Briefing with Special Representative for Venezuela Abrams

Briefing with Special Representative for Venezuela Abrams

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MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you all for being here. As you all are aware, there were significant
developments in Venezuela over the weekend. So here to discuss them today is our Special
Representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams. He’ll begin with a statement and then have
time for a few of your questions. Sir? MR ABRAMS: Thank you. Thanks, and good afternoon. Yesterday Juan Guaido was re-elected president
of Venezuela’s National Assembly with 100 votes – not only a clear majority of the
167-member legislature, but also, obviously, a quorum. We congratulate him. As you recall, we have been warning about
the Maduro dictatorship’s efforts to steal the vote through bribery, jailings, and intimidation. More than 30 deputies are in hiding, in prison,
or in exile. Others were bought. And yet this brutal and corrupt campaign failed. Obviously, if the regime had had the votes,
it would not have ordered soldiers to keep elected deputies out of the National Assembly
in shameful scenes you’ve probably all seen in videos. Those actions have been condemned and rejected
by countries all over the world. The new Foreign Minister of Argentina said,
quote, “To impede by force the functioning of the legislative assembly is to condemn
oneself to international isolation.” And Argentina called the regime’s actions,
quote, “unacceptable.” Mexico said, quote, “The legitimate functioning
of the legislative power is inviolable in democracies.” Brazil said it would, quote, “not recognize
any result of this violence and affront to democracy.” The Lima Group – Latin American countries,
plus Canada – congratulated Guaido on his re-election and said it, quote, “condemns
the use of force and intimidation tactics against members of the National Assembly,”
and condemns, quote, “the systematic violations of human rights committed by the illegitimate
and dictatorial regime of Nicolas Maduro.” The EU said it, quote, “continues to recognize
Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of the National Assembly.” We look forward to working this year with
Juan Guaido, with the firm majority of the Venezuelan parliament, who continue to support
democracy, with Venezuela’s democratic political parties, and with the millions of Venezuelans
who want the dictatorship to end. We applaud Guaido’s decision to leave the
leadership of the Voluntad Popular Party, and to work instead on building a broad alliance
of civil society groups, NGOs, trade unions, and all Venezuelans who want the end of a
dictatorship that has brought economic ruin and oppression. We look forward, as well, to working with
democracies around the world in support of democracy in Venezuela. This is a struggle against a regime that,
as we saw yesterday, will do anything to prevent the return of democracy. So we will be asking democratic parties and
governments and NGOs to step up and do more in support of democrats and democratic institutions
in Venezuela. The United States will also be doing more
in support of the National Assembly and its legitimate leadership, and of the Venezuelan
people’s efforts through greater pressure on the dictatorship and its leaders and supporters
inside and outside of Venezuela, and more direct help to the forces of freedom there. We have no doubt that Venezuelans will win
their struggle and return their country to democracy. Thanks. MODERATOR: Matt. QUESTION: Yeah, hi, thanks for doing this. Can I just ask, though, where does this leave
your efforts? Just what happened yesterday – I mean, this
chaos at the beginning, the vote that you guys say was farcical, and then having to
leave and go to a newspaper, and then reelect Guaido — MR ABRAMS: What’s the criticism? Of going to a newspaper? Is that the problem here? QUESTION: No, no. I think that’s a good thing. MR ABRAMS: That’s the good part. QUESTION: But no, no – but, I mean, where
does this leave the situation? You say you’re going to do more, more pressure,
but it’s been now — MR ABRAMS: A year. QUESTION: — a year. MR ABRAMS: Yep. QUESTION: And Maduro’s still there. And it doesn’t look like his grip is any
less firm. MR ABRAMS: I think we saw something interesting
– we saw many interesting things yesterday, but one of them was the regime, which has
the total control of the ability to intimidate, to jail, to exile, to bribe, failed. It failed to be able to change the votes of
100 members of the National Assembly who wanted to support Juan Guaido, every one of them
knowing that he or she could be arrested tomorrow. And it didn’t work. Think of what happened. You have this chaos at the National Assembly,
all these deputies get the word: “We are going to El Nacional, and we’re going to
vote.” The National Assembly isn’t a building;
it’s a body elected by the people of Venezuela. So I think that was an extraordinary show
of opposition, courage, and unity. It really – in a way, it doesn’t change
anything for us. The policy continues. But we will be looking at new additional measures,
positive measures to support democrats in Venezuela, and try to get more support from
countries, democratic parties, parliaments around the world, the democratic world, and
also more pressure on those who are continuing to support the regime. I think what you saw yesterday was something
the regime didn’t want to do. Initially they wanted a vote, and they wanted
to win the vote in the National Assembly, and they couldn’t do it. With weeks and months of effort, they couldn’t
do it, and they were forced to this last desperate resort of using the military, knowing that
what we saw has actually happened, which is they’ve been condemned everywhere. So I don’t think they come out of yesterday
stronger. I think they come out of yesterday weaker. MODERATOR: Lara. QUESTION: So, I’ll bite. You’ve now mentioned twice that there is
