Mar 31, 2020

Mike Pompeo Press Conference Transcript: Covers Coronavirus & Plan for Venezuela Transitional Government

Mike Pompeo Press Conference March 31
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsMike Pompeo Press Conference Transcript: Covers Coronavirus & Plan for Venezuela Transitional Government

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a press conference on March 31. He outlined the Trump administration’s plan to lift sanctions on Venezuela in support of a transitional government without President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido. He also spoke about the coronavirus, which has killed one State Department official. Full transcript here.

 

Follow Rev Transcripts

Mike Pompeo: (00:00)
The stories of our team’s heart and character and commitment to excellence are truly amazing. Let me give you just a couple of examples. In Bhutan. No easy place to get to. An American was critically ill from the virus, intubated on a ventilator, and frankly, expected to die in a country located in one of the most remote corners of the world. But we came to the rescue. Our team arranged a bio-containment transport from Bhutan to an intensive care unit in Baltimore, Maryland, a distance of nearly 8,000 miles. To fly through Kathmandu, there’s 12 pilots that can make that flight. It was one of the most complex medical evacuations in history, and the State Department pulled it off.

Mike Pompeo: (00:41)
In Honduras. A double lung transplant recipient was running out of medications, which aren’t available there. A intrepid young counselor officer figured out a way to get safe passage. Got him a letter, got him to the airport. It was a city that was in complete and total lockdown. We got him home on the next flight. That man later told our team that we saved his life. The good news is too the State Department’s doing great, but we’re not doing this alone. We’re coordinating closely with other agencies in the Federal Government. My deputy, Steve Biegun, Brian Bulatao, the Undersecretary for Management, Keith Krach, the Undersecretary for Economic Affairs. The 24/7 repatriation team are performing these duties amazingly.

Mike Pompeo: (01:24)
Never, in the department’s 230 year history have we led a worldwide evacuation of such enormous geographic complexity, and such geographic scale. We have no higher duty to the American people than to pull this off. I’ve never been more proud of how the team has done than I am today. The 24/7 repatriation task force will continue to bring home thousands more Americans in the coming days and weeks.

Mike Pompeo: (01:50)
At the same time, I want to deliver a message to Americans who are still abroad. We remain steadfast and committed to getting you all back. We do not know in some countries how long the continued commercial flights in your country may continue to operate. We cannot guarantee the US Government’s ability to arrange charter flights indefinitely where commercial options no longer exist. I urge Americans to register with their nearest embassy at step.state.gov, and work your way back here. Americans abroad who wish to return home and should do so immediately, and make arrangements to accomplish that.

Mike Pompeo: (02:25)
Look, I’m just as proud of the work we’re doing now on repatriation as I am about the health and humanitarian assistance that the State Department’s providing around the world, too. It’s a topic that deserves more attention. We don’t talk about it all that often. In America, we provide aid because we’re generous and noble people. And we also do it because we know from prior experiences that we don’t have good data, full transparency, an all-out effort to fight pandemics that can harm Americans back home, too. For both of these reasons, the United States was one of the first nations to step forward and offer help, in early February. It seems like a long time ago.

Mike Pompeo: (03:01)
In early February, we transported nearly 18 tons of medical supplies provided by Samaritan’s Purse, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and others to Wuhan. That same month, we pledged to $100 million in assistance to countries to fight what would become a pandemic, including an offer of assistance to China. Our response so far surpasses that initial pledge, significantly. We’ve now made available a total in number of $274 million in funding to as many as 64 countries. That money will go to some of the world’s most at-risk peoples. You can go to state.gov to find a fact sheet. We talked about what we’re doing country-by-country. We’ll give the breakdown. We put that up at the end of last week.

Mike Pompeo: (03:46)
We’ve been at this a long time. We know how to help people around the world. Since 2009, American taxpayers have generously funded more than $100 billion in health assistance, and nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance. That’s billion with a B. But our help is much more than money. The CDC has six staffers on the ground working with Namibia’s Health Ministry. The FDA, as an example, is co-chairing a virtual international conference on developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Americans from all across the Trump administration are working diligently to put this crisis back in the box.

