Monday, May 14, 2018
Remarks at 48th Annual Washington Conference on the Americas
John J. Sullivan, US Deputy Secretary of State
MR PALMIERI*: So, it’s my honor – it’s my honor today to introduce our
next speaker, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. When we speak about our ambitious engagement in the Western Hemisphere,
Deputy Secretary Sullivan has been at the forefront. His – during his tenure, he has engaged robustly and effectively
advanced U.S. interests in the region. Most recently, he accompanied – excuse me – Vice President Pence to the
Eighth Summit of the Americas in Peru, advancing our top priorities: to promote democracy in Venezuela, to put in place strong
measures to stop corruption, and to promote economic opportunities across the hemisphere.
In Lima, he met with Caribbean leaders and underscored
U.S. commitment to enhance engagement with that region under the Department’s Caribbean 2020 strategy. He also met with
U.S. industry and private sector leaders, highlighting our regional economic priorities and support for women’s empowerment.
In June 2017, Deputy Secretary Sullivan also led the U.S. delegation to the OAS General Assembly in Cancun, Mexico, underscoring
our commitment to and recognizing the important work of the Organization of American States.
At every turn, Deputy Secretary Sullivan, whether in private
meetings or public fora, has challenged regional leaders and in the OAS. He has challenged them and us not just to speak out
against Venezuelan President Maduro’s behavior and to stand up for democratic governance and respect for human rights,
but also for the region to find real-world, practical solutions – solutions that can bring peace, security, and social
harmony to all Venezuelans.
In short, on democracy, on economic growth, and on core U.S. interests in the region, we have no finer
champion. Please join me in welcoming Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Thank you, Paco, for that kind introduction. Thank you, Eric, as well. Good afternoon, everyone. I’m delighted
to be here and to welcome you to the State Department for the 48th Washington Conference on the Americas.
I want to start by thanking
the Council of the Americas – Susan, thank you – for their great work in pulling together this conference, as
well as their many efforts to advocate for fair trade and promote fundamental freedoms in the Western Hemisphere.
The United States is proud
to participate in this year of robust engagement in the Americas, with the successful Summit of the Americas hosted by Peru
last month, the upcoming OAS General Assembly in Washington, the 44th G7 Summit in Canada, and the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires
later this month.
Our engagement in the Americas, of course, is not a recent phenomenon. Since the birth of our republic, the United States
has had strong relationships in the Western Hemisphere, bonds built on geography, shared values, and robust economic ties.
We strive to coexist peacefully and to do so in a mutually beneficial way.
Security is the most important area in which we must cooperate,
as it underpins the prosperity and good governance we seek to create and to maintain. Transnational criminal organizations,
including the violence they perpetuate and the illegal drugs they traffic, are among the most dangerous security threats to
the United States and our partners. We will continue to rely on our strong relationships to battle these transnational criminal
organizations, working together with our partners to disrupt illicit networks and those trafficking routes that lead into
the United States.
Of course, in doing so, we must acknowledge our role in the United States as a major market for illicit drug consumption
and the need for cooperation to combat these challenges. And we’re taking steps to address the problematic demand side
of the equation. In 2016, 64,000 Americans died of overdose. When people descend the slippery slope of consuming illegal drugs,
they are not just gambling away their own futures and potentially destroying the lives – their lives and the lives of
those around them. The destructive cycle of drug addiction fuels the violence and criminality that destroys entire communities
in source and in transit countries.
In turn, this violence perpetuates the crisis we see on our borders with illegal immigration. That
cycle needs to stop. President Trump is committed to putting an end to this cycle and has challenged us to be the generation
to put an end to the drug epidemic. The President declared our opioid crisis a public health emergency and has subsequently
launched an initiative to stop opioids abuse. In doing so, we’re working with our international partners to take on
One of our strongest partnerships is with Mexico, and that bond will remain strong. In December, we convened with Mexico
our second meeting of the cabinet-level Strategic Dialogue on Disrupting Transnational Criminal Organizations. We discussed
joint strategic efforts to disrupt these groups by attacking their business model, prioritizing efforts against drug production,
and preventing cross-border movements of drugs, cash, and weapons. We must deny these criminal networks access to our markets
and dry up their sources of illicit revenue. Through the Merida Initiative, we work with Mexico to support their efforts to
improve security, strengthen the rule of law, and promote greater respect for human rights.
Our coordination with Mexico is complemented by the U.S.
strategy for Central America, a comprehensive plan to address security, governance, and economic development challenges faced
throughout the region. The U.S. strategy for Central America also reinforces the plan of the Alliance for Prosperity, the
reform initiative of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. As Paco mentioned, our Caribbean 2020 strategy is increasing private
sector investment in the Caribbean, promoting Caribbean energy security, and building resilience to natural disasters. The
Caribbean Basin Security Initiative seeks to enhance maritime interdictions, build institutions, counter corruption, and foster
cooperation to protect our shared borders from the impact of transnational crime.
