Briefers Paint Dire Picture of Venezuela, Describing Worsening Situation There as Unparalleled in Latin America’s Modern History

SC/13771
10 April 2019
8506th Meeting* (AM)

Briefers Paint Dire Picture of Venezuela, Describing Worsening Situation There as Unparalleled in Latin America’s Modern History

We Must Stop Donald Trump’s War, Says Caracas Delegate as Vice-President Urges Maduro’s Exit, Recognition of Opposition Chief

The situation in Venezuela is worsening, with an estimated 7 million of its people — or a quarter of its total population – needing assistance, humanitarian officials said today as the Security Council took up the crisis for the fourth time in as many months, debating whether it constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

There is “a very real humanitarian problem” and the United Nations is willing and able to respond if it gets more help and support, Mark Lowcock, Under‑Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the 15-member Council.  Amid a severe and ongoing economic contraction, malnutrition has increased and shortages are straining the health system, he added, noting that an estimated 2.8 million people overall need health assistance, including 5.5 million children under the age of five.  Exacerbating health problems are insufficient access to clean water and inadequate sanitation systems, he said, adding that the crisis has interrupted the education of more than 1 million children.

Recalling the release of $9 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in late 2018, he said the United Nations now has nearly 400 staff on the ground, with efforts particularly concentrated in the States of Zulia, Táchira and Bolivar.  Emphasizing the need to separate political and humanitarian objectives, he asked the Council to support efforts to safeguard neutral and impartial humanitarian action.  “Humanitarian assistance must be delivered on the basis of need alone,” he said, stressing also the importance of sustained and regular access to those in need.

Also briefing was Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for Venezuelan refugees and migrants.  Speaking via video-teleconference from Panama City, he described the magnitude of the population outflow as unparalleled in Latin America’s modern history, with an estimated 3.7 million Venezuelans now outside their country.  Highlighting the implications for the Council and the international community, he called for greater support for open-door States willing to receive, assist and host the displaced.

Kathleen Page, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, said that a study by that institution concluded that the combination of severe shortages of medicines, health supplies and food, together with the spread of epidemics, has resulted in the breakdown of Venezuela’s health system.  The crisis fits the definition of a complex humanitarian emergency, she added, urging the Secretary-General to formally declare it as such and lead a full-scale United Nations response.  The crisis should be a top priority for the Organization and the Council should meet regularly to address it, she emphasized.

In the ensuing discussion, Michael R. Pence, Vice-President of the United States, called upon the Council to stand up for democracy and the rule of law in a nation which has suffered so much.  Describing Venezuela as a failed State, he said that, while the chaos could spread, the fight for freedom is just beginning.  “Nicolas Maduro must go,” he added, emphasizing that now it is time for the United Nations to speak in a clear voice.  “All options are on the table,” he emphasized, noting that the United States is drafting a resolution intended to have the Organization recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly, as the legitimate President of the Republic.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative pointed out that the Vice‑President did not stay to hear the views of other Council members.  Cautioning against the notion that the situation in Venezuela constitutes a threat to international peace and security, he urged neighbouring countries not to be deceived, and to understand that Venezuela is a bargaining chip in the geopolitics of the United States within the region.  To that country’s delegation, he added:  “If you want to make America great again, then stop interfering.”

Peru’s representative spoke on behalf of the Lima Group, saying that, despite Venezuela’s urgent need of humanitarian assistance, the regime in Caracas cannot be trusted to deliver it.  Help must therefore be channelled through the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), he stressed.

The Dominican Republic’s representative said the crisis cannot be solved through humanitarian assistance alone, underlining that a negotiated solution must include free and fair elections with guarantees for all participants, support from the international community and respect for human rights.  Such a process must be led by Venezuelans, he emphasized, calling upon the authorities to recognize the serious economic situation and to create space for humanitarian action.