Mike Pompeo: (04:26)
Another example. We’re working constantly with NGOs to deliver medicines, medical supplies, and food to those in need in Syria, including in regime-held areas. This is a humanitarian crisis. Two, we’ll continue helping you and agencies and NGOs build more water, sanitation, and health facilities in camps in informal IDP settings all across Northern Syria, to help prevent the spread of the virus in that difficult place.

Mike Pompeo: (04:51)
And as I referenced earlier, it isn’t just our government helping around the world. American businesses, private charities, have given $1.5 billion to the world to fight this pandemic. This is truly American exceptionalism at its finest. Our generosity, our pragmatism, aimed at saving American lives now and in the future, is also exemplified through our work with multilateral organizations. It’s another under-reported story. We’ve long maintained an unsurpassed commitment to global health and humanitarian assistance. Consider just the top end of this, our financial support for international organizations. And nevermind all the scientists and technical people and other expertise that we bring around the world.

Mike Pompeo: (05:36)
The United States remains by far the largest contributor to the World Health Organization, as we’ve been since 1948. Our contribution exceeded $400 million last year, 10 times that of China. The US contributed nearly $1.7 billion to the UN Refugee Agency, which is helping those least able to mitigate their exposure to the virus. This compares to $1. 9 million from China. UNICEF, is engaged in emergency access in dozens of countries all across the globe, including in China and in Iran. In 2019, the US supported UNICEF with more than $700 million. China gave just a mere fraction of that. The World Food Program headed by America’s own David Beasley, has sent more than 85 shipments of food and personal protection equipment to 74 countries, to help them battle the virus. And we’ve provided $8 billion in resources just last year, 42% of that organization’s budget.

Mike Pompeo: (06:38)
Look, you all get the idea. We don’t talk about assistance much, but the American people should be aware of, and proud of, our vast commitments to these important institutions. They not only help citizens around the world, but they protect Americans and keep us safe here as well. And with that, I’m happy to take a handful of questions this morning.

Speaker 1: (06:57)
Trying to get to everybody, so we’ll start with Christina.

Christina: (06:59)
Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

Mike Pompeo: (07:00)
Hi. Good morning.

Christina: (07:01)
I have a question from a colleague who’s not allowed to come, and then I have my own.

Mike Pompeo: (07:04)
He wasn’t allowed to come, or she, because-

Christina: (07:06)
We’re working from home, and-

Mike Pompeo: (07:07)
Great. Wasn’t because of the State Department. All right.

Christina: (07:10)
Not because of that, correct. Sorry. Shaun Tandon, from AFP,wanted to ask on Venezuela, what future do you see for Guaido? Is this new framework a recognition that he hasn’t caught fire? Will the US for now support him as the rightful President of Venezuela, and is he able to run for President under this new framework that you’re introducing?

Mike Pompeo: (07:32)
So the answer to the last question is absolutely yes. I think he’s the most popular politician in Venezuela. I think if there were an election held today, I think he’d do incredibly well. But more importantly, we continue to support him. When we put together this pathway to democracy, we worked closely with him. He was aware of how it is we are presenting this. We all, Juan Guaido and his entire team, understand that Nicolas Maduro must go. We must get this democracy started. We have now introduced this pathway to achieve that. We continue to remain enormously supportive of the work that the rightful President of the Venezuelan people, Juan Guaido, is engaged in.

Christina: (08:11)
Thank you. And then, in light of this global pandemic, there’s been a lot of renewed calls from the UN, from the Europeans, from others, for sanctions relief. And I know what you’re going to say, we’ve talked about it in this room, that any shortfalls in their healthcare systems, are the fault of these regimes themselves. But I’m wondering, if people are dying and sanctions relief would help, regardless of whether or not it empowers the regime, would it ever come to a point where you would reconsider your position? Thank you.