going to be more American help to the forces of freedom. What specifically are you talking about, and
what kind of confidence do you have that that will change the yearlong standoff there? MR ABRAMS: Well, we’re look at, I guess
I would say, positive and negative things we can do. On the positive side, Congress has voted a
fair amount of money to help the democratic opposition in Venezuela. And we will be thinking of ways to use those
funds, and to try to get other countries to give political support, diplomatic support,
financial support to the forces of freedom in Venezuela. And on the negative side, we are looking at
additional sanctions, personal sanctions, economic sanctions that we think will bring
more pressure yet on the regime. QUESTION: How much money, and what is that
being used for currently? MR ABRAMS: I’m a little reluctant to go
into detail on that, because I don’t remember the exact numbers – the final, final number. But we have got an agreement with the legitimate
government of Venezuela, development agreement, and we are able to do things to help, for
example, the free press in Venezuela, to help people keep publishing and to keep broadcasting. We have some funds that we can use for the
National Assembly. So there are a variety of things – this
is really – this is all being done through – or not all, mostly being done through
AID, but also the Democracy and Human Rights Bureau here at State. MODERATOR: Jessica. QUESTION: I was wondering if you could comment
on how much you think Russia has played into this. There’s been some reporting over the fact
that it might have been to rubberstamp Russian oil deals. How important do you think that might have
been? And also, do you think that having two presidents
and two assemblies now, as opposed to two and one, makes it — MR ABRAMS: Well, let me correct that. There aren’t two assemblies. There is one National Assembly that was elected
in 2015. And, as we saw yesterday, a clear majority
of 100 supports Juan Guaido and voted to reelect him. There’s only one National Assembly. QUESTION: Sorry, assembly presidents. MR ABRAMS: Well, we will see what happens
tomorrow. Guaido has publicly stated that he will go
to the National Assembly tomorrow. Now, as you know from all those videos yesterday,
soldiers physically prevented him from going in. Will they tomorrow? We’ll see. What can this phony new leadership of the
National Assembly do? They don’t have the votes. There’s a clear majority out of the 2015
election for Guaido and for the democratic opposition. So I think it’s impossible to say yet how
that will turn out on Russia. As the regime has become more and more desperate,
they have – in the course of 2019, they have relied more and more on Russia. And the Russian role in the economy, particularly
the oil economy, is larger and larger. Russian companies are now handling more than
two-thirds, more than 70 percent, of Venezuelan oil. They market it, they finance it, they hide
it, ship-to-ship transfers, changing the name of boats, turning off transponders. They sell gasoline and diluents. So the Russian role is increasingly important. I would note that the Russians, as far as
I’m aware, have been silent today. And I would think that allies – there aren’t
very many, but allies of Maduro such as Russia must be thinking twice today when they see
the regime has so little support left that there is nothing they can do but send troops
to the National Assembly. MODERATOR: Okay. ABC Spain. QUESTION: David Alandete from ABC Spain. I wanted to ask you about the statements from
the U.S. Government recently on the fact that some
factions of the regime could still work with the opposition. After yesterday’s events, do you still believe
that there are parts of the regime that could be able to be part of the transition – a
transition that the United States could support anyways? MR ABRAMS: The – I have to assume that there
are some people inside the government, inside the executive branch, who think that what
was done yesterday was a terrible mistake, was disgraceful, was shameful. Of course, they can’t say so, because if
they say so, they will be arrested or worse. I have to believe that there are people in
the military who understand that the goal of the military is to protect the country,
not to prevent elected deputies from the going to the National Assembly to vote. They too know that if they speak up, they
face arrest or worse. There are certainly people who used to support
Hugo Chavez, who have as recently as yesterday and today made their disgust at what happened
yesterday known. We would have to judge that question of who
we can work with and who we can’t work with when we get to that point. MODERATOR: Let’s go to the back. Financial Times. QUESTION: Katrina Manson, Financial Times. Thank you. Do you think Venezuela’s neighbors are considering
a military solution, and what would be the U.S. position on that? MR ABRAMS: I don’t think they are considering
a military solution. They’re worried very much about the refugee
flows, which continue at a very – pardon me – at a very high level, perhaps 5 million,
getting to 6 million. If it goes on for another year, it will be
a greater refugee crisis than Syria. But I’m unaware of any discussions – this
would be the Brazilians and the Colombians, really – of a – of taking military steps,
except conceivably in self-defense. MODERATOR: Yeah, Tracy. QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Elliott, when asked how yesterday – the
events of yesterday leaves your efforts, the U.S. efforts, you said it doesn’t change
things for us. But we heard today from some of the Venezuelan
congressmen that they’re sort of entering a period of self-criticism and re-examining
their mistakes and making changes, and so I wondered if U.S. policy also was going to
be going through a sort of reassessment – what worked, what didn’t, what can we do differently
