U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks on Additional Humanitarian Aid for Venezuelans

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Speeches Shim


For Immediate Release

Monday, July 16, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

Cucuta, Colombia
July 16, 2018

MR. McCLESKEY: Good morning everyone. I think I spoke with many of you earlier, but again, I'm Clayton McCleskey and I'm the spokesperson for USAID. Many thanks for being here today. I know many of you have travelled to come and be with us this morning. We really appreciate that.

It's my honor to introduce Administrator Mark Green. He is the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, so he leads the U.S. Government's global humanitarian and development efforts. And he's here in his first official visit to Colombia.

So, I'm going to have the Administrator make some opening comments and then we look forward to taking your questions. Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Great, thank you very much. All right, good morning everyone, and thank you for being here, and in particular I'd like to begin with a special note of thanks to the Government of Colombia, and to our local partners for hosting us here in Cucuta this morning. I apologize upfront for needing to use a translator, but my Spanish is not what you would want to hear.

We are standing on the front lines of one of the largest displacements of people in the history of Latin America; 1.6 million Venezuelans have already fled their home country. And as has been reinforced for us today, as we have spoken to Venezuelans, they are fleeing hunger, they are fleeing a lack of medicine, and a lack of opportunity. More fundamentally, they are fleeing opposition and tyranny, and they are fleeing a dysfunctional, despotic regime.

I am here because the United States is committed to helping Venezuelans. I am here because we are committed to supporting the Government of Colombia and our partners to respond to this man-made humanitarian crisis. And as I think we know, it is a crisis that is affecting the entire region.

Today, I am announcing that the United States is contributing an additional $6 million in humanitarian assistance to provide urgent food and health assistance for Venezuelans in Colombia. This assistance will support Colombia's ongoing efforts to handle the influx of Venezuelans who are pouring into Colombia. And with this new funding, the U.S. is now providing more than $56 million in development and humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans in the region, including nearly $32 million here in Colombia.

I've travelled here today to see firsthand some of the work that our funding is supporting. I've also been here to listen and learn what more can be done to help Venezuelans and Colombian communities who are hosting them. As you have seen me walking around, I have my notebook, that I have been taking many, many notes. I have lots of notes and lots of lessons to carry back to Washington with me.

Here at the border, USAID is supporting a local vaccination program that administers hundreds of vaccinations each day. We're also providing urgent food aid and technical support for the Colombian hospitals that are caring for the influx of arrivals. Earlier, I visited an important center, where USAID- working through our implementers- is providing hot meals. And this morning, I have had the opportunity to listen to some recently arrived Venezuelans. I was deeply moved at hearing their stories of suffering in Venezuela, and of lives that have been uprooted.

There are more stories than I can possibly relate to you. There is the young family of Venezuelans who have come over, and during the day, they volunteer to serve hot meals. When their day is done, they sell coffee on the street, to try to earn enough money to pay for shelter.

There are the young children that we have seen, whose lives have been turned upside down. But at this wonderful place, our partners are trying to restore some kind of childhood, some kind of opportunity for, as we would say, "kids to be kids."

Like the Government of Colombia, we in the U.S. respond to natural disasters every year. What makes what we are seeing especially tragic is that the crisis these poor people are fleeing is entirely manmade. It is the direct result of a corrupt Maduro regime who commits human rights abuses and denies its people access to the most basic of services.

We should never forget that Venezuela was once the wealthiest nation in South America. It has vast natural resources; it should be a donor nation and a regional leader. But instead of responding to suffering, the Maduro regime is driving the suffering. It is causing widespread shortages of food, medicine, and fuel. And he is hurting his own people, and on top of that, he is impacting his neighbors.

The U.S. Government condemns Venezuela's delusional and inhumane, misguided policies that have exacerbated an avoidable humanitarian crisis. But even as we press for a long-term solution, we will proudly stand with the people of Venezuela. And we will support the work of Colombia and others in the region to help Venezuelans.

As I have said, this humanitarian crisis continues to plague the region and affects the stability of its neighbors. Which is why we need a regional and international approach to bring democracy back to Venezuela.

Fundamental to this response is the U.S. and Colombia working together, side by side, to promote what Vice President Pence has echoed throughout the region; namely, making this hemisphere, a hemisphere of freedom.

This week, I look forward to meeting with Colombian government officials and partners to discuss how we can continue working together to address this humanitarian crisis. Colombia is a strong partner, an important ally, and most importantly, a true friend of the United States. Together, we are doing great things to not only help Venezuelans and Colombians, but also the broader region. USAID is proud to be able to work alongside the Government of Colombia and the Colombian people to support development initiatives that seek to promote a safer and more prosperous Colombia.

Today, as I reaffirm the U.S. commitment to helping Venezuelans, I thank our friends, the people of Colombia, for helping their neighbors in a time of grave need, for preserving a strong democracy, and for promoting regional stability in our hemisphere. For this, the United States and the people of the United States are sincerely grateful.

MR. McCLESKEY: And now, we're honored to have from the Government of Colombia, the Minister of Health, who would like to say something briefly before we take a couple questions.


MR. McCLESKEY: Wonderful. We have time for just a couple questions, so we would like to open up by going to Caracol Radio (inaudible).

QUESTION: In Spanish.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So, the additional money that we are providing goes through our partners, many of whom you are seeing here, as they provide services. These are the same partners that the Government of Colombia works with. We coordinate closely because as we would say, "we are joined at the hip," in trying to help with this crisis.

MR. McCLESKEY: A question from Helena Sanchez? The local newspaper.

QUESTION: Translated from Spanish. So, two questions. Chiefly, my first question is why is there a special interest in partnering with the United States on this border? What interest do you take in working here (inaudible) this border between Colombia and Venezuela? Secondly, you have stated that you have brought a lot of lessons along and you will bring them along with you back to Washington. What are those lessons learned?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Good questions. We at the U.S. Agency for International Development, in our mission we always say that we stand with people when crisis strikes. The crisis that we are seeing on this border, and also throughout the region, is the man-made crisis of Venezuelans who are fleeing tyranny. It is mostly a crisis for the Venezuelan people, but the costs in money and logistics and facilities is being borne by so many countries. We believe it is our obligation to try to help as we can. I think that obligation is even greater when it involves one of our closest friends, the Government of Colombia.

MR. McCLESKEY: Wonderful, thank you, everybody. We are going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much.