Michael Pence, vice president of the United States, addresses a meeting on regional migration organized by the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations. Photo by: Evan Schneider / U.N.

WASHINGTON — United States Vice President Mike Pence announced an additional $48 million in U.S. funding for the regional response to Venezuelan refugees and migrants on Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“I believe that it's imperative, as we see this unfolding crisis in Venezuela, that we address it because of the humanitarian cost; we address it because of the need to end the tyranny and abuse of its people,” Pence said at a U.N. meeting discussing the crisis caused by Venezuela’s economic instability and deteriorating democratic situation.

Since 2017, more than 2.6 million Venezuelans have left the country, as basic goods such as flour, toilet paper, and medicine have become difficult to find. Inflation is estimated to reach 1 million percent in 2018 and UNHCR expects an additional 1.8 million people to leave the country this year.

“It is the largest cross-border exodus in the history of our hemisphere,” Pence said. “We speak of political collapse. We speak of violence and tyranny. But we also have to understand the human cost of these failed policies as well. And we have to meet that challenge with resolve and with unity, with determination and with generosity. And we are meeting that.”

The $48 million includes contributions to the U.N. Refugee Agency, the United Nations Children's Fund, and the International Organization for Migration, as well as supporting the World Food Programme’s emergency response efforts in Ecuador. It also supports NGOs in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and other countries in the region that are hosting Venezuelans. Funds will help provide shelter, emergency food assistance, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies, access to work and education opportunities, and protection from violence and exploitation.

The additional funds announced Tuesday brings total U.S. assistance for the Venezuela crisis to more than $95 million since the beginning of fiscal year 2017. The U.S. has also given $23.5 million to Colombia to aid the country’s response to the influx.

Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez, who took office last month, convened Tuesday’s U.N. meeting on the Venezuela crisis. Earlier Tuesday, Pence and U.S. President Donald Trump met with Duque to discuss the impact the crisis has had on Colombia, which is currently hosting the most Venezuelans of any country.

On Monday night, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill that called for expanded humanitarian relief for Venezuelans and increased diplomatic and political pressure on the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Venezuela Humanitarian Relief, Reconstruction, and Rule of Law Act of 2018 calls for an additional $40 million in humanitarian assistance and would require the U.S. State Department to hold a donors conference for Venezuela. The bill would also provide $15 million to support democratic actors and civil society, and impose additional sanctions on the regime to return the rule of law.

“With Venezuela’s humanitarian catastrophe growing daily, Maduro betrays his citizens’ most urgent needs, while his inner circle plunders state coffers and profits from drug trafficking,” said Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, who co-sponsored the bill.

“Today’s bipartisan legislation sets out a strategic and consequential response to the Venezuelan crisis, and it provides the humanitarian aid and political and economic pressure needed to put the country back on the path toward democracy.”

About the author

  • Teresa Welsh

    Teresa Welsh has reported from more than 10 countries and is currently based in Washington, D.C. Her coverage focuses on Latin America; U.S. foreign assistance policy; fragile states; food systems and nutrition; and refugees and migration. Prior to joining Devex, Teresa worked at McClatchy's Washington Bureau and covered foreign affairs for U.S. News and World Report. She was a reporter in Colombia, where she previously lived teaching English. Teresa earned bachelor of arts degrees in journalism and Latin American studies from the University of Wisconsin.