Venezuela’s representative said the United States is trying to pull the wool over the international community’s eyes.  While the humanitarian situation must be resolved, the diagnosis must be correct, he stressed, pointing out that none of today’s briefers addressed the “elephant in the room”:  that the situation is the direct result of a plan by the United States and the United Kingdom to wreak economic destruction by provoking a social implosion that could be used as a pretext for military intervention under the guise of the responsibility to protect.

Reminding the Council of its responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations, he demanded that it explain the legal basis for allowing the United States and the United Kingdom to apply, without the Council’s consent, a programme of economic destruction against his country.  What legal authority does the United States have to impose secondary sanctions on countries trading legally with Venezuela, to threaten the use of military force, to allow the expropriation of its wealth and to intervene in its internal affairs in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter?  “We must stop this war of Donald Trump,” he said, calling upon Council members to ensure Venezuela’s right to peace.

Also speaking today were representative of China, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, South Africa, Indonesia, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire and Germany.

The meeting began at 10:36 a.m. and ended at 1:27 p.m.

Briefings

MARK LOWCOCK, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, declared that there is “a very real humanitarian problem” in Venezuela, saying the United Nations is willing and able to respond if it gets more help and support from all stakeholders.  The humanitarian situation has worsened since the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs briefed the Council on 26 February and the scale of need is significant and growing, he added, noting that the Organization is working in Venezuela to expand the provision of humanitarian assistance, in accordance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

The United Nations estimates that 7 million Venezuelans, or 25 per cent of the population, need humanitarian assistance, he continued.  The needs are most severe in three states in the south, as well as Zulia and Lara States in the west.  People with chronic health conditions, as well as pregnant and nursing women, children under the age of five, indigenous people, people on the move and people living with disabilities are among the most vulnerable, he said, explaining that the context is a severe and ongoing economic contraction, including inflation on a scale seen in few if any other countries recently.  Malnutrition has increased, especially in areas with the highest poverty rates, he said, citing Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 3.7 million people suffered undernourishment in 2018.

He went on to say that shortages are straining the health system, with reduced access to medicines increasing the risk of morbidity and mortality from diabetes, hypertension, cancer and HIV/AIDS.  Preventable diseases have resurfaced, with the World Health Organization (WHO) registering a 70 per cent year-on-year increase in malaria cases during 2017.  Overall, an estimated 2.8 million people need health assistance, including 5.5 million children under the age of five.  Exacerbating health problems are insufficient access to clean water and inadequate sanitation systems, he said, adding that the crisis has interrupted the education of more than 1 million children.  Recalling the release of $9 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in late 2018, he said the United Nations now has nearly 400 staff on the ground, with efforts particularly concentrated in the States of Zulia, Táchira and Bolivar.

Under the Resident Coordinator’s leadership, he continued, a cooperation and assistance coordination team — comprising United Nations agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations in Caracas — has been created to provide strategic guidance and coordination to the humanitarian operation.  “It is clear that much more is needed,” he added.  Emphasizing the need to ensure greater respect for principled humanitarian action, and to separate political and humanitarian objectives, he requested that the Council support efforts to safeguard neutral and impartial humanitarian action.  “Humanitarian assistance must be delivered on the basis of need alone,” he said, stressing also the importance of sustained and regular access to people in need.  More humanitarian organizations with the capacity to meet urgent needs are needed to establish a presence and assist with operations, he said, adding that more funds are needed to expand humanitarian programmes because available resources are extremely modest in relation to the needs.  Thanking Member States that have contributed to humanitarian assistance, he emphasized:  “Your continued support is critical — but we need a lot more.”