Colombia is also a strong partner in the region and we
continue to support its efforts to implement the peace accord with the FARC that ended a 52-year war. Unfortunately, from
2013 to 2016, coca cultivation in Colombia surged 134 percent and cocaine production by over 200 percent. At the U.S.-Colombia
High-Level Dialogue on March 1st, the United States and Colombia agreed to expand counternarcotics cooperation over the next
five years to reduce Colombia’s estimated cocaine production and coca cultivation to 50 percent of current levels by
2023. While we are proud to work and will continue to work closely with Colombia, we also urge that government to do more
to reverse the alarming growth in coca cultivation and cocaine production.
At the regional level, we support initiatives in the OAS’
International Drug Control Commission to disrupt the illicit drug supply and curb the regional demand for drugs.
Threats to the hemisphere
occur on a number of other complex fronts, requiring coordinated and sophisticated responses. Whether building capacity to
counter cyber threats, supporting demining in Colombia, or combating trafficking in persons, the United States is committed
to being the security partner of choice for the Americas in the years ahead.
When we can uphold security, we maintain an essential
condition for prosperity. The numbers indicate just how deep our economic relationship in this hemisphere is and how important
United States is the top trading partner for over half of the 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere. Annually, we trade $1.8
trillion in goods and services with the hemisphere, supporting millions of jobs and leading to an $8 billion surplus in goods
and services in 2017. As many of you know, that’s a statistic that the President keeps careful track of.
Underpinning our economic
engagement is respect for the rule of law and shared values. Corruption both undermines and corrodes the confidence our citizens
have in democratic institutions.
As Vice President Pence said during the Summit of the Americas in Lima, corruption “is a vitally
important issue that bears upon the long-term prosperity as well as the well-being of the people of the hemisphere…
Corruption emboldens vicious criminals and endangers public safety… For we know as corruption grows, freedom and prosperity
The United States will not stand for corrupt practices abroad that we would find unacceptable here at home. For more
than 40 years, we have stood behind strict rules that bar Americans and American business from bribing any foreign official
to secure an improper advantage. Our laws seek to impose strict penalties on those who step across that line.
Honest businesspeople from
every part of the world wish to play by the rules. They don’t want to pay bribes or bend the rules. I know it is the
wish of every company represented here today to be able to operate in an environment where corruption has no place. Indeed,
that’s our hope and our ultimate goal. It’s our nation’s respect for democratic accountability, and our
commitment to transparency in business, that make us the better economic partner and the international partner of choice for
Unlike China and Russia, the United States does not – does not approach our partners with a purely transactional
mindset. Rather, we work to sustain our valuable partnerships with mutual respect and shared principles. Our core values and
determination to strengthen the rule of law enable businesses to flourish, private enterprise to ignite, and jobs to grow.
across the Americas have demonstrated increased intolerance for corruption, and the region’s institutions are responding.
Recent steps taken against corruption in Guatemala and Peru – as well as the leadership shown by Brazilian prosecutors
and judges – are very impressive.
Hemispheric leaders have recognized the dangers that corruption poses to our democracies and economies
since the first Summit of the Americas, and it’s why we have the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.
The 2018 Summit of the Americas
in Lima was significant because of its singular focus on corruption, relative to prior summits. The leaders’ declaration,
the “Lima Commitment,” illustrates our resolve to take concrete action to combat corruption.
The United States will be
steadfast in pursuing these commitments. We will work with other governments in the hemisphere to put the promise of Lima
Finally, we must keep working together to ensure that the people in this hemisphere can live according to democratic
the last century, the Americas have largely transformed into a region of vibrant and peaceful democracies. Seven Latin American
countries will hold presidential elections in 2018, including Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
While most of the region enjoys democratic rule, a few
outliers – Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela – continue to undermine the region’s shared vision for effective
democratic governance as enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
The United States remains committed to championing freedom
and to standing with the people of Venezuela and Cuba in their struggle to achieve the liberty they deserve. In Nicaragua,
we condemn the violence perpetrated by security forces and groups tied to the Ortega government against peaceful protestors,
and support a broad, inclusive national dialogue that addresses victims’ demands for justice and restores Nicaragua’s
We look to our partners – including governments and civil society organizations – to join us in speaking
up whenever and wherever the hemisphere’s shared democratic principles come under attack.
Right now, democracy has been eviscerated by a dictator
The United States supports a return to Venezuela’s democratic constitutional order. Our goal is a peaceful, democratic
transition led by the Venezuelan people. We support the Venezuelan people in their sovereign right to elect representatives
through free, fair, and transparent elections. We join the democratic nations of the world in standing by the Venezuelan people
as they seek the stable and prosperous democracy they deserve.
