department issue, it's a dhs issue as well, but we'll move forward on that. >> you mentioned sanctions against financial institutions and i strongly support what you're doing there. i want to get to individual sanctions use of global, mitt nis ski or others available, there needs to be a clear
10:58 am
message to those part of the maduro machinery, whether in the military or not in the military, are we aggressively using individual sanctions to make it clear that people that are in power under maduro have a choice? if they follow his leadership, will be sanctions and we will maintain those sanctions and seek international support for those sanctions but they have an opportunity to do what's right for the people of venezuela? >> we are. we've sanctioned dozens of regime officials and there will be more sanctions. there will be more. there are also visa revocations. i announced 49 last week. the vice president announced 77 more. regime people and their families we don't want in the united states. >> have we made it clear there's a path forward that if he do what's right for the people of venezuela, they will -- >> yes. every time we do this we note that these visa revocations and
10:59 am
sanctions are all reversible. >> and administrator green, i want to underscore a point we talked about yesterday. yes, we need to provide humanitarian aid to the 3 million and we are doing that and i appreciate that working with our partners globally. we need do everything we can to get humanitarian assistance in venezuela which is extremely challenging and we need to do that. we have to recognize the regional impact in colombia which has over a million and there's a need there, but also, as it affects our plans for colombia, are now impacted, can colombia continue its peace process and integration of its communities and economic progress with the impact of the colombians who have come to their country? is that on your radar screen? >> thank you for the question. it absolutely is. you're right, the costs to the other countries in the region is not only the immediate humanitarian costs of
11:00 am
assistance, but it affects their economic growth, it affects a number of things, so yes, we are working with countries in the region, specifically and perhaps most of all with colombia to help them with a number of the other challenges they're taking on. >> i would ask that particularly this budget cycle we be engaged on this because it's going to be a challenge for colombia to meet its goals in regards to their peace commitment, so we would welcome working with you as the tools you need to help make that a realty. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. i want to recognize what we've been joined by ambassador vecco of venezuela, recently appointed by interim president guaido and confirmed by the national assembly. thank you for joining us. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman, ambassador green, we all strongly condemn the maduro regime's violent attacks and murders of civilians seeking humanitarian aid in venezuela while the people of venezuela
11:01 am
are enduring a serious humanitarian crisis. maduro is happy it seems to let the people of venezuela suffer. he is denying food, medical care, to his own people who are desperately in need of assistance. we know that stockpiles of life-saving assistance including food and medicine and hygiene kits are piling up at the border of colombia and brazil. the chairman has been down to help in those efforts. we strongly urge maduro to let humanitarian aid into venezuela. could you talk a little bit about how much, if any, humanitarian assistance is reaching the venezuelan people. >> well, first off, of course, much assistance is reaching those who have fled as we know into the neighboring countries and in terms of those who have remained behind in venezuela, we know that there are private sources throughout or individuals are providing assistance and taking it across.
11:02 am
in terms of the assistance we're referring to prepositioned in the recent weeks, tragically, on february 23rd, we saw those events and in the violent confrontation, and two trucks were set on fire. we recently in the last few days did a complete inventory. the losses were relatively minor. that assistance is being repositioned. it really is up to the leadership of interim president guaido. this assistance was prepositioned at his specific request from guaido to president trump, secretary pompeo, and all of us, and so we are working with him and follow his lead. >> senator cardin used the word urgency and we all have a sense of urgency. if a political transition doesn't occur quickly, and maduro continues to prevent humanitarian assistance to his own people, could you talk about
11:03 am
the likely impact on this humanitarian situation in venezuela? >> i saw a statistic the other day that suggested that in the time that maduro has been in power, the economy of venezuela's contracted by 50% and the estimation is if things don't change it will contract another third this year. we will see a profound collapse. it's not even just the availability of food and staples. when you have inflation hitting by some system 2 million percent, nobody has the ability to buy anything anyway. there will be profound despair and hopelessness. but i will say this, my money continues to be on the venezuelan people. i believe maduro's days are numbered. i don't know what that number is. but when i was down there just last week, the remarkable energy
11:04 am
and courage of the venezuelan people tells me that this will eventually end the right way. >> and mr. abrams, i see you shaking your head yes about the length of the ability of the maduro regime to stay in place. the world saw the assad regime remain in power by being propped up by outside countries such as the military and financial backing from russia and iran. you know, these countries are willing to support a ruthless dictator, willing to murder his own people and destroy his own country. as you look at maduro regime, the frantic attempts going on right now to remain in power, what countries do you see attempting to help keep him in power against the people? >> the two critical supports, as senator rubio said, are russia and cuba. there are thousands of cuban military and intel people all around maduro. they permeate the regime. russia has supplied tens of billions of dollars.
11:05 am
as soon as we did the sanctions, they -- maduro turned to russia, to purchase more oil, to sell what they need to be able to continue exporting oil, so those are the two countries that are really propping up the regime most. >> and in the final question, because ambassador green talked about the economy, contradicted by 50% and another 50% coming into the -- in terms of the future, mr. abrams, what economic reforms need to occur into the next administration in order to reverse the destruction of the maduro regime? what can people do once he is gone? >> there are a number of plans. there is a thing called a plan that the national assembly has. our own embassy has worked on a plan. there are -- and there will be, i should say, unquestionably world bank and imf plans that will involve billions of dollars in funds to reconstruction the
11:06 am
economy of venezuela. this is not fundamentally a bankrupt country. it's a country with this incredible resource of petroleum, the greatest in the world. you will find that with a change of leadership and a change of economic policy, that there will be lots of people ready to invest and i think the world bank, the imf in particular, will be ready to help start that engine. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. chairman, may i add a comment on to my friend's response? i think the other aspect of this that makes venezuela different than some of the other challenges that we take on, the venezuelan, talented, educated, absolutely devoted to venezuela, when they return home and i believe that they will, they will provide a surge of energy into that economy that will
11:07 am
greatly mobilize the rebuilding. this is a wonderful -- there is a generation of leaders who are just waiting for the day, i think as we partner with them, we'll see great results. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me thank my colleagues for the subcommittee for allowing me to go first. just one remark. it is rare that the chairman and ranking member of the full committee and attendance on both sides of the aisle that exists as this hearing takes place, i've been around and seen many hearings, sometimes it's sparse when it relates to latin america, it speaks volumes about the interest on a bipartisan basis of congress on this particular issue. and i want to pick up a moment from where administrator green said. the venezuelan -- is fantastic, incredible. all the more reason to give them tps so they're focused on not the concern they may be deported
11:08 am
to a country where maduro is there where their lives are risked but focus on how they build a future for venezuela and i think that speaks for another policy reason why temporary protective status is eminently a good policy. mr. abrams, i understand from media reports that you have had at least two rounds of secret talks with maduro's foreign minister. i'm not going to ask you about the substance in this setting. can you confirm these talks took place? >> yes. they were supposed to be confidential, but -- >> as so many other things in washington are supposed to be. >> yes. >> are you and other administration officials discussing maduro's future with the cuban regime? >> no. have you personally or other members of the administration spoken to the russian government? >> i have met with the russian ambassador. >> how about the chinese
11:09 am
government? >> not yet. >> okay. i think we need to be sending a very clear message, whatever investments you made in maduro you're not going to get them back under a failed state at the end of the day. your own interests at the end of the day is allowing a democratic process to take place that can restore venezuela to its full vitality, economically and otherwise. i hope we are pushing that message even with those working against us and president guaido. >> we are. >> can i get a commitment to come back some time next week or soon to provide a classified briefing for the committee on this set of subjects? >> absolutely. >> secondly, i would like to see the administration expand its efforts to coordinate sanctions, an issue addressed in my pending legislation. canada has designated dozens of officials for targeted sanctions. europe has done some targeted designations and banned arms sales to the maduro regime and some initial efforts under way in latin america we need to help
11:10 am
our allies in how to enforce sanctions, but for our sanctions to have the greatest impact as someone who has been the architect of many sanctions, other countries need to match our efforts and in this case with venezuela debt, gold, cryptocurrency and oil. what concrete steps are we taking to ensure our partners match our sanctions? >> this is really a diplomatic effort and we have been in touch with all 24 of the countries in the eu that recognize guaido and countries in latin america that do as well, to try to get them, frankly, to do more sanctions and to do more visa revocations. in many cases they haven't done any. there are a number of officials in the maduro regime that sent their families abroad. we've talked to those countries why allow your country to be a playground for regime officials and their families? we are working on that. >> i hope we will focus on those categories i mentioned because
11:11 am
we just had a group of european parliamentarians here they asked me about venezuela. they were in concert with their countries in supporting president guaido. and i urge them that they should engage in the sanctions effort if they want to internationalize an effort to try to create a peaceful transition in venezuela. now, maduro and his cornies have stolen be billions of dollars from the venezuelan people. what steps is the administration doing to return stolen assets to the venezuelan people? separate from what we're doing with oil revenues should the u.s. or other international stakeholders contemplate setting up a fund to hold assets stolen from the venezuelan people? >> i think that's a very good idea. the first step is to freeze it. that is, it won't be there if maduro can get his hands on it. we've taken a lot of steps with governments, i mean we all know about the bank of england, freezing the gold, we have approached a lot of other governments.