EDUARDO STEIN, Joint Special Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, speaking via video teleconference from Panama City, said the population outflow was of unparalleled magnitude in the region’s modern history, with an estimated 3.7 million Venezuelans outside their country.  According to those who left, the reasons for their departure include insecurity and violence, lack of access to food, medicine and essential services, as well as loss of income and the lack of effective national protection systems.  Highlighting the implications for the Council and the international community as a whole, he said first, more support is needed for States employing open-door policies to receive, assist and host Venezuelans.  Secondly, those crossing the border, as well as host communities receiving them, also need support.  By addressing the needs of both, the impact of the improved climate for local integration into host communities will grow, he noted.  Thirdly, greater international cooperation is critically needed, he emphasized, pointing out that, despite some important contributions to date, more is needed in terms of financial support to countries and other actors engaged in the humanitarian response.  Such contributions not only strengthen the humanitarian response and socioeconomic integration solutions, but also contribute to stability in the region as a whole, as it faces unprecedented humanitarian challenges.

KATHLEEN PAGE, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that a study by that institution concluded that the combination of severe shortages of medicines, health supplies and food, together with the spread of epidemics within and across Venezuela’s borders has resulted in the breakdown of the national health system.  The crisis fits the definition of a complex humanitarian emergency, she said, urging the Secretary-General to formally declare it as such and lead a full-scale United Nations response that is neutral, independent and impartial.  The recent nationwide blackouts have further undermined the ability of public hospitals to respond to medical needs, she said, noting that Venezuela is the only country in the region where infant mortality is rising and has returned to levels last seen in the 1990s.  Between 2008 and 2016, only a single case of measles was recorded, yet, there were more than 9,300 cases in 2017, and an additional 10,000 in Brazil, mostly in border areas.  Malaria has increased in recent years, from fewer than 36,000 cases in 2009 to more than 414,000 in 2017, the highest rate of increase in the world.  The number of tuberculosis cases increased, as well, from 6,000 in 2014 to 13,000 in 2017, she said, adding that hunger, malnutrition and severe food shortages are widespread.  Between 2015 and 2017, nearly 12 per cent of Venezuelans, or 3.7 million people, were undernourished.

She went on to state that Venezuelan authorities no longer publish health information.  They have threatened and retaliated against health-care workers who collect data, report deaths or speak out about shortages of medicine.  Pointing out that the authorities are responsible for fully addressing the country’s urgent humanitarian needs, she said the crisis should be a top priority requiring a system-wide and full-scale mobilization of humanitarian relief from the United Nations.  The Secretary-General should request that Venezuelan authorities grant the Organization’s agencies full access to health, nutrition and food security data, and allow them to undertake a comprehensive nationwide humanitarian needs assessment, she said.  The Security Council should meet regularly to address the humanitarian crisis and its regional impact.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should document violations of the right to health and food in her upcoming report on the situation, she said, calling also upon the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution that will create an international commission of inquiry to investigate violations of the right to health and food.

Statements

MICHAEL R. PENCE, Vice-President of the United States, said he was present on behalf of his country’s President to discuss the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and to call upon the Council to stand up for democracy and the rule of law in that nation which has suffered so much.  For six years, Venezuela’s people have suffered under the heavy hand of repression, with 9 out of 10 living in poverty, thousands of children starving and infants dying in hospital for lack of basic medical care, he said.  In the midst of such deprivation and suffering, the socialist Maduro regime is using violence and intimidation against those who oppose it, throwing at least 1,255 people in jail without due process and killing at least 40 protesters.  Describing the Maduro regime as a threat to peace and stability in the wider region, he said it is fuelling a mass exodus “the likes of which we have never seen in the Western hemisphere”, with 3 million Venezuelans having abandoned the country and another 2 million liable to follow by the end of 2019.

The streets of Venezuela have become warzones in which thieves do not rob banks, but restaurants for food, he continued.  Venezuela is a failed State, and as history teaches, failed States know no boundary, he added, asserting that groups like Hizbullah are using the chaos to gain a foothold in the region.  Warning that the chaos could spread, he said the fight for freedom is just beginning in Venezuela, stressing:  “Nicolas Maduro must go.”  A total of 55 Governments throughout the Western Hemisphere now recognize interim President Juan Guaidó as the new leader, he said, adding that only yesterday the Organization of American States (OAS) voted to recognize Mr. Guaidó’s representative as Venezuela’s only true representative.  Now it is time for the United Nations to speak in a clear voice, he said, recalling that, in February, the United States introduced a draft resolution in the Council that called for the restoration of democracy and for the Maduro regime to allow humanitarian assistance into the country.  While the Russian Federation and China blocked Council action with their vetoes, rogue States such as Cuba and Iran are doing all they can to prop up the regime, he said.

