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Venezuelans Must Resolve Crisis Themselves, Security Council Delegates Agree while Differing over Legitimacy of Contending Parties

Briefing on Weekend Incidents Biased, Says Foreign Minister as Speakers for United States, Russian Federation Exchange Barbs

The Security Council returned today to the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela for the second time in as many months, with speakers debating whether to press for free and fair elections under international supervision or to encourage the Government of President Nicolas Maduro to open dialogue with the opposition, free of external interference.

Nearly 40 Member States participated in today's meeting, including Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela's Minister of the People's Power for Foreign Affairs, who accused the United States of using humanitarian assistance as a cover for aggression. He also called upon the Council to adopt a resolution rejecting the use of force, or the threat of such use, against his country.

Briefing members at the outset of the meeting, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under Secretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, described an alarming escalation of tensions since she last briefed the Council on 26 January (see Press Release SC/13680). Citing last weekend's violence on Venezuela's borders with Colombia and Brazil, and the scale of the unfolding humanitarian crisis, she reiterated the Secretary-General's appeal for calm and restraint.

Much more remains to be done to address the extremely urgent needs of the Venezuelan people, she said, emphasizing that the United Nations stands ready to expand its efforts, in accordance with humanitarian principles and working with Venezuelan institutions to help those in need. The Secretary-General is prepared to exercise his good offices if the parties so wish. Venezuelan actors across the political spectrum have the responsibility to put the interests of the Venezuelan people at the centre of their actions at this most critical time, she stressed.

In the ensuing debate, Elliott Abrams, Special Representative for Venezuela of the United States � whose delegation requested the meeting � said President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela is dancing as people are dying. While claiming that the delivery of aid is a cover for political intervention, his regime is using violence, including by armed gangs, against the Venezuelan people, he added. The United States and many other countries support democracy and call for humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans, he noted, emphasizing that free, fair elections and Mr. Guaido's safe and swift return are the answer to the tyranny. The people of Venezuela need our solidarity and help, he said. Let us resolve to give them that help.

By contrast, the Russian Federation's representative said the Council should not be focusing on the situation in Venezuela, but rather the situation around it. What occurred on the Colombian border on 23 February was not an attempt to deliver aid, but to breach the frontier of an independent State, he said, stressing: If the United States wanted to deliver aid, it would do so through an international aid agency. Proposing a way forward, he said Venezuela's people must resolve their own problems through solutions based on respect for national sovereignty. He recalled that, following a recent Security Council statement expressing concern about demonstrations in Haiti, Council members pledged to work with that country's Government to address pressing issues. Perhaps the United States and other Council members would support a similar text for Venezuela, he suggested.

Foreign Minister Arreaza of Venezuela said it is fitting for the Council to address the international aggression faced by his country's people. Without a doubt, such aggression threatens regional and international peace and stability, he added, noting also that it also violates the Charter of the United Nations. He went on to criticize Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo's briefing as biased, insisting that his country's security forces used no deadly force during last weekend's border incidents. The coup failed, and now is the time to return to sanity and to respect international law and Venezuela's Constitution, he asserted. The Government is now waiting to sit down with the opposition to decide Venezuela's future without interference from anyone, most of all the United States, he said, expressing hope that the White House will give Mr. Guaido its approval to begin talks.

Peru's delegate cited the Lima Group Declaration, saying it reflects the Latin America and Caribbean region's awareness of the crisis. Noting that the situation, exacerbated by massive migration, is affecting the region's stability, he emphasized that Venezuelans themselves must carry out a transition to democracy without using force. Peru calls for the holding of free and fair elections under international monitoring mechanisms, he added.

Cuba's representative said the United States is fabricating pretexts for military aggression against Venezuela. Emphasizing the importance of acknowledging the country's national elections of May 2018, he said the Governments trying to deliver humanitarian aid are the same ones exerting pressure for regime change. Reaffirming Cuba's support for President Maduro, she stressed that peace and security in Latin America must be defended and upheld.

Colombia's representative, citing this week's meeting of the Lima Group as a good example of multilateral action, emphasized the impact of Venezuela's situation on his own country. There is urgent need to provide humanitarian assistance to the country's people, he said, adding that the dictatorship there has ceased to think about its own population.

Bolivia's delegate urged the Council to pay close attention to the assertion by the United States that all options are on the table. Such a policy has proven tragic for many countries in the region, he said, recalling the invasions of the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama and Haiti. It also awakens memories of the Iran-Contra affair, the Monroe Doctrine and the decision by the United States to post photos of Muammar al-Qadhafi's assassination on Twitter, he added.

Nicaragua's representative said he was appalled by the threats issued by some members, emphasizing that aggression and hostility must end. People must be able to choose their own future, he added, stressing: We have opted for peace and not war. Nicaragua welcomes international efforts to defend and uphold international law. Underlining his country's support for President Maduro, he declared: We must know how to choose a life with respect and uphold the nobility of our soul.

