Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


April 27, 2017 - Washington D.C.

Thank you, my friend President Tuto Quiroga, for the generous introduction. Thank you, President Mike Abramovitz, Chairman Jeff Herschberg and Dinner Chairs Laura and Andy Prozes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished members of Congress, representatives of the administration-- I’m honored to be here with you, a distinguished crowd with so many good friends and the other illustrious awardees. I’m grateful for the recognition from Freedom House, a legendary institution.

This is especially meaningful because this institution, founded as a response to growing isolationism in the United States, was created to confront the spread of totalitarianism in Europe. Freedom House believed that certain rights are universal- even before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Two years ago, I came to the OAS with one goal: “More rights for more people.” This notion stems from the founding documents of the Organization, from the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man to the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter, or la Carta Democrática, the “Constitution of the Americas”.

If being recognized by this institution makes me feel honored, the reason for which I’m being recognized is humbling- humbling, because it is recognition for doing my job.

While the OAS is an organization of States, these documents were signed “in the name of their peoples.” As Secretary General, I must be the staunchest defender of these rights and principles upon which this Organization is founded– freedom, democracy and human rights. And I must do so with, and for, the people.

There are no words sufficient to describe the deterioration in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government has blood on their hands. Not only are they responsible for the deaths of their citizens who are literally starving- dying because there is no food and medicine- they are now handing out weapons to armed gangs, urging them towards violence.

Anyone who dares stand up for their rights is now a target, criminals because of their words and their ideas. They are imprisoned, harassed, and abused for defending the most basic rights that should be guaranteed to them.

The Government speaks to its people through jail, violence, tear gas, bullets and in too many heartbreaking cases, death. These are not the tools of a democracy. These are the tools of an oppressive regime.

This past month, more than a thousand Venezuelans have been detained as political prisoners. The number that remain in jail continues to grow. Tonight, you can see their faces on these screens.

Their suffering, the suffering of their families’ (many of whom are here this evening) it is my suffering, it is our suffering. They are fighting for the rights that many in this room have been fortunate to take for granted.
The security apparatus targets students, professors, journalists and political leaders- anyone brave enough to speak out. Prisoners are convicted with false evidence, and most remain in detention without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. Those supposedly released by the courts, remain in jail because the security forces won’t release them. Too many in custody are tortured. And those in need of medical care, rarely receive it.

The government rejected the last constitutional solution to the crisis and has suspended elections indefinitely. The judiciary is controlled by the Executive. The Supreme Court has stripped Congress of all its immunities and it powers. Democracy no longer exists.

Plain and simple, the people of Venezuela live under a cruel and inhuman dictatorship lead by a Regime determined to hold onto their power and privilege at any cost.

This regime has the power to bring a peaceful and democratic end to the crisis. The greatest act of love they could offer the people of Venezuela is to release the political prisoners and call for general elections. To return the democratic and constitutional order.

We must help them. The international community must come together and support Venezuela. We must bring an end to the impunity and hold this dictatorship accountable.

This is what the OAS has been trying to do by invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

We must live up to the principles that have made Freedom House a beacon of hope; the same principles that I, as Secretary General and Member States of the OAS have committed to uphold.

I am humbled to receive this award today, because it is one I do not deserve. This award belongs to the people of Venezuela, the political prisoners, and their families.

I accept it tonight as a custodian and make the commitment that I will personally take it to Venezuela to give to my friends Antonio Ledezma, Leopoldo López, Daniel Ceballos and so many more- in a Venezuela that has democracy, freedom and human rights. This award belongs to them.

Thank you, thank you very much.