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tv   Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing on Venezuela  CSPAN  March 8, 2019 2:16pm-4:49pm EST

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vote on a resolution to terminate president trump's emergency declaration on the southern border. senators will also vote on several more of president trump's judicial and executive nominations, including naomi row to be u.s. court of appeals judge for the d.c. circuit. live coverage of the house on c-span and you can watch the senate on c-span2. >> sunday night on q&a, penn state history professor amy greenberg discusses her book, lady first. the world of first lady sara polk. >> i was so astounleded by all the stuff that she zanled the way she exercised power. she wrote letters to a supreme court justice and members of ongress that were completely confident, 100% about politics, and were not noticeably different from a letter that a man would write. and they wrote back to her in the same vein. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern
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on c-span's q&a. senate lawmakers now taking a look at venezuela's political and economic situation and its relationship with the u.s. members of the senate foreign relations subcommittee on the western hemisphere heard from eliott abrams, president trump's special envoy to venezuela. also mark green, the usaid administrator. >> good morning. i'd like to welcome everyone ere today. we have a huge portfolio in the subcommittee. today's hearing is about the united states and venezuela and the path that democrats transition and it's timely and urgent and we have two panels today. the first panel we're going to hear from two witnesses from the executive branch. the honorable mark green. who is the administrator at usaid. mr. rubio: and the honorable eliott abrams who is our u.s. special representative for
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venezuela. we thank you both for taking the time to be here. thank you for being here. and before i go to my 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 want to recognize him for ome remarks at the outset. mr. risch: thank you very much, chairman rubio, for hosting this 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.
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on specific issues regarding specific regions. my hope is, and i know i share this with you, that this hearing will underscore our support for the venezuelan people. and for the legitimate president of venezuela,. 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 venezuela right now -- excuse me. there is only one president of venezuela right now. the venezuelan people are to be commendeder to us -- for using the rule of law to transition, as civilized people do. section 233 of the constitution provided for a way to make a
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hange. we want to extend our appreciation for that and help the venezuelan people set out . at they want to do this is not a partan issue, his is a bipartisan issue. we need to pursue it in that vein. thank you very much, mr. chairman. and i'm here to support you and your efforts to do this. mr. rubio: i want to begin my remarks with the question of why should we care? any time the u.s. takes a foreign policy step, why should america care about what's happening, in particular, why should america care about what's happening in venezuela and democracy and the support
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for the interim government of president guaido? let me begin by saying the first reason is that the humanitarian, political and economic crisis is not just the venezuelan crisis. t.s.a. regional crisis -- it is a regional crisis. since the year 2014, 3.4 million, by my estimates, venezuelans have fled venezuela. that is 10% of the nation's population. that has left the country. as a point reference, it would be the equivalent if we said 10% of the u.s. population had left over five years, it would be the equivalent of every person living in florida, maryland and massachusetts. leaving the country over a five-queer period. beyond, that over 80% of them have migrated into the region, into latin america. about half of them are in colombia, in one country. today colombia in particular, but also peru and ecuador, are bearing the brunt of the cost of this mass migration. further exacerbating it is that the united nations already projected that of all -- if all
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things continue on the current path, this year alone, and i mean the current path before the events of january, they estimated that this year alone, another two million venezuelans will leave the country. and i'm here to tell you that if another two million people leave on top of the 3.5 million that have already left, and 80% of them stay in latin america, it will deteriorate and potentially collapse the public services of colombia and severely impact the same in peru and in ecuador and in other nations. this has the potential to be a region alaka taftify of -- regional catastrophe of epic proportions. that's reason alone to care about it because the united states will be directly mpacted by that. improving relationships with ecuador and our important
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paetschship with peru. the second reason why we should care is because the maduro crime family, the maduro regime actively, not secretly, not covertly, actively participates in the trafficking of cocaine. planes filled with cocaine operate out of venezuelan air fields under the auspices and protection of the venezuelan military and they deliver cocaine to air strips in central america. that cocaine is then handed over to drug networks. drug networks that along the way destabilize el salvador and honduras and guatemala, exacerbating the my graduatetory patterns we are seeing on our southern border. and then that cocaine enters the united states and winds up in our streets and in the hands of americans. all under the us aitieses of the maduro regime who changes a -- charges a fee for this service of escorting drug shipments out of venezuela. if you don't pay them the fee, they shoot down your plane. we see the flights. and they're protected by them.
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the third reason we should care is that the maduro regime provides safe harbor to terrorist groups like the e.l. in. the group that just killed over -- e.l.n. the group that just killed over 20 police cadets in a bombing and they provide safe harber to other narco terror groups. and what i mean by that is these groups operate openly, openly in camps within venezuelan territory, not hidden camps, not covert camps, open camps that you can see from commercial satellite imagery. and they stage attacks against colombia from venezuela and they too traffic in drugs destined for the united states and they do all of this with a full support, the full corporation 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 has openly and repeatedly invited russia and vladimir putin to conduct military operations in our hemisphere from their territory. they've offered them openly. an air and naval base free of
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charge for the russians to operate from. just a few months ago two nuclear-capable russian bombers flew a mission into -- mission into the caribbean sea from an airbase in venezuela. the fifth reason we should care is the maduro crime family has close ties to the regime in iran. even as we speak, maduro is working to offer 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 any more reasons to care, in their thirst for hard currency, the maduro regime is irresponsibly, recklessly and irreparably mining for gold to sell on global markets and it is doing so in a way that is creating an irreversible ecological and environmental disaster. in some of the most sensitive areas of venezuela. and future venezuelans and frankly the region will pay a price for this extraordinary
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economic catastrophe that has not received nearly enough attention. so they're destabilizing our closest partners in south america, they're driving violence in central america with the drugs they're helping to ship which is exacerbating illegal migration. they're pumping cocaine into our streets, providing putin a military foot hold in our hemisphere, they're providing gold to iran, they're destroying the national environment. it is a very compelling reason to care about what's happening. the maduro regime is a clear danger and threat to the national interest and i would argue national security of the united states. this sadly is not a new issue for me. it's been in the news a lot lately but i've been working on this topic along with senator menendez as far back as 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. venezuela was once the wealthiest country in south america. not 100 years ark not 50 years
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ago, but within the lifetime of everyone in this room. now people of venezuela are the subject of daily blackouts, empty store shelves, devastating shortages of food and medicine, and a dehumanizing scramble to survive. and lest anyone think this is the product of sanctions in the last four to six weeks, that's a fraud, that's a 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're making from any of this are going into the hands of anyone but a small group of cronies who live a life of luxury around the world. while the people of venezuela uffer. all the sanctions were posed on individuals, not on the government or the economy. in 2018, a study found that 90% of venezuelans estimated 31 million people live in poverty
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and venezuelan citizens unvoluntarily lost on average 4 pounds in the previous year. which is a stunning statistic when all of their leaders are overweight. all the leaders of venezuela are overweight yet the people on average are losing 24 pounds in a year. chronic infections, diseases, are rampant and hospitals lack adequate supplies to care for their patients. we have picture number one over there. it shows a malnourished child and in a hospital in venezuela. these are images we are used to seeing from other regions in the world, not the western hemisphere. this is the condition of children who today are dying, dying in venezuelan hospitals. the pan american health organization has indicated that outbreaks of measles and malaria have spread in the country. which by the way also has a regional impact. other areas of public health concerns also include h.i.v., hiv-aids patients who have been denied medications. and are going to die if they do
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not receive delivery of those medications. not to mention an increase in maternal and infant mortality, limited access to medicines and adequate care for people with life-threatening chronic conditions, perhaps the most compelling of all is those in need of dialysis. without objection, i would like to introduce for the record the response on the need to maintain an effective technical corporation agenda in venezuela and neighboring countries. there is a humanitarian crisis and migration flows that are destabilizing the entire region, including, venezuela's neighbors. i witnessed that firsthand in my visit to colombia just two weeks ago. i would caution that over the next few weeks, and i say this with a sense of urgency that i cannot overstate, venezuela, because of corruption and the unwilling of the maduro regime to allow humanitarian aid to be
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delivered in the country by anyone, although they claim they are open to it, they still deny that there's a humanitarian crisis. despite compelling evidence to the contrary. over the next few weeks venezuela is going to enter a period of suffering no nation in our hemisphere has confronted in modern history. as of today they have about six, seven days left of fuel supplies. this is the most oil-rich country in the world. this is because they've destroyed the domestic production capacity. venezuela's just a handful of days away from running out of basic staples, wheat, corn meal, and cooking oil. again, because of complete and utter mismanagement. i assure you, none of the regime cronies are going to go hungry. but millions of venezuelans will continue to go huppingry and exacerbated in a way we have not seen. i regret to report that the suffering people of venezuela are about to experience the most dramatic shortages they have ever faced, the implications of which we cannot fully predict, but none of it is due to any of the actions taken by the united states up
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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 very poment -- 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 they call clap. first of all, it's also the subject of corruption. that food is imported. the cronies steal a percentage of it to is he rel in the private market for their own profit -- resell in the private market for their own profit and the rest are distributed to those compliant with the regime. if you go to a douro raly, you get foot -- maduro rally, you get food. if you vote for maduro, you get food. if you don't vote or don't vote for him, you don't get food. they have used it as a weapon. this is why he obblets to humanitarian aid. because he doesn't -- he objects to humanitarian aid. because he doesn't want to use the leverage he has. that's why the united states and our partners from around