He went on to state that United States has positioned more than 500 metric tons of aid along the Venezuelan border, and announced today an additional $60 million in humanitarian assistance.  It will continue to exert pressure for the restoration of peace and democracy, “but all options are on the table”.  The time has come for the United Nations to recognize interim leader Guaidó as the legitimate President, revoke the credentials of Venezuela’s current Permanent Representative and seat Mr. Guaidó’s nominee in his place “without delay”.  Turning to Venezuela’s Permanent Representative, he said:  “With all due respect, Mr. Ambassador, you should not be here.”  He announced that the United States is drafting a resolution that would recognize the legitimacy of the interim President.  He urged Member States to support the text and to stand with the Venezuelan people as they rise up against intimidation and violence with courage and strength.  People who love freedom will, in the end, be free, he said, quoting Simón Bolívar.  Now is the time for the United Nations to act, to stand with Venezuelans as they march to freedom, he emphasized, concluding: “May God bless the people of Venezuela and may God bless you all.”

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), noting that the Vice-President of the United States failed to listen to the views of other members, warned against the notion that the situation in Venezuela constitutes a threat to international peace and security.  He recalled the Vice-President’s description of the Venezuelan people as suffering under dictatorship, asking where he received that information.  The figures and testimonies he quoted must have come from Guaidó, he said.  He also reminded Ms. Page that New York City has declared an emergency due to the outbreak of measles in Brooklyn.  As for the crises in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, they resulted from Western interventions, he pointed out, adding that the same thing is happening in Venezuela.  The Russian Federation favours neutral and impartial delivery of humanitarian aid, but the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is using unverified data, he said, categorically rejecting the method of “grabbing Venezuela by the throat”.

Emphasizing that a State should be able to take care of its own citizens, he recalled that the United States rejected external assistance when Hurricane Maria occasioned losses amounting to $45-90 billion in Puerto Rico.  On the other hand, that country is destabilizing Venezuela and provoking a crisis to overthrow the legitimate Government there.  He cautioned neighbouring counties not to be deceived, urging them to understand that Venezuela is a bargaining chip in Washington’s geopolitics within the region.  Welcoming international efforts in favour of dialogue, he said the Montevideo initiative stands a chance of success, while calling upon the United States to recognize that Venezuelans have the right to determine their own future.  “If you want to make America great again, then stop interfering,” he added.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Lima Group, described Venezuela’s plunge from a country with the highest per capita income in the region to a nation with gross domestic product (GDP) dropping, living conditions deteriorating and poverty and food shortages widespread.  Noting that the illegal regime hides these statistics, silences the media and imprisons the opposition, he said that it caused the collapse of hospitals, water cut-offs and brain drain, all of which cast a dark shadow over the future.  While humanitarian aid is urgently needed, the regime cannot be trusted with delivery, he cautioned, insisting that assistance must be channelled through the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  Stressing the urgent need to restore democracy and the rule of law, he urged Venezuela to re-establish the constitutional order and eliminate the deep-seated causes of instability.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said the crisis cannot be solved through humanitarian assistance alone.  The conditions for negotiations leading to a solution to the crisis must be found, and they must include a free and fair electoral process with guarantees for all participants, support from the international community and respect for human rights.  Such a solution should be led by the Venezuelans themselves and achieved in a peaceful manner, he added.  Democratic answers, in accordance with respect for the rule of law, both internally and internationally, will open the door to rebuilding Venezuelan society, he emphasized.  He urgently called upon the Venezuelan authorities to recognize the serious economic situation and create space for humanitarian action on the ground in order to ensure that assistance reaches those most in need.  He went on to express support for a greater United Nations presence and called upon the international community to ensure the necessary financial resources.  He also called upon Council members to maintain their focus on improving the humanitarian situation and promote the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international humanitarian law while strengthening the Organization’s role in negotiations leading to the solution of the very serious existing crisis.

