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MODERATOR: To start things off here, I just want to introduce a speaker, which he probably doesn’t need an introduction, [Senior State Department Official]. So we’re going to give you a few minutes upfront to make any intro remarks, and then open it up for questions, and I’ll point out who will have the next question.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. I should start by objecting to the traffic. (Laughter.) As you know, we have a number of Venezuela-related events, the first of which was this morning, the Lima Group meeting. And the Lima Group has adopted a declaration – we are not members of the Lima Group, we’re observers. And I did attend the session and speak at the session, and they have now adopted a statement that I have. I guess they’ll put it out, or we can let you have it.

The next event is this afternoon, which is the Rio Treaty event, which – as you know the Rio Treaty, though it has been invoked about 20 times, has not been invoked since 9/11. And in our view, it’s a very useful coordinating mechanism for the economic and diplomatic pressures, sanctions we’d like to see more countries impose. Of course the Rio Treaty is this hemisphere. We’re also asking the EU to impose the kinds of sanctions that we have, that Brazil has, that Canada has over the last few months.

And then there is – in terms of larger events, there is the meeting on Venezuela of heads of government that takes place on Wednesday. Why don’t I stop with that, just so as to maximize the amount of time we have.

MODERATOR: Sure thing. Matt.

QUESTION: What’s coming out of this meeting this afternoon? I mean, what’s the – is there anything concrete that’s going to – I understand that it’s a good coordinating mechanism for sanctions —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There are a number of countries in the hemisphere that do not have much of a legal basis in their domestic law for the imposition of the kinds of sanctions that we’re talking about. The Rio Treaty is supposed to be mandatory for people who are members of it. So if the meeting of ministers adopts let’s say a proposal to restrict travel by regime bigshots, then they would have the legal basis for implementing that in each of the countries that is a signatory to the treaty. The same thing with economic sanctions.

So we think it’s likely to lead to a wider imposition of sanctions, again, on the Brazilian or Canadian model.

QUESTION: I’ll stop after this, but don’t these countries need to enact laws to —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. They will be able to say we’re bound by the Rio Treaty. For the United States and for many other countries, once you sign a treaty, it is the supreme law of the land. Treaties are binding law in the United States and elsewhere.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You said you’d stop. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, now I’m even more confused though. What is the statement going to say? Are they going to say, okay, we’re going to – we, the Rio Treaty signatories, have agreed to what you were saying —


QUESTION: — travel – limit it, and then they automatically – each country does that even if they don’t —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’ll see how specific the language is. I think countries will have some flexibility, of course, in doing this. But our goal is to move more countries – in this hemisphere and in Europe – to the imposition of sanctions, which we think has a really significant political and psychological effect on the regime.


QUESTION: Have you seen movement from (inaudible)?

QUESTION: How many – you need 13 votes out of the 17 or 18; is that right?


QUESTION: Do you have the 13 votes you need?




QUESTION: You’re confident? Okay.


QUESTION: Why will these sanctions make – I understand they’re broaderly – more broadly enforced, but why would they be – make a difference that – different from what sanctions have so far not been able to do?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Some people cast this struggle as a struggle between the United States and the Maduro regime, which it is not. It’s really a struggle between the people of Venezuela and the Maduro regime. But the broader the support from the democratic nations of the world for the National Assembly and for the people of Venezuela, we think the more impact it has, the more isolated the regime becomes and, we think, feels as more countries join this struggle.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) as what?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: As more countries join this struggle.

MODERATOR: Before we go any farther, for people who came in late, this is on background, attribution to a senior State Department official.

And you’re next.


MODERATOR: And then you’re next.

QUESTION: Okay. [Senior State Department Official], do you expect there to be anything passed today on the Rio Treaty where they talk about things like closing airspace to Venezuelan planes or interdicting ships —


QUESTION: — or anything along those lines?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think that this resolution will get into that level of specificity as to exactly what steps countries will take. That’s the next step.

QUESTION: And what – what about – just a follow-up to that very quickly. What about – you’ve talked, the United States and Colombia have both talked a lot about the ELN and FARC. Will there be any discussion of that coming out of this meeting? And why do think they’re so destabilizing?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There will certainly be a discussion of it at the meeting. It is destabilizing because you have actually a government hosting guerilla groups – groups that we have years and years ago designated as terrorist groups – that are deeply involved in narcotics trafficking. Hosting it, making no efforts to drive them out, to prevent them from engaging in these activities, to prevent them from engaging in cross-border activities – hosting them, helping them. So obviously that’s a destabilizing factor along the Venezuela-Colombian border, and that’s got to be of concern to everybody in the hemisphere.

QUESTION: How are – are you feeling any movement from the Europeans on sanctions? Do you expect that this week? I think you know the prevailing wisdom that after the Norway talks fell apart, maybe they’d be more willing to do that.



SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I mean, there were many statements from the Europeans saying if the Norway talks fall apart, we will invoke sanctions. I think we’re talking about two different things here. There is a set of sanctions that are directly related to the torture and murder of Captain Acosta. I think that’ll be the first set of European sanctions. And then we would like to see what we think they promised, which is sanctions that affect broader targets in the regime.

I think we’re all aware that their mechanisms for the imposition of sanctions are slow. But that was the reason – that was the reason [Senior State Department Official] went to Brussels a couple of weeks ago to say now is the time for there to be more European sanctions.