Mexico's representative said any humanitarian concern must be addressed through neutral international organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or agencies of the United Nations.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Dominican Republic, Belgium, Poland, South Africa, Kuwait, Germany, Indonesia, CAte d'Ivoire, China, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, Suriname (on behalf of several members of the Caribbean Community), Paraguay, Uruguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Canada, Belize, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica and Dominica.

The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 7:58 p.m.

Briefing

ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, noted an alarming escalation of tensions in Venezuela since her last briefing to the Council a month ago. The United States and other countries stockpiled food and medical supplies on that country's borders with Colombia and Brazil, while the Russian Federation and China delivered supplies to Venezuela in coordination with the latter's Government, she said. Violence broke out when Venezuelan security forces blocked efforts led by Juan Guaido, President of the National Assembly, to bring food and medicine into the country and two trucks attempting to cross the border were set on fire, she added. Colombian immigration authorities said at least 285 people were injured on their side of the frontier, whereas Brazilian indigenous groups supporting the Venezuelan opposition on the border met resistance when attempting to deliver aid. Between 22 and 23 February, four deaths were confirmed near the Brazilian border and 64 people were injured, most of them by gunshots, she said, citing the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which also received reports pointing to the involvement of pro-Government armed elements in violent attacks against protesters.

She went on to recall the Secretary-General's statement of 23 February, in which he expressed shock and sadness at the violence and loss of life while reiterating his appeal that lethal force not be used under any circumstances. For its part, OHCHR condemned the violent scenes on the two borders, as well as the excessive use of force by Venezuela's security forces, she said, urging the Government to rein in proxy groups and arrest those using force against protesters. Emphasizing the Secretary-General's concern at the humanitarian situation, she said it is difficult to assess the situation in the absence of official data. However, available information depicts a grim reality, with the economy deteriorating, many people dying of preventable causes and others leaving the country. Citing civil society groups, she said maternal mortality rates have increased by more than 50 per cent since 2017. Approximately 80 per cent of hospitals lack required medicine and 30 to 40 per cent of medical personnel have left Venezuela, in addition to an estimated 3.4 million other people, she said.

The United Nations system is working with relevant State institutions and other entities to address those challenges, she continued. Since 2018, the Organization has been implementing a scaled-up effort focused on saving lives, economic recovery, preventing conflict and protecting human rights. Emphasizing that delivery of assistance is guided by General Assembly resolution 46/182 as well as the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, she said it must be free of political objectives and delivered on the basis of need. Much more remains to be done to address the extremely urgent needs of the Venezuelan people, she said, adding that the United Nations stands ready to expand its efforts, in accordance with humanitarian principles and working with Venezuelan institutions to help those in need. The Secretary-General is ready to exercise his good offices if the parties wish him to do so, she stated, adding: Venezuelan actors across the political spectrum have the responsibility to put the interests of the Venezuelan people at the centre of their actions at this most critical time.

Statements

ELLIOT ABRAMS, Special Representative for Venezuela of the United States, said that today's meeting is the result of President Maduro's decision to prevent humanitarian assistance from entering Venezuela, which led to four people dying and more than 80 others being injured. Indeed, Maduro is dancing while people are suffering and dying, he said, adding that, while claiming that aid delivery is a cover for political intervention, his regime is using violence, including by armed gangs, and betraying the Venezuelan people. As he continues to politicize aid, any further time he spends in power will be to oppress the people at a time when televised reports show children picking through garbage, he said, describing the situation as a grim reflection of the sad plight of millions of Venezuelans. The United States, alongside many other countries, supports democracy and calls for humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan people, he said, emphasizing that free, fair elections and Mr. Guaido's safe and swift return are the answer to the tyranny. Calling upon the Security Council to play its role in meeting the growing needs of Venezuelans, he also asked all Member States to help them address the current humanitarian situation. The people of Venezuela need our solidarity and help, he stressed. Let us resolve to give them that help.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) recalled the Lima Group's recent declaration reflecting regional awareness of the crisis in Venezuela, noting that the current situation, exacerbated by massive migration, is affecting stability in the region. Peru, host to 700,000 Venezuelan migrants, remains committed to demonstrating its solidarity with them, he said, pointing out that more than 80 per cent of those remaining in Venezuela are experiencing food insecurity and lack of basic services while facing arbitrary detention and indiscriminate violence by armed groups in the Maduro regime's service. The transition to democracy must be carried out by Venezuelans themselves, without the use of force, he emphasized, calling for free and fair elections to be held under international monitoring mechanisms. The current regime's lack of commitment to a peaceful solution is clear, he said, calling for an end to the oppression of Venezuelans. Meanwhile, it is necessary to maintain ties with the Maduro regime with a view to holding elections and finding a peaceful solution to the crisis, he emphasized.

FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France) noted that after the Maduro regime's forces killed and injured unarmed citizens at the border, hundreds of Venezuelan soldiers chose to defect rather than attack their own people. The political and humanitarian crisis is no accident, but a result of the regime's multiple violations of international law, he said, emphasizing that, as a result, President Maduro has no legitimacy and Mr. Guaido should organize new presidential elections. He called upon the regime to demonstrate humanity and facilitate access for United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations with the aim of relieving the people's suffering. Each minute that we lose costs lives, he said, stressing: Venezuela is currently on the edge of an abyss. He added: Our responsibility is to give Venezuelans a voice and help them restore democracy.

JOSA� SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said holding free and fair elections in a climate of respect for human rights and international support is the only way forward, emphasizing the need to foster trust in order to arrive at that goal. Noting that other countries in the region are hosting millions of Venezuelans fleeing the instability, he cautioned that accommodating such large numbers could, in fact, destabilize the host countries. He went on to cite reports of foreign planes using bases in the region, noting that the Cuban and Venezuelan authorities said aircraft are landing in Santo Domingo. Reiterating his delegation's position that military interventions will not resolve the crisis, he described such reports as false and expressed hope that those leading this disinformation campaign will issue corrections. Expressing regret over the recent border clashes and the spiralling negative rhetoric, he expressed Peru's wish that Venezuelans will take an active part in shaping their own future.

MAC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said the situation constitutes a threat to the region, and to prevent it from worsening, all actors must work towards a peaceful solution while avoiding violence at all costs. He called upon the parties to exercise restraint, provide humanitarian access and organize elections, while encouraging all actors to do everything possible to reduce tensions, including by ensuring press freedoms. He also called upon all actors to facilitate aid deliveries, stressing that it is unacceptable for irregular armed groups to intimidate civilians mobilizing to distribute assistance. He urged swift action to organize elections, pointing out the political origins of the current crisis while emphasizing that the solution must also political, with Venezuelans deciding their own future.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) condemned the indiscriminate and excessive use of force by Venezuelan security forces and pro-Maduro armed groups against unarmed protesters. Warning that violence can spiral out of control and further complicate the multidimensional conflict, she emphasized: Because of the political origin of this conflict, we strongly believe that the solution to it can only be political as well. Reiterating Poland's recognition of National Assembly President Guadio as the only legitimate power in Venezuela, she said the oppressive Maduro regime created the unprecedented migration and humanitarian crises that have had such tremendous consequences on neighbouring Latin American countries. No matter how eloquently and passionately representatives of Maduro will deny it, the humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela is real and its citizens are in dire need of urgent humanitarian aid, she stressed.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said the Council is divided on the internal affairs of a fellow Member State, with some even threatening to use force against the territorial integrity and political independence of Venezuela. This is inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations. Africa has suffered a great deal as external forces used undemocratic tools of regime change to solve problems on the continent. Let the people of Venezuela decide their future, he said. South Africa draws from its experience in using dialogue to overcome a repressive and insidious racist regime, and believes that internal, inclusive discussion remains the only viable and sustainable path to ending the political crisis in Venezuela. The Council should base its efforts on Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations, where parties are encouraged to first seek a solution through a peaceful means of their choice.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said those responsible for deplorable acts must be held to account, emphasizing that stakeholders must uphold international law and human rights while respecting the will of Venezuela's people. Expressing concern about the humanitarian situation, he congratulated those countries hosting Venezuelans who have fled their country, urging all stakeholders to help those in need without discrimination or politicization. Calling for restraint and the prevention of further bloodshed, he urged the Secretary-General to use his good offices to bring about a political solution so as to avert instability in the region.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said that political factors led to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and therefore the solution can only be a political one, rejecting the use of force or any measures that could put the stability of the country and the region at risk. Calling for the restoration of the democratic process and constitutional order of Venezuela through free, transparent and credible presidential elections, he said it is high time to let the country's people freely choose their leaders and the future path of their nation. Warning against the politicization of the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans in need, he said a response to humanitarian needs does not constitute an interference with the country's internal affairs. With 3.4 million people seeking shelter in neighboring countries, the situation affects the region. Human rights are not an internal affair, but a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) said that his country supports the Montevideo Mechanism, which seeks to preserve peace in Venezuela based on the principle of non-interference and peaceful resolution of conflicts. He urged the delivery of all humanitarian aid for the people of Venezuela through a proper channel by the United Nations in close coordination with the Government. Too often, the Council has failed in its mandate because of narrowly motivated interests that have been allowed to prevail over those of the most vulnerable. The failure of this organ has severely impaired its credibility in the eyes of the international community. His delegation hopes that Venezuela will be able to peacefully overcome this crisis.