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the world have provided and sanctioned food and mid -- medicine on the border to avoid this humanitarian catastrophe. not to politicize it but to prevent the mass not just human suffering but additional mass migration that threatens to destabilize the region. and because denying people food is one of the ways the regime controls the population, that's why two weeks ago we watched the maduro rethe gentlewoman violently and brutally -- regime violently and brutally block food from entering the country. any regime who is threatened by food and medicine, that tells you everything you need to know about them. they didn't just block it by the way. they burned it. they set it on fire. you see in picture number two, a truck carrying humanitarian id was burned on the bridge. set on fire by armed criminal angs of the maduro regime. aid that nonviolent civilians begged them to let in. you see a woman kneeling in front of the national guard
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officials begging them to permit the entrance of humanitarian aid. the regime's response was not just to use military force, but they have armed paramilitary gangs. armed these paramilitary gangs that operate on these little scooters. they've armed them and armed felons. they've released felons from jail and told them, go out and kill people. and earn your freedom that way. i want at this moment, with the indulgence of the committee, just a brief 30-second video, it's captioned in english, it is from a member of the maduro military who crossed the border and i want to you read the caption of what he says were their orders as he crossed the border. [video playing]
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mr. rubio: i declare myself to the president. the government wants to massacre the people. the government waments to massacre the people. the orders are to kilt people. to release the collecttiveos, those are the armed gangs, and release prisoners on the streets to attack the people. that's not me saying it. 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 crosses the border. their orders were to kill people. at one point he uses a term which means lead. their orders were to use lead. bullets. against the people. that's what it means. and they've only grown more brazen since that day. for example, univision reporter and his crew were detained, personally by maduro, and their cameras seized and to this day not returned because they
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didn't like the questions that he asked. they literally detained them, took their cameras a -- cameras and had them released to the state. just yesterday another journalist was arrested by the military services and held for 12 hours and then put on an airplane and sent back. this is an effort to intimidate the press. this is an effort to send a message to the press, you report on things we don't like, this is how we're going to treat you. in the month of january alone, maduro has detained 24 journalists, including the recent u.s. citizens detained for hours. i want to include a document in the record with a number of journalists that have been detained. they're from all over the world. without objection, i want to introduce that into the record. the o.a.s. secretary general has said that, quote, the systemic attack against the civilian population in venezuela includes murders, imprisonment, torture and it is evidence in the eyes of the international community that we are in the presence of crimes against humanity. end quote. one of those civilians who as of today has now spent 212 days in jail is a 29-year-old member
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of the national assembly, the democratically elected national assembly, basically their unicam ral legislative body. he was dragged out of his home by masked thugs for simply voigs his opposition against the regime -- voicing his opposition against the regime. his sister, who my office has been this close touch with, is here with us today. and wanted to take this moment to recognize her and i thank her for joining us here today. she does so with great danger and personal risk. but that's how important the cause is for her and for the people she represents. your presence, your voice and support of not just your brother, 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 inju -- injustice committed by the maduro regime. maduro doesn't do any of this on his own. s done with the help of three specific nefarious actors. the enslaved island nation of cube about a's government, which has infiltrated all -- cuba's government, which has
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infiltrated all of their security forces and is in control of the country. anyone who knows anything about this. cuban agents are all through every level of that government. russia, which continues to provide them with opportunity to evade sanctions and support them in international forums, and china, which goes around acting like they're the noninterference people but in fact are helping lead maduro's effort to block the internet. among the tactics used by the rethe gentlewoman, i've outlined it already, under the direction -- by the regime, i've outlined it already, under e direction of the collectivos where the gold mining has devastated environment and caused problems for the ailing economy. picture number five is a picture of those armed gangs and how they use them in the streets. it was these gangs, along with elements of the military, that on the 23rd of february carried out a massacre whose toll is still not fully known. a massacre of members of
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venezuela's indigenous communities on the border with brazil who were seeking to help get humanitarian aid into the country and that is our final picture. a picture of an injured indian. natives to the area, indigenous community who has been the subject of a massacre that history will write about and whose numbers we do not fully know. unfortunately that massacre's been largely ignored in the mainstream media. as outlets open fire and military and other irregular forces and open fire on them and prevent the delivery of aid from the brazilian border, but fortunately the world is weaking up to the true nature of this cry -- waking up to the true nature of this crisis. 54 nations, not the united states alone, 54 nations, vast majority of the nations of this hemisphere, including under the leadership of the limba group, which the united states isn't even a member of, but involves all the most important regional partners that we have, have recognized guaido as the legitimate interim president of
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venezuela. last week the united states introduced a resolution at the u.n. security council supporting interim president guaido and calling for free and fair elections. it was supported by a majority of the members of the security council. you can of course guess who vetoed it. china and russia. before i close, i want to recognize and i want to thank the many, many venezuelans, both in the u.s. and from abroad, who are here with us today. i know there are many who have travel flood from my home state of florida and many other -- from my home state of florida and many other places from the united states. i would close with this message to those here in the room and watching elsewhere. especially those in venezuela. your fight for freedom and restoration of democracy is our fight and the free world has not and will not forget you. maduro's regime believes that he can wait us out. that's been his strategy all along. hold on, wait it out, the world will lose focus. they'll stop paying attention, they'll move on to other things and the opposition will
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fracture. we're not going to forget about it. we'll be on this as long as it takes and no matter how hard it is. it is in our national interest, it does honor to our legacy as a nation that believes in dignity and human rights of all people. and that is something that we are strongly committed to, as i hope you had take away from today's hearing, there may be debates about tactics, but there is no debate, i believe, and 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 cardin, and i know also that the ranking member of the full committee is here and has been very engaged and i would open up to him for however you want to handle it 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
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very first hearing of our subcommittee is on venezuela. mr. cardoza: your comments, particular -- mr. cardenas: your comments, particularly your -- mr. cardin: your comments it,like i -- particularly your closing comments, is that the maud regime has no legitimacy and the venezuelan people deserve a democratic government and a government that will protect their human rights. so i think this is the right hearing for us to start. and i look forward to working with you. also appreciate the fact that you acknowledged senator menendez, our ranking member of the full committee, and when i complete my opening comments, i would ask that he be recognized for opening statement. senator menendez has been our leader in this hemisphere, he's been our leader now globally, but he's been our leader on this hemisphere and certainly has statements in regards to venezuela echo and have been in leadership of many of the statements that you have made in your opening statement.
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lastly, let me thank the patience of our witnesses. we're a little bit more lengthy in our opening comments. i hope the chairman will be tolerance of the clock today because i do think the seriousness of this 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. so 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 their enduring resilience and perseverance, they have now had an historic opportunity to restore democracy, prosperity and the rule of law through their country. mr. chairman, i wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the staggering corruption, mismanagement, authoritarian. ism and criminality used by the -- authoritarianism and
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criminality used by the maduro regime. decades of slow erosion of democratic norms and human rights along with the selfish motivations of a dictater have operated this crisis. it is a -- precipitated this crisis. it is tragic that the maduro regime would rather feed their own agreed than allow millions of hungry venezuelan children and families to assess 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 a study done in 2017. it's called the maduro diet. so while maduro's inner circle enrich themselves with billions of dollars of ill-gotten funds, the venezuelan people lack basic -- basic necessities. they live in fear of being killed, robbed or kidnapped by criminal groups which operate with impunity and even outright government approval, as you pointed out in your opening statement. today cracks a has the sad distinction -- caracas has the
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sad distinction of being the world's most dangerous city. under these dire circumstances, the venezuelans are fleeing their country in record numbers. an estimated three million have fled over past five years, resulting in a refugee crisis unprecedented in this hemisphere. our latin american neighbors have given refuge to millions of fleeing eventsans and i applaud their efforts. it's been extremely challenging for the surrounding countries and i had a chance to talk to administrator green about this yesterday. it's incredible what the surrounding countries are doing in order to meet these needs. i'm aware, mr. chairman, that your home state of florida is also receiving venezuela ans. the crisis hits close -- venezuelans. the crisis hits close to home to many of commy constituents in maryland as well. this is truly a regional crisis affecting the entire hemisphere. for all these reasons, both moral and practical, the crisis in venezuela commands our attention. i support the u.s. and o.a.s. and other donor efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, including eventsans who fled their country.
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and -- svenans who fled their country -- venezuelans who fled their country. i similar larly -- similarly support sanctions that target the maduro regime's worst offenders. this prevents criminals in the regime from using the banking system to hide their stolen assets. they don't want to keep their assets in venezuela. they like to be able to do that globally. we can prevent that. i call on our partners to consider imposing their own sanctions on the maduro regime to amplify the impact of the sanctions. regime officials should not be allowed the high proceeds of their corruptions overseas and send their family members to live abroad in luxury while their country starves. as we are well aware, there are also clear steps that the maduro regime can take to get themselves delisted from sanctions. those currently keeping this
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illegitimate government in power and blocking aid from entering their country should know it's not too late to do the right thing. our partners and allies in latin america and worldwide have formed a powerful chorus calling for a peaceful return to democracy in venezuela. more than 50 countries have joined us in recognizing the legitimacy of the guaido government. i hope that others continue to do so. the united states along with our global partners can help the interim government resolve crisis peacefully so that venezuela can finally fully reclaim their country. i really do appreciate the witnesses that are here today. i really look forward, mr. abrams and administrator green we thank you for your long service to crur -- green, we thank you for your long service to our country and your continued service to our country. mr. chairman, with your permission i'd like to yield to the ranking member of the full committee, senator menendez.
