The United States Stands with All Venezuelans in Search of a Better Future
After a 36-year career in the diplomatic service of the United States, much of it focused on Latin America, I am deeply honored to be named the next Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela and have the opportunity to build the important people-to-people ties that historically connect our two countries. I will work with all Venezuelans to take the concrete steps needed to strengthen and advance Venezuelan-led negotiations between Nicolás Maduro and the Unitary Platform to improve democratic conditions and stabilize the humanitarian crisis. The United States stands with all Venezuelans in search of a better future, and I look forward to my time working with all of you.
It is in the national interest of the United States for Venezuela to prosper as a nation, while seeking to pursue policies supported by its people through a stable democratic process. That was the message delivered by Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer on behalf of President Joe Biden at the April high-level conference on Venezuela in Bogotá, and it will be my guiding principle as the Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela.
Venezuelans deserve the right to choose their representatives through free and fair elections, and to trust that their elected leaders will uphold their basic responsibility to respect universal human rights, which include freedoms of expression and assembly, to protect people from violence, and to find ways to engage in genuine and peaceful dialogue. The international community also has a shared responsibility to support the Venezuelan people when their leaders do not fulfill that responsibility.
My central role as Chief of Mission will be to stand in support of all Venezuelans across the political spectrum who are working peacefully in support of elections in 2024 and 2025, accompanied by the full restoration and respect for fundamental liberties, the lifting of international sanctions, and the important work of rebuilding Venezuela. The best path toward achieving this vision is through Venezuelan-led talks with a firm commitment by all parties to give this process a real chance to succeed. It has languished for far too long.
While there are pockets of democracy today in Venezuela – particularly elected mayors and governors from across the political spectrum who exercise legitimate and effective authority – the widespread jailing of political opponents, the arbitrary disqualification of candidates and parties, systemic censorship, and the lack of an independent judiciary severely undermine the democratic space and fundamental freedoms. Free and fair elections require effective protection against political persecution. Venezuela must move beyond a winner-takes-all mentality and ensure that electoral losers do not face persecution. In addition, the Unitary Platform and the 2022 report by the European Union electoral observation mission have set forth recommendations that should be implemented to safeguard the integrity of elections. These include:
- Support for international election observation;
- Agreement on an electoral calendar;
- The reinstatement of candidates and agreement for political parties to choose their leaders;
- Updates to the electoral registry; and
- The release of political prisoners and the end of arbitrary arrests.
We envision a step-by-step approach to a return to democracy in Venezuela, and we are prepared to provide sanction relief as a response to those constructive, irreversible steps. It is important to underscore that the Biden-Harris Administration has no desire to maintain U.S. sanctions in perpetuity. Sanctions are not the goal of our policy; they are only a tool to encourage the necessary steps towards a more open and democratic political space.
Week by week, month by month, we believe that undertaking concrete steps that culminate in the free and fair elections necessary for a more democratic Venezuela will also lead to an end to the humanitarian crisis.
We are also committed to addressing the humanitarian situation of the more than seven million Venezuelans who have fled their homeland, by helping Venezuelans inside and outside of the country. The United States, as a matter of policy, will facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to support the people of Venezuela.
This commitment is also why President Biden granted Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans already in the United States, and why to date we have provided $2.8 billion in humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans in need. We are expanding the legal pathways for Venezuelans to take in order to reach their destinations safely and without needing to put their lives in the hands of smugglers.
We also support efforts by the Venezuelan parties to implement the Mesa Social humanitarian agreement signed last November. We hope to see the establishment, funding, and implementation of this humanitarian agreement soon so that it can unlock millions of dollars of much-needed assistance for the Venezuelan people.
This U.S. commitment also extends to ensuring the Venezuelan people have access to reliable sources of agricultural trade to support food security and economic recovery. In 2022, we exported over $800 million of agricultural products to the country, which play a critical role in the improvement of food availability in Venezuela.
Each year, we send Venezuelans to the United States through exchange programs such as the Fulbright Program, to build lasting ties. We provide news and information to over 1.2 million Venezuelan followers on our U.S. Mission to Venezuela digital platforms. We support English-language programs and create important cultural exchanges through baseball, music, and the arts. We do all that even without an Embassy presence in Venezuela. I will also work to assist detained American citizens.
The United States and Venezuela share a long history of partnership. Though our relationship may have had ups and downs, our support for and friendship with the Venezuelan people has never wavered. We stand ready to support the hard work of negotiations in Mexico for free and fair elections. I look forward to working with all parties to restore Venezuela’s place in the region as a beacon of freedom, prosperity, and democracy.
Chief of Mission
U.S. Mission to Venezuela