Western Hemisphere leaders used the Summit of the Americas to address
the most pressing democratic challenges facing our hemisphere; chief among them the crisis in Venezuela. The United States
was pleased to join 15 partners in issuing a Declaration on Venezuela at the Summit, in which we called on the Venezuelan
Government to hold a free, fair, and transparent democratic process; free its political prisoners; and allow the participation
of all political actors. And we affirmed that the planned elections for May 20 fail to meet such conditions and, as such,
cannot be considered legitimate.
Finally, we expressed our collective support for Venezuela’s national assembly, committed to
working with the OAS to promote actions that restore democratic institutions, and voiced our concern for the growing number
of Venezuelans forced to leave their country due to this crisis.
The declaration issued in Lima urges the United Nations and the OAS
to implement a humanitarian assistance program to address the shortage of basic necessities in Venezuela and the manifest
suffering of the Venezuelan people. The declaration emphasized the importance of the international community’s support
for the economic recovery of Venezuela once democracy and the constitutional order have been restored.
The Maduro regime’s
brutal and corrupt rule has caused approximately 5,000 Venezuelans to flee the land of their birth every day. Earlier you
heard Ambassador Haley say that approximately 1.5 Venezuelans have fled to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean
since 2014 and another outflow of 1.7 million people is projected in 2018. These refugees are now in Colombia, Brazil, and
nearly – Chile, and nearly every other country in our region.
President Trump has made it abundantly clear: The United States will
not stand by idly as Venezuela crumbles and its people suffer. Today, I’m pleased to announce an additional $18.5 million
in bilateral assistance for the Government of Colombia’s efforts to address the influx of Venezuelan refugees seeking
safety. Pending congressional approval, this USAID funding – and I’m happy to have our USAID administrator here
with us, Ambassador Mark Green – will support mobile health units to attend to the needs of the impacted population,
a school feeding program, and a registry system to better access evolving needs.
This funding is in addition to the more than $21 million
in U.S. humanitarian assistance already announced to support the regional response to the Venezuela crisis, including $16
million in aid announced at the Summit of the Americas in March.
The suffering of the Venezuelan people is extraordinary. A heartbreaking
survey found that in the previous three months over 60 percent of Venezuelans said they woke up hungry because they did not
have enough money to buy food. The average Venezuelan lost 24 pounds of body weight in 2017. And now the regime is shamelessly
using sustenance as a tool for social control, political coercion, and votes.
It’s well past time for Nicolas Maduro to open Venezuela
to international aid. Meanwhile, the United States will continue to use all diplomatic and economic tools to support the Venezuelan
people’s effort to restore democracy and return to prosperity.
Yesterday, the administration declared that the upcoming vote in Venezuela
should be suspended until Maduro holds a free, fair, transparent election that gives Venezuelan people the democratic choices
they deserve. We’ve imposed strict financial sanctions on more than 50 current or former senior Venezuelan officials.
We also sanctioned the so-called Petro cryptocurrency protecting unwitting investors from Maduro’s latest fraud. We
will not allow the Maduro regime to use our financial system to enjoy corrupt gains. We have sanctions in place to pressure
those in the regime who are most responsible for the gross abuses we have witnessed. And yesterday we added three more names
to the list.
Vice President Pence announced that the United States has designated three Venezuelans with direct ties to the Maduro
regime as narcotic kingpins. We have frozen their assets and blocked their access to our nation so they can no longer poison
our people with their deadly drugs.
Today, I also want to repeat what Vice President Pence urged all of the OAS nations yesterday. Every
nation must cut Venezuela’s corrupt leaders from laundering money through our financial system. Every nation must enact
visa restrictions that prevent Venezuela’s leaders from entering our countries. And finally, every nation must vote
at the next general assembly of the OAS in June to suspend Venezuela from that august institution.
These actions will support
and defend our shared democratic principles. And as Ambassador Haley stressed earlier today, staying true to our principles
will ensure that the Western Hemisphere remains the hemisphere of freedom.
The governments of our region must continue working together
to help the Venezuelan people reclaim their freedom, restore their democracy, and build a new future. We will continue to
look to the declarations and commitments made at the Summit of the Americas to guide our engagement in the hemisphere. With
your help and your partnership, we will continue to work to create a hemisphere that is ever more secure, prosperous, and
So, thank you again for having me here today to talk about some of our priorities for the hemisphere, and please accept
my best wishes for continued success in this conference. Thank you. (Applause.)
* Francisco Palmieri, Acting Assistant
Secretary, Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Remarks by John J. Sullivan,
Deputy Secretary of State, May 8, 2018, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.