11:12 am
we approached several more yesterday mentioning to those governments, named banks, and asking them to make sure that venezuelan people's assets are frozen so that they can't be stole bin the regime. >> something i intend to do, i would love to see and work with the administration to work on coordinating that. finally administrator green, i understand we've provided approximately $195 million in aid to venezuela and hosting countries. given u.s. sanctions are denying the maduro regime 15 to $25 million in export revenues per day, it's safe to say that u.s. and international community needs to do more. i am contemplating in my legislation 400 to $500 million of humanitarian aid. do you think that is a reasonable figure? >> i think it's a start to be honest. in terms of what the humanitarian needs are as you know, venezuela in some ways is
11:13 am
a black box. we have been working with others to begin to analyze and take a look at what that is. also taking a look at what the down payments are on things such as electoral support for free, fair, credible elections. this is something we know from the number of nations that recognized guaido needs to be a multinational effort. >> since that's the case to us why with very not convened a donors conference to bring about the preparations for what is necessary to deal with the humanitarian disaster and then eventually the reconstruction? is secondly, why don't we, you know, purchase goods from colombia, for example, it's a two-way street. we will help the venezuelans, we will also strengthen colombia and help them as they are helping venezuela and us in this effort. isn't that something that we should be pursuing?
11:14 am
>> in the early days after my colleague was named, there was an informal donors conference. i agree with you, i think it's a good idea to have a broader, more formal donor conference. i think that's a great way not only of pulling together resources, but making very clear that world stands behind the future of venezuela, a democratic future, and in terms of purchasing local, we are doing some of that and i want to keep doing more of that. i agree with you in the way that you're characterizing it, first off, it is an effective and efficient way for us to get assistance, more close to the target but it does provide economic support and stimulus for those communities near the venezuelan border and that, of course, is a good thing as well. >> could i just add, senator, there was on february 14th a conference at the oas in which a number of particularly european countries announced pledges.
11:15 am
we've taken step one, but as administrator green says, we need to do a more formal effort. >> thank you, mr. chairman, thank you mr. abrams, ambassador green for your service. i commend you for the work that you are doing on this important and humanitarian and leadership example. the illegitimate maduro regime has shown a depraved indifference to the human life and human condition to the people of venezuela and the venezuelan nation. interim president guaido and the opportunities ahead for a future in venezuela that maduro has deprived and taken from the people. so there's obviously more that congress can do. obviously more that congress must do and congress will do more. but the full faith, power and might of the united states behind the people of venezuela, in this effort, i think is
11:16 am
incredible. 54 nations around the globe gathered together in this effort. we need more nations to do more and to step up. the donors that senator menendez, donor nations, senator menendez talked about, sanctions, efforts to strongly condemn and expel to take and deprive this regime of the funds it's using to continue its atrocities against its own people. what more can we do as a congress to encourage other nations to join this coalition? >> maybe this is undiplomatic, there are a number of nations in in the caribbean and others that have not recognized juan guaido. if you and this committee talked to the ambassadors of those nations, it doesn't happen every day, and i think that your conversations and pressures would get tell graphed back to those capitals and could make a
11:17 am
difference. >> ambassador? >> quite frankly this hearing and i think having more hearings like this and congressional visits down to some of the nations that as mr. abrams pointed to, are perhaps on the fence and need to do more. i think the show of clear bipartisan support is essential. to make it very clear, this is not about one u.s. administration, but this is the position of the american people. over and over again everywhere you can. >> i hope as people are listening to this hearing and read the tripses they know there is no sideline to sit on or stand on and this is a call for action, a call for help, a call for recognition for the people of venezuela. and the legitimate regime that will come and the interim president guaido. the -- you mentioned, mr. abrams, russia and cuba. could you talk about china and
11:18 am
their role, their interests, what they are doing right now in venezuela? >> china has lent a lot of money to the maduro regime. in the united nations we did see them twice join the russians in vetoes. i had hoped that they might move to abstaining but they haven't. we made the argument as senator mendez said, they're not going to get their money back from a bankrupt venezuela. their eonly going to get it back from a venezuela that's prosperous. they have differentiated themselves from the russians, i say rhetorically, in that russians are using really cold war rhetoric, about american imperialism and colonialism, the chinese seem to view this more as a commercial proposition. they want their money back. so we continue to push them to make what seems to us the only logical leap here, that then you should be in favor of steps that
11:19 am
will bring venezuela back to prosperity. >> thank you. ambassador green, anything you want to add to that? >> well, i certainly agree with everything that my colleague has said. again, i think what's -- what we need to do over and over again is make clear what our purpose is. our purpose is to restore democracy. it is to give the people of venezuela the chance to kooz their own future and that's what we seek to do and, of course, that's a very different model and very different approach from china, russia, cuba, and others. >> thank you. mr. abrams, you mentioned that the talks were supposed to be in confidence or at least not be discussed but i'm reminded of a saying i've heard washington is the only place where sound travels faster than light. thank you for your time in this hearing this morning. >> senator. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and the ranking member for these
11:20 am
hearings, and thank you to the witnesses for being here. there is no doubt that the maduro regime has caused widespread myste widespread misery and suffering in venezuela and his followers are leading the country down the path to more violence and repression of the venezuelan people. the united states should work with its partners in the regime to restore democratic order and to reduce the threat of increased violence in venezuela and throughout the regime. however i'm mindful of the long history of u.s. intervention in the regime and that history is part of the historical memory of latin america as well. u.s. sanctions have given maduro and chavez before him an easy scapegoat for their own failures. they blame their people's sufferings on, quote, yankees. now the president of the united states, some members of congress
11:21 am
and others are issuing veiled threats of u.s. military intervention and regime change by force. shannon o'neill, a council on foreign relations expert and a friend and witness before this committee wrote about this regarding the prospect of military intervention. she says, venezuela isn't grenada or panama. the two latin america countries invaded by the u.s. during the closing days of the cold war. instead it is twice the size of iraq with only a slightly smaller population and teeters on the verge of chaos. any invasion requires preparations on a similar scale, meaning a hundred thousand plus force. u.s. troops are unlikely to be welcomed. a february poll shows a majority of venezuelans, including a player reality of those in venezuela's opposition, oppose an invasion. a u.s. military presence would
11:22 am
play into and would at least in part validate maduro's loudly proclaimed imperialist conspiracies, and i believe on the second panel one of our witnesses, cynthia aaronson, has come to a similar conclusion in terms of military intervention. do either of you believe that a military solution led by the united states is a solution to this crisis? >> it is certainly not desirable and not the path the administration is taking. >> yeah. >> the best way i can answer that is to say i have been part of absolutely no conversations whatsoever that have talked about military intervention. >> do you agree that any military intervention would need to be approved by this congress? >> now we're getting into a war power's act question and hypotheticals about what might lead to a military intervention and i -- i think i should probably not do that. certainly not in an open
