Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18)
Rep. Murphy Floor Speech on Venezuela Amendment
Washington, June 19, 2019 Mr. Speaker:
Yesterday, the House approved an amendment I offered to the State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020, and I wanted to take this opportunity to explain the amendment.
There is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, and it is man-made. In my view, the people of Venezuela will not prosper as long as the regime of Nicolás Maduro remains in power.
The regime has proven itself to be cruel, incompetent, and anti-democratic. It is driving what was one of Latin America’s most vibrant nations into the ground.
The United States cannot be passive. We must stand behind the proud Venezuelan patriots who are struggling to reclaim their country from the regime that is destroying it.
Like last year’s bill, this year’s State-Foreign Operations bill provides $17.5 million dollars for USAID and State Department programs to promote democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. This funding is drawn from the nearly $2.2 billion dollars in Economic Support Funds that the bill provides for countries around the world.
That’s good, but we can and should do better. Because the situation in Venezuela has significantly worsened in recent months, our amendment would increase the $17.5 million dollars for Venezuela by $3 million dollars, for a total of $20.5 million dollars.
This enhanced funding will be used for five main purposes in Venezuela: to defend human rights, strengthen civil society, improve governance, support independent media, and promote fair and transparent elections.
Currently, USAID programs in Venezuela are being conducted through several U.S.-based implementing partners, who in turn work with over 35 Venezuelan sub-partners. The respected organization Freedom House ranks Venezuela as “not free.” According to Freedom House, “conditions have grown sharply worse in recent years due to the continued concentration of power in the executive and harsher crackdowns on the opposition.” As a result, USAID programs to support human rights defenders and civil society groups are critical. U.S. support enables those groups to document abuses by the regime and to keep the hope of democracy alive in an increasingly authoritarian country.
Venezuela is one of the most dangerous places in Latin America and the Caribbean to be a human rights defender. The Maduro regime is currently being investigated for crimes against humanity by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Organization of American States has similarly denounced the regime’s abuses. These men and women on the ground in Venezuela put their lives on the line to expose the regime’s failings, and they need our support. On the media front, the regime has arrested and abused journalists—both Venezuelan journalists and foreign journalists operating in the country, including a prominent American journalist. Harassment from the government has led most independent radio, TV, and print outlets to close. Social media has at times been blocked, including during the recent uprising against Maduro. USAID programs are critical to overcome government censorship and propaganda.
On the democracy front, Maduro was re-elected in May 2018 in a snap election that failed to meet minimum international standards and was widely condemned as illegitimate. The sooner that civil society and international actors can weigh in on how to improve the National Electoral Council and reform the electoral system more broadly, the sooner free and fair presidential elections can be held. This is the goal of the Guaido government. It’s also the goal of the Lima Group, which is composed of Latin American countries and Canada, and which is seeking a just solution to the crisis in Venezuela. It’s a goal that merits continued American support.
I am proud that my colleagues voted for this amendment. It’s a vote for the people of Venezuela, who have suffered so much under this terrible regime.