Mike Pompeo: (08:37)
Well, of course, we evaluate all of our policies constantly. So the answer is, would we ever rethink it? Of course, we’re constantly trying to make sure we have our policies right. When it comes to humanitarian assistance, medical devices, equipment, pharmaceuticals, things that people need in these difficult times, those are not sanctioned anywhere at any time, that I’m aware of. But you just read that, whether it’s… It’s not always-

Mike Pompeo: (09:03)
Anytime that I’m aware of, but just read that, it’s not always an American sanction in North Korea, there are UN security council resolutions. In other places, they are in fact American provisions, but in each of those, if you read them, it’s quite on its face that these items aren’t sanctioned. There’s no prohibition on moving humanitarian assistance into these difficult and challenging places. You rightfully point out some of these countries continue to build bombs and missiles and nuclear capability. All the while their people are starving, so when they make the claim that boy, they just don’t have the money to feed their people, these are decisions that these people, leaders have often made not in the best interest of those peoples. It’s indeed quite sad to see those governments make those decisions, which harm their own people. The last thing I’ll say is not only do we not sanction any of those, nor does any global entity sanction humanitarian assistance.

Mike Pompeo: (10:00)
United States has worked in every one of those places to provide assistance. We’ve worked to try and get assistance into North Korea. We’ve made offers of assistance to Iran. You’ll recall when we first began, we’ve worked diligently in Venezuela to get humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people as well. No, the United States understands this is a humanitarian challenge, a humanitarian crisis, and we are deeply committed to ensuring the humanitarian assistance gets to the people of those countries. We care more often about the people in those countries than their own leaders do. That’s sad, that’s a reflection of those regimes too often. It’s the reason in fact, that we’re working to help those people raise up in their country so that they can get a better outcome for themselves as well. [inaudible 00:10:44] Yes, sir.

Speaker 3: (10:48)
I have the three questions.

Mike Pompeo: (10:49)
All right. You’re testing my patience now.

Speaker 3: (10:53)
I know that [inaudible 00:01:54].

Mike Pompeo: (10:55)
No worries.

Speaker 3: (10:57)
The attacks on the military bases on Iraq have escalated lately. Will the U.S. have any reaction soon? Second, what’s your reaction to the Houthi’s missile attack on Saudi Arabia and how the U.S. is confronting this information war against the U.S. during this war against COVID-19?

Mike Pompeo: (11:21)
Yeah, so let me try and take each of those three. So we have seen attacks on Americans, attempted efforts in some cases as well inside of Iraq, conducted by Shia militias. Our response has been a very consistent. Two things, one, we will always respond to protect and defend Americans, whether it’s our diplomats in our embassies and consulates inside of Iraq or Department of Defense, people who are serving, there are civilians who are contractors, we’ll always do everything we can to defend and protect them and we will respond if they are threatened. We’ve also made clear that in Iraq in particular, we know that those Shia militias who have attacked Americans are trained, equipped, underwritten by the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it’s been President Trump’s policy consistently that says that we will respond against all of those who facilitate, trained, equipped, and enabled those attacks on America.

Mike Pompeo: (12:19)
That holds as true today as it did two weeks, four weeks, or back in the beginning of January when we took a strike against Qasem Soleimani. The second question is about the missiles that were fired from Yemen by the Iranian backed Houthis. The good news is, it looks like the damage that was done by those was very minor. But nonetheless, there’d been a lot of work to reduce conflict, to take down the levels of violence that were there and we’d had some success. The Saudis had been leading that effort and it broke down that day. Saudis have now responded and I’m hopeful they can get back on the right path. We are hopeful that we can find a path forward with the UN security council resolution in Yemen to find a path to peace there. It’d be in the best interest of every participant in the region. Sadly, it appears that the Iranians don’t share our vision for peace in Yemen and in Saudi Arabia.

