08/04/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 08/04/2020 16:38
Washington, D.C. -U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Hearing on Venezuela's deteriorating security and humanitarian situation under the corrupt Maduro crime syndicate, with testimony from Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Joshua Hodges.
Rubio questioned Special Representative Abrams about U.S. policy towards Venezuela and Abrams confirmed that the U.S. is not open to negotiating a deal that allows Dictator Nicolás Maduro to remain in power.
Video of Rubio's remarks can be found hereand a full transcript of Senator Rubio's remarks are below.
Rubio: Thank you both for being here. How many countries in Latin America recognize Guaidó as the legitimate Interim President?
Abrams: Every country except I think Cuba, Argentina, and Mexico.
Rubio: I imagine Nicaragua?
Abrams: Yeah, and Nicaragua. Sorry.
Rubio: We didn't just pull Guaidó out of the air and say this is who we recognize. The basis of our support for Juan Guaidó is the legitimate interim and the basis for why all these other countries have also recognized him is because he is the democratically elected member of the National Assembly, who the democratically elected members of the National Assembly have made the President of that Assembly.That under the Venezuelan Constitution fills the role of President when there is a vacancy in that office. Is that not the reason why we recognize him?
Abrams: That's correct. We did not choose Juan Guaidó, the Constitution of Venezuela chose Juan Guaidó.
Rubio: As Interim President until the next free and fair election?
Rubio: I also heard a comment earlier by one of my colleagues, Senator Paul who is no longer here, he said 'our policy of replacing Maduro with Guaidó', that is not the policy of the United States. The policy of the United States is to try to promote a transition to free and fair elections where the people of Venezuela choose who the next President of Venezuela is.
Abrams: That's exactly right.
Rubio: Let me ask you another thing you hear alot about is [Maduro] is still clinging on to power. First of all, I think it's fair to say, the Maduro regime is not really a government in the traditional sense of the word. It's an organized crime reign, is that a fair characterization?
Abrams: It is.And I think that's what distinguishes it from many Latin American cases of Military Juntas, which were replaced by democratic governments.
Rubio: And as a criminal enterprise, basically what it's comprised of, these individuals that allow Maduro to remain in 'power'. Much of the country, they don't really exercise much government grid any longer, they're heavily focused in Caracas. But to the extent that they are in control of national territory, people that allow them to do it, the reason why they allow them to do it, it's fair to say it's not because of ideological or personal affinity to Mr. Maduro. It is actually the fact that these people have become very rich and want to maintain power that allows them to keep their money and their personal freedom. Would you not say that is the glue that holds together this criminal enterprise?
Abrams: I would, Senator. I think that explains part of the difficulty in getting them out.
Rubio: And the reason why they won't leave is not because they love Maduro, some of them want to replace him. The reason why they can't leave is because right now he's their best bet. At least for the moment. In essence, of all the options before them, this is the one that most guarantees them the power--for the time being--to protect their wealth and their personal freedom.
Abrams: Senator, I think that's right. Again, I think it explains the great difficulty of Venezuela.
Rubio: Is it not also fair to say that one of the things that a lot of those folks in there are probably thinking about is 'let's see what happens moving on in American politics, maybe a change in policy'. To me, this is an issue that's been pretty strong in bipartisan support. I think it's a bad assumption on their part, but there are some that are sort of standing around saying 'well let's wait around and see because maybe after the elections there will be a change in policy that will take the pressure off of us'.
Abrams: That's our calculation too. Maduro is to some extent watching and waiting.
Rubio: I think it's a bet. I don't think he has very many supporters here that are in favor of him remaining in power.
The last point is pretty straight forward questions. You've answered it in many ways and times. But I want to reiterate once more: Whether it's the President or anybody else, when they discuss talking to Maduro, that means a negotiation with Maduro about how he leaves his current position and allows for there to be free and fair elections. We are not discussing talks. We are not open to talks about how he remains in power.
Abrams: That is right. We are open to talks about him leaving power if he doesn't want to leave Venezuela, what happens to the sanctions for him and other people. Those discussions we're willing to have, but a negotiation about his remaining in power in Venezuela we are not going to have.
Rubio: And my last question is, we see them buying all of this gasoline from the Iranians. One of the most oil rich nations in the world no longer has any refining capacity and that has been the case for a long time even before these sanctions took hold. How are they paying for it?
Abrams: They're paying Iran with gold, as far as we're aware.
Rubio: From both their reserves and illegal mining?
Abrams: Yeah, their gold reserves value seems to be rising because the price of gold is rising. But we are able to see sometimes the movement of gold out, which we think is to Iran. And they're trying to refill it, in part, through current gold mining in the Arco Minero.
Rubio: So, in essence, they are depleting their national gold reserves to buy time to provide even a very limited amount of fuel.
Abrams: They are.
Rubio: Thank you.