GBOLIA� DA�SIRA� WULFRAN IPO (CAte d'Ivoire), noting with regret the unfortunate events on the Colombian and Brazilian borders, emphasized that humanitarian assistance, regardless of the source, must reach those who need it. Calling upon all sides to demonstrate restraint and seek a political solution through dialogue, he said what is happening in Venezuela is essentially a political and institutional issue, stressing that it there can be no military solution. He urged negotiations with a view to generating consensus-based solutions to the root causes of the crisis, underlining the need for regional actors to support all peaceful initiatives likely to ease tensions.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) emphasized that the meeting's focus should not be the situation in Venezuela, but the situation around Venezuela, since the United States has taken steps into the region, incited opposition leaders to withdraw from the previous Venezuelan elections and recognized, within minutes, the naming of Juan Guaido as interim President. These and other similar acts trample the law and constitutional rights, he said, adding that it is clear to all that no judge or court of law will sign on to this mockery. Meanwhile, the United States imposed sanctions that have caused grave economic losses for Venezuela and is now conducting an operation to transfer unknown materials into that country while using civilians as human shields, he said. Video images of the events of 23 February show people moving from Colombian territory in an aggressive manner, he noted, describing the scenario as anything but the delivery of humanitarian aid. Instead, it was an attempted breach of an independent State's borders, he said, stressing that, in fact, one country wishes to build a barrier to keep people from crossing its border. Let us call a spade a spade, he said, adding: This is not humanitarian aid. He stressed: If the United States wanted to deliver aid, it would do so through an international aid agency.

He went on to state that the Venezuelan authorities are willing to arrange proper aid deliveries, adding that the actions of the United States and its allies can be defined as force feeding, which is actually a defined form of torture. In effect, the United States is trying to force-feed an entire country, he said, demanding an end to violations of relevant United Nations resolutions and the unfreezing of accounts, including those belonging to the Venezuelan people. Those supporting the United States are complicit in violating the United Nations Charter, he emphasized, calling upon all States in the region to firmly voice support for the Charter. A solution to Venezuela's problems is for the Venezuelan people themselves, he said, stressing that solutions to the tumult in the country should unfold in a manner that respects its national sovereignty. Instead of discussing national dialogue, Mr. Guaido wants to keep the military ready, he pointed out, adding that Washington's approach is one of intervention. Following the recent Security Council decision expressing concern about demonstrations in Haiti, members pledged to work with that country's Government to address pressing issues, he recalled, asking whether his counterpart with the delegation of the United States and other Council members would support a similar text for Venezuela.

MA ZHAOXU (China) called upon the parties to seek a political settlement through dialogue and consultations. All countries must abide by the basic principles of international law and international relations, which oppose foreign interference, military intervention and the use of humanitarian assistance to destabilize situations for political reasons, he emphasized. Instead, solutions should be centred on actions to benefit Venezuelans by addressing relevant issues and finding negotiated ways to move forward.

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom), in response to the Russian Federation's representative, said most Council members would not have used live fire to attack civilians, nor arrested and detained political opponents. Condemning the violence on Venezuela's borders, he emphasized that only a democratic solution will resolve the crisis, noting also the importance of countries in the region playing their role. Only through free and fair elections can there be an end to the current humanitarian crisis, he stressed. He called upon the Council to send a clear message that Venezuela must hold elections.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, saying that today's meeting offers an opportunity to reflect on finding a political solution negotiated among Venezuelans with mediation by a neutral party, such as the United Nations. Emphasizing that almost the entire international community opposes a military solution, he said that in as much as the issue at hand is a national one, politicians in Venezuela must sit down and discuss a way forward. It is incumbent upon the constitutional Government to pave the way towards inclusive dialogue and the restoration of peace, and since dialogue with national actors is the sole option for resolving the crisis, the Secretary-General should get involved in facilitating such discussions. The fact that the Council has twice debated the issue in the last month demonstrates the need for the United Nations to indeed play a role, he stressed.

Mr. ABRAMS (United States), taking the floor a second time in response to his Russian Federation counterpart, expressed surprise to hear cold war rhetoric when efforts are under way in Hanoi to resolve some problems from that era. The attempt by the United States to provide assistance was carried out at the request of Venezuela's legitimate interim Government, he said, asking how much aid from the Russian Federation reached those in need. That country is no doubt worried about recovering its loans from Venezuela, but that will only happen if the economy can grow again, he said. He also rejected, from start to finish, accusations of military intervention by a country occupying parts of Georgia and Ukraine.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) also took the floor a second time, noting that for some reason, the representative of the United States is under the impression that Moscow is only concerned about its money. Did it not occur to him that the Russian Federation perhaps has other interests? Emphasizing that his country does not tolerate egregious and arrogant trampling of international law and interference in other countries, he went on to ask whether the United States is ready to support a Council press statement, as proposed by the Russian Federation, in which the word Venezuela replaces Haiti.