Mike Pompeo: (13:19)
And lastly, you asked the question about disinformation in the moment here with a COVID-19 challenge. I see it every day. Every morning I get up and I read the dataset from across the world. Not only the tragedies taking place here, we’ve had a state department official pass away as a result of this virus, one of our team members. We now have 3,000 Americans who’ve been killed, this is tragic. My prayers go out to every American and every American family impacted by this. This dataset matters. The ability to trust the data that you’re getting so that our scientists and doctors and experts at the World Health Organization and all across the world, who are trying to figure out how to remediate this, how to find therapies, how to identify a solution which will ultimately be a vaccine to determine whether the actions that we’re taking, the social distancing, all the things that we’re doing, limiting transportation, all those things to figure out if they’re working so that we can save lives depends on the ability to have confidence in information about what has actually transpired. This is the reason disinformation is dangerous. It’s not because it’s bad politics. It is because it puts lives at risk if we don’t have confidence in the information that’s coming from every country. So I would urge every nation do your best to collect the data and do your best to share that information. We’re doing that, we’re collecting, we’re sharing, and we’re making sure that we have good sound basis upon which to make decisions about how to fight this infectious disease. That’s the risk that comes when countries choose to engage in campaigns of disinformation across the world.

Speaker 3: (15:05)
Thank you.

Mike Pompeo: (15:05)
Yes, sir.

Speaker 5: (15:06)
Go ahead, Kim.

Speaker 4: (15:07)
Hi, Kim [inaudible 00:15:08] with Time.

Mike Pompeo: (15:08)
Hi Kim.

Speaker 4: (15:09)
Two questions, Venezuela and Afghanistan. On Venezuela, what is your message perhaps Envoy Abram’s message to the families of the Citgo six, the American citizens being held since 2017 in a prison that now has cases of COVID-19 and I understand Citgo has decided not to pay them their salaries anymore so their families are relying on church aid to survive. And in Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah has now endorsed President Ghani’s peace negotiating teams, so could that lead to you yielding on giving them back some of the one billion that you’ve taken away for this year, especially since they’re facing the COVID-19 crisis? Because this might have a knock on effect.

Mike Pompeo: (15:55)
Kim, both excellent questions. I’ll give a little bit on the Citgo six and then Elliot is going to come up and take a couple of questions too, he can perhaps elaborate on that. We spent a lot of time and energy trying to get those folks back, just as we do with every American who’s wrongfully detained. We’ve been unsuccessful. That’s [inaudible 00:16:14] my message to those families know that Elliot, our entire team is never far from thinking about them. With respect to the issues in the prison, we’ve seen that too. We’ve made clear to the Venezuelans that that creates increased risk. They should be let out not only because it’s the right thing to do because they’re wrongfully detained, but now there’s a health risk on top of that as well. And as we’ve said for the detainees in Iran, now is the most appropriate moment to use this humanitarian challenge as a reason to allow these people to return to their families and their loved ones. State department’s working hard to get them back.

Mike Pompeo: (16:55)
Second question was about Afghanistan. Since I traveled there now, going to say a week ago almost exactly. I had some progress on the political front. The reason that I traveled there, so that’s good news. We’ve seen a team identified, it looks like it’s pretty inclusive, pretty broad. We’re happy about that. We’ve begun to see some work done on prisoner releases as well. All elements that have to come together so we can get to the inter-Afghan negotiations, which will ultimately prove to be the only mechanism that has any hope of delivering peace and reconciliation to the people of Afghanistan. And so, it’s good news. We will constantly reevaluate our posture with respect to Afghanistan, not only the security assistance and humanitarian aid and assistance we provide to them.

Mike Pompeo: (17:39)
In addition to the decision we made last week on the billion dollars, we also announced that we were providing assistance to them to combat COVID. I think the number was 15 million. I’ll get you the actual data, but we’re going to do everything we can to help Afghanistan battle the coronavirus issue as well. So we’ll re-look it, we’ll constantly evaluate it. We want to see progress on every element. It’s worth noting too, it’s been overlooked. I stopped and met with the Taliban.

