Trump Administration praised by democracy activists for calling Venezuela a 'narco-state'

Nikki Haley, United States ambassador to the United Nations, has a message for ordinary Venezuelans — “not to give up on hope for a better future.”

Haley addressed members of the U.N. Security Council at an informal meeting called by the U.S. and Italy Monday on the dire humanitarian situation in Venezuela.

“Venezuela is an increasingly violent narco-state that threatens the region, the hemisphere, and the world,” she told an audience made up of Venezuelan human rights activists, U.N. officials, NGOs and some Security Council members while others boycotted.

Russia and China were noticeably absent following pressure by Venezuela on some members to not attend the informal meeting. Haley said their absence was “telling.”

“I will tell you that is proof to me that all of the issues that we’re fighting for the Venezuelan people —  all of the wrongs that we see —  the fact that the government would go so far as to try and get people not to show up to a meeting is guilt,” she said.

Speaking after the meeting, Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), who had earlier condemned the actions of the Venezuelan government, told Fox News that Monday’s meeting was a very important day in the Venezuelan crisis, adding, “It’s not a regional crisis anymore.”

He praised the Trump administration for sanctioning regime officials, but said more should be imposed against the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

“These sanctions are extremely necessary to put the Venezuelan dictatorship, regime, on its knees,” Almagro said.

Diego Arria, former Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, who is now a leading figure in opposing the government, told Fox News the meeting was very significant.

“For the first time the Venezuelan tragedy reaches the highest political level, now nobody can ignore.”

Arria said President Donald Trump has been the strongest U.S. president on the issue of Venezuela in 25 years, but the U.S. must continue to stay fully involved.

“If we don’t get the United States really engaged, fully engaged into a strong humanitarian intervention, we will never get rid of this narco-military regime.”

Since anti-government riots broke out in April more than 140 people have been killed with hundreds injured, imprisoned and tortured by the Maduro regime.

Haley told the meeting that the situation in the country “is more than a human tragedy,” and it posed “a direct threat to international peace and security.”

While the likelihood of a Security Council resolution against Venezuela remains unlikely, Haley warned that she would continue to use the U.N. in bringing attention to the crisis.

Joseph Donnelly of the Catholic relief organization, Caritas Internationalis, said at the meeting that the crisis has led to severe shortages in food and medications as well as an accumulated annual inflation rate for the last 12 months of 1081 percent — the highest in the world. He also pointed to several recent university studies that put the country’s poverty rate at 82 percent.

“Food prices have increased by 650 percent, only four million people of the 31.5 million Venezuelans eat twice a day, and 68 percent of families have resorted to survival strategies such as salvaging, foraging and prostitution to acquire food.”

Isaias Medina, who was a diplomat at Venezuela’s mission to the United Nations until he resigned earlier this year over the policies of the Maduro government, told Fox News that despite death threats against him, he will not stop until the people of Venezuela get justice.

“Ambassador Haley sent a strong message of hope assuring that justice will return sooner than later to Venezuela, and that the (Security) Council should remain vigilant of the Venezuelan situation, due to the clear threat to peace and security in the region that it represents,” he told Fox News outside the meeting.

Venezuela’s U.N. Ambassador Rafael Ramírez condemned the meeting at a hastily called press conference outside the Council, while Russia’s ambassador to the world body, Vassily Nebenzia, said, this was “meddling in the country’s internal affairs,” and “we don’t think the Security Council should be involved in this matter.”

Joining Nebenzia were other Council members China and Bolivia. Egypt also missed the meeting, but was not at the press conference.

Roderic Navarro of the Venezuelan organization Rumbo Libertad, a popular group made up of mostly young Venezuelans, summed up the feelings of many who were in attendance at the meeting, telling Fox News: “It feels good, because Venezuelans feel we are not alone. The Trump administration has a very important desire to help us.”

Ben Evansky reports for Fox News on the United Nations and international affairs.

He can be followed @BenEvansky