Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Venezuela

Elliott Abrams
U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela
New York City
February 26, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President and members of the Security Council. Good afternoon. Thank you to Under-Secretary DiCarlo for her very sobering and comprehensive briefing. We’re here today because of the de facto Maduro regime’s refusal to allow humanitarian aid to enter Venezuela on February 23, which led to deaths, injuries, and violence on two international borders.

Those actions once again showed the true intentions and nature of the Maduro regime. Armed gangs, thugs, and criminals released from prisons were mobilized to control the border. Their actions led to the burning of humanitarian assistance rather than its protection. And while Venezuelans were shot and beaten and killed as they tried to bring food and medicine into their country, Maduro literally was dancing in Caracas.

Four people died, more than 80 Venezuelans were injured – and it may be many more than that – after vigilantes from the regime opened fire. Protesters, aid workers, and journalists marched to the border to welcome much needed aid and were instead greeted by tear gas and rubber bullets.

The United States and the international community must support the Venezuelan people as they strive to reclaim their democracy. We should respect their constitution and their sovereignty, which is why we must support Juan Guaido’s interim presidency. And we must address the destabilizing results of Maduro’s corrupt, fraudulent, and incompetent reign, which just this weekend brought instability and violence to the borders of two other Member States, Brazil and Colombia.

Maduro and his cronies, and some in this body, claim that delivering humanitarian assistance is a political show and a cover for military intervention. But it is very clear: only the Maduro regime is using violence. Only the regime has called in both its security forces and armed gangs. Only the regime has betrayed Venezuelan independence and sovereignty by submitting to the influence of Cuban officers who permeate the security and intelligence agencies. Only the regime has a history of using humanitarian aid as both a political tool for social control and a source for rampant corruption.

Maduro wants to maintain power in the current crisis, and he has continued to politicize aid via the CLAP program, providing benefits to his supporters while rejecting the needs-based focus assistance – as Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo said – must have. Any additional time Maduro spends in power is additional time he will use to oppress the Venezuelan people. This has been proven time and again. And this weekend was yet another example.

And when he was brought face to face with the truth – the truth that contrary to his false claims this aid was not needed, Venezuelan children were filmed by Univision combing through garbage to search for food. When he was brought face to that truth by Univision, what did Mr. Maduro do? He detained the journalists, seized their equipment, and ordered them deported. But the truth remains, and the sad plight of millions of Venezuelans remains.

We are grateful for the leadership of our partners in supporting humanitarian assistance for the people of Venezuela and supporting the demand for democracy. The European Union, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru, all swiftly condemned the use of violence and called for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance. Their words and their actions can make a real difference in this crisis.

The cure to this misery and tyranny is a free, fair, and transparent election that embraces all sectors of society and all political parties. That, of course, includes chavistas, whose party has been usurped, much like the country itself, by Maduro. We believe that both Guaido-supporters and chavistas can rebuild their country together and construct a newly prosperous and democratic Venezuela.

We are also deeply concerned about the safety of Interim President Guaidó upon his return to Venezuela. Council members, it is our duty to ensure that Interim President Guaido is able to return home freely and safely.

Now is the time to strengthen our commitment to the brave Venezuelan people. We call on the members of the Security Council to join us in meeting the growing needs in Venezuela and the region. We call on Member States to consider what resources and tools they have to contribute to Venezuelan democracy and to pressure the illegitimate Maduro regime to peacefully step down.

We ask that others join us in sanctioning those who’ve been involved in the violence over the last weekend, and who are fattened by the spoils of the Maduro regime’s corruption. We ask that Member States contribute to addressing the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, as dozens of nations already have generously done.

And we ask that you recognize the nature of the Maduro regime, and question the purpose and likely outcome of so-called dialogue with someone who would rather block and burn donated medicine and bread than see it in the hands of Venezuelan children. Ask Jorge Ramos of Univision about the value of dialogue with Nicolas Maduro.

The people of Venezuela need our solidarity and our help if they are to prevail against a vicious and violent regime, emerge into democracy, and begin to rebuild their country. Let us resolve to give them that help, to give them both that solidarity and that assistance.

Thank you.