A Way Forward for Venezuela: Gordon Institute Director Brian Fonseca testifies before House Foreign Affairs Committee

On March 3, 2021, Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy Director Brian Fonseca testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration, and International Economic Policy Subcommittee. The hearing, titled “A Way Forward for Venezuela,” focused on the humanitarian, diplomatic, and national security challenges facing the Biden Administration with Venezuela.

“The question before the House today is not whether the Venezuelan government is a repressive and corrupt authoritarian regime. That is clear,” said Fonseca. “Rather, what can the United States do to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis, regain influence on the ground, displace our geopolitical rivals, aid in the restoration of democratic governance, and help pave the way for a prosperous country for the Venezuelan people.”

Fonseca spoke alongside Cynthia J. Arnson of the Wilson Center Latin America Program as well as Feliciano Reyna of Acción Solidaria and Ryan C. Berg of the American Enterprise Institute. All four witnesses expressed the importance of reevaluating existing diplomatic and economic relations with Venezuela, as well as readjusting existing sanctions that may be hurting the long-term interest of the United States as well as those of the Venezuelan people.

Fonseca also placed a spotlight on Russo-Venezuelan relations, but noted that it is vital to understand the role of other key countries in Venezuela’s domestic and foreign policy interests.

“The considerations binding Russia, Venezuela, [China, Cuba, Turkey and Iran] are far less ideological. Instead, these countries are tied together by common authoritarian political structures and economic and political opportunism,” said Fonseca. “Furthermore, these countries all share antagonistic relationships with the United States. Regime survival combined with our policy positions, for better or worse, encourage these authoritarian countries to travel together.”

The hearing comes as one of the first of the 117th Congress and the first for this subcommittee. Fonseca remarked that the hearing’s existence is a testament to the importance of Venezuela to the United States and its commitment to the Venezuelan people.

On Monday, March 8, the Biden administration announced the issuance of temporary protected status (TPS) to potentially hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans living in the United States, further highlighting the nation’s role in establishing a good rapport with Venezuelans.

“As I said before this subcommittee in 2019, nature abhors a vacuum,” concluded Fonseca, making reference to a previous hearing on China’s role in the western hemisphere. “If we don’t have a presence, then China, Russia, Iran, and others antithetical to our interest will be more than happy to fill the void.”

The full hearing can be viewed below.