On June 17, the Canadian government hosted the 2021 International Donors’ Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants in coordination with the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration. In the virtual conference, international donors pledged a total of $1.5 billion USD in funding to support humanitarian assistance and public services for the more than 5.6 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees who have fled the country in recent years.
The funds were pledged by over 30 countries participating in the conference, and include $954 million in grants and $600 million in loans. The funding is expected to support the provision of immediate humanitarian assistance such as shelters, food, water, sanitation, hygiene, and health care, as well as longer-term assistance to improve access to education, the socioeconomic integration of Venezuelans into their host communities, and public services in host countries across the region. The $1.5 billion includes a pledge of $407 million from the United States, $93.12 million from Canada, and a $600 million loan from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. Much of the funding pledged will contribute to the UN Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) for 2021. The RMRP for the year has set a funding requirement of $1.44 billion USD, of which only 6.2% has been met to date. During the conference, Canadian International Development Minister Karina Gould highlighted that Venezuela’s displacement crisis is the second largest in the world, but one of the least funded by the international community.
Over Twitter, Juan Guaidó and his Ambassador to Canada Orlando Viera-Blanco publicly thanked the Canadian government for hosting the conference and raising the visibility of the Venezuelan displacement crisis, and countries that pledged donations. The Maduro government responded to the conference with a statement dismissing the initiative as a “media farce” and an attempt at “anti-Venezuelan political propaganda.”
During the conference, recently-inaugurated Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso also announced that Ecuador would begin a new process to extend regular status to Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the country—though he did not detail who would qualify.
- In a press conference on June 18, Guaidó announced that he would send a delegation of members of the opposition negotiating team to the United States and Europe to garner support for the ‘National Salvation Agreement’ he seeks, and develop a plan for the progressive lifting of U.S. sanctions to incentivize Maduro to negotiate. Guaidó stated that the opposition is currently in a ‘pendular phase’ of negotiations with the Maduro government. The opposition delegation, led by previous negotiations participant Gerardo Blyde, began its international tour in Washington, D.C. on June 21. The delegation has reportedly met with officials including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.
- Principal rector of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Roberto Picón said on June 15 that the CNE had invited both the UN and the EU to observe regional and municipal elections scheduled for November 21. On June 21, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell confirmed that the EU would send a technical mission to Venezuela to evaluate the electoral conditions to decide if the EU would send an observation mission to oversee the process. On June 22, CNE President Pedro Calzadilla also invited the Russian government to oversee the November elections.
- Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza met with EU High Representative Josep Borrell in Turkey on June 18 to discuss bilateral relations between the Maduro government and the EU. In a Tweet the following day, Borrell reiterated his support for a negotiated solution to the country’s political crisis.
- On June 11, representatives of the International Contact Group held a virtual meeting in which they “exchanged views on the upcoming regional and local elections, as well as on the conditions and potential for negotiations,” according to the official readout. The group also reiterated its support for negotiations to achieve a peaceful and democratic transition in Venezuela.
- In an interview with Bloomberg News on June 18, Nicolás Maduro expressed a desire to restore Venezuela’s international standing and normalize relations with the United States. He also claimed that his government has not received any signal from the Biden administration that it is willing to engage. In response, a White House spokesperson rejected Maduro’s request on June 20, indicating that further concessions are needed from the Maduro government before the Biden administration shifts away from its current policy.
- During the EU-US summit in Brussels on June 15, the Biden administration and leaders of the European Commission and the European Council renewed their joint commitment to promoting a negotiated solution to Venezuela’s political, economic and social crisis. A joint statement indicated that the governments hope to coordinate policies to influence the situation in Venezuela.
- On June 14, U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) issued a statement calling on the Biden administration to lift all secondary and sectoral sanctions on Venezuela that were imposed by the Trump administration. The statement stated that the strategy of using U.S. sanctions to force a regime change in Venezuela “has not worked,” and expressed concern about the impact of sanctions on the humanitarian crisis and the most vulnerable populations in Venezuela.
- In spite of the fact that many were highly anticipating an announcement last week from the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the results of a preliminary examination into alleged crimes committed by the Maduro government since 2017, former ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda finished her term on June 15 without announcing a decision. In an outgoing statement, Bensouda indicated that she had “reached a final determination on the preliminary examination,” but that a request made by the Maduro government for greater oversight over the examination process delayed the announcement.
- On June 16, the Center of Justice and Peace (CEPAZ) published a report documenting 24 femicides and 6 attempted femicides in Venezuela between May 1 and May 31, signifying a rate of one femicide every 30 hours during the month of May. In the first five months of 2021, CEPAZ has documented a total of 99 femicides in the country.
- On June 16, Venezuelan NGO PROVEA reported on Twitter that three members of the LGBTQI+ community had been murdered in Caracas in a period of 24 hours, including a trans woman and two gay men. In response, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) called on the Venezuelan government to investigate the crimes and denounced the lack of protection for LGBTQI+ individuals in the country.
- In a new report, the Center for Defenders and Justice (CDJ) documents 48 instances of attacks and security threats to human rights defenders during the month of May, including cases of stigmatization, direct threats, digital attacks, intimidation and harassment.
- Following armed confrontations between the Venezuelan National Police and members of the Mayeyas criminal gang that began on June 12 in the neighborhood of La Vega in Caracas, Minister for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace Carmen Meléndez reported that 38 individuals had been detained, and two police officers had been injured. Two additional individuals were reportedly killed by stray bullets as a result of the police operations.
- On June 17, in honor of World Refugee Day, Dejusticia and Proyecto Migración Venezuela released a pamphlet to help inform migrants and refugees in Colombia of their rights and assist them in accessing essential services. The pamphlet provides information regarding opportunities to access regular status, the right to seek asylum, and the rights to nationality, due process, health, education, and work.
- To commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi signed an agreement with the Colombian government committing to work together to offer protections to Venezuelan migrants in Colombia.
- On June 17, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced a new General License establishing an exception in U.S. sanctions for transactions and activities related to the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of COVID-19.
- On June 15, Venezuelan Health Minister Carlos Alvarado announced that the Red Cross would provide logistical and personnel support for the government’s mass vaccination plan. Alvarado said the Red Cross would help to provide paramedics, ambulances, logistical support and equipment.
- This week, Director of Médicos Unidos de Venezuela Jaime Lorenzo described “anarchy” and disorganization in the current national vaccination plan. Citizens awaiting vaccination have reported a lack of clarity around eligibility requirements and vaccination centers, resulting in hours-long lines and protests. The disorder continued on June 20, when dozens of Venezuelans were turned away after being summoned to Hotel Alba in Caracas to receive their second dose.