MA ZHAOXU (China) expressed support for Venezuela’s efforts to maintain national sovereignty and independence, calling upon its Government and opposition parties to seek a political solution through dialogue within the constitutional framework.  He emphasized that China’s position on the Security Council’s involvement has been clear:  uphold the spirit of the Charter and the basic norms of international relations; promote a peaceful settlement and maintain long-term peace and development in Latin America.  Stressing China’s opposition to military intervention in Venezuela and use of the so-called humanitarian issue to achieve non-humanitarian aims, he said that unilateral sanctions will only complicate the situation, underlining the difficulty of reconciling sanctions with humanitarian action.  He went to state that China is providing emergency assistance, including batches of medicine and other medical supplies — with no political strings attached — to help Venezuelans overcome the negative impact of external interference.  He went on to express hope that international efforts are truly conducive to stability, economic development and better livelihoods in Venezuela, and that the relevant countries will lift sanctions.  He added that China categorically rejects the unfounded accusations levelled against it by the representative of the United States.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the Maduro regime is the sole culprit behind the crisis, including the power outages and water supply cut-offs.  The situation is the prelude to a deeper crisis and Venezuela must reverse the current dynamics and move towards a peaceful political solution, he said.  Outlining priorities, he emphasized the need for unhindered, neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian access.  France stands shoulder to shoulder with Venezuela, having provided it with assistance through the European Union, he said, adding that the 3.5 million people who fled the country also need help.  While commending Colombia’s hosting of 1.4 million Venezuelans, he stressed the vital need to begin a political and peaceful transition through the holding of free and transparent presidential elections.  Maduro pushed the country to the edge of abyss and his survival as leader is taking place at the expense of Venezuela’s people, he said, underlining that the Council must demonstrate unity and help to avoid any use of force.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said the crisis is man-made, recalling that Venezuela used to be prosperous, considered an upper‑middle-income country.  One positive development is that Maduro no longer denies the existence of the crisis, she noted.  Emphasizing that Venezuela needs a new start, she expressed support for the United Nations response, led by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and called upon Member States to pay attention to the three areas outlined in the Under-Secretary-General’s briefing today.  The suffering of Venezuelans was created by the de‑facto Government’s years of mismanagement, she said, calling for urgent political change, including a new start through the by holding of free elections.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said it is obvious that the situation is a humanitarian crisis.  Calling upon all actors to facilitate safe, rapid and unhindered humanitarian access to Venezuela, in accordance with the principles of neutrality and independence, he said assistance must be provided according to need and not for political ends.  Warning that the humanitarian crisis will worsen without a political process, he expressed support for the interim President’s efforts to organize new elections.  He went on to emphasize that any presence of foreign security forces will not help to improve in the situation, calling for protection of Venezuelans against all forms of violence.  He added that the immunity of all members of the National Assembly, including its President, must be respected.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said the situation is deteriorating by the day, and if the trend continues, it will be unsustainable and undesirable for Venezuelans and the international community alike.  Emphasizing that the United Nations Charter and international law insist on respect for territorial integrity, he welcomed the show of solidarity among Latin American nations and urged them to keep their borders open.  He went on to applaud Cuba’s efforts to support many countries around the world, including his own, in the areas of health and education, describing that assistance as a clear demonstration of the principle of solidarity.  It would be fortuitous if the parties involved sat down at the same negotiating table, with the United Nations and the relevant regional organizations present as unbiased mediators, he said.  He added that all parties must refrain from statements and actions suggesting the use of force.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) warned that it will be difficult to contain the political and economic repercussions of the crisis if it is allowed to continue.  He urged the Venezuelan authorities to open the borders to humanitarian assistance, calling upon all parties to refrain from provocative measures and to launch a comprehensive and inclusive dialogue.  Kuwait is committed to the Charter principles of respect for the independence of States and non-interference in their internal affairs, he emphasized.

