As world leaders gather in New York, one crisis – Venezuela — threatens to increasingly spread beyond its borders without renewed international attention. The Western Hemisphere’s largest man-made emergency is the result of years of Nicolás Maduro’s failed economic policies, cronyism, corruption, and systemic human rights violations. Now is the time to refocus and reaffirm the world’s attention to the global implications of Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.

How can the international community step up collective efforts to accelerate a peaceful democratic transition? What additional resources are needed for migrant and refugee receiving countries? What will be the path to reconstruction?

Join the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center and the interim government of Venezuela on Monday, September 23, 2019, from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. (EDT) for a high-level conversation on the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and how a more robust international response can translate into improved lives for the Venezuelan people and continued regional stability.

Lunch will be served at 12:00 p.m. and the discussion will begin promptly at 12:30 p.m. (EDT)

Registration is Required


Carlos Holmes Trujillo
Foreign Minister

Julio Borges
Presidential Envoy for Foreign Affairs
Interim Government of Venezuela

Edita Hrdá
Managing Director for the Americas
European External Action Service
of the European Union

Juan Pablo de Laiglesia
Secretary of State for International Cooperation
Ibero-America and the Caribbean


Carlos Vecchio
Ambassador to the United States
Interim Government of Venezuela

John Barsa
Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean
United States Agency for International Development

Frederick Kempe
President and CEO
Atlantic Council

Damon Wilson
Executive Vice President
Atlantic Council

Jason Marczak
Director, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center
Atlantic Council

*Additional speakers to be announced

Event Recap – Priority Venezuela

In the context of 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center hosted a high-level public event to raise further international awareness of the Venezuela crisis and its regional implications. “Priority Venezuela: The Global Reverberations of a Humanitarian Crisis”, held on September 23 at the Park Hyatt Hotel in New York, provided renewed attention to the economic, social, and political rights violations, the increasingly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, and the resulting humanitarian impacts in the region.

The event included two panel discussions in which the following speakers from Latin America, the United States, and Europe participated: Juan Pablo de Laiglesia, Spanish State Secretary for International Cooperation and for Ibero-America and the Caribbean; Carlos Vecchio, Ambassador of the interim government of Venezuela to the United States; John Barsa, Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean; Ambassador Edita Hrdá, Managing Director for the Americas in the European External Action Service of the European Union; Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia; and Julio Borges, Special Envoy for Foreign Affairs, interim government of Venezuela.

Atlantic Council President Fred Kempe opened the event by painting a broad picture of the current international climate, stating that the world is in a “new period of geopolitical uncertainty” in which there is currently a “recession of democratic freedoms.” He then focused specifically on Venezuela, opining that “Maduro’s ongoing violations of economic, social, and political rights have wrecked what was once the richest, most stable democracy in Latin America.” He concluded his remarks by framing the purpose of the event: to find a peaceful and democratic resolution to the Venezuelan political and humanitarian crisis and to call for renewed global attention to this crisis.

Venezuelan interim President Juan Guaidó spoke briefly via a video message for the event. Referencing the recent report by UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, he declared Nicolás Maduro as corrupt, and as a violator of human rights who condemns millions to live in poverty and persecution. He contended that there is no room for doubt: Maduro is principally responsible for the Venezuelan crisis. Interim President Guaidó reaffirmed the sustained support of the Venezuelan people, most of whom support the preservation of human rights, and a call for an end to their suffering.

Paula Garcia Tufro, Deputy Director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, moderated the first panel discussion on the global reverberations of the Venezuelan crisis and what steps the international community can take to help Venezuelans in country and the millions of migrants who have fled to neighboring countries. She acknowledged two distinguished Venezuelans in attendance who were directly victimized by the Maduro regime – Meudy Osio de Albán, the widow of Venezuelan lawyer Fernando Albán who was killed in Venezuelan police custody in October 2018, and Armando Abdula, representative of the persecuted indigenous Pemón tribe.

Ambassador Vecchio urged immediate action to help the Venezuelan people at this critical moment. He asserted that this crisis is a “man-made disaster”. He emphasized the necessity of peaceful regime change, calling it the “only way to resolve this crisis” and allow Venezuelans to return to rebuild their country. He referenced the Maduro regime’s support for Colombian terrorist groups ELN and FARC as a key security concern for the international community to address. He stressed the importance of the Venezuelan migration crisis, calling it the “most important refugee crisis in this hemisphere.” He criticized the severe disparity in international aid committed to Venezuelan migrants as compared to that of Syrian refugees.

USAID Assistant Administrator Barsa opined that “there cannot be any acceptable long-term plan with Maduro in power.” He highlighted US efforts to help millions of Venezuelan migrants through the US commitment of $370 million humanitarian aid. He outlined the logistical problems associated with mass-migration, stressing the importance of capacity building and infrastructure investment in receiving countries. He predicted that “as long as the Maduro regime clings to power, the needs in the country will only continue to grow.” He described the Maduro regime’s banning of most humanitarian aid from entering the country and use of scarce food access as a means of social control.

Secretary de Laiglesia emphasized the close ties between Colombia and Spain to explain Spain’s stakes in this crisis. He praised Colombia’s open borders and generosity towards Venezuelan migrants but criticized the anemic UN response and advocated for immediate aid funding increases.

Ambassador Hrdá noted the challenge that awareness of the urgency of this crisis remains largely confined to the Americas despite the global stakes. She also discussed lessons learned from the EU migrant crisis, advocating global information sharing about management of migrant services and legal processes and the challenge of stemming the flow of migrants when Venezuela currently does not accept external humanitarian aid.

Diego Area, Associate Director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, introduced a video from Venezuelan migrants in Peru, and commended migrants for their resilience. “The Venezuelans in this video, and many others around the world have not given up. My hope is that the entire international community won’t give up either.”

The brief video aired discussed the Peruvian government’s efforts to integrate Venezuelan migrants into Peruvian society through education, job placement, and food assistance programs. Venezuelan migrants talked about how they have been able to create their own businesses to help other Venezuelans in Peru.

The second panel was moderated by Jason Marczak, Director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center and focused on the need for additional global support for th Venezuelan people in Venezuela as well as the more than 4 million people living in neighboring countries.

Colombian Foreign Minister Trujillo described the needs of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia as a “humanitarian tsunami” with migrant numbers increasing “literally every second.” He implored the international community for increased assistance, declaring that the “magnitude of the crisis goes beyond our capacity to face.” He also argued that increased international political pressure on the Maduro regime would help restore democracy to Venezuela and would help restore political stability in Colombia. He posited that if the international community fails its duty to invest in the future of Venezuela, it will be serving tyranny and dictatorship.

Venezuelan Special Envoy Borges echoed the call for regime change and increased international pressure on Maduro. He testified to divisions in the Venezuelan military that could leave the regime open to transition. He called Venezuela a “criminal state” enabling terrorism, drug trafficking, and associated crimes, undermining democracy across the region. He called for the unequivocal support for the Guaidó administration and the Venezuelan people. He warned that without international assistance, the inevitable transition of power in Venezuela could be violent and lead to a complete collapse of the Venezuelan state.

Borges concluded his remarks with a touching tribute in Spanish to the life and sacrifice of his former righthand man, Fernando Albán, who was murdered in Venezuelan police custody last year. The event attendees broke out into a standing ovation honoring his memory.

Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council, closed the event by calling for the international community to heed the call to action to invest in freedom and democracy. He asked everyone to consider “how can we all step up our efforts?” He concluded by affirming the Atlantic Council’s long-term commitment towards creating a better future for the citizens of Venezuela.

Authors: Cristina Guevara and Sarah Hennessey