Acting Administrator Barsa’s Remarks at the Atlantic Council’s “Reaffirming the World's Commitment to Venezuela” Event

Virtual Event, Washington, DC

For Immediate Release

Friday, September 25, 2020
Office of Press Relations
Email: press@usaid.gov

 

MODERATOR: I'm pleased to welcome John Barsa, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, for a closing conversation. Acting Administrator Barsa, it’s great to have you. Always (inaudible) the council, including even last year when we were in New York together. And although we're not physically together today, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge your continued support for democracy and for human rights.

John, let me start off -- Secretary Pompeo traveled to four Latin American countries last week with stops in Brazil and Colombia that focus on the flight of Venezuela migrants and refugees and the role of host communities supporting them. The Secretary also announced additional, nearly $350 million in humanitarian assistance, including more than $205 million from USAID to help Venezuelans who remain in country and those who have left.

First question to you, Mr. Barsa. What, more specifically, will USAID seek to achieve and prioritize with this new funding?

ACTING ADMINISTRATOR BARSA: Well, Jason, thank you very much for the question. And again, thank you and the Atlantic Council for hosting this event. We're not in New York, so our opportunity to interact in the hallways and between tables over a great meal is limited. But it's really important that you convened us virtually, so we're really grateful for this.

It needs to be known (inaudible) that the United States is leading the world in terms of humanitarian assistance to the needs inside and outside of Venezuela. To date, the U.S. has pledged more than $1.2 billion. So, this is attempting to help the situation within Venezuela, it still is Venezuelans who fled the regime in neighboring countries as well. We do such things as, you know, direct cash assistance, support for water, sanitation, hygiene, any number of things.

What we've seen happen with the COVID pandemic is that many of the Venezuelans who have fled Venezuela, they are on the fringes of economies in generous host countries. So as the COVID pandemic has caused economic contraction in these host countries, the Venezuelans who were trying to participate and integrate into those economies are found to be most vulnerable. So, this additional aid is going to, again, help with those Venezuelans who need assistance outside of Venezuela. And we're going to try to continue our assistance within Venezuela as best we can.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Thank you, Acting Administrator. As discussed in this event, Venezuelans are in the midst of an election season with Maduro preparing for a sham National Assembly vote in December, the subject of the conversation in the (inaudible) we just had. Looking to 2021, the situation in Venezuela is potentially on target for even further – if we can even imagine – an even further accelerated downward spiral.

The question for you: looking ahead, how do you envision USAID assistance adapting, given the increasingly precarious situation that Venezuelans are and also will face looking ahead?

ACTING ADMINISTRATOR BARSA: I think what we have to do, first of all, is assess where things really are. Everybody keeps citing this report. I don't know if people have seen it. This is the actual report listing the crimes against humanity. It's not a thin report. There are case after case listed in here: rape, torture, false imprisonment. The entity, the regime, that did all of this is calling for the sham elections. I know it's election season, but what credibility does the Maduro regime that does all of this, these crimes against humanity -- how much credence are we going to give to a call for elections? Does anybody seriously think that these elections are going to be fair, representative, or give the Venezuelan people a true voice in electing their leadership?

I think the civilized world needs to join together. And, you know, I know you had interim President Guaidó, though, earlier to salute the courage of interim President Guaidó, the members of the National Assembly, and those who have courage in the face of this to continue to fight for freedom and democracy within Venezuela. Venezuela has been a priority and continues to be a priority for me in my position for the United States. And as Secretary Pompeo said on his recent trip to the region, "Change is going to happen." USAID stands at the ready to assist the Venezuelan people when this Maduro nightmare is over and a real transition to democracy begins. History will judge us as individuals and countries, as how we respond right now.

These are facts. I think we should all act accordingly, knowing that history will judge us. We know what right looks like. I'm proud that the United States stand shoulder to shoulder with the Venezuelan people, and we're ready to support them any way possible when change occurs.

MODERATOR: You know, picking up on your point, I do encourage everybody who's watching this to read that report. I've read it and it's heart wrenching, frankly, to listen -- to read case after case after case of persecution by the Maduro regime. So, thanks for having that there next to you. Acting Administrator, one last question for you. We're, of course, talking in the midst of a different type of annual UNGA meeting. And I want to also ask you about looking at the U.S. partners and allies. Specifically, you're just referencing that -- the UN report. How can humanitarian and development assistance be better leveraged? What else, in an ideal world, can the U.S. and our partners be doing to take additional steps -- especially with regard to coordinating work across countries in providing assistance that is so dire and so needed by the Venezuelan people?

ACTING ADMINISTRATOR BARSA: Well, we're certainly grateful for all the international partners who time and time again in any number of situations, join with the United States in helping alleviate human suffering in time of a crisis. So certainly, when we're all responding to a hurricane, an earthquake, or a volcano -- our assistance, you know, goes to help the people in need. But this situation right now, the root cause of this suffering is not an act of nature. We cannot forget that the root cause of all the suffering is the Maduro regime.

We have to realize that there's the root causes and the symptoms. The symptoms, the suffering, we are trying to do what we can. We wish we were able to get humanitarian aid into Venezuela at the scale necessary to meet the level of suffering. We certainly support -- we work with international NGOs to ensure the fair, equitable distribution of humanitarian assistance. The global community must do more to help Colombia, Peru, Brazil, others in the host communities who are terribly generous, and they have a heavy burden themselves.

Secretary Pompeo's trip last week was a strong signal that the United States understands and appreciates these efforts by regional partners, and we stand in solidarity with them. We certainly hope that the international community will increase its commitment to Venezuela and the region. And words are great, but it's action that we need. We really appreciate that.

And again, history will judge us. The call for action is now. The suffering is taking place right now. So, we hope the international community can join us and try to help alleviate the suffering.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Acting Administrator. I was looking as well at the Q&A and a number of folks who were very positively responding to you highlighting the UN report that just came out. And I think as well, as you say, in the midst of this arc of a global pandemic, this is why we're having this conversation as well today, that we need to be reaffirming at a time of great suffering around the world, also, the world's commitment to Venezuela and the world's commitment to the Venezuelan people. We can't forget that because, as you say, if we do, history will judge us.

Last updated: October 21, 2020

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