JERRY MATHHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said that Venezuela’s political situation and economic difficulties arise from myriad factors, including conflicting geopolitical dynamics.  Humanitarian assistance must be unhindered, in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, he added, emphasizing the need for coordination and cooperation with the Government and respect for State sovereignty.  The provision of aid should be based on an accurate assessment of needs, he said, stressing that international assistance must be channelled through the United Nations, its implementing partners and ICRC.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said many countries care about the Venezuelan people’s plight and have the best of intentions, emphasizing that the most important thing is that assistance reaches those in need.  He noted the crucial role of the United Nations, not only in terms of good offices, but also as a good guardian of humanity by coordinating the delivery of international assistance.  Calling up all parties to prioritize dialogue and accept the Secretary-General’s good offices, he said the Security Council, for its part, must do everything in its power to open avenues for the constructive and peaceful resolution of the ongoing situation.

MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland) called attention to the impact of the humanitarian crisis on Venezuelan women and girls who, amid the regional spread of trafficking in females for sex and forced labour, face the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, shortages of feminine items and high levels of maternal mortality.  Actors across the political spectrum must put the people’s interests at the centre of their actions, he said, adding that it is up to the de‑facto regime to acknowledge the problem and allow the large-scale delivery of humanitarian assistance into the country.  Poland considers the National Assembly to be the only entity in Venezuela with a democratic mandate, he said, emphasizing that only the restoration of democracy through free, transparent and credible presidential elections can bring about a solution to the country’s multidimensional crisis.

GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) stressed the important role of the United Nations and its partners in providing aid to the 7 million Venezuelans in need of food and health care during the ongoing humanitarian emergency.  The Organization has the expertise to mobilize resources, he said.  Recalling the universal obligation to uphold human rights and international humanitarian law, he reiterated his delegation’s position on the need for a peaceful solution, urging all sides to engage in frank dialogue.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, expressing alarm over food insecurity and child malnutrition in Venezuela, as well as the high increase in maternal and infant deaths, a health system on the verge of collapse and repeated blackouts.  Calling for an urgent response to alleviate the suffering, he declared:  “It is time that Venezuela recognizes the humanitarian crisis.”  Humanitarian actors must be able to help people in full accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.  The massive exodus of Venezuelans, many of whom left in search of medicine and basic health services, is putting a strain on host countries, he noted, emphasizing that, since the origins of the crisis are political, the solution can only be political.  He called upon all actors to refrain from the use of force and to respect human rights.  He also called for a peaceful political process and strongly renewed the call for restoration of constitutional order through free, transparent and credible presidential elections.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) took the floor again, saying Venezuela was ready to buy vaccines, but its funds held in British and American banks for that purpose were stolen.

Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom) also took the floor for a second time, emphasizing that no money was stolen from British banks.  It is important to correct such falsehoods, she added.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela) said he wished to respond to the lies and false information given by the Vice-President of the United States.  Regarding the Organization of American States, he said that it did not expel his country’s representative, but rather approved the inclusion of a representative of the National Assembly.

He went on to state that the United States wishes to see the United Nations as a club of friends and to promote the racist Monroe Doctrine, which has no basis in international law.  The United States is attempting to pull the wool over the international community’s eyes, but it will fail, he added, demanding to know the legal basis upon which the Vice-President can say “all options are on the table” and threaten his country with war.  While the humanitarian situation must be resolved, the diagnosis must be correct, he emphasized, pointing out that none of today’s three briefers addressed the elephant in the room:  that the situation is the direct result of a plan by the United States and the United Kingdom to wreak economic destruction by provoking a social implosion that could be used as a pretext for military intervention under the guise of the responsibility to protect.  That is tantamount to committing crimes against humanity to justify the imposition of a puppet government while hiding behind a racist ideology, namely the Monroe Doctrine, he said.

