Venezuela has been plunged into the worst humanitarian crisis in its history
The situation in Venezuela
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 10 April 2019
Allow me to start by commending in particular the participation in this meeting of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and of the Vice-President of the United States.
The briefers, whom I wish to thank, painted a picture that is absolutely clear. Venezuela has been plunged into the worst humanitarian crisis in its history. The crisis, which is massive and systemic, is having major consequences across the American continent. Contrary to what we are going to hear, there is no so-called foreign plot behind the chaos. The Venezuelan regime is the sole and only culprit of this tragic situation, which has recently deteriorated even further owing to the large-scale breakdown of the electrical-supply system, followed by a water-service interruption.
But the Venezuelan people have not yet seen the worst of it. Increased indicators of deterioration, such as those measuring poverty, violence and mortality, might be only the prelude to an even deeper crisis unless something is done to ease the suffering of the Venezuelan people and move towards a political and peaceful solution.
The question that we should be considering together is: how can we reverse the tragic dynamic that is under way?
I will therefore focus on three urgent, complementary matters.
The first urgent issue is the need to ensure and facilitate access by humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations, while fully respecting
the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Indeed, the outer limits of cruelty seem to constantly be pushed outward, seeing that the regime’s allies are prepared to divert humanitarian assistance. Political instrumentalization, whatever its source, should be condemned in every case.
The position taken by the Venezuelan regime of denying the existence of a humanitarian crisis and restricting access by humanitarian actors is taking an
increasingly high toll in terms of human life. I will simply mention the impact of the breakdown of the health-care system on the most vulnerable people, as well as increasing malnutrition and higher mortality.
France’s position has been clear since the beginning of this tragedy. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Venezuelan people. France, in its national capacity and
through the European Union, has a prepared a response that is commensurate with the scale of the crisis. The European Union announced on 27 March an additional €50 million in humanitarian assistance in Venezuela.
It is equally urgent to provide assistance to the more than 3 million Venezuelans who have had to take the path of exile owing to the chaos and violence.
I welcome the measures taken by all the countries of the region, whose solidarity has been exemplary, in particular Columbia, which is shouldering the heaviest burden, with some 1.4 million refugees and migrants.
Here I wish to welcome the presence here of the Colombian Minister for Foreign Affairs. This sustained engagement deserves our deep admiration, even as we observe a continued flow of people leaving the country – more than 5,000 people a day – as indicated by the Special Representative.
Let us make no mistake: unless there is a radical change in the position of the Venezuelan authorities, and unless they fully cooperate with humanitarian
agencies, this exodus could accelerate and have a very negative impact on the stability and development of neighbouring countries. I would therefore reiterate France’s full solidarity with the countries affected. Meanwhile, we strongly urge the Venezuelan regime to seize the opportunity created by the International Contact Group, which is striving, with France’s active participation, to find a humanitarian and political solution to the crisis.
Lastly, the third urgent matter is to begin a political and peaceful transition in Venezuela in the form of free, fair and transparent presidential elections, overseen by the international community. On the question of the causes of the humanitarian crisis, we will undoubtedly hear the Venezuelan authorities once again accuse foreigners of being responsible for the tragedy of the Venezuelan people. Yet it is the Maduro regime that is both the author and the main actor of that tragedy. By trying to hold on to power by organizing mock presidential elections, repressing the opposition and dissenting voices and monopolizing Venezuela’s wealth, the current regime has brought an entire country and people to the brink of collapse.
Many countries, including France and its European partners, have drawn the necessary conclusions from that situation. The President of the National Assembly,
Juan Guaidó, has become the interim President not as a result of foreign support but by upholding the Venezuelan Constitution and with a view to organizing free, credible and transparent elections.
It is unacceptable that the survival of a regime should be at the expense of the lives of a people. We urge the Venezuelan authorities to allow humanitarian
staff access to Venezuelans and to move towards a peaceful, democratic and sustainable solution. The Security Council will need to demonstrate its unity to play the role that it must in that situation. The goal is to promote a negotiated and peaceful solution to the crisis. The use of force and violence must be avoided in Venezuela — a point that France especially wants to
drive home. There can be only a political and peaceful solution, which requires that democratic presidential elections take place at the earliest date.
While Venezuela teeters on the verge of collapse, our role is not to serve as a substitute to the Venezuelan people, but to the contrary, to allow the Venezuelan people to speak freely and express their wish to decide their future by re-establishing democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. That is the essence and meaning of France’s efforts in that regard.