Press Release: U.S. Congress Announces Bipartisan Endorsement of a Negotiated Solution to Venezuela’s Crisis

Washington, D.C.—On December 16, bipartisan leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives announced an appropriations deal that rejects the use of force in Venezuela and endorses a negotiated solution to the country’s crisis. The bill, which is expected to be signed by President Trump, establishes that “it is the policy of the United States to support diplomatic engagement in order to advance a negotiated and peaceful solution to Venezuela’s political, economic, and humanitarian crisis.”

“This sends a clear message that Washington is finally recognizing the reality: Venezuela’s crisis will be resolved through a combination of smart engagement and multilateral, targeted diplomatic pressure,” said Geoff Ramsey, Assistant Director for Venezuela at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). “Despite differences in rhetoric, today both Republicans and Democrats understand that the only way forward for Venezuela is through negotiations leading to free and fair elections.”

The bill earmarks essential funding for Venezuela’s complex humanitarian emergency, which has led over 4.7 million to flee the country in recent years. The legislation allocates $400 million for humanitarian assistance inside the country and for a stronger regional response to fleeing Venezuelan refugees and migrants across the hemisphere. It also designates $17.5 million for an Organization of American States (OAS) electoral observation mission in Venezuela and to support civil society.

The appropriations bill also instructs the administration to develop a strategy to coordinate with members of the Lima Group and the International Contact Group in diplomatic efforts, all while making clear that “direct, credible negotiations […] represent the best opportunity to reach a solution to the Venezuelan crisis.” The text explicitly states that it is not an authorization of the use of military force.

“Fortunately, there is no appetite for a ‘military option’ for Venezuela,” said David Smilde, WOLA Senior Fellow for Venezuela. “Military intervention in Venezuela would be a disaster for all. Even hollow threats of a military option do more to divide the Venezuelan opposition than pressure the Maduro government. This bill finally makes clear what has long been recognized in Washington, that a negotiated political agreement is the only realistic way forward,” said Smilde.

The bill includes a provision that prohibits adult relatives of sanctioned individuals in the Venezuelan government⁠ from obtaining U.S. visas—and requires the administration to submit a report on efforts to coordinate sanctions against individuals with governments in Latin America and Europe. As WOLA has noted, coordinated pressure is important, though this should avoid aggravating the crisis in the same way that broader sectoral sanctions have done.