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men men -- mr. menendez: let me start off by commending chairman rubio and senator cardin for convening today's hearing. i think it's a critically important timely one, we're talking about the western hemisphere. nothing rises in my mind higher at this moment than venezuela. and of course following that, nicaragua as well. 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 venezuela. on recognizing interim president guaido as the legitimate interim president of venezuela. and our pursuit of democracy and human rights for the venezuelan people. venezuela is at a crossroads. one in which a dictator clings to power amidst the ruins of a failed state and in which
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democratic actors seek a peaceful transition in their country. 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 freefall, to the violence perpetrated by security forces, collecttiveos and the death squads, maduro is a criminal dictate who are 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, the assets he has stolen from them and the military leaders he has paid for their loyalty. the fact that he is closely advised by cuba and bank rolled by russia and china only complicates the matters. there is, however, a democratic process by which members of the legitimately elected national assembly exercise their power under the venezuelan
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constitution to designate assembly president guaido as ber impresident of -- interim president of venezuela. it was critically important that more than 50 countries recognize guaido as the sbir impresident -- sbir impresident. this unprecedent -- sbir im president -- interim president. his spans the world. i strongly support the administration's decision to recognize guaido as well as his efforts to expand sanctions against specific individuals and to work with regional partners to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid. and i believe firmly in the full use of u.s. political and economic pressure to create the conditions necessary for a negotiated solution that includes maduro's departure and venezuela's peaceful return to democracy. so we must ask, where do we go from here? as the guaido government works to restore democracy, the
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global community must not waiver in our support for the venezuelan people. in 2014 when i was chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, we passed first set of sanctions and efforts to restore democracy to venezuela. last week i authored bipartisan legislation to extend temporary protected stat to us venezuelans in the united states -- 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 humanitarian assistance, my bill includes provisions to increase pressure on the jet stream. but it will also send a message -- on 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
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in the world, then you must recognize the legitimate interim president, guaido, and you must not have blood on your hands. you must not have blood on your hands. however, for our economic and financial sanctions to be truly effective, they must be matched by actions from our 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, stressing the importance of coordinating our humanitarian and our sanctions efforts. and the sbir impresident's push to work -- interim president's push to organize new democratic elections. what i would caution is the support we have lent unequivocally on venezuela does not include the use of force. these comments threaten the
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international consensus that has created an opening for positive change and a return to democracy. 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 some time, discipline and a strategy based on the keen understanding of the complex situation on the ground. but maduro is not invincible. he's far from it. since january 23, more than 500 soldiers, several high-ranking regime officials have defected, including two generals and the former head of the intelligence service. moreover, president guaido further exposed maduro's weakness by returning to eventsa -- venezuela on monday. doing so not by sneaking across the border, but by landing at caracas' airport.
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we have a unique opportunity before us. 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 that 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 a family of hemispheric nations that observe the rule of law, democracy and the respect of its people's rights. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. rubio: thank you. we'll begin with our witnesses. mr. abrams. your microphone. mr. abrams: thank you, chairman rubio, and ranking member cardin and chairman risch, ranking member any nen dez, members of the committee. thanks for opportunity to estify here.
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we are experiencing the largest displacement of people in latrn american hit are -- latin american history. this crisis is, as has been noted, all man-made by a small and conveniently 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 tellsy and rebuild the prosperity of their nation. first we'll keep building the pressure on maduro. we're putting an end to his regime's use of corruption. we've implemented sanctions that are cutting off vital sources of cash to this corrupt regime's pockets. we're applying the individual sanctions on maduro's supporters and are revoking their own and their families' visas. we're working with the international community to freeze the regime's bank accounts across the globe. we're also making it clear that it is never too late to change. we will provide off ramps to
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those who will support democratic change in venezuela and do it what is right for the venezuelan people -- 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 administrate already have more to say about that. the total united states support is now just short of $200 million. we have stocked warehouses in colombia full of food and basic medicines at the border and are seeking ways of bringing those supplies into venezuela and having them distributed to people in need. maduro and his cronies and some of their cheerleaders abroad claim that delivering humanitarian assistance is a political show and a cover for military intervention and a violation of venezuelaa's sovereign -- 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
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workers -- aide workers. only the regime has betrayed venezuelan independence's sovereignty 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 is simply a ploy designed to divide the 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 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 who are still on the fence, fearing retaliation by maduro's cuban accomplices, we are asking them to show their
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pride and patriotism and we believe they have a key role to play in rebuilding their homeland. interim president guaido and the political parties in venezuela's legitimate national assembly have all stated that the transition to a new post-maduro venezuela will be a multiparty inclusive process. it will include others of every political background who see a democratic future for venezuela led by the venezuelan people, not a venezuelan dictator and a small, corrupt crew. we are grateful for the leadership of our partners in supporting humanitarian assistance for the people of venezuela, and supporting their demand for democracy. we're 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've helped galvanize a global effort to
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restore democracy and liberty to venezuela. each day courageous venezuelan patriots struggle to make venezuela free. often at their own real peril. and interim president guaido has injected a new energy into the collective hope of those who want to return to a venezuela that benefits all venezuelan citizens, not just maduro and the inner circle. mr. chairman, we stand united behind the venezuelan people. like the vast majority of venezuelans, we believe the time to end maduro's wholesale destruction of venezuela is now. and when venezuelas succeed in ending the dick shater -- dictatorship and restoring liberty, it will show dictators in our hemisphere and the restle of the world that people's desire for freedom cannot be distinguished. thank you, mr. chairman, members of the committee. ranking member cardin, chairman
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risch, ranking member menendez, for having me here today. i look forward to answering your questions. thank you. r. rubio: administrator green. mr. green: chairman risch and ranking member menendez, chairman rubio and 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 this 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 suffering that eventsan families are facing -- venezuelan families are facing each and every day. hyperinflation by some estimates approaching 2 million percent. rampant foot shortages have -- food short ands have wrecked the availability of venezuelan families to make ends meet. 80% of children under 5 are in some stage of malnutrition.
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nearly 90% of hospitals are experiencing medicine shortages. and almost as many are without reliable power or water. infectious diseases previously eliminated or controlled are now surging. a department theiria outbreak that began in july, 2016, has now escalated to nearly 1,560 cases, including 270 deaths. all of this effects the larger region of the roughly 17,000 measles cases recently diagnosed in the region, most have been traced to outbreaks inside venezuela. while over three million venezuelans have fled into neighboring countrying -- countries, this is the largest cross-border exod us in the history of the americas. of course the crisis is all the more outrageous because it is entirely man-made and regime-driven. .
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from destoring governing checks and balances to civil rights, to forcing doctors and other professionals to flee, the regime has caused a once prosperous nation to essentially implode. maduro has saved some of his worst for his treatment of humanitarian assistance. for one thing, he artlessly --for one claim 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 venezuelan people. as recently as 2016 he claimed the country's health care system was among the best in
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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 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,
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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 uman 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. usaid, with support from the departments of defense and state and others has responded. first we are continuing to 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.
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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. his very day, deputy dminister glick is accompanying our latest shipment of humanitarian assistance, medical supplies, aimed at helping hospitals and clinics. the u.s. government is hardly alone. a dozen plus countries have made concrete mention and five, -- concrete pledges 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. as you no doubt aware, on february 23rd, interim president guaido and courageous venezuelan volunteers attempted to bring supplies from the
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international community, including some from usaid across the border. unfortunately they were 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 in venezuela and continue to support colombia and others who are hosting venezuelans who have fled. we recognize humanitarian 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
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democracy, rule of law and citizen responsive governance. thank you, mr. chairman, thank you to ul of a -- thank you to all of 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. >> 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? r. abrams: yes, it is. senator rubio: you spent 100% of your time in search of a peaceful transition to democracy. r. abrams: that's correct. senator rubio: second, the maduro regime, let me ask you this, yesterday 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 ransactions. what kind of sanctions are
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being contemplated? mr. abrams: 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 notice, 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. rubio: my senator 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 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? mr. abrams: that's our commitment and i think it's both a bipartisan commitment and one that the congress and the administration share. senator rubio: thank you. senator cardin. senator cardin: as we've all
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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. three 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? mr. abrams: we are and trying to provide some financial support for colombia to help defray the very large expenses that they are undertaking. senator cardin: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
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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? mr. abrams: we know that's a great concern of yours and senator rubio's who's introduced a bill on this. mr. menendez. and we have this policy actually under review right now. i would say that there are 74,000 asylum applications right now from venezuela. senator cardin: what is there to review? we all have pointed out the urgency of this situation. this is not a matter that can wait. so i'm somewhat puzzled as to
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what there is to review. mr. abrams: there are -- if one decides to move in that direction, there are a number of ways to do it. administratively by t.p.s. so one of the things one has to decide, what exactly are you going to do once you decide to protect venezuelans who are here? as i said, there are 74,000 who are here who applied for asylum so they are in a sense need protected 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. senator cardin: i would just point out clarity here to me is extremely important. we're asking the region, countries in the region to make extraordinary sacrifices in der 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
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that we are not acting in a timely way. and that presents to me a challenge for us in our leadership in that region. mr. abrams: 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 d.h.s. issue as well. but we'll move forward on that. senator cardin: 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 magnitsky, other tools that are available. there needs to be a clear message to those who are part of the maduro machinery, whether they are 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, they will be sanctioned and we will maintain those sanctions and seek
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international support for those sanctions, but they have an opportunity to do what's right for the people of venezuela? mr. abrams: we are. we've sanctioned dozens of regime officials. there will be more sanctions. there were a half dozen a few days ago. i announced 49 last week. the vice president announced 77 more. regime people and their families whom we don't want in the united states. senator cardin: we made it clear there is a path forward, that if they do what's right for the people of venezuela? mr. abrams: yes. every time we do this we note these -- sanctions are all reversible. senator cardin: ambassador -- administrator green, i want to underscore a point we talked about yesterday. yes, we need to provide humanitarian aid to the three million, and we are doing that and i appreciate that working with our partners globally. we need to do everything we can to get humanitarian assistance in venezuela, which is extremely challenging and we need to do that. we also have to recognize the
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regional impact, particularly in colombia, which has over a million. there's a need there but also as it affects our plans for colombia, are now impacting, can colombia continue the integration of their communities and economic progress with the impact of the colombians who have come to their country, is that on your radar screen? mr. green: thank you for the question. it absolutely is. you're right. the cost to the other countries in the region are not the only humanitarian cost of 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 challenges they are taking on. senator cardin: particularly this budget cycle we be engaged in this because it will be a challenge for colombia to meet its goals in regards to their
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peace commitments so we would welcome working with you as to the tools you need to help make that a reality. thank you, mr. chairman. senator rubio: i want to briefly recognize -- we have been joined by the ambassador of venezuela. recently appointed by interim president guaido and confirmed by the national assembly. thank you for joining us. senator barrasso. senator barrasso: thank you. ambassador green, we condemn the maduro regime. the people of venezuela are enduring a serious humanitarian crisis, maduro is happy, it seems, to let the people of venezuela suffer. he's denying food, denying medical care to his own people who are in desperate need of assistance. we know stockpiles of lifesaving equipment including food, hygiene kits are building up at the border with colombia.