11:23 am
hearing. >> well with, mr. abrams, the simple principle that i think people that study our constitution understand that the congress, the congress is the one to declare war and that's basically what i'm asking you about. do you understand that? i understand the president's article 2 authority, but in terms of us being threatened or having an imminent threat, but that's what i'm asking you about. do you agree if we were going to go in there in an intervention and declare war it's the congress that has to do that? >> i remember president clinton's intervention into say kosovo and there was a big debate about the war powers act and i'm not prepared really to get into that debate. >> i'm not debating the war powers act. i'm talking about the constitutional authority of the congress to be the one that declares war, determines interventions? >> you have the constitutional authority to declare war, the president's authority as commander in chief and that
11:24 am
would be a great subject for a hearing. >> yeah. okay. good. well, i -- the chairman was here earlier and i'm sure the subcommittee will pass that on and i'll try to do the same. do you think that a civil war would make life better for the venezuelan people? either one of you? >> no. >> clearly not. >> mark? >> no. >> is the state department working with treasury to help mitigate the impact of sanctions on the venezuelan people as far as you know? and in light of how the maduro government has weaponized the propaganda, the yankee imperialism, what is your plan to counter those charges against the american government and the lima group who we are supporting? >> we are working with treasury. i would say we're especially working with usaid on the question of trying to make sure that the sanctions affect the regime, but not the venezuelan
11:25 am
people. as to the broader question, i'm struck by the unity that there really is, the history that you've mentioned has not prevented most of the democracies of latin america and europe joining canada and the united states in kind of hemispheric and western unities reflected in bipartisan unity here, so the regime's arguments about, you know, gringoes and yankee imperialism are at this point in 2019 really falling without much impact. >> the -- i would just like to quote because i may not be here for the -- this keeping the military option on the table and all of that kind of thing and keeping them off balance. our next witness in the next panel says, but this threat has eroded the consensus between the united states hemispheric democracies and the countries of europe over how to approach the venezuelan crisis and that's why i'm asking these questions, to
11:26 am
try to -- most aggressive in using force and many of the administration officials that appear before us in a variety of contexts and different committees have a totally different line. it's a little bit of a very difficult situation for us to kind of come to grips with this. we can't call him down here in front of committee, but we can get you down here. there's a stark difference that's there. thank you, mr. chairman, i appreciate the courtesies of running over a little bit. >> has any of our international partners told us that they don't want to work with us until the president stops saying all options are on the table? >> no, none have. >> and are there any armed elements of the opposition?
11:27 am
is there an armed opposition group? there's no -- >> there is not. the opposition under -- not really opposition. let's say the legitimate leadership under president guaido wants exclusively peaceful change. >> senator shaheen. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i just thank you both first of all for being here today and for what you're doing in this very difficult situation. i just want to follow up on senator udall's question just to be very clear, because i didn't hear either of you answer it in this way. are either of you aware of any plans within with the administration for any military action in venezuela? mr. abrams? >> no, not in the sense you mean it. there are always contingency plans, how much to get into this in an open hearing, but for every u.s. embassy around the world there are always such
11:28 am
plans, but we are not pursuing that path. >> mr. green? >> i am not. >> the discussion this morning has been very eloquent about the terrible tragedy happening in venezuela and the humanitarian disaster there. but the status of women has not been mentioned and i think it's important to do that because there are more reports coming out about the violence that women are facing in venezuela that women are facing as they cross the border into colombia, the international refugee committee reported that increasing numbers of women and children are fleeing and that as they're fleeing they're facing a unique set of risks around sexual assault, kidnapping, harassment, that many women have turned to sex work to support their families. i wonder, mr. green f you could
11:29 am
talk about how u.s. assistance has been directed towards women and children specifically being affected? >> thank you for the question and i will say in my most recent trip down, and the centers that i visited, it was a disproportionately number of large mothers who were there and very clear and they felt special pain, not only pain for what they're going through, but going through for their families. it really was heartbreaking to be honest. in terms of specifics and targeted assistance in that way, part of it is the hygiene supplies that we prepositioned and supply, but secondly, you're pointing to something that's very important that i don't think well covered and that is these poor people as they flee tyranny and hunger and so on and so forth, they're very easily exploited.
11:30 am
we are working in those communities along the border and in other places where we know venezuelans are fleeing to, to try to reinforce and provide some level of protection and counseling and places for them to go. it's just one more dark, gloomy part of this terrible crisis. >> if i could add, i have the tip report with me. venezuela is a tier 3 country and does not reach minimum standards and the report itself says, venezuela is a source and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. it's a real problem. >> thank you. it's just awful, and reflects, again, the fact that in conflict areas that its women and children who usually bear the
11:31 am
brunt of that conflict and this is another for that. i think another reason why it's so important that legislation like the women, peace and security act that asks that women be at the table when we are negotiating conflicts are so important because we know that that means that -- whatever is negotiated lasts longer and it also means that there is a less lower likelihood that women then will continue to be placed in positions where they're the victims of so many of the issues, sex trafficking and sexual assault and all of those concerns. thank you very much for what you're doing. >> senator kaine. >> thank you, mr. chair, and to the witnesses for very helpful testimony. i want to just acknowledge and applaud the release of a virginia journalist cody weddle, from virginia tech alumni, who
11:32 am
has been in venezuela reporting independently there for a number of years, was arrested and interrogated and released overnight. that's good news. i want to follow up on comments of by colleagues on this side of the aisle about military threat and lived in latin america, this notion of blaming problems on uncle sam, on -- is very, very serious, and the president's comments about military threat i think are a horrible idea. i actually think general strategy sanctions, the work that you've done to cobble together the global coalition is very, very good. i think it really creates problems, though, if the message gets mixed with a potential military threat. i have the same concerns senator udall raised about who it is that initiates war. it's congress not the president unless there's an imminent threat on the united states i believe. more that loose talk about military action actually cements and imboldens dictators. they want to blame their
11:33 am
problems on uncle sam, on america and the west. they would love to blame it on somebody else. as they're running an economy into the ground, whether putin and russia or maduro and venezuela, they would love to blame their failings on others. any loose talk about military action brings up this whole history of u.s. military intervention. it gives maduro the ability to claim that u.s. is interested in petroleum or whatever else and i think it's just really important that we stress what our interest is. the only interest we have is peace, liberty and democracy for the venezuelan people. that's it. [ speaking foreign language ] not military, not oil. there's nothing we want for ourselves. we only want peace, liberty for the venezuelan people. we need to stress that clearly.