Mike Pompeo: (18:03)
… It’s worth noting too. It’s been overlooked. I stopped in, met with the Taliban on my way out of Afghanistan. I met them in Toah. They need to reduce violence as well. They have made real commitments about the level of violence, the nature of what will take place, what they will do as we proceed towards the path we’re in for Afghan negotiations to begin. We have every expectation that the Taliban will hold up their end of the agreements that were put in place … Goodness. Now coming up on, what is it … To months ago, I guess, back at the end of January? Yes.

Speaker 7: (18:32)
Rich Kiley, can we make it quick? Go ahead.

Mike Pompeo: (18:34)
Sure.

Rich Kiley: (18:35)
Thank you, mister secretary. With oil prices as low as they’ve gone over the past month, do you see this as an opportunity to ratchet up sanctions more so than perhaps the administration otherwise would have done in Venezuela, and with the Maduro regime seemingly not receptive to previous proposals, why would you think that this proposal might be accepted, and also understanding that there is sensitivity surrounding it, if you could give any more information about the state department official who passed away because of COVID.

Mike Pompeo: (19:08)
If I could, with respect to that last point, let me get the team to give you all that we’re able to release this one. I’ll make sure we do our best to get the information as it’s appropriate to release about all of that. All of the full status. We’ve had other members of the team come down with COVID-19 as well. I think we’re now up to four or five dozen people who have tested positively inside the state, but this includes our locally employed staff, the full state department team and we’re happy to provide that data to you as well. I think of your first question was about Venezuela sanctions. The answer is no. We don’t see this as an opportunity. The policy that’s been laid out that the state department and the United States government are executing with respect to how to deliver democracy of the Venezuelan people hasn’t changed.

Mike Pompeo: (19:53)
Prices will go up, they’ll go down. Our missions set remains unchanged. To deliver an opportunity for democracy. You saw, was it last week? That Nicolas Maduro was indicted by the United States Department of Justice. I hope, as we have now laid out this clear pathway to peace, that the Venezuelan people will demand that every leader inside of Venezuela, not just Maduro and his team, but every leader instead of Venezuela will look at this seriously and say, “That is a path which we can see our way forward.” Which will deliver this hope for democracy in Venezuela. That’s the mission set that we had when we laid out charting this new pathway. Did I get it, both your questions?

Speaker 7: (20:33)
The final question was, Nicolas Maduro has rejected proposals in the past. Is there something about this proposal that you think might be attractive to him?

Mike Pompeo: (20:42)
Well, we hope he’ll take it seriously and consider it just as we have. We’ve made clear all along that Nicolas Maduro will never again govern Venezuela, and that hasn’t changed.

Speaker 8: (20:58)
Hi, I want to go back to you what you just said about data sets mattering, and yesterday you spoke about the necessity to have numbers from China and Italy and Iran on coronavirus, but the numbers coming out of China right now indicate that the new cases of coronavirus are going down. So does the Trump administration believe that those are accurate new numbers or are those manipulated disinformation numbers? And then I have a quick question on the sanctions relief.

Mike Pompeo: (21:35)
Go ahead, give me the second one. I’ll try and take them both.

Speaker 8: (21:38)
The second one is, Christina asked you about sanctions relief, but is there any point at which this pandemic could grow worldwide that the US would consider sanctions relief, or is it just a no go right now?

Mike Pompeo: (21:53)
I think I answered that question. We reevaluate all of our policies, including our sanctions policy constantly. If we conclude that it’s in the best interest of American people to alter any of those policies, we’ll certainly do that. I have to reiterate, the goods that are needed for each of these countries to resolve the coronavirus problem in their nations are not sanctioned. They were not sanctioned, they are not sanctioned, and they will not be sanctioned. Indeed, the United States has gone beyond that. It’s not this that they’re not sanctioned. They’re not … It’s not simply that they’re prohibited. The United States, the American people are working diligently in each of these countries that you’re thinking of as a sanction to nations to try and assess getting humanitarian assistance into those countries, not only from the United States, but to help other countries deliver that humanitarian assistance to the people of those nations. This policy is deeply consistent with the finest traditions of the United States of America. Your first question was … Remind me?