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we strongly all urge maduro to let humanitarian aid into venezuela. could you talk a little bit about how much, if any, of u.s. humanitarian assistance is actually reaching the venezuelan people? mr. green: well, first off, of course, much assistance is reaching those who have fled as we know into the neighboring countries. in terms of those who remained behind, who are still in venezuela, we know there are private sources out there where individuals are providing assistance and taking it across. in terms of the assistance that we're all referring to that was prepositioned in these recent eeks, tragically on february 23 we all saw those events and the violent confrontation. two trucks were set on fire. we just recently, in the last few days, did a complete inventory. the good news is the losses were relatively minor.
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and so that assistance is being repositioned. it really is up to the leadership of interim president guaido. this assistance was prepositioned at his request. specific request from guaido to president trump, secretary pompeo and all of us and so we are working with him and following his lead. senator barrasso: senator cardin used the word urgency and we all have a sense of urgency. if a political transition doesn't occur quickly, maduro continues to prevent humanitarian assistance to his own people, could you talk about the likely impact on this humanitarian situation in venezuela? mr. green: i saw a statistic the other day that suggested that in the time that maduro s been in power, the economy venezuela contracted by 50% and the estimation is if things don't change it will contract
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another third this year. so we will see a profound collapse, and it's not even just the availability of food and staples. when you have inflation hitting by some estimates two million percent, nobody has the ability to buy anything anyway so there will be profound despair and hopelessness. 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 number is, but when i was down there just last week, the remarkable energy and courage of the venezuelan people tells me that this will eventually end the right way. senator barrasso: mr. abrams, i see you shaking your head yes about the length of the ability of the maduro regime stay in place. the world saw the assad regime remain in power as a result of being propped up by outside countries such as the military and financial backing from russia and from iran.
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you see, these countries were willing to brutally his own people and destroy his own country. as you look at maduro regime's 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? mr. abrams: the two critical supports, as senator rubio said, are russia and cuba. there are thousands and thousands of cuban military and intel people all around maduro. they permeate the regime. russia has supplied tens of billions of dollars. soon as we did the pdvsa sanctions, 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. senator barrasso: the final question because ambassador green talked about the economy constricted by 50% and another
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50% 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 that's unleashed on this venezuela economy? what can people do once he's gone? mr. abrams: there are a number of plans. there is a thing called plan pais that the national assembly has. we worked on a plan. and there will be, i should say, unquestionably world bank and i.m.f. plans that will involve billions of dollars in funds to reconstruct the economy of venezuela. the great thing is this is not fundamentally a bankrupt country. it's a country with this incredible resource of petroleum, the greatest in the world. i think you will find 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 and i.m.f. in
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particular will be ready to help start that engine. senator barrasso: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. green: mr. chairman, may i comment on my friend's response? i think the other aspect of this that makes venezuela different than some of the other challenges that we take , the venezuelan diaspora, 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 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. senator barrasso: thank you, mr. chairman. senator rubio: mr. menendez. mr. menendez: thank you for allowing my colleagues of the subcommittee to allow me to go
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first. it's rare that the chair 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 here for a while. sometimes it's sparse particularly when it relates to latin america, it speaks volume about the interest in a bipartisan basis of congress on this particular issue. and i want to pick up a moment from where administrator green said. the venezuela diaspora is fantastic, incredible. all the more reason we should give them t.p.s. so that they're focused not on the concern they may be deported to a country while maduro is there, where their lives are at risk, but focus on how they build a future for venezuela. and i think that speaks for another policy reason why temporary protective status is imminently a good policy. mr. abrams, i understand from media reports that you have had at least two rounds of secret
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talks with maduro's foreign minister, jorge ariasa. i won't ask you about the substance in this setting. will you confirm those talks took place? mr. abrams: yes. they were supposed to be confidential but -- [laughter] mr. abrams: so many things in washington are supposed to be. mr. menendez: are you discussing maduro's future with the cuban regime? mr. abrams: no. senator menendez: have you spoken to the russian government? mr. abrams: i have met with the russian ambassador. mr. senator menendez: how about the chinese government? mr. abrams: not yet. i think we need to send a clear message, whatever investments you made in maduro you won't get them under a failed state. your own interest at the end of the day is in allowing a democratic process to take place that can restore venezuela to its full vitality, economically and otherwise. and i hope we are pushing that message even with those who are
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working against us right now and working against president guaido. mr. abrams: we are. menelik watson -- senator menendez: can you come back to a classified setting on this subject? mr. abrams: absolutely. senator menendez: i would like to see expansion of coordinated sanctions, an issue that will be addressed in my pending legislation. canada has dozens of officials for targeted sanctions. europe has done targeted sanctions and banned arm sales to the maduro regime. there are initial efforts under way in latin america who i hink we need to help our allies. for our sanctions to be an impact, other countries need to match our efforts. with venezuela, gold, cryptocurrency and oil. what concrete steps are we taking to ensure our partners match our sanctions? mr. abrams: this is really a diplomatic effort.
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we've been in touch with all 24 of the countries in the e.u. that recognize guaido. and countries in latin america that do as well. try to felt them frankly to do more sanctions and to do more visa revocations. in many cases they haven't done any. and there are, as you know, a number of officials in the maduro regime that sent their families abroad so we talked to those countries, for example, why allow your country to be a playground for regime officials and their families? we are all working on that. senator menendez: i hope we will focus on those categories i mentioned because 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 they want to internationalize an effort to create a peaceful transition in venezuela. maduro and his cronies have
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stolen billions of dollars from the venezuelan people. what steps is the administration willing to take 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? mr. abrams: i think that's a very good idea. the first step is to freeze it. that is, it won't be so maduro can get his hands on it. we've taken a lot of steps with governments. we all know about the bank of england. freezing the gold. we have approached a lot of other governments. we approached several more yesterday mentioning to those governments named banks and asking them to make sure venezuelan people's assets are frozen so that they can't be stolen by the regime. senator menendez: something i do in my legislation. i'd love to work with the administration to work on coordinating. finally, administrator green, i
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understand we provided approximately $195 million in aid to venezuela and hosting countries. given that u.s. sanctions are denying the maduro regime $15 million to $20 million in export revenues per day, i think it's safe to say that the u.s. and international community needs to do more. i'm contemplating in my legislation $400 million to $500 million of humanitarian aid. do you think that's a reasonable figure? mr. green: i think it's a start, to be honest. venezuela in some ways is a black box. we have been working with others to begin to analyze and take a look at what that is and also taking a look at what the down payments are on electoral support for free, fair, credible elections. and this is obviously something, as we know, from the number of nations that have recognized guaido, needs to be
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a multinational effort. senator menendez: well, since that's the case, two points. why have we not convened a donors conference to bring about the preparations for what is necessary to deal with both the humanitarian disaster and then eventually the reconstruction? and 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 we should be pursuing? mr. green: 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 the world stands behind the future of venezuela,
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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. and 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. secondly, it does provide some economic support and stimulus for those communities near the venezuelan border. and that, of course, is a good thing as well. mr. abrams: there was a conference at the o.a.s. in which a number of particularly european countries announced pledges. o we've taken step one, but as administrator green said, we need to do a more formal effort. senator gardner: thank you for your service. i commend you for the work you are doing on this incredibly important and humanitarian and leadership example.