If it is true that the Government is killing its own people, then why are the United States and United Kingdom causing suffering on such a massive scale, he asked.  Banks, insurance companies and the shipping industry are being used against his country as weapons of mass destruction, he said, adding that such reprehensible actions constitute a criminal policy that goes hand in hand with the looting and pillaging depriving Venezuela of its resources.  Profits from its refineries are being used to pay the debts of oil companies friendly to the Trump Government, he said.  It is absurd to say that the Bank of England, which stole $1.2 billion in Venezuelan gold, did so to prevent money‑laundering, he added, adding that the Bank of England’s credibility of the has been ruined.  The United Kingdom is supporting the colonialist policies of President Trump while building on its own colonial legacy of piracy, he emphasized.  If the Council was better informed, it would know that vaccines are available in Venezuela, with a marked improvement in vaccinations for measles thanks to partnerships with such organizations as WHO.

Those waging war against Venezuela are underestimating the sheer strength of its people’s spirit, he warned, adding:  “They have miscalculated.”  Collective suffering is being resisted by the growing determination of the Venezuelan people and the military remains unbroken, he said, while acknowledging that there have been some instances of violence.  However, civil war will not be the end game, he insisted, adding that Venezuela is setting an example for the world on how to resist peacefully.  He underlined that the interest of the United States is not humanitarian assistance, but a covert operation in violation of territorial integrity and accompanied by the constant threat of military intervention.  He reminded the Council of its responsibility under the Charter, asking that it explain the legal basis for allowing the United States and the United Kingdom to apply, without the Council’s consent, a programme of economic destruction against Venezuela.  What legal authority does the United States have to impose secondary sanctions on countries trading legally with Venezuela, to threaten the use of military force, to allow the expropriation of its wealth and to intervene in its internal affairs in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter?  A resolution of the situation requires the return of funds stolen from Venezuela, lifting the blockade imposed on its people, ending the sabotage of its infrastructure and a halt to threats of military intervention, he said.  “We must stop this war of Donald Trump,” he added, calling upon Council members to ensure Venezuela’s right to peace.

Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom) said she completely rejects the allegations by Venezuelan delegate about the Bank of England, which operates independently from the Government and enjoys a world-renowned reputation.

Mr. MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said it is not worth responding to someone not duly representing his country.  He then asked that representative why his statement did not mention the plight of Venezuelan refugees and migrants.

Mr. MONCADA (Venezuela) said the Bank of England is not independent, adding that it follows the United States in imposing sanctions.  To the delegations of Peru and the United States, he emphasized that his legitimate status is not determined by the fact that those two countries recognize the interim President.  On migrants and refugees, he said it is ridiculous to use the term “refugees”, who are defined as those fleeing political pressure and persecution.  “Our people leave the country and then come back,” he stressed.  “They are simply working abroad.”

Mr. LOWCOCK, responding to a question about the source of his data, said he can provide a written explanation about the sources of the figures cited in his briefing upon the Security Council’s request.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs used all available data and the methodology it uses all over the world, he added.  The Office is keen to sustain consultations with the Government of Venezuela because serious and professional efforts to assess humanitarian needs are needed as the situation evolves.

Mr. STEIN said he did not use irregular border crossings, adding that, if his numbers were included, the number of Venezuelans outside the country would have exceeded the 4 million mark.  To Venezuela’s representative, he clarified that he did not decline the Foreign Minister’s invitation to visit the country and is still awaiting the agenda for his visit.

Ms. PAGE said that the Johns Hopkins study used publicly available data, including from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization.  The statistics about maternal mortality and infant mortality came from Venezuela’s Ministry of Health before the imposition of economic sanctions.

Mr. MONCADA (Venezuela) stressed that the Government has the letter signed by the Joint Special Representative himself, stating that he cannot visit due to his mandate.  He added that his delegation filed a formal complaint to the Secretary-General.

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*  The 8505th Meeting was closed.

For information media. Not an official record.