DEMOCRACY NOW!: Amid an ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela, we speak with Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who questioned U.S. special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams on Capitol Hill in February about his record. Abrams is a right-wing hawk who was linked to the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela that tried to topple Hugo Chávez. In the 1980s, Abrams defended Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt as he oversaw a campaign of mass murder and torture of indigenous people. Ríos Montt was later convicted of genocide.
Rep. Ilhan Omar says that there is a direct correlation between this type of detrimental U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and "the kind of mass migration that we’re noticing right now from Central America and South America to the U.S."
Transcript, via Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to Congressmember Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota congressmember. She is the first Somali American elected to Congress, the House of Representatives, one of the first Muslim women in Congress. In February, Ilhan Omar questioned U.S. special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams on Capitol Hill.
We welcome you to Democracy Now! Congressmember Ilhan Omar, before we talk about the remarkable rally held for you, in defense of you, yesterday, just outside the Capitol next to the Reflecting Pool, if you can comment what’s taking place right now in Venezuela, the U.S.-supported coup attempt against President Maduro?
REP. ILHAN OMAR: Thank you, Amy, for having me. It’s really great to join you all this morning.
I concur with what Professor Sachs was saying. You know, I mean, a lot of the policies that we have put in place has kind of helped lead the devastation in Venezuela. And we’ve sort of set the stage for where we’re arriving today. This particular bullying and the use of sanctions to eventually intervene and make regime change really does not help the people of countries like Venezuela, and it certainly does not help and is not in the interest of the United States. And I think, finally, we have folks in Congress that see what Professor Sachs was referencing.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn right now to your questioning, Congressmember Ilhan Omar, your questioning of Elliott Abrams, the man who President Trump has made the special envoy to Venezuela. Elliott Abrams, the person who was convicted of lying to Congress twice, ultimately he was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. But this is Elliott Abrams before you, in committee.
REP. ILHAN OMAR: In 1991, you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.
ELLIOTT ABRAMS: If I can respond to that—
REP. ILHAN OMAR: It wasn’t a question.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Ilhan Omar, if you can talk about the significance of Elliott Abrams being made the point person on Venezuela, and what you do think Congress can do? I mean, congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others, a bipartisan group, are supporting Guaidó, the man who simply announced that he’s president of Venezuela.
REP. ILHAN OMAR: People like Elliott Abrams, neocons and warmongers, you know, for so long have pushed for policies that are now—we can see, not only in Central America, but many parts of the world, the kind of devastations that they’ve had for decades. I could not pass up the opportunity to not only remind the American people that this was someone who was convicted of lying to Congress, but also someone who had a heavy hand in some of the most devastating policies that we imposed on Central America, and that there is a direct correlation between the kind of mass migration that we’re noticing right now from Central America and South America to this country.
I think, for so long, we’ve used muscle memory to sort of generate our foreign policy. And it’s about time, like Professor Sachs said, that we pause and we look at the kind of implications that our policies have, what our ultimate goal is, what is being successful, and what are some policies that we should do away with. I remember talking to Madam Secretary Albright and talking to her about the success of sanctions we impose around the world and how some of them have devastating effects on the actual population and not on the governments that we see as our adversaries. And she concurred with me that many of the sanctions that we impose ultimately lead to devastations—and we are seeing it now in Venezuela—and ultimately lead to having severe problems in that country, which doesn’t stabilize life for the people, and certainly puts us here in the United States at risk.