WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at a full committee markup of H.R. 920, H.R. 854, H.R. 1477 last week:
"Today, our Committee has an important opportunity to support the Venezuelan people by advancing three bills aimed at holding Nicolas Maduro accountable, while responding to Venezuela’s humanitarian needs.
"First, Congresswoman Shalala’s Venezuela Arms Restriction Act, which makes it crystal clear that no U.S. citizen or business will be able to profit from the repression of the Venezuelan people. This legislation codifies existing restrictions on arms exports to Venezuela and adds new restrictions on articles that are used for crime control like tear gas and riot gear. Congress must do everything in our power to keep these dangerous items out of the hands of Nicolas Maduro and his cronies.
"We’re also considering the Humanitarian Assistance to the Venezuelan People Act which is authored by Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell. Venezuela was once the crown jewel of South America—the wealthiest country on the continent with vast natural resources, and sadly, that is no longer the case.
"Ninety percent of Venezuelans now live in poverty, and the country’s citizens are leaving the country at an alarming rate. The UN High Commissioner on Refugees estimates that by the end of this year, there will be more than five million Venezuelans living outside of the country. This mass exodus has had a major impact not only on Venezuelans themselves but also on the generous host countries including Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Ecuador, which have opened their hearts and homes to refugees and migrants. Ms. Mucarsel-Powell’s legislation would address the humanitarian crisis head on by authorizing new funding and mandating a strategy from USAID and the State Department.
"And Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s Russian-Venezuelan Threat Mitigation Act would respond to the increasing security relationship between Venezuela and the Kremlin. This is another place where Vladimir Putin is trying to advance his aggressive agenda, and this bill would require an assessment from the Administration of what Russia’s up to and what danger it poses.
"The other measure we’re considering today is the European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019. In addition to its military aggression, Russia has repeatedly used energy as a weapon to blackmail countries dependent on Russian energy sources. The European Union and many of our allies and partners in Europe recognize this threat and have begun to take steps to reduce their vulnerability to Russian pressure.
"This bill would ramp up American support for efforts to increase Europe’s energy security and reduce dependence on Russia, including financial support for projects that better connect European energy networks and improve energy efficiency.
"These are all good measures that I’m pleased to support. I thank our members for their hard work."