JORGE ARREAZA, Minister of the People's Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, expressed appreciation for the opportunity to speak the truth about the situation in the face of colonial arrogance thought to have disappeared from the Council. The Venezuelan people remain subject to international aggression and it is fitting for the Council to discuss that, he said, emphasizing that, without a doubt, it is a threat to regional and international peace and security as well as a violation of the United Nations Charter. The Under-Secretary-General's briefing was biased and sought to disseminate information from a single source, he added, noting that it was not in line with what was discussed earlier with the Secretary-General.

Recalling that the United States has been leading aggression against Venezuela for many years, he said last weekend's border incidents constituted a well-organized attempt to violate his country's sacred sovereignty. However, the security forces contained the incidents with tear gas and other methods, but no deadly force, he said, adding that people armed with Molotov cocktails set fire to humanitarian trucks later found to be carrying not just food and medicine, but also barricades, nails, chicken wire and other materials for use by the Venezuelan opposition. The President of the United States, its Vice-President, its Secretary of State and others constitute a chain of command for intervention in Venezuela, he said, adding that he has lost count of the number of Twitter messages containing gangster-like language aimed at the Venezuelan people and their revolutionary forces. The coup failed and now is the time to return to sanity and to respect international law and Venezuela's constitution, he stressed.

The Government is now waiting to sit down with the opposition to decide Venezuela's future without interference from anyone, most of all the United States, he continued, expressing hope that the White House will give Mr. Guaido and the opposition approval to enter into dialogue. Stressing that the Council does not exist to wage war or to create the conditions for others to wage war, he called for saving Venezuela because the threat of the scourge of war is here today. Echoing the proposal by the Russian Federation's representative, he said the Council must adopt a resolution that rejects the use of force, or the threat to use force, against his country. Venezuelans are today going to school and to the beach, with Carnival just around the corner, he said. While conceding the effects of inflation, he stressed that there is light at the end of the tunnel and the economy is improving. Condemning lies and propaganda, he said foreign policy is being used to win votes in Florida for President Trump and to secure Venezuelan oil for companies of the United States.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLA�Z (Bolivia), emphasizing that Latin America and the Caribbean were a region of peace committed to resolving differences peacefully, described the recent attempt to deliver humanitarian aid as a Trojan horse intended to achieve its political objective � regime change in Venezuela. Despite that country's massive social media campaign describing the operation as an attempt to provide humanitarian assistance, neither the Red Cross nor the United Nations allowed themselves to be used in such a way, he noted. The Security Council must pay close attention to the declaration by the United States that all options are on the table, he said, expressing regret at the tragic consequences that policy has had for many countries of the region, including the invasions of the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama and Haiti. All options on the table also brings back memories of the Iran-contra affair, the Monroe Doctrine and the decision by the United States to post on Twitter photos of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi's assassination and the devastation wrought upon his country, he said, wondering also why humanitarian aid was not discussed at that time and whether peace, democracy and freedom now exist in Libya. Emphasizing the Security Council's grave responsibility to avoid the repetition of that situation in Latin America � since the invasion of Venezuela is really about oil, as in the cases of Iraq and Libya � he welcomed the declarations of the Montevideo Mechanism and the Lima Group, stressing that humanitarian assistance must be depoliticized and a constructive national dialogue in Venezuela supported.

JUAN RAMA�N DE LA FUENTE RAMA�REZ (Mexico) called upon all actors to exercise restraint, avoid excessive use of force and respect the human rights of the Venezuelan people. While the delivery of humanitarian aid is critical, any humanitarian concern must be addressed through neutral international organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or United Nations agencies, he said. Negotiating a solution is the way forward, as per the Montevideo Mechanism signed by 16 countries in the region, he said, noting that it supports inclusive dialogue to resolve differences. Similar effective diplomatic mechanisms should be established to affect a peaceful solution in Venezuela, he stressed.

ANA SILVIA RODRA�GUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), referring to recent incidents, said the United States continues to fabricate pretences for military aggression against Venezuela. This invasion must be denounced. Countries of the region have just stated that a military intervention is not a solution to the crisis. However, the United States continues to keep all options on the table. It is important to acknowledge the elections held in Venezuela in May 2018. Governments that are attempting to deliver humanitarian aid are the same ones that are exerting pressure on Venezuela for regime change. Cuba reaffirms its constant support for Mr. Maduro, the legitimate constitutional president. Peace and security in Latin America must be defended and upheld. Given that the situation is urgent, all parties must do their utmost to engage in dialogue. The legitimacy of a Government remains with the people, not external actors. She urged the United Nations and particularly the Security Council to oppose military intervention in Venezuela. The Council must defend peace, she stressed.