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the illegitimate maduro regime has shown a depraved every different to the human condition, people of venezuela. but i sense a great deal of energy in terms of president guaido and 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. obviously congress will do more. but the full faith, power, might of the united states behind the people of venezuela in this effort i think is incredible. 54 nations around the globe gathered together in this effort. we obviously need more. we need more nations to do more to step up. donors that senator menendez talked about, the donors, the sanctions, the efforts to strongly condemn, to expel, deprive this regime of the funds it's using to continue
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with the atrocities against its own people, what more can we do as a congress to encourage her nations to join this oalition in the right? mr. abrams: there is a number of nations, some in the caribbean and europe that have not recognized juan guaido. i think if you and this committee talk to the ambassadors of those nations -- it doesn't happen every day -- but your pressure would immediately get telegraphed back to those capitals and could make a difference. senator gardner: ambassador? mr. green: quite frankly this hearing and 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
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to make it very clear, this is not about one administration, u.s. administration, but this is the position of the american people. over and over again everywhere you can. senator gardner: i hope as people are list epping to this hearing, as people read the transcripts, they know there is no sideline to sit on, to stand on, that this is a call for action, this is a call for help, this is a call for recognition for the people of venezuela. and the legitimate regime that will come to interim president guaido. you mentioned, mr. abrams, russia, cuba. could you talk about china, their role, their interests what they're doing right now in venezuela? mr. abrams: 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. had hoped they might move to abstaining but they haven't. and we made the argument, as
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senator menendez said, they are not going to get their money back from a bankrupt venezuela. they are only going to get it back from a venezuela that's prosperous. they have differentiated themselves from the russians, and i would say, rhetorically, in that the russians are using cold war rhetoric about 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 will bring venezuela back to prosperity. senator gardner: thank you. ambassador, anything you want to add to that? mr. green: well, i certainly agree with everything that my olleague has said. again, i think 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
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venezuela the chance to choose their own future, and that's what we seek to do. of course, that's a very different model and very different approach from china, russia, cuba, and others. senator gardner: thank you. mr. abrams, you mentioned that the talks were supposed to be in confidence or at least not be discussed but reminded of a saying i heard that washington is the only place where sound travels faster than light. so thank you for your time at the hearing this morning. senator rubio: senator udall. senator udall: thank you, mr. chairman, and the ranking member, for these hearings and thank you to the witnesses for being here. there is no doubt that the maduro regime has caused widespread misery and suffering in venezuela and his followers are laying the country down the path to more violence and repression of the venezuelan people. the united states should work
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with its partners in the region to restore democratic order and to reduce the threat of increased violence in venezuela and throughout the region. however, i'm mindful of the long history of u.s. interventions in the region. 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 suffering on, quote, yankees. now, the president of the united states, some members of congress and others are issuing threats of u.s. military intervention and regime change by force. a council foreign relations expert on latin america and friend of this committee and witness before this committee wrote about this regarding the prospect of military intervention. she says, venezuela isn't
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grenada or panama. the two latin american countries invaded by the u.s. in the closing days of the cold war. instead, it's 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 100,000-plus force. u.s. troops are unlikely to be welcomed. if february polls shows a majority of venezuelans, including a plurality those oppose a u.s. invasion. it would 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 arnson, has come to the same conclusion. do either of you believe a
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military solution led by the united states is a solution to this crisis? mr. green: it is not desirable and not the path the administration is taking. mr. abrams: i have been no part of any conversations whatsoever that talked about military intervention. senator udall: ok. do you agree any military intervention would need to be approved by this congress? mr. green: now we're getting into war powers act question and what might lead to a military intervention. i think i should probably not do that. certainly not in an open hearing. senator udall: well, mr. abrams, the simple principle 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. in terms of us being threatened
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or have imminent threat. 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 that it's the congress that has to do that? mr. abrams: you know, i remember president clinton's intervention into, say, kosovo. there was a big debate about the war powers act. i am just not prepared, really, to get into that debate. senator udall: i am not debating the war powers act. i am saying the constitutional authority of congress is the one that declares war and determines intervention? mr. abrams: you have the constitutional authority to go to war. and the commander in chief. that would be a great subject for a hearing. [laughter] senator udall: ok. good. the chairman was here earlier and i'm sure the subcommittee chair will pass that on and i'll try to do the same. do you -- do you think that a civil war would make life better for the venezuelan people, either one of you? mr. abrams: no, clearly not.
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senator udall: mark? mr. green: no. senator udall: is the state department helping mitigate the challenges? in light the yankee imperialism, what is your plan to counter those charges against the american government and the lima group who we are supporting? mr. green: we are working with treasury. i would say we're especially working with usaid. the question of trying to make sure that the sanctions affect the regime but not the venezuelan people. as to the broader question -- mr. abrams: as for the broader question, i'm struck about the unity there is. the history you 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
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out, you know, gringos and yankee imperialism at this point, 2019, falling without much impact. >> just -- senator udall: 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 try to get to the heart of where the administration's really at. i mean, you have on the one hand we see a remarkable thing here where the president is the most aggressive in terms of using force and yet many of the administration officials that appear before us in a variety of context and different committees have a totally different line.
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and so it's a little bit of 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. and so there's a stark difference that's there. thank you, mr. chairman. appreciate the kurt cisof running over a little bit. senator rubio: have any of our international partners told us that they don't want to work with us and so the president stops saying all options are on the table? mr. abrams: no, none have. senator rubio: are there armed pposition group? mr. abrams: they want a peaceful change.
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senator shaheen: thank you 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 the administration for any military action in venezuela, mr. abrams? mr. abrams: no. not in the sense you mean it. there are always contingency plans. i don't know how much i can get into an open hearing. there are always such plans in embassies around the world, but we are not pursuing that path. senator shaheen: mr. green? mr. green: i am not. senator shaheen: the discussion this morning has been very eloquent about the terrible tragedy that's happening in venezuela and about the humanitarian disaster there. but the status of women has not been mentioned and i think it's
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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 has reported increasing numbers of women and children are fleeing and as they're fleeing they're facing unique set of risks around sexual assault, kidnapping, harassment, that many women have turned to sex work to support their families. so i wonder, mr. green, if you could talk about how u.s. assistance is being directed towards the women and children, specifically, who are being affected? mr. green: thank you for the question. and i will say in my most recent trip down and the centers i visited, it was a disproportionately number of young mothers who were there.
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they felt special pain, not only pain for what they're going through, but what they're 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 we prepositioned. secondly, you're pointing to something very important and not 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. so 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.
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mr. abrams: if i could add, senator, i have the chip report with me and as well as tier 3 country. it does not meet minimum standards. the report itself says venezuela is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking. and forced labor. so it's a real problem. senator shaheen: thank you. it's just awful and reflects, again, the fact that in conflict areas that it's women and children who usually bear the brunt of that conflict and this is another example of that and i think another reason why it's so important that legislation like the women, peace and security act that asks women be at the table when we are negotiating are so important because we know that that means that whatever is
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negotiated lasts longer and it means there is a less -- lower likelihood that women then will continue to be placed in positions where they are the victims of so many of the issues, sex trafficking, sexual assault, all of those concerns. so, again, thank you, both, very much for what you're doing. senator rubio: senator kaine. senator kaine: thank you for a very helpful testimony. i want to just acknowledge and applaud the release of a virginia journalist, cody, virginia tech alumni who's been in venezuela reporting independently there for a number of years. was arrested, interrogated and released overnight. that's good news. i want to follow up on comments of my colleagues on this side of the aisle about military threat. having lived in latin america, this notion of blaming problems is very, very
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serious. the president's threats of military threat is a horrible idea. i think sanctions, the worked you did, to cobble together with the global coalition is very, very good. i think it really creates problems, though, if the message gets mixed with the potential military threat. i have same concerns senator udall raised who it is that initiates war. it's congress, not the president, unless there is imminent threat in the united states, i believe. more than that, loose talk about military action actually cements and emboldens dictators. they want to be able to blame their problems on uncle sam, on america, on the west. they would love to be able to blame it on somebody else. as they're running an economy into the ground, whether it's putin in russia or maduro in venezuela, they would love to blame their own mismanagement and failings on others. and any loose talk about military action brings up this whole history of u.s. military intervention. it gives maduro the ability to
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claim that the u.s. is interested in petroleum or anything else, and i think it's important we stress what our interests are. the only interest we have is peace, liberty and democracy for the venezuelan people. that's it. [speaking spanish] not military, not oil. there's nothing we want for ourselves. we only want peace, liberty, and democracy for venezuelan people. i think we need to stress that very clearly. i want to ask you about -- you reference briefly the o.a.s. and i kind of like to dig into this. i think you gave us maybe a good suggestion. i'm troubled by the number of caribbean nations that have not in support of global coalition and i read that as a challenge largely kind of petroleum politics that venezuela has used petroleum reserves to
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purchase their loyalty. you can kind of understand that. and real politique. dialogue is important. there is a lot we can offer to convince some of those nations to hopefully join the global coalition in support of the interim government and the constitutionally dictated transition to elections and a new government. what -- so dialogue with the nations that we're talking about, what are other strategies you might suggest for us? what is the administration pursuing in terms of dialogue with nations, especially those in the o.a.s. to make sure there is more of a consensus within this important hemispheric organization to help us out? mr. abrams: we do have something approaching a consensus on the latin american side, not the caribbean countries. all those countries are democracies. it's for the reasons you state. debt, especially. and in some cases joint ventures with pdvsa over the years.
