Deputy Administrator Glick’s Keynote Remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Future of Venezuela Initiative and Plan Pais on the Water Crisis

For Immediate Release

Friday, October 4, 2019
Office of Press Relations

 
October 3, 2019
CSIS Headquarters
Washington, DC

[As Prepared]

Good morning everyone, and welcome. Thank you Michael Matera for your kind introduction.

Back in March, not long after I first started at the U.S. Agency for International Development, I spoke at an event a lot like this one—also sponsored by our good friends at CSIS—on what we now call “day after” planning. It was focused on the revival of Venezuela’s oil and gas industry in the hopeful post-Maduro era.

We spoke of the urgency of restoring this key economic engine to help support a replenishment of increasingly scarce basic commodities, and spur the return of millions of desperate migrants who have fled their homes. Venezuela’s situation looked bad six months ago, but hopes were high that the tyranny of the Maduro regime had just about run its course.

Alas.

I’m still quite certain that one malevolent dictator cannot single-handedly block the will of a nation forever. We have heard the unmistakable voice of the Venezuelan people in support of a democratic transition ... and their time will come.

But the Maduro regime has demonstrated a level of brutality that has enabled it to delay this day of reckoning, while millions of Venezuelans are thirsting for safe drinking water. Economic mismanagement has left this once wealthy country no longer able to meet even the most basic needs of its people.

The goalpost has moved. While we still worry about rebuilding infrastructure, we’re worried now about safe drinking water.

Today, the United Nations estimates that 4.3 million people inside Venezuela lack access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services. Entire cities have gone without water for days, some hospitals for entire weeks.

The most vulnerable—boys, girls, and pregnant women—have been the worst affected. Limited access to safe drinking water and the breakdown of sanitation services have disproportionately affected their health and resulted in long-term malnutrition and stunting.

The service and infrastructure breakdown has also impacted health, nutrition, and education centers, which in turn limits children’s attendance in school. Each day that goes by, these most vulnerable parts of the population endure lasting damage—an especially cruel gift from this callous regime.

The water infrastructure collapse isn’t just affecting potable supplies. Exacerbated by the ongoing breakdown of the electrical grid, wastewater systems have also failed—so that raw sewage is being released untreated across growing swaths of the country. Those clinging to power continue to wreak profound damage on the Venezuelan people.

Even where water can be found, there isn’t any drop to drink. Many of us have seen the photos of desperate people drawing contaminated water from the Guaire River in Caracas, and even from sewage drains, to meet their daily needs.

We, as friends of Venezuela, can continue to demonstrate our resolve to help in its eventual recovery by engaging on multiple fronts, with a broad array of partners and stakeholders.

The United States recently announced additional assistance of nearly $36 million to help those inside Venezuela gain access to essential humanitarian assistance through independent and impartial humanitarian organizations.

This money will go toward delivering safe drinking water; ensuring waste management; providing personal hygiene kits; and other sanitation support like repairing hand washing stations, latrines, and incinerators at health centers to reduce the spread of infection. We’re working with UN and NGO partners in-country who have local relationships, helping us to reach those most in need, including the women and children disproportionately affected by this facet of the crisis.

The United States is also providing $52 million in development assistance for democracy, governance and global health funding from USAID, announced last week by Secretary of State Pompeo at the United Nations General Assembly.

However helpful, though, this sort of humanitarian assistance remains a stopgap. It will not solve the challenges facing Venezuelans. The collapse of the water infrastructure of just about all the infrastructure in the country is due to the rampant corruption and mismanagement of a regime that has no regard for its people. The illegitimate Maduro regime must go.

And when a legitimate, democratically elected government opens the doors to international assistance in Venezuela, USAID is ready to deploy a team to provide immediate humanitarian relief. That includes expanding access to water and sanitation services at a scale that can address the needs inside Venezuela.

In anticipation of that great day of transition, we have an opportunity here to plan for the rebuilding of the water and sanitation systems of Venezuela. USAID is prepared to assist in not just that effort, but also the broader public health, infrastructure, and institutional capacity building that, under Plan País, can help Venezuela’s new leaders demonstrate to their people that the interim government is ready to take on the challenge... of starting their country on the long road back to self-reliance.

We’ve seen, in many places around the world, that while a lack of basic services like water and sanitation can exacerbate conflict, providing water is an entry point for the introduction, or in this case re-introduction, of core democratic values like equality, transparency, and accountability.

Last week at the UN, many, many countries showed the world their support to the Venezuelan people—some representatives of those countries are here today and will participate at the roundtables tomorrow. We hope that many others will join in soon.

We all know that the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is inextricably linked to the illegitimate Maduro regime. The political crisis in Venezuela has caused the humanitarian crisis.

As you know, the Trump Administration continues to make alleviating the plight of Venezuelans a top priority. The world must continue to elevate what is happening so that we can help Venezuelans who suffer under this man-made, regime-driven disaster. I want to thank you for your presence here. With that, let me turn things over to Assembly member and president of the Special Commission of Plan País, Juan Andres Mejia.

Last updated: October 04, 2019

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