WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today convened a full committee hearing on Venezuela’s deteriorating security and humanitarian situation, with witness testimony from Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams and U.S. Agency for International Development Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Joshua Hodges.
Chairman Risch gave the following opening statement:
“I would like to thank Special Representative Abrams and Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Hodges for their service and for appearing here today to discuss the worsening crisis in Venezuela.
“It is hard to imagine a more pressing national security concern in the Western Hemisphere than the political, humanitarian, and economic crises provoked by Maduro and his cronies in Venezuela.
“In the last seven years, Nicolas Maduro has dramatically deepened relations with the most dangerous forces in the world, which were first established by his predecessor Hugo Chavez.
“On his watch, Cuba, Russia, China, Iran, transnational criminal organizations and U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations have turned Venezuela into their playground.
“Their activities are intolerable security threats to the United States and the hemisphere at-large; and prolong a humanitarian crisis provoked by the socialist policies of the regime.
“Nearly 5.2 million Venezuelans have fled their homeland, placing a huge burden on the neighboring countries that have generously accepted these refugees from Maduro’s regime.
“Ninety six percent of those who have stayed behind live in poverty, with 80 percent facing extreme poverty. Chronic food shortages and a dysfunctional public healthcare system have condemned an entire generation to hunger and stunted growth.
“A series of unsuccessful attempts to restore freedom in the last year, compounded by Maduro’s desire and ability to stay in power by perpetrating corruption and torture, have emboldened the regime and left democratic forces facing daunting challenges.
“President Trump’s campaign of maximum pressure is a welcome improvement.
“We should leave no stone un-turned in support of the Venezuelan people’s efforts to rid themselves of this evil. It is also appropriate to continue providing assistance to enable Venezuela’s neighbors to help the millions of Venezuelan refugees that they are hosting.
“The international community, especially the European Union and Spain, must increase economic pressure on Maduro if they are serious about the return of democracy to Venezuela and the end of the humanitarian nightmare there.
“We must make clear to Maduro’s mentors in Havana and Moscow that this game is over. I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses about the steps the U.S. government is taking to counter the malign influences in Venezuela.
“With that, I know our ranking member has strong feelings on this and I will yield the floor to him.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. The witness’ testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.