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we continue in all those capitals to push them. the principal deputy in the latin american bureau is in the eastern caribbean right now pressing leadership to see if we can move them. again, i would say hearing from members of this committee, talking to their ambassador 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. tell us what you're afraid of and maybe we can help you. in the case, for example, of jamaica recently, they undertook a few transactions that would reduce their ties, let's say, to pdvsa in a very useful way so they get out from under. mr. green: thank you, senator. i think one of the ways we do this is to make sure that our humanitarian foot is forward. and so in the case, for example, of trinidad and tobago
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we provided $1.6 million in assistance to help identify the needs of the venezuelans 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, quite frankly, that they're feeling. so it is something that we're doing regionally. i will tell you this. think the impact of the venezuelan plight in the caribbean is something people don't quite appreciate. last year at the o.a.s. -- at the summit of the americas, we were beginning to hear it and that was now many months ago. i'm sure the numbers have gone way up. it is something where we can reach out, we can provide support and i think that will be very helpful. senator kaine that's very helpful. thanks, mr. chair. senator rubio: senator cruz. senator cruz: thank you. gentlemen, good morning. thank you for your good work.
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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 precious metal transactions that are 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
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describe the role that illicit gold and precious metals transactions plays in sustaining the maduro regime? mr. abrams: thanks, senator. it's critical. what we did with pdvsa 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. so they lose that cash. where can they find cash today? gold is one of the very few places and it's the biggest one. senator cruz: i understand the administration is possession of turkish entities that's moving gold for venezuela based on publicly sourced information. can you outline how the administration intends to approach these and other bad actors? mr. abrams: first, we talked to the governments in question and enterprises in question in almost every case to say you have to stop doing this because it's wrong and because there are going to be sanctions.
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pardon me. we had some success in other areas of the world in getting companies to say ok. we don't want to risk sanctions. we will stop. we have not had success in the case of gold sales in the middle east more generally. senator cruz: mr. green, what initiatives can usaid encourage in venezuela or other partners in the region to deter maduro's illicit mining and trade of gold and to safeguard the supply chain for venezuela? mr. green: thank you, senator. actually, in countries like colombia and peru, we have well-developed, successful illicit mining programs which use environmentally sound methods for mining. secondly, because it's listed it actually provides a revenue source that can be reinvested in the communities and creates good-paying jobs and chokes off the source of illicit gold,
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revenues that we know narcos and criminal gangs too often use. i would propose the 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. senator cruz: 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. it is well past time to secure their release, and it is my hope that the new venezuelan government will work with the u.s. to swiftly ensure their safe return. mr. abrams, is the administration in discussions with either the guaido administration or the maduro regime on the imprisonment of the citgo executives who are
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u.s. dual nationals? and can you describe what efforts are being made to secure their release? mr. abrams: as you know, senator, we are unable to get counselor access to them. the position of the regime is because there are also venezuelan citizens you don't get to see them so we have not been able to do that. it's also true that the church in venezuela has asked to see pastorial visits. no. we keep pressing the regime because there are two court orders for their release which the regime simply refuses to implement. we keep pressing. we do keep raising it. i am confident at the point of which interim president guaido takes over their release will be very rapid. senator cruz: well, goo. i would encourage you to continue to make that a high priority. a final question for both of
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you. it's a pivotal time in venezuela. a time for opportunity and a time for risk. there are some 3,000 generals in venezuela. each of those generals now have to decide with whom he stands. with the illegitimate and oppressive maduro regime or ith the legitimate and ecognized guaido government. what do both of you believe could be effective both carrots and sticks for those 3,000 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 oor? mr. abrams: i'd say there are two parts to that. the legitimate national assembly speaks of that.
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pardon me. there are further debase 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 made it clear removed.tions can be these revocations can be reversed and visas can be 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 are making the argument that they are open to those who are willing to change. senator cruz: thank you. senator rubio: i want to thank both of you for being here today. we want to get to our second panel. we thank you for 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
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our second panel and i know we have a vote in about 45 minutes so i would only strongly encourage our witnesses, we have your written testimony. i think you both are veterans of appearing in the committee introduced already the witness previously. -- our nongovernment expert. he first is mr. eric arnsworth, dr. cynthia arnson.
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i ask those who are here to see the hearing if you would take your seats or transition out because we -- i want to make sure whoever stays get their questions in, i want to make sure our testimony is in. dr. arnson, we'll start with you if that's ok. are you ready? thank you, both, for being here. dr. arnson: thank you, chairman rubio, ranking member cardin, members of the subcommittee, senator menendez, it's a privilege to be here. i think both sides of the aisle have adequately described the disaster, humanitarian, economic, political to venezuela. skip over part of my testimony and instead focus on the options of u.s. policy, both their advantages and their risks. first, sanctions. building on the actions that started under the obama administration and now intensified by the trump administration, there's been a dramatic escalation in the
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range of individuals, financial, and now petroleum sanctions on venezuela. the purpose is obviously to increase substantially and unacceptably the political and economic and personal costs 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 fizzures in the armed forces which, as we know, are maduro's key source of support. these divisions could these could have already emerged or become more pronounced, especially as the economic sanctions are in place 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 regime, a kind of circling of the wagons
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against foreign efforts. there's also the devastating humanitarian -- human cost of the oil sanctions. so i believe that the issue of humanitarian aid needs to be depoliticized, it must adhere to the principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence, and i believe that the united nations, many of its agencies, unicef, the world health organization, the local red cross, the 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 to the impact of the flow of venezuelan refugees on the countries of the region. 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
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the $738 million that are called for in 2019 alone, called for by the u.n. regional refugee and migrant 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 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
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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 gorillas from the e.l.n., the farc, those who refuse to demobilize, and perhaps even some of those who did demobilize, to join up arms against that. so it's possible that the 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 as assad's syria has survived, becoming even more repressive in its determination to cling to
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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 can openly compete without disadvantage and take office should it win. that goal will require institutional reform, especially of the electoral council. it probably also requires international observation and supervision. i don't believe it requires the end of chavizmo as a political force. i was heartened to hear people reiterate that concept of the and it does foresee its integration into a functioning and pluralistic democracy. i do not believe that a transition requires the immediate purging of the military or even the
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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, 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 trieder to many years. the maduro regime has used them to buy time, divide the opposition and avoid concessions. and i would put on the table now the question as to whether a hurting stalemate, a concept that is mostly used in 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 international contact group which does not talk about negotiations, it talks about creating the conditions for a free and fair
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election as the subject of talks with the government. thank you very much. farnsfarns mr. chairman, good morning -- mr. farnsworth: mr. chairman, good morning. thank you for the invitation, again, to appear before all of you. it's a real privilege. before i begin my remarks, let me reiterate comments that have already been 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. i think, first of all, that's critically important. second, i want to thank the members of this subcommittee for your leadership and the way you have positioned this issue. i believe that that 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 proven oil reserves is an economic basket
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case. racked by hyperinflation, shrinking economic growth, food and medical shortages, and criminal bans including officially sanked -- sanctioned drug traffickers and street crime. the private sector is prostate and investment has essentially dried up. oil production, which is the life blood of the economy, has collapsed through lack of set. , unimaginable corruption, and the loss of essential human capital. abundant natural resources such as gold, which we've already heard about, are being plundered, leading to a full-scale assault on venezuela's fragile am zonian ecosystem. as the economy has sured, maduro has tightened control. every institution except the national assembly has been bent to his will. the rule of law has been thoroughly corrupted. the press has been cooperated or muzzled and journalists harassed and detained and we've already heard about weddle and ramos in this hearing this morning. social media is being monitored actively -- actively. venezuela's intelligence and
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security services and other state functions are strongly influenced, if not directed by thousands of cubans imbedded in the regime. mr. chairman, outsiders have already intervened in venezuela and continue to do so. with more than 10% of venezuela' total population now outside the nation and more leaving every day, we are witnessing the worst man-made humanitarian tragedy of the modern era in the western hemisphere. the united states has received thousands of venezuelans and bipartisan legislations that -- has been introduced to provide t.p.s. with some 72,000 venezuelans who are already here. the dramatic return to venezuela this week of interim president guaido has given renewed hope to the venezuelan people. his task, moving venezuela toward free and fair elections, is greatably complicated by maduro's continued occupation. with maduro's departure, it would be possible to contemplate a successful relaunch of venezuela's democratic system, including the release of political prisoners, restoring press freedoms, and depoliticizing
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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, no doubt, quick dispersing aid from the international community is therefore essential. citizens of venezuela must be convinced that their lives will meaningfully improve under democracy. transparency and its forcible rule of law are key to this issue. it will be of little benefit in my view to replace existing corruption with new corruption. faith in the new democratic government will be fragile and can easily be destroyed without attention to such issues. venezuela was at one point latin america's wealthiest nation. someday it may be again. meanwhile, the humanitarian tragedy caused by cha advise mow and its leaders -- chavsmo and its leaders gets worse every day. the regime would rather kill people than allow aid into the country to help them. sanctions are therefore an
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appropriate response. ultimate lirks however, the regime will have to depart for lasting recovery and true reconstruction to begin. mr. chairman, i want to thank you again for the opportunity to testify before you and the subcommittee and i look forward to your questions. mr. rubio: thank you. mr. cardin: thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank both of our witnesses and i 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 want to underscore the point you made that's been talked about by several of the members and that is the keeping all options on the table and the potential use of u.s. military, which i would strongly disagree with at this point. but just underscore the point that you've made in your statement that it would erode the consensus between the united states hemisphere, democracies and the countries of europe over how to approach the venezuelan crisis and then, second, you point out one should not underestimate the drastic consequences for regional stability should it
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occur. i think we all share those sentiments and i was pleased to see the response from the overnment witnesses as to no planning on the use of military. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. 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 judgment, what carrots or sticks would have the greatest impact in speeding along the exit of maduro and a transition to a democratically elected and legitimate regime? >> thank you, senator cruz.