11:34 am
i want to ask you about you referenced briefly, i would like to dig into this, you gave us maybe a good suggestion. i'm troubled by the number of caribbean fashions that have not been supportive of this global coalition and i read that as a challenge largely kind of petroleum politics that venezuela has used petroleum reserves to purchase their loyalty. you can understand that. i think dialog is important. and there's an awful lot we can offer too to convince some of those nations to join the global coalition in support of the interim government and constitutionally d constitutionally dix dated government. dialog with nations we are talking about, what are other strategies you might suggest or the administration pursuing in terms of dialog with nations, especially those in the oas to make sure there's more of a
11:35 am
consensus within this important hemispheric administration to help us out. >> we have something approaching a consensus on the latin america side but not on the caribbean side. it's been disappointing. all those countries are democracies. i think it's for the reasons you state. debt, especially, and in some cases joint ventures over the years. we continue in all those capitals to push them. the principle deputy in the latin america bureau is in the eastern caribbean right now. personally pressing the leadership to see if we can move them. again, i would say hearing from members of this committee, talking to their ambassadors so they can bring that home would be useful and we are working with them. treasury has been working with them and the energy department to see, tell us what the problem is? tells us what you're afraid of and maybe we can help you. in the case with jamaica recently, they undertook a few
11:36 am
transactions that would reduce their ties, let's say, in a useful way so they get out from under it. >> thank you. >> yeah, thank you, senator. one of the ways we do this is to make sure that our humanitarian foot is forward. >> right. >> in the case, for example, of trinidad and tobago, we have provided $1.6 million in assistance to help identify the needs of the venezuelans who have come to the islands looking for ways to tackle the issues of crime and violence and human trafficking and to try to lower the burden frankly that they're feeling. it is something that we're doing regionally. i will tell you this, i think the impact of the venezuelan flight in the caribbean is something people don't appreciate. last year at the oas or summit
11:37 am
of the americas we were beginning to hear it and that was many months ago, i'm sure the numbers have gone way up, it is something where we can reach out and provide support and that will be helpful. >> that's very helpful. thanks, mr. chair. >> senator cruz. >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, good morning. thank you for your good work. globally, gold has become a key way that bad actors conduct illicit financial activities. in venezuela the gold trade is maduro's best and perhaps his last lifeline. in 2018 alone, venezuela exported $900 million worth of gold to turkey. according to the u.s. treasury department turkey has been making large purchases of gold almost certainly including illicit purchases from venezuela. to cut off this lifeline, i've introduced a bill, along with chairman rubio, that says if a country or bank conducts
11:38 am
precious metal transactions subject to sanctions, as moving gold for venezuela or iran would be, that the secretary of treasury can take those transactions into account when deciding about a broader conclusion that such country or bank shall be designated as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern. mr. abrams, can you please describe the role that illicit gold and precious metals transactions plays in sustaining the maduro regime? >> thanks, senator. it's critical. what we did is cut off a lot of cash. the oil they were giving to russia and china was to offset previous debts. they weren't getting cash. they lose that cash. where can they find cash today? gold is one of the very few places and it's the biggest one. >> i understand that the administration is in possession of a list of turkish entities moving gold for venezuela based
11:39 am
on publicly sourced information. can you outline how the administration intends to approach these and other bad actors? >> first, we talk to the governments in question and if some cases the enterprises in question and almost every case to say, you ought to stop doing this. you ought to stop doing it because it's wrong and you ought to stop doings it because there will be sanctions. we've had some success in other areas of the world in getting companies to say okay. we don't want to risk sanctions and we'll stop. we have not had that success in the case of gold sales in the middle east more generally. >> mr. green, what initiatives can usaid encourage in venezuela or other partners in the regime to deter maduro's illicit mining and trade of gold and safeguard the supply chain for venezuelans? >> thank you, senator. actually, in countries like
11:40 am
colombia and peru, we have well-developed, successful mining programs which use environmentally sound methods for mining. secondly, because it's his sited it creates good paying jobs and chokes off the source of illicit gold revenues that we know that narcos and criminal gangs too often use. i would propose in that day after in venezuela, that we ramp up investments like this. this is a way of creating very good paying jobs around which you can raise families and build communities. >> thank you. >> maduro's regime has been holding six citgo employees, including five u.s. citizens, who live in texas, for over a year now. the citgo executives have been detained on baseless charges and subjected to harsh imprisonment.
11:41 am
it is well past time to secure their release and my hope that new venezuelan government will work with the u.s. to swiftly ensure their safe return. mr. abrams, is the administration in discussions with the guaido administration or the maduro regime, on the imprisonment of the citgo executives who are u.s. dual nationals and can you describe what efforts are being made to secure their release? >> as you know, we are unable to get consular access to them. the position of the regime is, because they are also venezuelan citizens, you don't get to see them. we've not been able to do that. it's also true that the church in venezuela has asked to see them on a pastoral visit and refused, no. we're in it touch with the families. we keep pressing the regime because there are two court
11:42 am
orders for their release which the regime refuses to implement. we keep pressing and raising it. i'm absolutely confident that at the point at which interim president guaido takes over, their release will be very rapid. >> well good. i would encourage you to continue to make that a high priority. a final question for both of you. this is a pivotal time in venezuela's history. it's a time with enormous opportunity but also enormous risk. there are some 3,000 generals in venezuela. each of those general has to decide with whom he stand, with the illegitimate and oppressive maduro regime or the legitimate and recognized guaido government. what do both of you believe could be effective both carrots and sticks for those 3,000
11:43 am
generals to encourage them to stand on the right side of history with the people of venezuela and not to support a dictator on his way out the door? >> i would say there are two parts to that, the venezuelan part and the american part. the legitimate national assembly in its capacity and transition law that speaks of amnesty and further debates in the national assembly in venezuela about saying more about that, being more detailed about what an amnesty would consist of. on our part we've made it clear that sanctions can be removed. visa revocations can be reversed and visas granted. for those who are actually indicted that's a different story, indicted or convicted. they should have their lawyers deal with the department of justice, but from the treasury and state point of view these things are reversible and we are trying to make the argument and more importantly president guaido and the national assembly
11:44 am
are making the argument, that they are open to those who are willing to change. >> thank you. >> i want to thank both of you for being here today. we want to get to our second panel and appreciate the work you're doing an the time you've given us this morning and we thank you again for being with us and while we transition, i'm going to go ahead and present our second panel and i know we have a vote in 45 minutes. i would only strongly encourage our witnesses, we've gotten your written testimony and you both are veterans of appearing on the committee and so we've already -- introduced the witness previously. i want to -- our non-government
11:45 am
experts i will introduce them as they take their seat here. mr. eric farnsworth, vice president of the council of the americas and dr. aaronson director of the wilson center's latin america program and i ask those that are here to see the hearing if you would take your seats or transition out. i want to make sure whoever stays gets the questions in and our testimony is in. dr. aaronson we'll start with you if that's okay. are you ready? >> thank you both for being here. >> great. thank you, chairman rubio, ranking member, and members of the subku, senator menendez, it's a privilege to be here. i think both sides of the aisle have adequately described the disaster, humanitarian, economic, political, that
11:46 am