MILENKO E. SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile) said that over the past few days, the world has witnessed a crisis in Venezuela. Humanitarian assistance must reach people in need. Chile condemned the violence perpetrated by Government armed forces against unarmed civilians who were only trying to access humanitarian assistance. Venezuela's people are facing an unjustified political and economic crisis. Chile expresses its condolences to the families of those civilians who have died and urges the need to hold elections. Chile, as part of the Lima Group, backs a political, diplomatic and peaceful settlement to the crisis. Chile is not prepared to support actions contrary to international law. Dialogue is the only way to ensure a solution to this protracted conflict.

GUILLERMO FERNANDEZ DE SOTO VALDERRAMA (Colombia) stressed his country's essential belief in multilateralism, praising the meeting of the Lima Group as a good example of the relevance of multilateral action. The Group endorsed the interim President, given the need to restore freedom in Venezuela and massive human rights violations there. The situation is transcending national borders and affecting Colombia. Due to the lack of food and medicine, 3.4 million people left Venezuela and 3.7 million of the country's people remain malnourished. There is an urgent need to provide them with humanitarian assistance. The dictatorship there ceased to think about its own people. Colombia can provide details of what happened lately regarding attacks on humanitarian convoys consisting of four trucks. Tear gas was used by Venezuela's armed forces. The trucks were ordered to return and the bridge was closed. The Lima Group concurred on the need to deliver humanitarian assistance, achieve a democratic transition and reconstruct the country's institutions and economy.

MARTA�N GARCA�A MORITA�N (Argentina) said the crisis in Venezuela requires urgent international action, stressing the important role of the Council in preventing the situation from deteriorating further. The dictatorship prevented humanitarian assistance. His delegation condemns repressive actions and violence against civilians. These could constitute a crime against humanity. The Lima Group concluded unanimously that Mr. Maduro staying in power constitutes a threat to peace and security in the region. The United Nations cannot remain idle. He called attention to a resolution � sponsored by Argentina and other nations and adopted in the Human Rights Council � urging Venezuela to accept humanitarian aid and promote human rights. He appealed for the restoration of rule of law and protection of human rights in Venezuela.

FREDERICO SALOMA�O DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) said the events of 23 February were a wake-up call and that the regime's actions to block humanitarian aid are brutally cruel. We are all keenly aware that the brutal and illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro has taken a regrettable detour from any vision of a free and prosperous future for its people, he added. It was only fitting that the President of the democratically-elected National Assembly, the only legitimate power standing in Venezuela, swore himself in as interim President of the country. He condemned the regime's criminal use of violence and military force against the provision of humanitarian assistance and reiterated the appeal to the Armed Forces of Venezuela to adhere to the legitimate authority of President Guaido. The Lima Group conveyed to the International Criminal Court its support to a request submitted in September 2018 that it examine the humanitarian catastrophe committed by the Maduro regime. Brazil called on the international community to join efforts for the democratic transition in Venezuela, demanding that the regime's violence against its own people be stopped.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua) said he was appalled by the threats by some States that seek to separate people. All must respect the will of the people and do away with actions that lead to suffering, he said, emphasizing that aggression and hostility must end. Practices that destroy economies and expose people to misery must be denounced and condemned, he said, pointing out that they subject millions of human beings to poverty. People must be able to choose their own future, he said, stressing: We have opted for peace and not war. Nicaragua welcomes international efforts to defend and uphold international law. We must know how to choose a life with respect and uphold the nobility of our soul, he added, emphasizing his delegation's support for President Maduro.

OMAR CASTAA�EDA SOLARES (Guatemala) said tens of thousands of Venezuela's people are facing tenuous circumstances and humanitarian aid is badly needed. To end the current situation, a free, transparent election must take place as soon as possible, with a presence of international observers. The fact that Mr. Maduro remains in power represents a threat to the region. Calling upon the United Nations to act within the provisions of the Charter, he said the transition towards democracy must be carried out by Venezuelans themselves. Condemning any military solutions, he said Guatemala will continue to strive to achieve peace and security for all the people of Venezuela.

KITTY SWEEB (Suriname), speaking on behalf of some members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said those countries do not choose one side or the other, but, instead, they support the principles of territorial inviolability, human rights, international law and the sanctity of national sovereignty, among others. Emphasizing that economic strangulation and military intervention are contrary to those principles, he said emphasized that such policies will only exacerbate the suffering of Venezuelans. She called for a pathway to peace forged not by threats, but by dialogue, not by escalating the tensions, but by cooling them down. Expressing support for the Montevideo Mechanism, she noted that four individuals internationally recognized for their competence and experience have been chosen to lead that process and urged all parties, both inside and outside Venezuela, to give it the time and space it needs to work.

