Earlier on Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Venezuela, where members of Congress were able to ask President Trump’s Venezuela envoy Elliott Abrams and other invited guests about the situation in the country. The U.S. recognized opposition party leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president, saying that President Nicolás Maduro should step down.
During the hearing, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) expressed their distrust of Abrams, calling him out on allegations of previous U.S. war failures which took place under his watch.
“Many of our allies have expressed concern of your appointment to deal with this problem. Some have characterized it as being perhaps like appointing Exxon to lead a discussion on the Green New Deal,” Espaillat said.
“Do you feel that your past actions in Iran-Contra have permanently impaired your ability to fairly and transparently deal in the regions?” the New York Democrat added.
“I don’t,” said Abrams. “I’ve been doing this job for two whole weeks… no Latin American of any nationality with whom I have dealt has raised it.”
The New York congressman later added that the allegations surrounding the Iran-Contra deal, “permanently damages you to be a fair and impartial arbiter in a conflict that’s leading to a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented levels in Venezuela.”
Rep. Omar also expressed her concerns, invoking the Iran-Contra affair and U.S. war crimes in Latin America.
“In 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in Iran-Contra,” the Michigan representative said. “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.”
Abrams called her line of questioning an attack.
“It is not right. Members of this committee can attack a witness who is not permitted to reply,” he said.
Omar then continues by bringing up another, including Abrams 1982 dismissal of deaths at the hands of U.S.-trained troops during the El Mozote Massacre in El Salvador.
A 1993 Washington Post on the massacre corroborated Abrams’ question, stating: “The Reagan administration is making no apologies. Elliott Abrams, who held two assistant secretaryships in the Reagan State Department, said ‘the administration’s record in El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement,’ and attacks on it are ‘a post-Cold War effort to rewrite history.'”
When asked by Omar if he would support an armed faction in Venezuela that engages in war crimes, Abrams repeated that he will not respond to the question.
During a February 3 interview with CBS, President Trump said that military intervention is an option he’s keeping open in Venezuela.
You can watch the full congressional hearing below:
Amanda Alcántara is the Digital Media Editor at Latino Rebels and Futuro Media Group. You can follow her at @YoSoy_Amanda.