venezuela has come so i will skip over that part of my testimony and focus on the options for u.s. policy, both their advantages and risks. first, sanctions. building on the actions that started under the obama administration and now intensified by the trump administration, there has been a dramatic escalation in the range of individual, financial and now petroleum sanctions on venezuela. the purpose is obviously to increase substantially and unacceptably the political, economic and personal cost of the status quo such that people who support the regime currently might be compelled to break with them. it appears that the pressures are aimed at creating fissures in the armed forces which, as we all know, are maduro's key source of support. these divisions could emerge, some have already, small ones in leadership, or become more pronounced, especially as the economic sanctions are in place
11:47 am
for a longer period of time and have a greater impact. however, there is no guarantee that even the most punishing sanctions will serve to divide the military hierarchy and there is, in fact, a risk that these sanctions, as has been discussed i think by senator kaine a moment ago, will contribute to greater internal coherence of the roishegime, a circling of t wagons of efforts. there is a humanitarian human cost of the oil sanctions. so i believe that the issue of humanitarian aid needs to be de depoliticized and must adhere to the principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence, and i believe that united nations, many of its agencies, unicef, the world health organization, the local red cross, international committee of the red cross, and other relief organizations, on the ground in venezuela, are best positioned to provide expanded assistance. many of you have made reference
11:48 am
to the impact of the flow of venezuelan refugees on the countries of the regime. i won't go over the numbers. we just heard from usaid administrator mark green and between usaid and the state department's bureau of population refugees and migration, the united states has pledged a significant amount of assistance, but it is still a fraction of the $738 million that are called for in 2019 alone, called for by the u.n. regional refugee response plan, a joint program of the united nations high commission for refugees and the international organization of migration. colombia alone, according to that report, requires $315 million, which is more than double what the united states has provided to the entire region. i believe that we should put actions behind our words and
11:49 am
provide resources that are commensurate with our capacity and our stated foreign policy objectives. i commend senator rubio, senator menendez, people on both sides of the aisle, who have encouraged the administration to grant temporary protective protected status, but this should be coupled with an expedited review of asylum claims and another option is to raise the highly restrictive cap on refugee admissions to the united states which in the year 2019 hit a historic low. i will not go over the issue of military intervention. i think my remarks have already been quoted by senator udall. i think continued talk of a military option, as much as it is useful in keeping the regime off balance, is irresponsible, would spark a regional war and be an incentive for colombian guerrillas, the farq, from those who refuse to demobilize and some of those who did demobilize to join up arms against that. it's possible that the
11:50 am
combination of all of the pressures, diplomatic, economic, that the united states and the international community have brought to bear, can bring about a change of government in venezuela or even the collapse of the authoritarian regime. i believe, however, that it is also possible that it will survive much like assad and syria has survived becoming even more repressive in its claim to power expelling more of its citizens and turning further to allies such as russia, turkey, cuba as it seeks survival. so i share the goal that many have stated that policy of the united states and of the international community should be to create the conditions for a free, fair election in venezuela in which the opposition with openly compete without disadvantage and take office should it win. that goal will require institutional reform especially over the electoral counsel. it probably also requires international observation and
11:51 am
supervision. i don't believe it requires the end of chavismo as a political force. i was heartened for people to see the concept and it is a functioning and pluralistic democracy. i do not believe that our transition requires the immediate purging of the military or even the extradition of venezuelan officials indicted by the united states to face justice in this country. these are not questions about which there is any ambivalence in the moral or ethical sense. these are strictly practical considerations and how one provides an off ramp for those who are currently allied with the regime to break with them. negotiations in venezuela have acquired a very bad name. they've been tried for many years and the maduro regime has used them to buy time and divide the opposition and avoid concessions and i would put on the table now the question as to whether a hurting stalemate and a concept that is used in
11:52 am
conflict resolution is at hand. i believe that it is, and i believe that one possible vehicle is the european union led with latin american participation and the international contact group which is not talk about negotiations and it talks about creating the conditions for a free and fair election as the subject of talks with the government. thank you very much. >> mr. chairman, good morning, and good morning to mr. ranking member, mr. menendez and mr. cruz and from my home state mr. cane. thank you for appearing before you. it's a privilege. let me reiterate comments that are made by several members of the subcommittee about the bipartisan nature of this issue. this is huge. it's fundamental and it puts the united states behind this effort, and i think, first of
11:53 am
all, that's critically important, and i want to commend the leadership and for the way that you have positioned this issue, and i believe this is fundamental and very, very important so, thank you. let me give you the bottom line first, if i may. i believe chavismo has turned venezuela into a ruined state. the nation that boasts the world's largest oil reserves is an economic basket case, racked by hyperinflation, shrinking economic growth, food and medical shortages and criminal bands including officially sanctioned drug traffickers and street crime. the private sector is prostate and has essentially dried up. the lifeblood of the economy has collapsed through lack of investment and unimaginable corruption and the human capital. abundant natural resources such as gold which we've heard about are being plundered leading to a full-scale assault on venezuela's fragile am zonian ecosystem. has the economy has soured
11:54 am
nicolas maduro has tightened control. the national assembly has been bent to his will. the rule of law has been thoroughly corrupted and the press has been muzzled and journalists harassed and detained and we've heard of corey weddel and jorge ramos this morning. social media is being monitored actively. venezuela's security services and other state functions are strongly influenced if not directed by thousands of cubans embedded in the regime. they've intervened in venezuela and continue to do so. with more than 10% of venezuela's total population outside the nation and more leaving every day, we are witnessing the worst man-made humanitarian tragedy in the modern era in the western hemisphere. inoduced and we've talked been about some 72,000 venezuelans who are already here. the dramatic return to venezuela this week of interim president
11:55 am
juan guaido has given hope to the venezuelan people. his task toward moving venezuela is greatly complicated by maduro's mere complication of powers. with maduro it would be possible to contemplate a successful relaunch of the democratic system including the release of political prisoners and restoring press freedoms and depoliticizing electoral mechanisms and that's just the beginning. reconstruction will also be long and arduous. the new government will require breathing room to get itself established and quick dispersing aid from the international community is therefore central. citizens of venezuela must be convinced that their lives will meaningfully improve under democracy. transparency and enforceable rule of law are key to this issue and it would be of little benefit in my view to replace existing corruptn with new corruption. state in the new democratic government will be fragile and can easily be destroyed without attention to such issues. venezuela was, at one point,
11:56 am
latin america's wealthiest nation. some day it may be again. meanwhile, the humanitarian caused by chavismo and its leaders gets worse every day. the maduro regime has shown it would rather kill its own people than allow foreign aid into the country to help them. continually escalating sanctions including restrictions and are therefore an appropriate response. ultimately the regime would have to depart for true reconstruction to begin. mr. chairman, i want to thank you for the opportunity to testify before you and your subcommittee. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank both of our witnesses and again, thank you for your patience. it's important that we have the views not only from our government witnesses, but from the private sector. i just want to underscore the point that you made that's been talked about by several of the members and that is keeping all options on the table and the potential use of u.s. military
11:57 am
