U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Interview with Univision's Lourdes Del Rio

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For Immediate Release

Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

Univision Miami
Miami, Florida
July 19, 2018

QUESTION: (inaudible)

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: (inaudible) trying to see firsthand just the nature of the crisis. You know, you can read reports, you can see numbers, but until you look in the eyes of those who are coming over the border and you can tell from their eyes what it is that they're fleeing and what it is that they need. And it's really hard to be able to do just what it is that we need to do, which is to stand with the people of Venezuela and try to provide some humanitarian relief. So that's the basic reason that I'm here.

QUESTION: You guys are giving -- when I say, "you guys," I mean the U.S. Government is giving humanitarian relief to the country of Colombia who gets to deal with the crisis?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, so, there's actually several countries in the region, but mainly Colombia, as Colombia's so much on the front lines. Yeah, what we're trying to do is stand with the Government of Colombia as it tries to accommodate the flood of Venezuelans fleeing Maduro and so we're providing some humanitarian assistance that will help with emergency food assistance, med supplies, emergency medical care, and supporting those Colombian communities that are basically on the front lines. So that's the most of what we're doing.

QUESTION: Do you think, sir, that it's really a humanitarian crisis, would you say (inaudible)?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Oh, absolutely. It is absolutely a humanitarian crisis. And you know, the worst part is it's a man-made humanitarian crisis. It's entirely unnecessary but it's the Maduro regime and their policies which are not only, obviously tyrannical in the sense of closing down freedom and voices of dissension, but destroying an economy, destroying an infrastructure. This is -- this was the wealthiest economy in South America. It should be a fellow donor. It should be helping to lift lives in the region, and yet it's a driver of despair these days. And so, really, you know the great concern is not only what it's doing to the people of Venezuela, but it's starting to have consequences throughout the region because of the sheer numbers of people who've left.

Colombia -- the official number is 1.6 million Venezuelans* who have come over. Again, the official numbers that they're using; hundreds of thousands elsewhere. One projection is three million by the end of 2018. Those are huge numbers. And they're starting to migrate as far north as the Caribbean and you have economies there that are smaller economies and so in some way, a little more fragile. So, this is something that I think has to concern all of us because it has implications throughout the region. So, it's really something that we're thinking about a great deal, helping as we can. But the real answer, of course, is not humanitarian assistance. The real answer is a change in Venezuela, a change of policy, a change in the way of doing things. Because right now, there's really no end in sight.

QUESTION: I don't know if you mind me asking about Nicaragua. I have a reporter right now in Nicaragua. The situation is Nicaragua is quickly deteriorating with the Ortega regime. Is the United States doing anything to try to help in the front lines of the Nicaragua, or I don't know, maybe with neighboring countries?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, sure. First off, obviously our position is pretty clear. Ortega needs to end the violence now, absolutely. And stop the atrocities because it really is -- it's atrocities. More than 300 people killed, numbers keep rising each day. Countless others displaced, countless others tortured. They're being denied healthcare for their injuries, so it's as bad as it can possibly be. So, that's very clear. We are trying to provide some support to human rights defenders, to independent media, to try to stand with those who are peacefully protesting. And obviously they're being targeted, they're being beaten up, they're being attacked simply for standing up for what they believe in. And so, we're trying to support those voices and civil society voices there with peaceful protests. But again, this is a man-made crisis and it's something that needs a political solution.

QUESTION: In Ecuador; what is the U.S. Government doing in Ecuador to kind of help out with the Ecuadorians? And I know Correa obviously -- I mean the fact that he left and I think there's a new regime, and maybe the new regime somehow gets, kind of, scaling back on the things that Correa did, but what is our involvement?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, of course Vice President Pence was just there, and I think it's early days, and early days in the conversation--

QUESTION: Right. We're optimistic.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: We're optimistic, of course, and so we're hopeful. We're hopeful that there'll be new opportunities for partnership. But again, I don't want to get ahead of the Vice President or the State Department, but we're hopeful. We're also hopeful.

QUESTION: Carefully watching is one way to put it.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Carefully watching and more than that, we're doing scenario planning, seeing if there are ways that we might be able to help in the future. But again, it's a little premature at this point.