– that kind of thing? MR ABRAMS: I don’t think that’s anything
new. I mean, Guaido has spoken over the last three
months in answer to questions – why are we still here in September, October, November
– and has talked about things that didn’t go as well as he had hoped, for example, the
reaction from the military. We do this all the time too – that is, we
don’t sort of have an annual review at which we say, “What are we doing right and what
are we doing wrong?” We think all the time about how to do better. And I think – I’ve said to a number of
people that we underestimated the importance of the Cuban and Russian support for the regime,
which has proved, I think, to be the two most important pillars of support for the regime
and without which it wouldn’t be there, it wouldn’t be in power. MODERATOR: One or two more? MR ABRAMS: Yeah. MODERATOR: Okay. Yeah, right there. QUESTION: Juan Camilo Merlano, Caracol TV
Colombia. You highlighted the statements from Argentina
and Mexico. Is the U.S. looking forward to, I don’t
know, bring those countries to maybe the Lima Group or to other block of countries to make
a higher pressure against the Maduro regime? MR ABRAMS: No. I highlighted those really for the obvious
reason, which was that — QUESTION: They agreed with you. MR ABRAMS: No. They all agreed with us. Everybody agreed with us. I mean, I have a list here – I could read
out the list of countries. Why did I use Mexico and Argentina and not
Colombia? We know of the very strong support in Colombia
for democracy in Venezuela and for Juan Guaido. You have a new government in Argentina that
has taken a slightly different position and, obviously, so has Mexico. They have not taken the same position as the
United States. So it was very interesting when on the same
day, without hesitation, both of them really called what happened yesterday in Caracas
unacceptable and rejected it, and I think that’s really quite striking. And Maduro must be asking himself today, “Do
I have any allies left?” They’re not going to support those kinds
of measures. They’re going to denounce those kinds of
measures. He is left with Cuba, Russia, China, and a
few odd dictatorships around the world, but he is losing the support not only on the right,
not only in the center, but on the left in Latin America. MODERATOR: Okay, last question. (Inaudible). QUESTION: Under what conditions would the
United States recognize a result of the legislative elections expected this year and the opposition
be wise to boycott those? MR ABRAMS: Well, we would recognize the result
if it’s a free and fair election. I pointed out to people in the Government
of Venezuela, the regime, I’ve pointed it out to others in Latin America. The United States recognizes results of free
elections. We recognized the result when the FMLN won
in El Salvador because they won a free election. We’ve recognized the result when the Sandinistas
won a free election in Nicaragua, and we recognize the results of free elections even if we don’t
love the outcome. So that’s the answer to that part. If it’s a free and fair election, then not
only we, but I think other democracies around the world would support it. Should they participate in the election? I think the key answer to that is we’re
not Venezuelans. They have to make that decision for themselves,
the democratic parties in Venezuela. As of today, they cannot compete. As of today, Juan Guaido, for example, would
not be allowed to run for re-election. As of today, most of the democratic parties
in Venezuela have been called illegal. So as of today, you couldn’t possibly have
a free election. You would need significantly to change the
conditions. What are the conditions that would lead the
Venezuelan opposition to participate? There are international standards for free
elections, and they’re all the obvious ones – no censorship; free access to media; ability
to campaign; access to – equal access to TV; deputies who are, in the case of Venezuela,
who are in prison or in exile allowed to return and run for re-election; fair and free counting
of the vote. In Bolivia, for example, I believe it’s
fair to say the campaign was pretty free, and then it was on election day that the votes
were stolen and manipulated. So there’s a combination of things. There are international standards that all
sorts of organizations, IFES being probably the most famous of them, can give all of us. That’s what we’re hoping for. That’s what we’re working for, that those
conditions would prevail in Venezuela so that there can be free presidential elections and
free National Assembly elections. National Assembly elections alone will not
solve the Venezuelan crisis. They need presidential elections to be able
to get out of the crisis they’re in. Thank you. MODERATOR: All right, thank you. QUESTION: Thanks.

2 thoughts on “Briefing with Special Representative for Venezuela Abrams

  • Orwell Huxley Post author

    Poor Abrams he is delusional

  • Eduardo Pocaterra Post author

    @3:09 A broad alliance of what? Political parties i.e. (Voluntad Popular, Acción Democrática, Primero Justicia, Copei, ETC), and leadership that SYSTEMATICALLY committed ELECTION FRAUD OVER AND OVER by conceding electoral victories in EVERY field to the Tyranny and negotiating for regime pole positions at the "Strip Club" of "opposition leadership".

    Mr. Abrams, WE are dealing with POLITICAL PROSTITUTES, WE are dealing with a SOUTH VIETNAM-style CABAL of hyper corrupt, NON Patriotic, cynical sociopaths who have LIED and STOLEN for 20 YEARS and who are responsible as much as the Tyranny which they are the facade for.

    Mr. Abrams, the US MUST search for REAL LEADERSHIP or WE WILL FAIL. We cannot throw OUR support for the same people who has allowed what is now a vassal state of the Cuban Tyranny, under the guidance of Russia and under Chinas economic influence.

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