which i would strongly disagree with at this point. just to underscore the point that you made in your statement that it would erode the consensus between the united states hemisphere and the democracies and the countries of europe over how to approach the venezuelan crisis and you point out one should not underestimate the drastic consequences for regional stability should it occur. i think we all share those sentiments and i was pleased to see the response from the government witnesses as to the no planning on the use of military. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator cruz? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to start with the same question that i asked the previous panel which is we're at a potential tipping point in venezuela, and in particular the military and the generals have to make a decision with whom to stand. in both of your opinions and
11:58 am
judgment, what carrots or sticks would have the greatest impact in speeding along the exit of maduro in a transition to a democratically elected and legitimate regime? >> thank you, senator cruz. i agree with the implications of the question sthat res that the arbiter on the ground in venezuela are the military and those with the guns which is the monopoly of the regime at this point. at some point you have to either get them to stand down or switch sides and switch their allegiance to mr. guaido as interim president. these are individual decisions. these are decisions that are made based on people's best guest for their own prospects and that of their family and our understanding is that many of the people who remain, quote, unquote loyal to the regime are not doing so because they particularly like mr. maduro or
11:59 am
even like his social project or whatever it is, but because they're afraid. they're afraid that they'll obviously lose their jobs, but they might be killed and the way that the security services are being monitored and not just by the venezuelans and also by the outside advisers. there is a real sense of who may be looking to create conditions to try to overthrow the government or leave or what have you. so it's a very delicate situation. what can the united states and the international community do, i think we can continue what's discussed in the previous panel to express openness that those who did not have blood on their hands would be welcomed into a new venezuela. i think that's absolutely appropriate, but i think at the end of the day, the people have to understand that there will be change in venezuela because they want to be on the winning side. they want to be on the side that's left standing as they think that mr. maduro will have the opportunity to remain
12:00 pm
forever than the choice to switch their allegiance becomes that much more fraught, and if they believe that mr. guaido will be ascending to real power then the decision in some way becomes a little bit easier. i'm not saying it's easy, but it will be easier. so to the extent that the international community can continue to show the commitment for real and lasting democracy in venezuela, i believe that's the most potent thing that we can do at this time. >> i'd like to add to that. it's going to be very difficult, i think, to break the high command. the number that i heard is 2,000, senator cruz, not 3,000, it still is a substantial number and whatever it is it's double, if not triple, what we have in the united states in the armed forces are hugely bigger. i recall in the chilean transition general pinochet who subsequently was made to stand trial for his crimes of torture
12:01 pm
and killing of political opponents remained as the head of the armed forces and then became a senator for life. so i think that there are things that are done at the outset of a transition that are deeply distasteful, repugnant, but nonetheless, i also recall the words of a great teacher, friend, jurist from chile who headed their truth commission who talked about the ethics of responsibility which is to say that we are not talking necessarily about pure justice right away. obviously, everyone should have to pay for crimes against humanity, for torture and for killing and for the levels of corruption and drug trafficking that they've engaged in, but what you can accomplish initially as you have a transitional government leading to elections is very different from what can, i think, occur down the line. and i think the united states
12:02 pm
has an important role to play in this, again as distasteful and contrary to the whole concept to the rule of law that this may seem. if people feel that if they chge or if they somehow agree to break wh the regime, what awaits them is a super max jail cell in the united states. you will never see the movement of t people. so i think we have to think in very pragmatic terms and not in absolutist terms and be flexible and also listen to what the venezuelan opposition is doing in terms of speaking to the military and making that outreach because it's clear that the offer of amnesty has not yet been sufficient. >> so one additional question that you made reference to the cuban soldiers and thugs that are on the ground in venezuela, can you detail a bit more of the influence that cuba is having
12:03 pm
propping up the maduro regime? from what i know they've been particular in the security services offering not just guidance in terms of how to organize intelligence operation, but also helping the venezuelans carry them out in some cases. they've also been active in state functions such as passport agencies and authorities so that they know who's coming in and out of the country and these are report from folks from open source, et cetera. you don't need a whole lot of people from outside the country to do a lot of damage if they are embedded in the most sensitive areas of the government and the areas that have control of the population and this is what the cubans are primarily focused on is my understanding. so with that in mind it's become a complicated effort and to try to get the folks, and the
12:04 pm
venezuelans who may, quote, unquote may want to do the right thing and they don't know who's watching them and they don't know what information they have on them. they don't know who is watching their families. it's a really complicated and difficult scenario. thank you. >> senator? >> thank you. first of all, i want to thank our witnesses for their longstanding sharing of their knowledge with the committee over many different issues over many different times. i just want toake a statement. i understand theoncern of many including some of myolleagues about the military intervention in venezuela, but i am concerned that in the process of those, of that constant refrain that we lose sight of who the venezuelan people have to have real fear of. the venezuelan people have the threat of military force by only one entity. that is neck licolas maduro and
12:05 pm
generals that have had to decide whether or not they are going to support democracy or human rights or whether they'll support a dictatorship and turn their guns on their brothers d sisters. that's why the message is very clear. if your hands are free of blood and human rights violations, you have a future. you have a future free of sanctions that the united states will follow you anywhere in the world unless you don't have blood on your hands. there's only one entity in which the venezuelan people face violence and that is from the collectiveas and the armed thugs that nicolas maduro has unleashed upon its people and not from any other entity in the hemisphere. there's only one person who causes the suffering of the venezuelan people. it is not sanctions by the united states or anyone else.
12:06 pm
it is by the failed policies of nicolas maduro who takes one of the countries in the western hemisphere and has the people eating out of garbage. it is one entity that has stolen the natural pat rimony of venezuela and that is nicolas maduro and it is one set of interventions that has taken place by venezuela and its taken place by cuba that has the security apparatus propping up maduro. if you go and find caracas, you will ultimately get searched by cuban agents. cuban agents are in the midst of creating silos among the generals in venezuela so that they can't talk to each other and their head will get low and therefore can't talk about joining together to maybe support a democratic government. that's intervention. there's only one intervention by another foreign country and that's russia as it continues to prop up the maduro regime in a
12:07 pm
whole host of ways and not the united states of america. and finally, i really tire somewhat of the suggestion about our sanctions. i've done foreign approximately see for 27 years between the house and the senate. i only know of a handful of peaceful diplomacy tools to get countries to move in a certain direction. international criticism, condemnation may move a democracy, but i haven't seen it move many dictators. i wish that it would. but it hasn't, and so what are we left with? unlike russia that uses military adventures to pursue its foreign approximately see goals, policy goal, we only have diplomacy tools and the use of our aid, and the use of our
12:08 pm
trade in access to our markets to act a certain way and the leverage of our entities like usaid to help countries and then there's the denial of aid or trade or access to our financial institutions which we generally call sanctions. i'd be happy to get a lesson about what other peaceful diplomacy tools we have. so unless we are willing to accept a dictatorship that oppresses its people and does so by force and has the meeting out of garbage cans and denies the critical medicines necessary to stay alive, i'm not going to be repentant about our advocacy for sanctions as a peaceful tool to try to move a country in a better direction, and that includes venezuela. and so i hope we just don't lose our eyes on just who is responsible for the suffering of the venezuelan people. his name is clear.
