USAID Administrator Mark Green with Venezuelan Ambassador to the U.S. Carlos Vecchio on Milestone Bilateral Development Agreement

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For Immediate Release

Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Office of Press Relations
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ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR BARSA: Good morning, everyone. My name is John Barsa. I'm the Assistant Administrator for USAID's Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. I'd like to welcome you all here today. We are here to witness the signing of the Development Objective Agreement, or the DOAG, between USAID and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. A special welcome to Carlos Vecchio, President Juan Guaidó's Ambassador to the United States and his delegation for attending today. I would like to also thank our colleagues in the interagency who are here in attendance as well. For the signing of this agreement, I would like to invite USAID Administrator Mark Green to provide some remarks regarding this occasion.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you, John. Good morning, everyone. Good to be with you. It's an honor to be here as we celebrate another important milestone in the partnership between our two countries. As we begin, I'd like to thank Ambassador Vecchio for his continued collaboration and leadership. Ambassador, your tireless efforts on behalf of the Venezuelan people have been an inspiration to us and a true difference-maker in in our relationship. I also want to thank Carrie Filipetti, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cuba and Venezuela. Today's occasion owes much to her hard work. And to our friends in Congress, today would not be possible without your continued, unflinching bipartisan support, and the resources that you continue to make available. It represents the best of U.S. American foreign policy. It represents a whole of U.S. Government effort to address the ongoing crisis. As President Trump recently expressed in his speech before the UN General Assembly, the American people are united in support of a free and democratic Venezuela. We salute the bravery of Interim President Guaidó, the National Assembly democratically elected, and all those who continue to resist the tyranny of Nicolás Maduro and his illegitimate regime. In short, we stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people as they fight to bring hope and prosperity back to their beautiful country.

The United States has provided $568 million in humanitarian and development assistance to those inside Venezuela and throughout the region. Those who have suffered at the hands of Maduro's brutality. The bilateral agreement we are signing today formalizes our partnership with Interim President Guaidó and his Administration. Theirs is the only government that represents the interests of the Venezuelan people, and we are very proud to work alongside them. With this new agreement, USAID commits to providing $98 million in development assistance for Venezuelans inside Venezuela. That includes a portion of the funding that I announced at the UN General Assembly and brings USAID's total development assistance for the dire situation in the country to approximately $116 million.

This new funding will build upon our existing support for local human rights defenders, civil society organizations, independent media, and electoral oversight. When circumstances allow, the funding will also support the efforts led by Interim President Guaidó's Administration to repair a healthcare system that has been utterly destroyed by Maduro's mismanagement and corruption. And it will help us begin critical work in food security so that we can rapidly deploy much needed agricultural resources when democracy returns to that country. During my many travels to Latin America, I've met with Venezuelans who have fled Maduro's tyranny. I've heard stories of unimaginable suffering, but I've also seen the courage, and the resilience, and the strength of the Venezuelan people who have not and will not give up.

And today, what we're saying is neither will we. This agreement lays the foundation for the work to come. The work to rebuild the country's infrastructure, but also to restore democratic institutions and citizen responsive governance. That's the only way this crisis will end by restoring liberty and democracy. And as we all know, the Venezuelan people deserve nothing less. It's a difficult road ahead, but Interim President Guaidó and his Administration, and the National Assembly, we know we finally have reliable partners who will bring a better day to the beautiful country of Venezuela. So, again, to all who continue to bravely fight to recover their country, their freedom, and their dignity, we stand with you. And just like you, we will not back down. Thank you.

ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR BARSA: Thank you, Administrator Green. At this point, we would like to invite Ambassador Vecchio for a few comments.

AMBASSADOR VECCHIO: Good morning, everyone. First of all, I want to thank the Trump Administration for supporting what we are doing in Venezuela. I want to thank also the U.S. Congress. Both institutions working with us to restore democracy is quite important, but also to alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelans. Particularly, I want to thank USAID. This team who's here. Thank you very much on behalf of the Venezuelan people. Thank you, Mark. Thank you for being there since day one and witness of this. What you have done in the field, sending humanitarian aid inside of Venezuela, helping neighboring countries and international organizations to support Venezuelan refugees. You are saving lives. You are saving Venezuelan lives. Many thanks because you are doing very beautiful work. We will never forget this, Mark. Thank you for that.