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i agree with the implications of the question that the real arbiter on the ground in venezuela is the military. mr. farnsworth: which is the no monopoly with the regime -- monopoly with the regime. so you have to get them to stand down or switch their allegiance. these are individual decisions. these are decisions made based on people's best guess 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 even like his social project or whatever it is. ut because they're afraid. they're afraid they'll be killed. the way the security services are monitored, by venezuelans and also outside advisors, there is a real sense of who may be looking to create conditions for -- to try to
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overthrow the government or leave or what have you. so it's a very delicate situation. what account united states and the international community do? i think we can continue, as was discussed in the previous panel, to express openness that those who do not have blood on their hands, those who have not participated in human rights abuses, would be welcomed into a new venezuela. i think that's absolutely appropriate. but i think at 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. they think that mr. maduro will have the opportunity to remain forever, then the choice to switch their allegiance to mr. guaido becomes that much more fraught. if they believe that mr. guaido in fact 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
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the most potent thing that we can do at this time. ms. arnson: i'd like to add to that. it's going to be very difficult, i think, to break the high command. i think the number that i've heard is 2,000, not 3,000. but still it's a substantial number and whatever it is, it's at least double if not triple what we have in the united states. in an armed forces that's hugely bigger. i recall that in the chilean ansition, the general, who subsequently was made to stand trial for his crimes of torture 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,
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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, for killing, 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 has an important role to play in this. again, as distasteful and contrary to the whole concept of the rule of law that this may seem. if people feel that if they change or if they somehow agree to break with the regime, what awaits them is a supermax jail cell in the united states, you
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will never see the movement of those people. so i think we have to think in very pragmatic terms, not in absolutist terms, be flexible but also listen to what the venezuelan opposition is doing in terms of speaking to the military, making that outreach. because it's clear that the office -- that the offer of amnesty has not yet been sufficient. mr. cruz: one additional question. you made reference to the cuban soldiers and thugs that are on the ground in venezuela. can you detail a bit more the malign influence that cuba is having propping up the maduro regime? mr. farnsworth: from what i know from outside open sources, there have been very active particularly in the security services. offering not just guidance in terms of how to organize intelligence operations, but also helping the venezuelans carry them out in some cases. they've also been active in
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state functions such as passport agencies and authorities so that they know who is coming in and out of the country. and these are reports from folks, open source, etc. you don't need a whole lot of people from outside the country to do a lot of damage if they are imbedded in the most sensitive areas of the government and the areas that have control of the population. and this is what the cubans have primarily focused on, is my understanding. with that in mind, it's been a very complicated effort and to try to get some of these folks, venezuelans, who may quote-unquote want to do the right thing, they don't know who is watching them, 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. mr. cruz: thank you. mr. menendez: thank you, mr. chairman. i really -- first of all, i want to thank our witnesses for their longstanding sharing of
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their knowledge with the committee over many different issues, over many different times. i really want to make a statement. i understand the concern of many, including some of my colleagues, about military intervention in venezuela. but i am concerned that in the process of those, that constant refrain, 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 maduro and the generals that have to decide whether or not they are going to support democracy and human rights or whether they are going to support a dictatorship and turn their guns on their brothers and sisters. that's why our message is very clear. if your hands are free of blood, and human rights violations, you have a future.
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president guaido has said you have a future. and you have a future free of sanctions that the united states will follow you anywhere in the world, unless you don't -- unless you have blood on your hands. the venezuelans face violence from the collectity voice -- cleve titos and thug -- collect iveos and thugs. there's only one person who causes the suffering of the venezuelan people. it is not sanctioned by the united states or anyone -- sanctions by the united states or anyone else, it is by the failed policies of maduro who takes one of the wealthiest countries in the western hemisphere and has his people eating out of garbage. it is only one entity that has stolen the national patrimony of venezuela. nd that's machado. and it is only one set of interventions that has taken
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place inside of venezuela. it's taken place by cube, that has its security apparatus ropping up maduro. cuban agents are in the midst of providing silos so they can alk to each other. that's intervention. there's only intervention by one other foreign country, and that's russia. they prop up the maduro regime in a whole host of ways. not the united states of america. inally, i really tire somewhat of the suggestion about our sanctions. i've done foreign policy for 27 years between the house and the senate. i only know of a handful of
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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 adventurism to pursue its foreign policy goals, we nly have a handful of useful peaceful diplomacy tools. the use of our aid to indeuce countries to act a certain way. the use of our trade and access to our markets to induce countries to act a certain way, 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. now, i'd be happy to get a
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lesson about what other peaceful diplomacy tools we have. so, unless we are willing to accept a dictatorship that oppresses its people, that does so by force, and that has -- them eating out of gar bang cans and denies them the -- garbage cans and denies them the critical medicines necessary to stay alive, i am not going to be repen contaminant about about our advocacy for sanctions as a peaceful tool to try to move a country in a better direction and that includes venezuela. so i hope we just don't lose our eyes on who is responsible for the suffering of the venezuelan people. his name is clear, it's etched in stone. it's etched in history. and hopefully he will face the history at the end of the day, and that's nicolas maduro. mr. rubio: thank you. reclaiming my time. then i'll recognize senator kaine. the 3.4 million people of venezuela were from 2014 to
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2018, the u.n. projection that two million more were going to leave was established late last year as well. the figure that 90% of the people of venezuela live in poverty and have lost on average 24 pounds was a 2018 number. the chronic and infectious diseases running rampant, hospitals lacking in supplies, has been ongoing for a number of years. the reduction in refining capacity to down to only about 25% due to poor management, poor maintenance, is pre-existing back to 2018 and before. the repeated denial of allowing -- of even recognizing humanitarian catastrophe, much less allowing humanitarian aid to enter the country, did not begin on february 24. this has been a longstanding policy of the maduro regime. and i say all this because the
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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 or 25th, all the sanctions were on individuals, they were on people, not on any 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 the evidence is clear that they were not. on the contrary, i know of no other nation, maybe there is one, i don't know, in which their defense minister also happens to be the chairman of the board of oil and gas. i know of no other place where public servants who have served 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 know -- i guess i don't
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what the right terminology she has. but the second of the command in 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 has been living in the evil united states, 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 both fuel -- you have to ask yourself, how could you possibly face a severe shortage of fuel, you're the world's richest -- you sit on the world's richest supply of oil? the answer is because your refining capacity doesn't exist because instead of buying replacement parts and paying workers, you gave the state oil company over to your buddies so they can run it into the ground. it's 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. it is funny to hear from all these regime insiders because they all reach out, every
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single one of them sends out messages, would i be an acceptable alternative? can you give me visas for my family in exchange for us breaking? it's funny to hear them say, by the way, i'm just corrupt. i'm not a narco trafficking. i'm just old-fashioned corrupt with hundreds of millions of dollars. how do you get -- 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 anywhere in the world. they're getting their money from somewhere. every penny that goes into their hands is not going to the venezuelan people. the bottom line is that this didn't start yesterday. nor did it start on the 24th of january, when sanctions were imposed on the oil industry. the fact of the matter is that virtually every penny generated from the sale of oil for cash was -- that was sold primarily in the its -- to the united states, of which there's a very small percentage of our capacity, but where a significant percentage of what they sell for cash around the world, went to their pockets. went into their hands.