12:09 pm
it's etched in stone. it's etched in history and hopefully he will face the appropriate history at the end of the day and that's nicolas maduro. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. i am claiming my time and i will recognize senator kaine and then i'll wrap up. the 3.4 million people of venezuela were from 2014 to 2018. the u.n. projection that 24 million more were going to leave was established late last year as well. the figure that 90% of the people have lost 24 pounds was the 2018 number. the chronic and infectious diseases running rampant and hospitals lacking in supplies has been ongoing for a number of years. the reduction and refining capacity are only down 25% due to poor management and poor maintenance and preexisting back
12:10 pm
in 2018 and before. the repeated denial of allowing and recognizing humanitarian catastrophe much less allowing humanitarian aid did not begin on january 24th. this has been a longstanding policy of the maduro regime and i say all this because the idea that sanctions are going to exacerbate the humanitarian condition of the venezuelan people assumes that any of the revenue they were generating previous to the sanctions because up until the 24th of january 25th all of the sanks were on individuals and they were on people and not on sectors. so the argument that sanctions could make things worse assumes that the venezuelan people were enjoying any of the benefits of the revenue that was being generated previous to that, to which all of the evidence is clear that they were not. on the contrary, i know of no other nation, maybe there is
12:11 pm
one, i don't know, in which their defense minister happens to be chairman of the board of oil and gas. i know no other place where public servants who have worked in government their entire lives are able to send their children abroad on shopping sprees in the tens of thousands of dollars. i know of no other nation in which their -- i guess i don't know what the right terminology she has, the second in command at the u.n. has never been to the u.n. building, lives in new york and no one has seen her. that's chavez's daughter who is living in the united states and enjoying life in new york. i know -- so i think it's important for us to touch upon that point because in the days to come as venezuela faces severe shortages of fuel you have to ask yourself how can you possibly face the shortage of fuel. you sit on the world's richest supply of oil. the answer is because your refining capacity doesn't exist because instead of buying
12:12 pm
replacement parts you gave the state oil company over to your bodies so they can run it into the ground. it is like a tenant that's being evicted and they steal the copper wire out of the wall. they have stolen everything they can get their hands on and that's why you have an extraordinary amount of wealth and it is funny to hear from these regime insiders because they always reach out. every single one of them sends out messages and would i be an acceptable alternative and give us visas for our family in exchange for us breaking and it's funny to hear us say, by the way, i'm just corrupt. i'm not in narc owe trafficking and i'm old-fashioned corrupt with hundreds of millions of dollars. what other country in the world has generals that make hundreds of millions of dollars. that's a heck of a pension plan. i've never seen anything in the world. they're getting their money from somewhere and every pen they goes into their hands is not going to the venezuelan people. so the bottom line is that this didn't start yesterday nor did
12:13 pm
it start on the 24th of january. the fact of the matter is that virtually every penny generated from the sale of oil for cash that was sold primarily in the united states of which there is a small percentage of our capacity, but we're a significant percentage of where they sell for cash around the world went into their hands and that's how they got it and all of the narco trafficking fees that they're charging going into their hands and none of that finds its way to the people of venezuela and i say that because that's the argument they're trying to set up and they'll try to use the u.n. and the visit next week to highlight that, but it's a fraud. it's a farce and the people of venezuela know it. they do. it's funny. this issue has been in the paper for six weeks and there are a lot of venezuelan experts now and i've been dealing with this for five years and so has senator menendez. none of this is new because they're running out of things to steal. the second thing it brings me to
12:14 pm
are the loilt. y there are 2,000 generals and there are six to eight that actually matter and one in particular with pedrino lopez. he has a day job and a night job and his family meanwhile lives in spain. so the question becomes, their loyalty is not idea logical. it's financial and every single one of them is not loyal to nicolas maduro and they are loyal to dollars. not bolivars and not cuban pesos, dollars. that's what they're loyal to, and hence, the less of that they have and the less reason they have to be loyal and that's theoretically anyway and that's one of the things -- this is no longer ideological. i'm not saying maduro is not ideological. he's probably a true believer in the model and he thinks he has to go through the ugly period of time to get to that point, but the rest of these guys, they
12:15 pm
like money and they have shown that just in the way they live and the way their families live and that's critical to all of this because in my view, and this is my question to both of you and the formula that brings us to this point is the combination of three things and one is widespread unrest which is already ongoing and tied to the legitimacy of the government, as well and the interim government, but widespread unrest and we see that every time that president guaido despiter in the blocks and every time he speaks on tv the internet goes dark and those chinese -- workers over there are helping him block the internet at key moments and yet he's still able to get hundreds of thousands of people into the street. widespread arrests and the military and elite support and number three continued international pressure and the combination of those three things ultimately leave maduro with dwindling and very stark
12:16 pm
options and i believe a safe haven for him which is probably in turkey or somewhere like that. is that not ultimately what needs to happen here? the combination of widespread unrest, military and elite support and continued international pressure that ultimately presents him with stark choices and either causes him to move out of the way and negotiate an exit or causes those who continue to prop imhim up to force a negotiated exit and a new beginning? >> i'll start with that, senator rubio. i think what has struck me throughout this hearing is i don't think there's really much disagreement at all about what reality is in venezuela and who is responsible. on the questions of sanctionses not being the source of humanitarian crisis, i couldn't agree more. the politization of humanitarian aid was started by the maduro regime by its refusal to admit
12:17 pm
that there was a humanitarian crisis in the country and by not allowing international support in. >> the hunger, the loss of weight and the lack of food and medicine all of these have been longstanding and pre-date in many way, the sanctions and my concern about the additional effect of the sanctions is based on talking actually to human tear workers inside venezuela who are concerned, not that people rather than eating three meals a day go down to two meals a day and lose 20 pound, but there is actually widespread starvation. the kinds of things that are shown in this photo which is why i think that it would be very important to channel some portion of u.s. assistance, not just have it parked in the border waiting to go into venezuela, but actually channel it through the various organizations that have been able to maintain their neutrality and are on the ground
12:18 pm
and are looking for a non-political way to get that money in and get it out to needy people regardless of any kind of political affiliation. the three things that you mentioned and the unrest and the loss of military and elite support and international pressure, could not agree more that these are the ingredients for what will bring about change in venezuela. the question is how do you increase the relevance of the second factor that you mentioned? the loss of military and elite support. that is, i think, the key issue that all of us that are concerned with the democratic transition in venezuela should be focused on. how do we bring that about? what combination of carrot sticks, offramps and visas do we contemplate in order to get sufficient buy-in that there is a regime transition and finally,
12:19 pm
i would just say that the widespread unrest that exists now that is able -- that president guaido is able to mobilize may not necessarily last and i think there is a concern broadly that the time may not be on his side. the regime certainly feels that time is now on its side. i think it's important to remember that people who are starving do not mobilize in the streets. if you look at some of the old classics, you know, why men rebel, it's not absolute poverty and it's that rise in expectations, and i think that's why we're seeing after the 2014 protests this enormous outpouring of renewed street demonstrations that is not sustainable over the long term as the sanctions take their bite. >> my only comment on that is people who are starving do mobilize. they'll leave and that's what they'll do. >> but the borders are closed. >> correct.
12:20 pm
>> i'm sorry. >> no, not at all. thank you for the opportunity. i want to say how much i appreciated your statement and mr. menendez's statement and you've encapsulated these issues very well and very powerfully and just to add a couple of quick things and i do agree with the framework that you laid out in terms of the three key aspects and i also agree that the loss of military and elite support remains the key in some ways and indeed the most difficult. the point you raised, mr. rubio, about, that you have the military and the security forces fully invested in the continuation of the regime is accurate and why? the regime has very effectively brought them in through access through unimaginable levels of corruption, whether it's through the different exchange rates or controlling the import of certain items like food. you have generals in control of the import of beans and in control of the import of
12:21 pm
chickens. it's just weird, right? that's not what militaries are supposed to do, but it buys them into the continuation of the process and then you have the entire system of drug trafficking that has not just been sort of allowed, but encourage side another way to buy some of these officials into the continuation of the regime and to buy off their loyalty. so how do you begin to get at that, and they're not the ones that will shift and declare their allegiance to mr. guaido, and the first panel alluded to it a little bit and we need to go hard after the assets that these folks maintain outside of venezuela, and inside, too, and outside venezuela and identify the assets and seize them and cause them to forfeit them. these are ill-gotten gains and stolen from the venezuelan people and they have no call on them and so the international community working together and those are a very powerful aspect and the second is the one that the administration has begun to explore more actively and that's
12:22 pm
the whole visa issue and by taking these away from individuals that's equally powerful and either denying visas or existing visas from members from spain, france or italy and if you can work together with other governments and also latin america and now the ring begins to close on the individuals who are causing the most damage in venezuela. i don't believe it will necessarily cause them to change their allegiance to mr. guaido, and it does provide a powerful signal to those underneath who are the most likely to change if they continue on the current path and their issue is not a happy one and if they switch the future will be much better and it gets to the carrots and sticks issue that's come up in the hearing. >> i want to ask about colombia. one of the best examples of the u.s. using a comprehensive approach to deal with a foreign
12:23 pm
policy objective has been the work in colombia sustained over a democratic and republican administrations and i would like to ask your perspective on how the current status in venezuela affects colombia and affects the peace process and affects the path toward restoring governmental services that have been abandoned for decades. talk about what's at risk there and what we ought to do to protect the advances that we have helped achieve. >> i'll start. i think a great deal is at risk. i think colombia is simply unprepared to absorb the 1.1 million that are already in let alone the million plus that are going to be arriving in 2019 as the economy continues on its death spiral. colombia has, as you know, this fiscal rule that requires that there be a progressive decrease
12:24 pm
in the deficit. at the same time it faces spending need to implement the aspect of the peace agreement that talk about connecting the rural to the urban and bringing state presence not only in a physical or security sense to these previous conflict zone, but also opportunities, services, infrastructure. it can't all be done. it simply cannot all be done, and i think that there is a great risk that without the resources and without the backing of the international community colombia will make very hard choices. i also believe that the refugee flows throughout latin america are going to have an indelible impact on the politics of the region for the foreseeable future just as politics in europe have been deeply impacted by the influx of refugees from syria and libya and afghanistan
12:25 pm
and iraq and other conflict zones and not in a good way, i would say. i do fear that there will be similar impacts on the ability of countries to sustain, liberal pluralist democracies, and i think that right now we're focused on the humanitarian emergency and how we will feed these people and give them access to medical care and allow their kids to go to school. we need to put out sort of an early warning about the impact on the political systems and not just in colombia, but also in peru and ecuador and everywhere else. >> i fully agree. colombia has some difficult fiscal circumstances and something has to give. you have a peace process which requires billions of dollars of investment, not just to implement the courts directly, but also to develop the areas of colombia to allow this piece to be sustainable.
