U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks Following a Meeting with Diaspora Groups

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For Immediate Release

Friday, July 20, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

Office of Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen
Miami, Florida
July 20, 2018

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So, first off, my thanks to Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart earlier, and Congressman Curbelo and his office representatives, friends and voices that I listen to in Washington; and more than anyone else, the lady to my right, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has been an inspiration to me in terms of her twenty-eight years in Congress. Of course, she was an inspiration in her path to Congress.

As you know, Ileana, the voice never goes away. She makes sure that you always hear about what matters, and so I, before I go further, want to pay real tribute to her, because she has been a voice for what matters and a voice for what is right and, again, a real inspiration to me. And then, finally, I want to thank all of you. I've got to tell you, you're inspirational. You really are. The work that you do, the organizations that you represent, the communities that you represent, the values that you represent are truly important.

I've enjoyed this morning; it's been a great opportunity. As Ileana pointed out, I've taken lots of notes, spending a lot of time back in Washington going back and trying to put them into action, but wanted to offer a few specific thoughts. Today, obviously we've been discussing a shared vision for democratic growth and freedom in this hemisphere, as you have heard me say, something that was set forward by Vice President Pence around the Summit of the Americas.

The purpose and principle and aim of this Administration in the Western Hemisphere is to make this truly a hemisphere of freedom. Unfortunately, as we know, that is still but a dream in many parts of the hemisphere. In Cuba, Fidel Castro may have passed away, but it is very clear that his legacy of repression continues, with Raul still leading the Communist Party. The Cuban dictatorship continues to crack down on civil society-- harassing, beating, and jailing the Cuban people.

We must all work together to support the people of Cuba, to help them achieve their dream of true democracy, respect for the rule of law, and an end to human rights violations. Together, we can stop the cancer that Fidel and Raul Castro have sought to spread throughout the region, and sadly, we know that that cancer unfortunately, as we speak, has taken hold in places like Nicaragua and Venezuela.

In Nicaragua, the Ortega regime is directing its national police, its youth groups, and the gangs that it controls to attack innocent citizens. More than 2,000 Nicaraguans have been injured, and more than 350 have been killed, and the death toll rises each and every day. NGOs that we listen to on the ground are telling us that the regime has authorized a shoot-to-kill policy, and there are widespread reports of kidnapping, forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and torture, and we've been told that the injured have been denied access to lifesaving care.

Ortega's brutal regime physically attacked two bishops and has arrested the leader of the Campesino Movement. It is difficult for a dialogue to be taken seriously when dialogue members are being beaten or rounded up and arrested. Very clearly, Ortega must end the violence now, and as friends of freedom and friends of the people of Nicaragua, we have to hold responsible those who would carry out these vicious attacks.

As we know, tyranny also reigns not far away, in Venezuela, and the results have been disastrous. We have to remind ourselves: Venezuela is a country rich in resources, and yet it's been reduced to stock-outs, hyperinflation, malnutrition, and the scarcity of the most basic of foodstuffs and medicines. A country which should be a donor nation, helping to lift others out of poverty, is driving despair, and it's driving despair not only inside its country but all throughout the region.

The brutal, corrupt Maduro regime is driving the largest single-event cross-border mass exodus in the history of the Americas and is something that I don't think Americans fully appreciate. Five thousand Venezuelans per day are fleeing the country. We need to stand with the people of these countries throughout the hemisphere--those who strive for peace, democracy, and human dignity--because those are the values that our nation was founded upon. And if we fail to stand up for those values in those countries, not only do those countries lose, but we lose. We reduce ourselves.

And so, that's why today I'm announcing the United States intends to provide an additional $6.5 million in assistance to support a prosperous, safe, and free Western Hemisphere, and this is in addition to the money that we announced just days ago, when I was in Colombia. This new funding includes $5 million in U.S. assistance we intend to provide to help Venezuelans in Colombia. This new funding brings the total of U.S. humanitarian and development assistance to help Venezuelans in the region to more than $60 million since Fiscal Year 2017.

This assistance is providing urgent food and medical assistance to Venezuelans and also helping communities in Colombia, Brazil, and Ecuador respond to the influx of migrants going into those countries, crossing the border. This assistance will also include $1.5 million to continue to support freedom and democracy in Nicaragua. The United States is the only remaining donor working on democracy and human rights in Nicaragua, and so we know and take seriously our responsibility as a lifeline for civil society organizations, human rights defenders, emerging leaders, and independent media who are currently under threat by the Ortega government.

Then, as you know, the U.S. will continue to support civil society in Cuba, with $20 million in U.S. assistance flowing to Cuba each year. But we should be clear: humanitarian assistance is not a long-term answer. It is something that we do as an expression of compassion and to fulfill our leadership role, but it is not a long-term answer. These are entirely man-made crises, which means they are entirely avoidable and they require a political solution.

We must work together to support the people of the region in pursuit of that hemisphere of freedom and a hemisphere free from oppression. That's what we believe in, and that's what we stand for. So, once again, I want to thank your communities for the support that you give to the people of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and I want to thank you for taking time out to come and visit with me today. I have learned a tremendous amount from you.