March 02, 2017

Corker: Situation in Venezuela “Bleak” Amid Worsening Crisis

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, March 2, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, convened a hearing on the worsening political, humanitarian, and economic crisis in Venezuela to assess U.S. interests and policy options. The committee heard testimony today from Dr. David Smilde of Tulane University, Dr. Shannon O’Neil with the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mark Feierstein of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Venezuela is a beautiful country with vast resources and talented people. Yet the situation is bleak,” said Corker. “As we will hear today, the mismanagement of Venezuela’s economy inflicts shortages, hyperinflation and unemployment on ordinary Venezuelans. Not only has the Venezuelan government protected people wanted in the U.S. for drug trafficking, but Venezuela’s president has appointed known drug traffickers to high office, such as the current vice president. Venezuela’s government blocked an effort by citizens to petition for a recall referendum against President [Nicolas] Maduro and failed to hold regional elections in December 2016. The government actively represses dissent. A leading Venezuelan human rights group lists 117 people jailed for political reasons.”

In evaluating the U.S. policy response, Corker pointed to successive rounds of U.S. sanctions targeting Venezuelans, including officials in the Maduro government, and whether those actions are encouraging political reconciliation and greater respect for human rights.

“To date, in four separate actions, the U.S. unilaterally imposed targeted visa sanctions on more than 140 Venezuelans—including security forces—for human rights abuses and corruption,” said Corker. “Given the standards we apply, our government has no doubt about criminal activity and corruption in the Venezuelan government. Today, I hope we can also evaluate whether sanctions have altered the Venezuelan government’s behavior and why other governments have not joined us in this effort.”

The committee also considered the risks of a Venezuelan default on mounting debt obligations, the prospects for elections to occur with no progress in dialogue between the opposition and the Maduro government, and the potential for working with regional partners and the Organization of American States to foster change within the country.

Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.