Speaking in her national capacity , she said that reports of humanitarian aid aggressively being carried out on Venezuela's borders while stability and tranquillity remain inside the country are particularly alarming because such actions undermine the principles of independence and impartiality. Suriname remains strongly committed to international law and therefore denounces all acts of aggression. She also rejected the politicization of humanitarian aid offered without the consent of the legitimate Government of Venezuela. She reiterated that the Montevideo Mechanism is the only way to reach a peaceful and lasting solution to the internal conflict in Venezuela, underlining that Latin America and the Caribbean must remain a zone of peace.

JULIO CA�SAR ARRIOLA RAMA�REZ (Paraguay) noted that 30 days have passed since the Council last met on Venezuela, asking why the 15 member organ must meet again today. It is because the Maduro regime is causing a humanitarian crisis and poses a threat to peace and security in the region. On 23 February, criminal acts were committed by Mr. Maduro. His regime denied access to humanitarian convoys. Paraguay condemns ruthless oppression by Mr. Maduro, he said, calling on the International Criminal Court to consider looking into crimes against humanity. Paraguay was the first country to break with the regime there and lend its full support to the National Assembly elected in 2015 and the interim President. It also resolutely supports the National Recovery Plan adopted by the National Assembly. The institutional, economic and social reconstruction of Venezuela should be led by its people, who are the agents of their own liberation.

LUIS BERMUDEZ (Uruguay) expressed concern about the escalating tensions in Venezuela, calling on the regime to exercise caution and restraint to avoid the situation from deteriorating further. Efforts are under way to bring the parties together. The Montevideo Mechanism and the International Contact Group contribute to this peaceful process. These two formats explore possible ways to a peaceful solution. No other solution is possible. He called for fair, transparent and credible elections with reliable international oversight. Holding such elections is the best safeguard to avoid a bloodbath. Uruguay continues to be guided by full respect for international law, he said, calling for dialogue and engagement. On 25 February, at the Human Rights Council, Uruguay's Foreign Minister stated that his country does not seek heightened tensions, urging dialogue and negotiations.

GARETH BYNOE (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that his country, as a small, peace-loving nation with a tiny population, open borders and no standing army, owes its continued peaceful existence to the robust and universally accepted body of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations. Dialogue based on mutual respect and adherence to international law is the only path to peace. The United States has demonstrated commendable restraint, patience, global leadership and belief in diplomacy over the years, including in their current pursuit of dialogue with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, he said, stressing that the same constructive approach should be exhibited with Venezuela to safeguard Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace and ensure the well-being of all Venezuelans.

MARC-ANDRA� BLANCHARD (Canada) said that the Maduro regime continues to hinder access for much-needed humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in Venezuela. Let there be no doubt: Venezuela is under the control of a dictatorship that would see its people starve rather than cede one iota of power, he said. The Lima Group, including Canada and now with the full participation of Venezuela's interim Government, met on 25 February in Bogota, where they affirmed that the continuance of Mr. Maduro and his illegitimate regime represent a threat to peace and security. The presidential elections in May 2018 were clearly fraudulent. It is clear that Maduro's regime has no authority to govern Venezuela, he said. Calling on Member States that are in communication with the Maduro regime to urge an end to violence, he pledged that Canada will stand with the people of Venezuela in their peaceful struggle for democracy and human rights.

LOIS MICHELE YOUNG (Belize) urged the Security Council to dissuade any actions that would lead to military conflagration in Venezuela. While the humanitarian plight of the Venezuela's people has gained worldwide visibility, there are concerns that such good intentions may be a mask for nefarious political intentions. Humanitarian aid, when requested and welcomed, should be channelled through the United Nations. The situation in Venezuela is, in plain view, unwell, she added, stressing that dialogue is the only way to a peaceful resolution. Dialogue leading to compromise and accommodation of political plurality must take place between the Government and the opposition. Above all, it must be done entirely unaccompanied by the threat or use of force.

LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador), condemning the recent violence against peaceful civilians, said the situation in Venezuela requires an immediate political solution to the crisis. Security forces should not block the delivery of aid and efforts must be made to hold free and fair elections, he emphasized, noting that only a legitimate democracy can guarantee a stable future, economic recovery and social order, with the international community's support. Hosting more than 240,000 Venezuelan refugees, Ecuador will hold, on 8 and 9 April, a regional conference on the mass migration of more than 3 million Venezuelans, he said, adding that the event represents an opportunity to work towards resolving the region's largest humanitarian problem. Reiterating that there is no military solution, he emphasized that the solution rests on dialogue.

GLENTIS THOMAS (Antigua and Barbuda) appealed to all parties in Venezuela to remain calm and stay focused on the Montevideo Mechanism being facilitated by Mexico, Uruguay and CARICOM. Citing decades of interference into the domestic affairs of States in the region that has left the region broken, he warned that we cannot and must not return to those days. Where there is a need for humanitarian assistance, the United Nations should always facilitate aid distribution and support, free from political influence and preconditions. Stressing that Member States are bound not to interfere in the affairs of other nations, he warned that any process other than diplomacy � including military intervention � will undermine the legitimacy of the United Nations and destabilize the region. Any unilateral declaration of support for one side over the other in Venezuela amounts to a blatant interference in that country's affairs.