QUESTION: Were they receptive to that? And do you think this new group of National Assembly members who said that we’ll negotiate with Maduro, do you think that’s going to complicate them coming through on this at all?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. They’re pretty receptive. I mean, obviously, it’s 28 countries; there are varying levels of enthusiasm, but it was the EU, not one country or another, that said, “We will impose sanctions if the talks break down.” On this new trick of sort of trying to create a tame opposition, I don’t think anybody’s fooled. There was a very strong statement we thought from the Government of Spain, and I have not yet come across any European official who has said this is the real opposition and creating this table of dialogue with them is a step forward.

QUESTION: When are the first rounds of sanctions from the EU coming down? Did you say the ones related to Captain Acosta, and then what’s the timeline for the others? Apparently there’s a conference coming up that —



SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I mean, again, we all understand that they have their procedures and that it’s hard with 28 countries, but I would hope to see movement in October.

QUESTION: And what is compelling them? What – how are – how’s the United States and the Western Hemisphere trying to compel those – you’re talking —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, we’re not compelling. I mean, what we’re saying to them is: Your speeches say you are deeply committed to a transition to democracy in Venezuela. The regime doesn’t want to do it. So if you’re serious about it, you’ve got to do more than give speeches. We’ve also asked them, because we think there’s something very unseemly about allowing Europe to turn into a kind of resort area for regime bigwigs and their families who have children, wives, mistresses in Europe; bank accounts, houses – the Europeans should not be permitting this.

QUESTION: Are you talking Venezuela or other countries as well?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m talking Venezuela. That’s all I do. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah. Sorry, Luc Cohen from from Reuters. Just on – some countries that are signatories of TIAR – Costa Rica, Chile, Peru – have been pushing for language in the resolution explicitly ruling out the use of force and the United States has been kind of pushing back on that. So why is it important to you guys that that not be in the – and does that risk kind of tearing apart the coalition if divisions emerge on this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t – I think we’ve been very clear that it is – the policy you see is our policy; that is, of economic, financial, diplomatic political pressure on the regime. And I – we just see no reason to put that or any other language that we would consider to be superfluous into the actual resolution.

MODERATOR: No more questions?

QUESTION: Well, to – I mean, to the second part of his question, though, if it’s risking breaking up the coalition that you’ve created, why not acquiesce to that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It doesn’t risk creating the coalition. I think you’ll see an obvious and clear majority today. We saw a united Lima Group this morning. I don’t think either in this hemisphere or in Europe anybody believes that invoking the Rio Treaty is the path to war. That’s a silly conclusion to reach.

So we might have a different view if we thought that it would in fact break up the coalition of countries, but it won’t.

QUESTION: Yeah. What is your best hope of walking away with something this week? I mean, what is – in a perfect world, UNGA ends, speeches are given, everybody —


QUESTION: We all – yeah, exactly. Yes, out of New York, I should clarify. What is the – what’s your goal for this week? What’s the best thing you can walk away with and achieve?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: A couple things. First, we want to make sure that the issue of a transition in Venezuela remains very high on the international agenda. There have been moments that you know of – you’ve had articles and shows about it in the last six months – where people have said, oh, the administration is no longer paying attention to Venezuela. The President, the Secretary don’t have as much concern about Venezuela as they did. That’s wrong. It was always wrong, and I think that the events of this week and especially the President’s event on Wednesday demonstrate that it’s wrong.

The actions of the Lima Group, the actions of the signatories of the Rio Treaty will provide additional evidence. Speeches that will be given to the UNGA by, I would imagine, dozens of leaders of democratic countries that mention Venezuela will give further evidence that it is not falling down into a position of unconcern on the international agenda. On the contrary, it’s going to be mentioned a lot this week at the General Assembly and that is going to demonstrate that the level of concern is as high as ever.

Secondly, our goal is to get more concerted action. That’s particularly the case with respect to the Lima Group, and the Rio Treaty group, and then the heads of state that gather with the President. Because, again, we’re trying to demonstrate through words, through meetings, and then through action that here we have the Venezuelan people and most democracies in the world and their support against the Maduro regime. It’s not about the United States and the Maduro regime.

QUESTION: Do you expect the President to mention it in his speech?


QUESTION: And is the President attending the Wednesday meeting?


QUESTION: It is his meeting? Okay, just checking.


QUESTION: Do you think the dialogue is totally over?


QUESTION: Is there any possibility of coming back to a dialogue between the (inaudible) or do you think that’s —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the Norwegians – the Norwegians are always ready to help. They’re always ready to host a meeting if and when the parties are ready. The conclusion of the opposition of Interim President Guaido and the National Assembly was that, sadly enough, this turned out to be I guess the fourth case of the regime not negotiating seriously. They were willing to negotiate about – or wished to negotiate about sanctions, of course, which they would like to see limited, or eliminated. But they weren’t willing to talk about the central factor, which is a transition to democratic elections and democratic government.

Juan Guaido actually and the National Assembly discussed the proposal that his team had made in getting to a transition for what a transitional government would look like. And neither Guaido nor Maduro would be the interim president during that fixed transitional period before free elections. But the regime was not interested in having that discussion at any point.

Could people get back to the table? My answer to that would be yes, but only if there is a clear sign on the part of the regime that it is willing to engage in a serious discussion of a transition, which it to this date has not been willing to do.

QUESTION: Thank you, appreciate it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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