Rich Kiley: (22:57)
So the data sets.

Mike Pompeo: (22:58)
The data sets. I’ll leave that to the medical professionals who are evaluating the data that’s coming in from these countries. It’s not, in the first instance, the state department issue. So I’ll leave that to HHS and CDC and the others who are trying to put these data sets together to make evaluation. So that’s a question probably more properly lodged with them. Okay, great. Thank you all very much. Have a good day.

Speaker 7: (23:26)
Thank you. If you guys [inaudible 00:00:23:22].

Mike Pompeo: (23:26)
Thanks everybody. Have a good day.

Speaker 7: (23:33)
Okay. Yeah. We can …

Speaker 9: (23:35)
Can I just … Why wait for a question? Okay. Can I just … I just wanted to add to Kim’s question. We work on this all the time. The question of the Citgo Six. The special Envoy who handles prisoner fares, Roger Carstens is brand new, has been in touch with the families. I was in touch with a potential intermediary this week who may be able to help with the regime in Venezuela, whom for obvious reasons I won’t name, but we work on it all the time, and we do think that the spread of a COVID-19 in Venezuela should lead the regime to rethink their cases and to let them out.

Speaker 8: (24:32)
I’m just wondering, the families who a lot of us are in communication with have been kind of on the same page until recently when we’re starting to see a lot of open anger saying that they, they think that the U S has abandoned their relatives. Is there any reason for that other than the fact that things are so dire and they’re so nervous, are they starting to lose hope? Can you give us any kind of context as to the frustration?

Speaker 9: (24:57)
I think it’s difficult for any of us to put ourselves in their shoes and think about what they’re going through, and now made worse by the possibility of disease spreading to their brothers, fathers, husbands. So I don’t think it’s surprising that they would speak out in great anguish, which we completely understand. We have been trying, we continue to try. The problem obviously is this regime, which has unlawfully imprisoned these men and which at least until now won’t let them go, and we will continue to try every possibility to get them out.

Speaker 8: (25:41)
Is their frustration justified or you think you’re doing everything you can?

Speaker 9: (25:45)
I think we’re doing everything we can, but I think if I were in their shoes, I would be frustrated, I would be anguished, and I’d be speaking out too.

Speaker 7: (25:54)
Go ahead.

Speaker 10: (25:55)
Thank you for doing this. Does the Trump administration still view Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela at this moment in time?

Speaker 9: (26:04)
Absolutely. He is the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. He is also the president of the national assembly, and will be until … Unless some other legitimate arrangement is made. And if it is, then he can start running for president.

Speaker 10: (26:20)
Are you asking both Guaidó and Maduro to step aside in order to catapult this process?

Speaker 9: (26:26)
Well, last year when the negotiations took place in Barbados, the Norwegian led round, this proposal for a council of state was actually made by the democratic opposition forces, by Juan Guaidó’s team. That’s where we got the idea and he has said … In fact, he said Sunday night, I think. Of course, if it’s part of a plan to restore democracy and in the interest of the Venezuelan people to establish a transitional government, would he step aside? Sure. And in our proposal-

Mr. Abrams: (27:03)
Sure. And in our proposal we think it’s very important that whoever is serving as the interim president in this transitional government not be a candidate for president. Because then, in their fragile system you’ve got somebody who’s holding power and saying, “But I’m going to run a free election.” You saw what happened when Nicolas Maduro stole an election in 2018 we want Guaidó to be free to run for president. And under our plan he is, and according to the polls I’ve seen, he’s very likely to win.

Speaker 11: (27:37)
You guys have been pushing though for Guaidó to be recognized immediately as the president of Venezuela for over a year. So some will say that this is a recognition of a failure of the initial policy. What’s your reaction to that?