QUESTION: As you know, the people migrating over from Latin America has created a huge problem on the border. And I know that that's not, you know, --


QUESTION: -- the USA's problem, or I mean, so you guys don't handle the border. But what are you guys doing in general with, like, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, to try to help those countries, I guess to kind of, you know, give these people an opportunity? Or maybe scale back on the lines? Are we giving them money or are we helping them enough to see if we can alleviate the problems so they can stop coming to the border?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, as you know, basically USAID doesn't give money to governments, but it does provide assistance to civil society leaders, to community leaders. In the case of the Northern Triangle countries, what we're trying to do is to help community leaders push back against crime, lawlessness. I've had a chance to go down there myself before I was USAID Administrator, some of the work that a former organization of mine used to do -- on citizen security trying to create safe places for families -- so that families don't need to flee, so that young, unaccompanied minors don't go 1,000 miles north through some of the worst territory and the worst conditions imaginable. You want them to be able to stay and realize their dream, to grab on to opportunities. So, that's the involvement that we have. We think that's a key part of the long-term answer to trying to create tools that help countries and their governance, to crack down on crime, to create real opportunity, to reach out to young people in the Northern Triangle countries and show them that they can be productive members of their community, and they can have a future right there in the Northern Triangle.

QUESTION: Would you say that the governments in those countries are helping, are trying to work in conjunction with the U.S. Government to make sure that the money, for instance, goes the correct organizations or, you know, to the -- to the people who are trying to make a difference so that their citizens could stay.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well. And, again, our money doesn't-- in most cases, flow through those governments. And we work with trusted voices and we're constantly testing and auditing what it is that we do. So I think we are making a difference. And, there's clearly more that can be done, I think more that needs to be done. But, you know, I think it's an important crossroads moment for many of these countries. There's some important decisions that need to be made.

So, I think you have -- as you look at the Western hemisphere -- you have what Vice President Pence referred to as the "Hemisphere of Freedom." And you have countries like Colombia, and you have countries like Brazil, which are trying to create -- to crack down on corruption, in the case of a country like Brazil -- in the case of Colombia, trying to crack down on the problem of coca.

So, they're trying on one hand to foster freedom and democracy, and to rise and to grab on to this vision. You see other countries which are moving in the opposite direction. Cuba continues to be in the opposite direction. But, Nicaragua and Venezuela -- then I think you have countries that are at a crossroads moment. I think they need to take on corruption, to provide transparency, to provide conditions for people to be able to live and thrive. And so, that's how we view the hemisphere, and we try to be helpful in each of those cases in the best way that we can, to really give tools to good leaders to take on these issues, to grab on what can be.

QUESTION: And, what's going on in Cuba? I'm glad you brought up Cuba.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, in Cuba, you know, of course -- when I was down in the Summit of the Americas, I had the chance to meet with opposition leaders and civil society leadership Cuba, and they made it clear to us that the sham election was just that -- a sham election. And they said, "Look, instead of moderating, they're merely mutating. Nobody should be fooled, and that's the way that we view it." So, we're still trying to provide some assistance to, again, human rights defenders, some humanitarian relief to political prisoners. That's something that we can do. But the real answer, again, is change there. It is giving people a voice and a stake in their own future, fostering democracy.

Countries like Cuba, regimes like the Castro Communist Party, they clearly are in a position of weakness. They're striking out because they're weak. They're afraid of their people. They're afraid of democracy. They're afraid of giving people the tools to decide their own future. Our view is simple and it's clear. We need to stand with the people of these countries throughout the hemisphere. Those are the principles that our nation was founded upon. Those are the blessings that we have, and we feel an obligation to share in those blessings.

QUESTION: Perfect. I don't know there's anything else that you want to touch upon or --

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well -- so, I would say that, you know, when I was at the border with Venezuela -- I think the biggest thing that I learned, you know, I fully expected to see a river of Venezuelans coming towards Colombia, and I did. It was very, very clear. I was also struck by the number going back.


ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So, you had a huge number of Venezuelans who would leave their homes at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, walk four and five hours just to get a meal, just to get basics meds that they could not get back home, and then they'd go back. And what that really told me is that you've a whole wave of Venezuelans who are suffering from a system that has collapsed. They can't get food -- hyperinflation. Even if there is food on the shelf they can't possibly afford it.

QUESTION: They can't get water. We did a story that there's a water crisis.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: They can't get water. And so, I was really struck by that. That's not something that I was really prepared for. I spoke to a number of Venezuelan families, and the lengths that they were going to in the face of Maduro policies -- I met a young mother who said that what she did, that she came over. She volunteers at a Catholic-run food assistance center, and she volunteers and gives out food to others, so they give her three squares. And then, what she does in the evening is sell coffee on the street, just so she can afford the shelter that will allow her family to stay there.

QUESTION: Those are powerful stories.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: And they're powerful and you can't help but be moved by what they're trying to do for their kids, what they're trying to provide for their kids. Again, the worst part of all of this -- it's a man-made crisis. Maduro's policies are doing this. He's forcing hundreds of thousands, millions to flee. Totally unnecessary. Destroying an economy. Destroying an infrastructure. Cracking down on people. And it's not only affecting his own people, but it's now affecting the entire region.

QUESTION: I think we're done.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Great, thank you. No, I appreciate it, appreciate the opportunity.

*The number of Venezuelans who have left their country for Colombia is approximately 1 million.