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and all of the narco trafficking fees that they're charging go into their hands. none of that finds the way to the people of venezuela. so i only say that because that's the argument they're trying to set up and they're going to try to use the u.n. and the visit over there next week to sort of 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's been in the paper now for six weeks. there's a lot of venezuela experts now. but i've been dealing with this for five years. so has senator menendez, and many other people on this committee. they're running out of things to steafment the second point it brings me to is the loyalty. there are 2,000 generals. i would say that there's about six to eight of them that actually matter. and one in particular in lopez. that actually matter. the guy who also chairs oil and gas. he has a day job and a night job. and his family meanwhile lives in spain. so, the question really becomes , their loyalty is not
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ideological. it's financial. every single one of them is not loyal to maduro. they are loyal to dollars. dollars. not euros. not bolivars. not pesos. dollars. that's what they're loyal to. and hence the less of that they have, the less reason they have to be loyal. and that is theoretically pace in, and that is one of the things that we -- this is no longer ideological. i'm not saying maduro's not ideological. he probably is a true believer in cuban model and he thinks he needs to go to this ugly period of time to get to that point. but the rest of these guys, they 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 this. because in my view, and i want -- this is really my question to both of you. the formula that brings us to this point is a combination of three things. one is widespread unrest. which is already ongoing and tied to the legitimacy of the
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government as well. the interim government. but the widespread unrest. we see that every time that interim president guaido, despite internet blocks, every time he speaks on tv, the internet goes dark, as those chinese workers over there are helping them block the internet at key moments. and yet he's still able to get hundreds of thousands of people into the street. widespread unrest. number two, the loss of 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 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, loss of military and elite support, and continued international pressure? that ultimately presents him with stark choices and either causes him to move out of the
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way in a negotiated exit, or causes those who continue to prop him up to force that negotiated exit and a new beginning. ms. arnson: i'll start with that. i think that what has struck me roughout this hearing is i don't think there's much disagreement at all about what reality is in venezuela and who is -- and who is responsible. on sanctions not being the source of humanitarian crisis, i couldn't agree more. the politicalization of humanitarian aid was started by the maduro regime, by its refusal to admit that there was a humanitarian crisis in the country and by not allowing international support. the hung, the loves weight, the -- hunger, the loss of weight, the lack of food and medicine, predate the sanctions. my concern about the additional affect of the sanctions is based on talking actually to
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humanitarian workers inside venezuela, who are concerned not that just the 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 on 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 and are looking for a nonpolitical 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, the three factors, the unrest, the loss of military and elite support, and international pressure, could not agree more. that these are the ingredients for what will bring about
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change in venezuela. the question is, how do you increase the relevance of the second factor that you mentioned, the lossle 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 carrots, sticks, offramps, visas, do we in order to get sufficient buy-in that there's a regime transmission. the widespread unrest that exists now that is able -- that president guaido is able to mobilize may not necessarily last. i think there is a concern broadly that the time may not be on his side. the regime certainly feels time is now on its side. i think it's important to remember that people who are
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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. 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. mr. rubio: people who are starving do mobilize. they leave. and that's what they'll do. but the borders are closed. ms. arnson: correct. mr. rubio: it will be interesting to see. mr. farnsworth: thank you for the opportunity. i want to say how much i appreciated both your statement and mr. menendez's statement and i think you've encapsulated these issues very effectively and well and very powerfully. just to add a couple quick things, if i may. i do agree with the framework that you just laid out in terms of the three key aspects. and i also agree that the loss of military and elite support
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remains the key in some ways and indeed the most difficult. you know, the point that you raise, mr. rubio, about how you have some of the leadership, indeed all of the leadership of the military and security forces, fully invested in the continuation of the regime, i think is accurate. and why, because the regime has very effectively bought them in through access to unimaginable levels of corruption, whether it's through different exchange rates or controlling the import of certain items like food, you have generals literally in control of the import of beans and the generals in control of the import of chickens. it's weird. 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 is not just sort of allowed, but encouraged as 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? because they're not the ones
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who are going to shift and go to colombia and declare their allegiance to mr. guaido. the first panel alluded to it a little bit but we really need to go hard after the assets that these folks maintain outside of venezuela, well, inside too. but outside venezuela. identify the assets. seize them. and cause them to forfeit them. these are ill-gotten gains. they're stolen either from the venezuelan people or gained through illegal activities. they have no-call on them. and so the international community working together i think a very powerfuls a peck. the second one is the one thatted a --s a peck. the second one is the one the administration has explored more, that's the visa issue. by taking visas away from individuals, i think it's equally powerful of either denying visas or removing existing visas from family members who may be in spain or france or italy or wherever. if you can work together with other governments in europe particularly, but also latin america, this begins a powerful incentive. because now the ring begins to
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close on the individuals who are causing the most damage in venezuela. that's not necessarily going to cause them to change their allegiance to mr. guaido. but it does provide a pourlingful signal to those under-- powerful signal to those underneath that if they continue on the current path, their future is not going to be a happy one and if they switch their future is going to be much better. it gets to the carrots and sticks issue that has come up several times in the hearing. mr. kaine: i want to ask about colombia. i think one of the best examples of the u.s. using a comprehensive approach to deal with a foreign policy objective is the work in colombia sustained over democratic and republican administrations. and i would like to ask your perspective on how the current status in venezuela effects colombia, effects the peace process, effects the path governmental ng
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services in parts of the country. talk about what's at risk there and what we ought to do to protect the vabses that we have helped -- advances that we have helped achieve. ms. arnson: i'll start. i think a great deal is at risk. i think that 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 here be a progressive decrease in the deficit. at the same time it faces spending needs to implement aspects 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 zones but also opportunities, services,
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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, without the backing of the international community, colombia will make very hard choices. i also believe that the refugee flows throughout latin america e 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 iraq and afghanistan and other conflict zones, and not in a good way, i would say, i do fare that -- fear that there will be similar impacts on the ability of untries to sustain liberal pluralist democracies. and i think that right now we're focused on the
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humanitarian emergency and how we are going to 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. not just in colombia, but also in peru and in ecuador and everywhere else. mr. farnsworth: fully agree. colombia has some difficult fiscal circumstances. something has to give. you've got a peace process which requires billions of dollars of investment, not just to implement the accords directly but also to develop the areas of colombia to allow these -- this peace to be sustainable. they've also had a soft economy, which has to be revitalized and the president is working on that. clearly you have drug production now that has spiked. that requires new resources as well. and you have a humanitarian crisis worse than anything we've seen. there are simply not resources for. that the international community can come aloppingside the colombians to try to
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mitigate the worst impact of that. but there's another point that i think also needs to be raised and that is that venezuela under first chavez and now maduro has provided safe havens for farc and the e.l.n. combatants. they are in some ways leading directly to some of the destruction of venezuela. it's not a political thing, it's not a guerrilla force. they're not working to take over the government about. you they're working directly in the illegal gold mining sector, they're working in crime and criminal activities and they're working in drug trafficking. this is maybe a leftover from the colombian experience, but it's still related. and so to the 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 that it's turning toward one, that gives greater permissiveness for recalcitrant elements of the farc and e.l.n. and others to conduct their affairs in a lawless way. i think that's ultimately fat just self-defeating but --
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ultimately not just self-defeating but causes real complications rule of law and revitalizing democracy. so i really appreciate the fact that you link the two countries together. they're together historically, politically. this is another example. mr. rubio: just 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, i think it's incumbent on them to step up to the plate. if they don't want certain things, do the things you are willing to do. the visa revocation,, the additional sanctions. i think we appreciate the recognition of president guaido, but there's more that can be done. and there are a handful of countries that happen to be the favorite destination of some of these theives and their families and we would hope they would step up and do more. the second is, this is touching on you what just mentioned, i don't believe that the maduro
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regime should be viewed as a government. it doesn't operate as a government. it is better understood as an organized crime syndicate. it operates like an organized crime syndicate. does very little in the way of government on a daily basis. it is largely a group of people bound together by the ability to steal and make money. but the way you collapse an organized crime syndicate is you recognize they're a bunch of thieves and criminals and they have no honor and they end up turning on each in their best interest. because that's what it's become. that is by and large what binds that organization together. it is an organized crime ring that by the way sponsors terrorism. with the e.l.n. openly operates in 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. that would be a great idea. the problem is that the current aid now is basically an open secret. these aid groups that are operating in venezuela need to do so, but they need to do so quietly and with very little
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publicity and if there's any uptick in the amount of aid that they're distributing, it gets in thed and scrutinized because it runs counter to two things. maduro regime's narrative that there is no humanitarian crisis. they're talking about how great carnival was and how all these people were at the beach. they're they're arguing there's no cry sifments number two the more -- crisis. number two, the more aid there is, the less maduro can control people. these entities don't want to receive an uptick in humanitarian aid to distribute because it would imperil the little that they're able to do now. so as an example, your charity, you're feeding people in venezuela today. if you take -- if there's a significant increase in the amount of aid you're distributing, it might cancel your entire program because the maduro regime doesn't want you to do that. so that's why ideally you would be able to work through those groups but those groups don't want it because it endangers their small-scale existing programs now. that's a real challenge that we've been facing here. i know we've been here for 2
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1/2 hours. ms. arnson: could i comment on that briefly. i think that that is to a certain extent true of the past in many ways. we should treat it as a hypothesis to be tested. the icrc has announced a doubling of its budget for venezuela. the u.n. is quietly, as you say, expanding its footprint 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. particularly in light of sanctions that everyone knows will expand the suffering. i would slightly disagree that none of this -- none of the revenue, the oil revenue, ever came in. i mean, venezuela imports some enormous -- i nonet know if it's 100% of its food, but
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pretty close. in the 90%. same with medicine. whatever there is in the country depends on foreign reserves. the clap boxes are a form of political control. i completely agree. they do provide a subsistence level. if you take that away i think conditions get worse. i don't really know what the answer is. but i think that there's a few more sort of subtleties to the situation that we should very much keep in mind. mr. rubio: just on that. it is true they import their food but the role remitences, there are entire industries of people sending family members food. there's the stuff sold on the mrs. black: market with access to cash. there are -- on the black market with access to cash. there are people on clap. and the people who have left because it's not enough for them. we've had a long hearing. i appreciate both of your
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patience and testimony today, along wour previous witnesses. i want to thank everyone for being here today. we had a huge turnout. in my seven years, it's the best attended western hemisphere subcommittee hearing. i want to thank the capitol police because they've been very helpful in channeling people in and out. there was a lot of demand to be in here. again, i'm just grateful to them and for the work they've done. and this hearing will remain open for 48 hours and the hear something adjourned. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019]
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>> today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress. the white house. the supreme court. and public policy events in washington, d.c., and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> the u.s. house today approved h.r. 1. that bill would set up a publicly financed matching fund program for small donations to congressional candidates. it also makes election day a federal holiday. it requires congressional district lines to be drawn by nonpartisan commissions and it requires the president to release 10 years of tax returns. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell says the senate will ot be taking up that bill. >> sunday night on q&a, penn state history professor
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discusses her book "lady first," the world of first lady sara polk. >> i was so astounleded by all stuff that she did and the way that she exercised power. she wrote letters to a supreme court justice and members of congress that were completely confident, 100% about politics. and were not noticeably different from a letter that a man would write. and they wrote back to her in the same vein. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. >> house speaker nancy pelosi this afternoon sat down for a discussion with david rubenstein of the economic club of washington. they talked about the economy, the agenda in congress, and the 2020 election.


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