A Whole of Government Approach to Supporting the Democratic Aspirations of the Venezuelan People

Date: 08/21/2018 Description: The responsibility for the Venezuelan people's suffering can be laid at the feet of one man - Nicolas Maduro. He promised his people he would restore prosperity, but delivered them only deeper poverty. He promised them safety and security, but Venezuela is now riven by chaos and rampant crime. Nicolas Maduro promised the people of Venezuela renewed greatness, and he has only brought a nation to its knees. Vice President Pence on Venezuela Crisis © Office of the Vice President

What’s going on in Venezuela?

Political freedom is at risk. Since Nicolas Maduro came to power in 2013, he has been eroding democracy and limiting the Venezuelan people’s ability to participate in free and fair elections. In the fraudulent May 20, 2018 presidential election, Maduro jailed or banned prominent political leaders, used food as a tool for social control, and manipulated the timeline to his advantage. The elections were riddled with irregularities ranging from intimidation and disenfranchisement of voters to improper tabulation of the results.

The economy is quickly spiraling downward. Inflation is projected to hit 1 million percent by the end of 2018 and the minimum monthly wage is equal to about $1 on the black market. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, but mismanagement of the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, has resulted in significant deterioration of infrastructure and production capacity. What was once one of Latin America’s strongest economies is now unable to support itself.

As a result of the political and economic crises, there is a growing humanitarian crisis. Unable to choose their government at the ballot box, Venezuelans are using their feet to vote. More than two million Venezuelans have left their country since 2016 and nearly 280,000 have applied for asylum globally since 2014. Within the country, a severe shortage of food and medical supplies has resulted in the average Venezuelan losing 24 pounds and around 90 percent of hospitals are without basic medical necessities. People in Venezuela are facing disrupted water and sanitation services and there are serious public health concerns following outbreaks of once eradicated diseases in the region. In July 2018, nurses went on strike for almost a month demanding provisions and supplies for the hospitals.

How is the United States trying to help?

1. Diplomatic engagement: The U.S. is working alongside regional partners to help Venezuelans return their country to a prosperous democracy and hold the Venezuelan government accountable for the current political, economic, and humanitarian crises. At the Organization of American States, we sponsored a resolution suspending Venezuela from the organization for violating the hemisphere’s democratic principles. On June 5, 2018, the resolution succeeded in garnering 88 percent of member states either abstaining from or voting in favor of Venezuela’s suspension.

a. On May 17, November 13, 2017 and September 10, 2018 Ambassador Nikki Haley convened informal UN Security Council sessions on Venezuela to raise awareness of the ongoing political, economic, and humanitarian crises and highlighted the potential threat to international peace and security.

2. Economic action: In order to prevent the U.S. from becoming complicit in the corruption within the Maduro regime, the U.S. has designated more than sixty individuals pursuant to Executive Order 13692 and the Kingpin Act as of July 2018. On November 1, President Trump signed a new Executive Order to counter rampant corruption within the Government of Venezuela, which continues to exacerbate the economic and humanitarian crises afflicting the Venezuelan people. These sanctions also serve to encourage the Venezuelan government to take steps in returning to a democratic system. The Department of State provides critical foreign policy information to the Department of Treasury so it can implement specific, targeted sanctions that focus on those engaged in criminal activity. U.S. sanctions still allow U.S. person to provide food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people. A valuable part of U.S. strategy is allowing sanctions to be adjusted for those who support Venezuela’s return to a democratic constitutional path. However, additional measures remain under active consideration.

3. Humanitarian assistance: The Venezuelan people are experiencing increasing hardships, including diminishing access to affordable food, vital medicine, and medical supplies. The assistance address both short-term and long-term needs. In the short-term, it provides emergency food and health assistance, safe drinking water, and critical relief items. In the long-term, the United States is supporting efforts to improve food security and create economic opportunities for surrounding communities. More than two million people have fled Venezuela since 2016, straining the health care systems and other social services of Venezuela’s neighbors. Here are just a couple of ways the U.S. is assisting:

a. Providing development and humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan crisis totaling more than 71 million since Fiscal Year 2017.

b. USAID is providing emergency assistance for Venezuelans and host communities in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.

c. For more information about the United States' humanitarian assistance, please visit: https://www.usaid.gov/program-update-hub/venezuela-regional-crisis-response.

An additional $9 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans in Colombia was recently announced during a recent trip taken by the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, Nikki Haley.

Speeches and Remarks by U.S. Government Officials On Venezuela

State Department Press Releases Pertaining to Venezuela

Additional USAID Web Pages:
USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Venezuela Regional Crisis Page
USAID’s Office of Food for Peace FFP Colombia Food Assistance Page

Social Media:
USAID Twitter

Venezuela-Related Sanctions, U.S. Department of the Treasury

  • Over 50 Venezuelan individuals have been designated by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, cutting them off from the U.S. financial system, including President Maduro and Executive Vice President El Aissami.
  • Designations include leaders from the National Electoral Council, Supreme Court, Executive, military, policy, and the illegitimate Constituent National Assembly.

For more information on Venezuela-related sanctions, click here.