RUBEN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBUN (El Salvador) expressed deep concern about the situation in Venezuela and reiterated that the responsibility to resolve the crisis lies with the Government. A solution must be found by the people of Venezuela themselves. El Salvador fully respects international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and its principles of non-use of force and non-interference. A political solution is the only viable solution to the situation in Venezuela, he said, expressing his country's unwavering support to that end.

MARY ELIZABETH FLORES FLAKE (Honduras), associating herself with the Lima Declaration adopted by various countries on 25 February, expressed support for Juan Guaido's efforts to bring humanitarian assistance to all Venezuelans in need. Recalling that the decision by the Organization of American States (OAS) not to recognize the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro's new term of office in January, she said the latter continues to usurp executive power and to undermine the rule of law. Blocking, burning and depriving Venezuelans of humanitarian aid, food and medicine [] will be accounted for in the list of crimes against humanity upon investigation by the International Criminal Court, she added.

ISBETH LISBETH QUIEL MURCIA (Panama) strongly condemned the use of force against Venezuela's people and the blocking of aid deliveries. Noting that her country joined more than 50 others in recognizing Mr. Guaido as interim President, she said the current illegitimate regime must allow a peaceful transition through a democratic process that leads to holding fair elections. As a member of the Lima Group, Panama supports a call for action, at the highest levels, to prevent the political, economic and humanitarian crisis from turning into a geopolitical conflict. The overarching purpose of the current international consensus is that Venezuela can recover within a peaceful, non-violent solution, she said, expressing hope that dialogue will swiftly prevail.

RODRIGO ALBERTO CARAZO ZELEDA�N (Costa Rica) said the welfare of Venezuela's people must be at the centre of a solution to the crisis, with diplomacy and dialogue being fundamental tools to reaching this goal. Rejecting any course of action involving violence, force or military intervention of Venezuela, Costa Rica also rejects the excessive force used by the Maduro regime on 23 February, as well as actions that led to deprivation and the violation of rights of that country's people. On the issue of the urgent need for humanitarian aid in Venezuela, he called on relevant United Nations agencies to act. The solution to the crisis must be peaceful, democratic and defined by Venezuela's people, with free, fair and transparent elections in line with international standards. As the 2018 elections failed to meet inclusive standards for it to be considered legitimate, Costa Rica recognized Mr. Guaido as interim President.

LOREEN RUTH BANNIS-ROBERTS (Dominica), associating herself with CARICOM, expressed strong support for the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of every sovereign State. To peacefully and sustainably resolve the situation in Venezuela, there must be meaningful dialogue and diplomacy among all parties, geared towards reaffirming the rights of the people to peace and democracy. Every effort should be made to build peace, promote reconciliation and find an amicable and lasting resolution to the situation. Endorsing the Montevideo Mechanism, she said this approach will foster such a resolution.

Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. ARREAZA (Venezuela) reiterated that President Maduro has been working with the United Nations for several years. He personally sat down with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and agreed on a mechanism for accepting humanitarian assistance through the Organization. Venezuela also agreed with the European Union on this mechanism. Secondly, the war against Venezuela must stop, he said, referring to the economic blockade imposed by the United States. These sanctions undermine the economy and makes it difficult for Venezuela to seek funds from international financial institutions. The measures cost Venezuela billions of dollars. The United States has not ruled out the use of force. That country must rule out war as an option. Otherwise, it cannot be a member of the United Nations. He expressed appreciation for all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean for speaking out against the threat of use of force despite different political positions. The region is a zone of peace.

Mr. MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), also taking the floor for a second time, said Latin American countries have largely aligned against the use of force and a core element mentioned is the exodus of Venezuela's people, the most serious humanitarian situation in the region. Yet, there is not a single sign of concern for the 3.4 million Venezuelans who have fled, including the 700,000 in Peru. For its part, the Lima Group proposed political and diplomatic means to re-establish democracy in Venezuela.

Mr. ARREAZA (Venezuela) said it is painful to consider the situation in his country, which also hosts migrants from countries in the region. The Government of Venezuela has contacted countries to confirm information on Venezuelan migrants, as the notion of 3.4 million migrants is unrealistic, he said, inviting those present from countries in the region to engage with Venezuela.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that during the meeting, a delegation has managed to kill the proposed draft on Venezuela, which is a blatant example of double standards.

LESLIE ORDEMAN (United States) said the draft in question, similar to a Council resolution on the situation in Haiti, should have included information that referred to Mr. Maduro's actions.

Making a further intervention, Mr. ARREAZA (Venezuela) urged the United States to reject the use of force against Venezuela.

Source: United Nations

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