Mr. Abrams: (27:52)
Just under 60 countries, including the United States, do recognize him as the only legitimate president of Venezuela. If our transition plan were adopted, there would be a transitional government for however long, 9 months, 12 months, to hold an election in which I think it’s pretty logical Juan Guaidó would be the candidate of the democratic parties. So we see this as a support for Guaidó.

Morgan: (28:30)
Rich, did you have something?

Rich: (28:32)
Yeah, thanks Morgan. And thanks for Mr. Abrams. Those US allies that have recognized Juan Guaidó as the current interim president, do you believe that they are doing enough in this period over the past year? Do you think that the Europeans, for example, have maximized their pressure on the Maduro regime?

Mr. Abrams: (28:55)
Well, we’d like to see more European sanctions. The Europeans are not doing economic sanctions. They do personal sanctions, but it’s been very slow. I mean, we all know why. They have to get unanimity to make these decisions. But if you look at, well for example, the last time anybody was sanctioned was around Labor Day. The people who had been involved in the killing of a Navy Captain Acosta last summer, that’s a long time. And prior to that it had also been a long time. The total number of people sanctioned is not very high. We think that’s a useful form for pressure, to single out the people who are really contributing most to the oppression of the Venezuelan people. We’d like to see more.

Rich: (29:42)
I’m sorry. Really quickly, on oil prices. Do you think they’ve reached a point where we will significantly start to see much less Russian presence in Venezuela?

Mr. Abrams: (29:55)
Well, we did see this maneuver Rosneft last week, which I think is a reflection of the collapse of oil prices. Rosneft is now losing money. It’s joint ventures can’t sell crude oil for a profit. It’s trading activities around the world trying to sell Venezuelan oil are really in trouble. So what does it do? It basically offloads Venezuela onto what looks like a new 100% government owned company. We’re trying to find out more about that. What is the company? What activities will it undertake? Will it take 100% of what Rosneft is doing or less than that? That’s not clear yet, but I think it’s a clear reaction to the collapse of oil prices and the oil sector in Venezuela.

Mr. Abrams: (30:47)
We’re already beginning to see production go down. They’re running out of storage spaces because they’ve been producing and they can’t sell the oil anywhere.

Morgan: (30:55)
Kim, next one.

Kim: (30:56)
I was actually going to ask about Rosneft, so just to piggyback on that, how about how do you measure how much you’ve narrowed the aperture on the money going to members of the regime with… between the Rosneft action and the actions last week by DOJ?

Mr. Abrams: (31:17)
Those DOJ actions I think don’t have an immediate impact on the regime’s income, but the collapse of oil prices really does. It’s still an oil based economy and as production goes down, A, and then the dollar amount they get per barrel goes down and down and down and they can’t sell because people are looking for, for example, if you’re in Asia, it is cheaper to buy Saudi crude because it’s closer. Transportation costs are lower. I think it’s very clear that the amount of money going to the regime is going to be on a pretty steep decline.

Kim: (31:58)
Could you quantify that for us in any way or to be determined?

Mr. Abrams: (32:02)
You’d have to look at oil prices. I mean at one point they were… well, of course, at one point they were producing 3.2 million barrels a day. By the end of last year, it was down to about 750,000. It is probably down to about 500,000 right now. Then look at the oil prices, which have gone way down, and most Venezuelan oil is heavy crude, so it is at an under market price. They’ve been selling it for a very big discount, maybe $15. So Brent Crude, is it 50. They’re selling for maybe 35, 30. If Brent Crude is at 30, they’re not getting very much money. In fact, we think right now… well, let me not say we think. Nicolas Maduro said about a week ago they’re not getting the cost of production. You can see the impact is enormous.

Morgan: (32:56)
Okay. All right. Thanks guys.

Mr. Abrams: (32:58)
Thank you.

Kim: (32:58)
Appreciate you coming in.

Rich: (32:58)
Thank you.

Morgan: (32:58)
Thank you. See you.

Speaker 11: (33:00)
Thank you.

Speaker 11: (33:00)
(silence)