November 25, 2020: The responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela lies squarely with the failed policies and abuses of the Maduro regime. In September, the United Nations’ Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela documented that since 2014 – long before the current OAS and U.S. leadership took office – Venezuelan authorities under Maduro have committed grave human rights violations and crimes in violation of international law, including extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary detentions, and excessive use of force.
At the same time, the economic incompetence of the Maduro regime has thrown a once prosperous, resource-rich country into poverty and turmoil. Many blame sanctions, but the Venezuelan economy was in free-fall long before the United States began to impose sanctions in August 2017 and the European Union in November 2017. Venezuela’s gross domestic product shrank 5.7 percent in 2015 and another 18.6 percent in 2016. At the same time, inflation topped 180 percent in 2015 and 800 percent in 2016. Oil production, the lifeblood of the Venezuelan economy, had fallen to 2 million barrels per day by the end of 2016, a level not seen since 1990. It is Maduro and his backers, not sanctions, who are to blame for the millions of Venezuelans living in dire economic conditions and who have fled their homes since he assumed power.
Until free and fair elections under the watchful eye of reputable international observers are available to the Venezuelan people, the status quo will continue. Refugees, guns, gangs, and drugs originating from Venezuela will continue to plague the region until democracy returns to the Venezuelan people. We continue to work with Trinidad and Tobago to help mitigate the consequences of this crisis, and we look forward to the day when Venezuelans feel safe and secure enough to return home and rebuild their country rather than seek refuge elsewhere.