The Wisdom of Tying COVID-19 Humanitarian Assistance to Policy Objectives in Venezuela

The silence of the European and Latin American heads of state given the US's plan in Venezuela raises questions about true international support in the new twist in a 14 month saga.


  • Christopher Sabatini

    Dr. Christopher Sabatini, is a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, and was formerly a lecturer in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. Chris is also on the advisory boards of Harvard University’s LASPAU, the Advisory Committee for Human Rights Watch's Americas Division, and of the Inter-American Foundation. He is also an HFX Fellow at the Halifax International Security Forum. He is a frequent contributor to policy journals and newspapers and appears in the media and on panels on issues related to Latin America and foreign policy. Chris has testified multiple times before the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2015, Chris founded and directed a new research non-profit, Global Americas and edited its news and opinion website. From 2005 to 2014 Chris was senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and the founder and editor-in-chief of the hemispheric policy magazine Americas Quarterly (AQ). At the AS/COA, Dr. Sabatini chaired the organization’s rule of law and Cuba working groups. Prior to that, he was director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy, and a diplomacy fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, working at the US Agency for International Development’s Center for Democracy and Governance. He provides regular interviews for major media outlets, and has a PhD in Government from the University of Virginia.

On 30th March US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new plan, the Democratic Transition Framework, to bring political change to Venezuela by tying humanitarian assistance to concrete steps toward a political transition. More than a year after the Venezuelan National Assembly elected opposition leader Juan Guiadó as the interim president the horrific potential of a COVID-19 epidemic ripping through a country in which 80% of the hospitals lack regular electricity and medicines offered a new humanitarian opportunity to finally push aside the ineffective, corrupt government of President Nicolas Maduro. 

But despite the US’s invocation of Europe in the plan, the European and Latin American governments that originally supported Guiadó in 2019 have remained curiously silent over the new US policy. EU’s High Representative Joseph Borrel only released a short statement after the announcement acknowledging that the US plan would be ‘in the EU line of proposing a peaceful way out of the crisis through a negotiated path to a democratic government.’

While the plan mentions that European governments would also lift their sanctions on Venezuela if certain steps are taken towards liberalization, the plan has a uniquely US flavour, echoing the 1996 Libertad Act that codified the US-Cuba embargo. The silence of the European and Latin American heads of state raises questions about true international support in the new twist in a 14 month saga.

To read more, please visit Chatham House.

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