Second, in my view, this agreement will be a starting point. This is a historic agreement. It will open a new chapter in the relationship between the U.S. and Venezuela. The U.S. is a very important country for us, and it was in the past until this regime came to power. Destroyed the historic relationship between these two great nations. Let me highlight part of that history. We were the most important ally in this hemisphere during the World War II because we became a reliable oil provider to the U.S. and to the Allies. But also, in '62, we sent two Navy vessels to support the U.S. during the Missile Crisis. Just to give you two examples how close we are. So, this historic agreement will open that new chapter for the future of the United States and Venezuela. Not only today, I'm thinking more about the long run as well. This agreement shows the support of the U.S. with a transitioning Venezuela. There is not any doubt about it. How important it is on teaching Venezuela for the U.S., for Venezuelans, and for this hemisphere.

The United States understands clearly that the Maduro regime is a threat against Venezuelans, Colombians, against this hemisphere. Now we deserve a hemisphere of freedom. We deserve democracy in this continent. (Inaudible) ratifying what I'm saying right now. Also, this agreement will help us to enhance our capabilities inside of Venezuela in supporting our people, in increasing our foreign service, to increase the level of pressure in the international community, is helping also the NGOs, the civil society inside Venezuela to defend human rights. Help us to defeat the censorship of the dictatorship. So, this agreement is a key element today to restore democracy in Venezuela. There is not any doubt about it.

It is important also for us to set high standards of transparency in the way we will handle this agreement. And we would like to work this closely with the U.S. authorities in order to set clear methods to achieve the goals that we have set together. So, this is what we think about this. But this is the last important part. The best is yet to come. And I don't have any doubt that we will enhance the relationship between the U.S. and Venezuela in the future. And this would be an historic moment of that new beginning.

Thank you very much, Mark. Thank you very much, U.S. team -- USAID team for being here. And on behalf of the Interim President of Venezuela, on behalf of the people of Venezuela, thank you very much. We will never forget this. Thanks.

ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR BARSA: At this time, I would like to reinvite Ambassador Vecchio and Administrator Green to come up and sign this historic document.

As the Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, I'm especially moved by this event here. It's not often that one visualizes it here in such a historic moment in such an important role that we know decades, decades from now, I'm gonna look back on and say, "I was there. I witnessed this happening." This isn't turning. Now certainly, as an acknowledgement of this, Interim President Juan Guaidó could not be with us here today. We were very fortunate that he was able to videotape some comments regarding this historic day, this historic document. If I could direct everyone's attention to the screens here to our left for a message.

INTERIM PRESIDENT GUAIDÓ: (Via video conference in Spanish).

ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR BARSA: At USAID, we cannot be more proud of our role supporting the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly, Interim President Juan Guaidó. Our role in helping improve the human condition. As Administrator Mark Green sai,d this isn't just USAID. It's an interagency support. It's U.S. Government support. So, at this point I would like to invite Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Carrie Filipetti for a few words.

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FILIPETTI: Thank you very much. Thanks, John, and thanks very much to Administrator Green, to USAID, and, of course, the Government of Venezuela, for everybody's leadership in getting us to this momentous occasion. Administrator Green laid out the importance of this agreement and what it will achieve, but some quick context. This is the first bilateral agreement signed between the United States and the Government of Venezuela in over 65 years. That reflects the unique, vital, and renewed partnership between our two countries. Things are changing. It shows that the relationship between the United States and Venezuela under Interim President Guaidó is powerful, and, importantly, that it's long-lasting. The focus of our support also highlights the priorities of the legitimate government of Venezuela: the people, first and above all else. This agreement formalizes the commitment the U.S. has not to just seeing a transition, but in engaging in the hard work of bringing prosperity and democracy back to the people of Venezuela after a transition. It shows that we are here now, we will be there during a transition, and we will continue to be there as a key partner going forward.

In the State Department, we often talk about the importance of bringing a transition. And so, people are focused, I think, a little bit too much on that point. Interim President Guaidó has made it very, very clear that getting to a transition is really step one of bringing democracy back to the people of Venezuela. And this agreement signals that the United States is there for the long term to continue that work, to continue to be a key ally, and a key partner to the people of Venezuela. And most personal to me, this agreement highlights not just the support our two countries have, but also our shared values and history. I often recall a moment that I had speaking with Ambassador Vecchio where we talked about the strong bond between the United States, which fought for its own (inaudible) of tyranny, and Venezuela, which led the charge for freedom from tyranny across Latin America.

We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Venezuelan people as they bring this fight for democracy back to their own borders just as they have stood shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters in Latin America for their quest for freedom. Thank you very much. I'm proud to be a part of this occasion and I'm very grateful for the leadership of USAID in making this happen.

ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR BARSA: Thank you very much for your comments, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Filipetti. What -- again, it's worth repeating the point. What we've just witnessed here is historic. It's historic for the people of Venezuela. It's historic for our relationship. It's historic for our hemisphere, for civilized people all over the world. We thank you so very much for coming here in joining and sharing this moment with us. Thank you for your attendance. This concludes the event. Thank you.