12:26 pm
they've also had a soft economy which has to be revitalized and president duque is working on that. you have drug production that has spiked and that requires new resources as well and now we have a humanitarian crisis than the western hemisphere in the modern areaa and they can come alongside the colombians to mitigate the worst impact of that. there is another point that i think also needs to be raised and that is that venezuela under first hugo chavez and now nicolas maduro has provided safe haven for farc and the com about the ants. they are, in some way, leading directly to some of the destruction of venezuela. it's not a political thing. it's not a guerilla force and not working to take over the government and they're working in the illegal gold mining sector and working in crime and criminal activities and they're working in drug trafficking, and so this is maybe left over from the colombian experience, but it's still related and so to the
12:27 pm
extent that the venezuela problem continues to deteriorate and venezuela turns toward becoming a failed state and i don't know what the proper definition of failed state is, but to the extent it's turning toward one, that gives greater permissiveness for recalcitrant and others to conduct their affairs in a lawless way and that's ultimately not just self-defeating, but it creates real complications in terms of re-establishing rule of law and revitalizing the democracy in venezuela and i appreciate the fact that you link the two countries together. they're together historically, politically and this is yet another example. >> very good testimony and very good hearing, thanks, mr. chair. i appreciate the witness. >> thank you. three quick points i want to make as we wrap up. the first is these nation states that want to be helpful, many of whom have expressed concern about some angle of our policy statements and it's incumbent on them to step up to the plate and if they don't want certain things and do the things that
12:28 pm
they don't want them to do is the visa revocations and the additional sanctions. we know president guaido, and there are a handful of countries that happen to be the favorite destinations of these thiefs and their families and touching on what you just mentioned, i don't believe that the maduro regime should be viewed as a government. it doesn't operate as a government and it is better understood as an organized crime syndicate and very little in the way of government on the daily basis and it is largely a group of people by the ability to steal and make money, but the way you collapse an organized crime syndicate is you recognize there are a bunch of thiefs and criminals and they have no honor and they end up turning on each other because that's really what it's become and that is by and large what binds that organization together and it is an organized crime ring that by the way, sponsors terrorism as they outlined openly operates in
12:29 pm
their territory and as recently as a month ago killed 20 police cadets in colombia in a bombing and last, but not least on aid and working with the organizations and that would be a great idea and the problem is that the current aid now is basically an open secret. these aid groups operating in venezuela are doing so and need to do so quietly with very little publicity, and it gets notice anded scrutinized because it runs counter to the maduro narrative and they're talking about how great carnival was and how people are at the beach. their argument is no humanitarian crisis and the less aid is, and the more the people can depend on maduro for food the more he can control them. >> they don't want humanitarian aid and it would imperil what they're able to do now. as an example, your charity and
12:30 pm
if there is a significant increase in the amount of aid you're distributing it might cancel the program because the maduro regime doesn't want you to do that. ideally you would be able to work with those groups and those groups don't want it because it endangers their small-scale existing programs now and that's the real challenge that we've been facing here. i know we've been here for two and a half hours. >> could i comment on that briefly? i think that that is to a certain extent true of the past and we should treat it as a hypothesis to be tested and it's announced a doubling of its budget for venezuela. the u.n. is quietly, as you say, expanding its footprint, you know, on the ground and they have to operate very, very carefully. so as not to call attention to themselves, but i think that there is definitely an effort
12:31 pm
particularly in light of sanctions that everyone knows will expand the suffering and i will slightly disagree that none of the revenue and the oil revenue ever came in. venezuela imports some enormous, and i don't know if it's 100% of the food, but pretty close and the 90% and same with medicine. whatever there is in the country depends on foreign reserves and they're a form of political control. i completely agree. they do provide a subsistence level. if you take that away, again, i think conditions get worse. i don't really know what the answer is, but i think there's a few more subtleties to the situation that we should very much keep in mind.
12:32 pm
just on that, and the role of remittances and the entire industry sending family members food and there is the black market for those that have access to the cash and there are people 40% that depend on some level and frankly, the people who have left because it's not enough for them. we've had a long hearing and your testimony today along with previous witnesses and i want to thank everyone for being here today and we had a huge turnout in my seven years and it's the best attended western hemisphere, and i want to thank the capitol police for channeling people in and out and i am grateful to them and the work they've done and the record if are this hearing will remain in the record for 48 hours and the hearing is adjourned. [ applause ]
12:33 pm
12:34 pm
>> if you missed any of this hearing on u.s. policy toward venezuela and the trump administration's response to the fight there over who won the national election you can see the entire hearing tonight at 11:00 eastern on our companion network c-span2. supreme court justises samuel alito will discuss the budget for 2020. we'll have live coverage on c-span3. you can also watch on your mobile device on c-span.org or listen with the free c-span radio app. a measles outbreak in oregon and washington state infected nearly 60 people last month and washington declared a state of emergency. this weekend on american history
12:35 pm
tv we're featuring a 1964 film on the history of measles and the development of a vaccine. that's saturday at 10:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv's real america here on c-span3. >> the only thing we have to fear is fear itself! >> ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. and the people who knock these buildings down will hear all of us soon. c-span's newest books, historians rank the best and worst chief executive, provides insight into the lives of the 44 american presidents, true stories gathered by interviews with noted presidential historians. explore the life events that shaped our leaders, challenges they faced and the legacies
12:36 pm
they've left behind, published by public affairs, c-span's "the presidents" will be on shelves april 23rd and you can pre-order your copy as a hard cover or ebook today at c-span.org/thepresidents or wherever books are sold. the house is expected to vote today on the resolution opposing hate as democrats try to move on from a controversy over comments by a muslim member of congress and what constitutes anti-semitism. speaker pelosi was asked about that resolution as well as other issues facing congress in today's weekly briefing on capitol hill. this is about 15 minutes. >> good morning, everyone. good morning. thank you for accommodating our little bit of a later schedule
12:37 pm
this morning. we are very excited this week to be having hr1 debaters on the floor and tomorrow we'll pass and send it on to the senate with the mobilization for cleaner government issues and hr1 and a priority for a freshman class and they'll be on the steps of the capitol tomorrow to proclaim their support for us. >> this is essential for the agenda. lower health care costs and preserving the pre-existing condition benefits and the bigger paychecks by building infrastructure of america in a green, modern way for the 21st century, but the public belief that we can do that depends on our passing legislation to amplify the voices of the american people and reduce the voice of the money that

19 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on