Thank you so much. This is a real treat for me. I speak to a lot of people all around the world. A few hours ago I was actually speaking to the press corps in the State Department, but speaking to young people and people who are also genuinely interested and actually contributing to our foreign policy as you so ably shared is a real treat. So thank you. And thanks for the kind introduction.
We work with governments to understand what is their own ambition. Where are they in terms of where they currently are, where they want to go, and why are there gaps? Why are they unable to achieve those objectives? Then is there something we can do to help them support their own ambition, regardless of what that might be.
We do it because, not from a matter of a technical engineering issue or anything like that, but really because energy is still foundational and really the infrastructure is still foundational for the country’s economy, employment, economic development. So it’s really critical to the growth of a country.
It’s particularly important in that way, and I just came from the region, and in pre-COVID the IMF was looking at growth, pretty anemic, just a percent of growth, but a positive trend. Post-COVID it’s going to be that IMF is projecting actually a contraction of nearly 9 percent.
So the countries are facing some pretty challenging situations in the need to drive their economies forward. They’re really feeling it.
So it’s important, as an American energy diplomat, as they call me, one of the things I keenly understand, it’s important to show up. It’s important to engage with your partners around the world to share that you understand where they are, where they’re going and that you’re truly a partner. And so that’s key in a general sense but it is especially important in a time when countries and partners are on their heels. That’s when friends really step up.
I thought it was important to go, this is my second trip to the region in just about two months, so it was important to go. And also to remind them that this is the time to continue to move forward with their pro-market reforms. To advance the interest of transparency in good governance. To really, to look to do things the right way and to continue to push back against the perhaps historic factors, historic influences that would prefer to do things in opaque practices and in corrupt ways. And to really push that forward.
Kind of the positive message, the positive development, and not everyone wants to see positive outcomes in the region. They’re not interested in seeing the all-inclusive approach because if they create a bigger pie they lose influence.
We certainly see that, if one looks at the continuing level at the hammer of Cuba and Venezuela to the region. One of the areas that I focus on is also, in terms of the proactive instrument of diplomacy is also our sanctions regime. So I lead the U.S. government’s energy sanctions work and of course Venezuela has been an important, unfortunately, has been a significant target of our sanctions. Why is that?
Before I focus on the energy component of Venezuela’s oil production, but the target of our sanctions is because the illegitimate Maduro regime and his kind of, his criminal enterprise that he runs, he uses this oil revenue to continue to advance maligned purposes, continue to have his Cuban bodyguards running around and secret police. And creating utter deprivation in the country.
So we go after the oil in order to strike at his ability to continue to sow harm on his own people.
But Venezuela is going through — their state-driving model is an utter and abject failure. Back in 2013 the country, PDVESA, was one of the shining stars of state oil companies globally at the time. In 2013 they were producing nearly three million barrels of oil per day. But by January of 2019 that number has dropped to just over a million, and much of that is due to mismanagement and just demonstration of that state-driven model.
Of course our sanctions, as I described, has further eroded that production to 400,000 barrels per day, give or take, and that maximum pressure continues to go on board.
We’re doing this, our target, with pretty much every other government within the hemisphere is supportive of our approach on the illegitimate Maduro regime and we continue to call on countries to step up and hold that regime to account. We’ve been seeing some indications of behavioral changes and further erosion there. But really our call here is for return to democratic principles.
But our showing up is important to, again, recognize those who want to do the right thing, to encourage them to be on that path, and we do that not just in terms of rhetoric but in terms of programs. One of those is an America Crece program where we have a whole of government framework for collaboration with countries. We now have Crece MOUs with 12 different countries in the region. And those provide the high level framework. And then from that we identify principles for further collaboration. Then we come in — I should say it is a whole of government effort but there’s an energy pillar. That’s why in ENR, we’re the energy pillar of the broader Crece work. And within that framework in that energy pillar we get specific based on, as I said, the outset. What are the spoken objectives of each country? It varies based on how we get down and do some of that work.
I was with Secretary Pompeo in Guyana, for example, and he announced — which was historic. It was the first time a sitting Secretary of State has been to either Guyana or Surinam. It was a significant initiative. And they were very appreciative of Secretary Pompeo encouraging peaceful and recognizing a peaceful, democratic transition of power which was a testament. And I have to say, Secretary Pompeo in his meetings with the President, they credit him for creating that positive peaceful democratic transition.
But that is a country that has recently found, as you know, incredible oil resources. But they want to be sure that developing the best in an environmentally responsible way.
So we announced a program under this Crece framework to help them to do just that. So we have some core response and environmental protection work that we’re going to move forward with Guyana.
Colombia, they want to develop their copper so we have some work there. And then we’re looking at broader connectivity and electricity in the electricity market more broadly in the Andean countries.
So I just wanted to share a brief overview. We can get into more specifics but the hemisphere and the collaboration we have, it is one of our key focus areas. I think we’ve made some really strong in-roads, and we want to continue to recognize those forces of good in the hemisphere and the true partners both in the hard times and the good.