Elliott Abrams

Opening Statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Situation in Venezuela

delivered 4 August 2020, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Audio mp3 of Address

Submitted Written Testimony


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Chairman Risch, Ranking Member Menendez, Members of the Committee:

Thank you for this opportunity to testify on our efforts in support of the Venezuelan people. This policy has, with broad bipartisan support, been successful in supporting the democratic opposition, maintaining a broad international coalition, and denying revenue to Maduro’s brutal regime. But we have yet to see the convoking of free and fair presidential elections, nor do we see the conditions that would permit such elections.

In January 2019, the U.S. was the first country to recognize interim President Juan Guaidó. Since then, we -- he has secured the support of nearly 60 countries. We remain steadfast in our support for interim President Guaidó. We've proposed a democratic transition framework for Venezuela as a path to establish a broadly acceptable transitional government to oversee free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections.

We're prepared to work with all Venezuelans and with other nations to achieve this goal, and to lift sanctions when the necessary conditions are met.   

I want to thank this committee and Congress for its support through legislation and funding. The U.S. is the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance for Venezuela from 2017 to now. The U.S. has provided more than 856 million dollars to Venezuelans suffering inside Venezuela and in neighboring countries.

And we should recognize those that have welcomed 5 million Venezuelans -- especially Columbia, Peru, Ecuador -- for their continued support as well. 

Criminal dictatorships like Maduro’s are hard to defeat. The Maduro regime’s relentless attacks on dissidents and against Venezuela’s last remaining democratic institution, the National Assembly, demonstrate its obsession with retaining power regardless of the cost to the nation and
its people.

In July, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, released two reports on human rights violations in Venezuela.1 She reported that Maduro and his thugs continue intimidation, repression, arbitrary detentions, torture, and murder. This includes 1,324 extrajudicial killings from January to May of this year.

Elliott Abrams Full Verbal Testimony to the Senate Committee

For more than two and a half years, the regime has unlawfully detained six U.S. oil executives -- Tomeu Vadell, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, and Jose Angel Pereira. We were relieved to hear July 30th that Mr. Cárdenas and Mr. Toledo were moved to house arrest. This is a positive first step and of course we hope for more.

The regime also continues to detain nearly 400 political prisoners, including military officers, medical professionals, journalists; dissident Chavista Nicmer Evans; Guaidó's Chief of Staff, Roberto Marrero; National Assembly deputies, Juan Requesens, Gilber Caro, Ismael
, Renzo Prieto, and Antonio Geara; and labor rights activist Rubén González.

We remain concerned over foreign malign influence in Venezuela and the  Maduro regime’s collaboration with non-state armed groups such as the ELN [Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National LIberation Army ((Colombia))] and FARC [Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia)].

Illegal armed groups are forcibly recruiting vulnerable Venezuelan children into armed conflict, compelling many into forced labor.

Cuba treats Venezuela as a colony -- shipping food, medicine, diesel, and gasoline from Venezuela to Cuba even as the Venezuelan people suffer shortages of all of them. Cuban security personnel surround Maduro. Cuban intelligence officers are embedded in the military.

China helps the Maduro regime with cyber operations.

Russian military aid and loans have helped the regime maintain its security forces.

And now we're seeing a rekindling of the relationship with the world’s worst State sponsor of terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Maduro’s recent hijacking of the National Electoral Council and of the major democratic political parties foreshadow how the regime plans to take control of the National Assembly through fraudulent elections in December.

On Sunday, 27 democratic political parties in Venezuela joined in unity to say they refused to participate in that farce. And I am sure democracies around the world will also refuse to recognize such a fraud.

We look forward to the day when free and fair elections are held, a new democratically-elected government is in place, U.S. sanctions can then be lifted. We look forward to restoring once-close Venezuela-U.S. relations, to helping Venezuelan migrants and refugees return to their beloved country, and to seeing Venezuela’s children share in the beauty and bountiful natural wealth of their country.

Mr. Chairman, Senator Menendez: Thank you for inviting me here today and for your continuing interest and the strong bipartisan support this Committee has shown toward the struggle for freedom in Venezuela.

I look forward to answering your questions.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

See also: Elliott Abrams Full Verbal Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

1 See also the UN Human Rights Reports on Venezuela from 2017-2020.

Original Audio and VIdeo Source: C-SPAN.org

Original Image Source: us.embajadavenezuela.org

Page Updated: 9/12/20

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