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US is committed to restoring democracy in Venezuela: Mike Pompeo

File photo. Photograph:( Agencia EFE )

Agencia EFE Cúcuta, Cucuta, North Santander, Colombia Apr 15, 2019, 03.56 PM (IST)

The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he believes the fall of Nicolás Maduro's regime in Venezuela was closer by the day and reiterated his opposition to Russian and Cuban support for the leftist president during an interview with Spanish news agency Efe near the Venezuelan border. 

The US' top diplomat spoke with Efe near the Tiendita international border bridge on the outskirts of the northeastern Colombian city of Cúcuta, which has witnessed a mass influx of migrants escaping the ongoing humanitarian and socio-economic crisis in oil-rich Venezuela. 

Both the Tiendita bridge and the nearby Simón Bolivar bridge, were the scene of recent tensions and sporadic clashes after Maduro blocked off access to US-provided humanitarian aid stockpiled on the Colombian side of the border.

Capping off a tour of four South American countries – Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Colombia – Pompeo braved the torrential rain that welcomed him off the plane from Lima, to visit a centre for Venezuelan migrants and meet with Colombian President Ivan Duque.

Question: Mr Secretary, after your visit to the border, do you think that the fall of Maduro is getting closer? And what do you think about what you saw on the Simón Bolivar bridge?

Pompeo: It was really quite something today to see, we visited one of the migration centres, we got to talk to some of the children, some of the families that fled horrible conditions that had been imposed on them by Maduro and his military thugs.

It was really quite something to get a chance to talk to them and hear what their lives were before and then how bad they've gotten under Maduro. To your first question, yes, I think every minute, every hour is one step closer to Maduro leaving, all the Venezuelan people want is democracy restored, a chance to live, to work, to be with their families and Maduro is denying them that. The Russians are no help, the Cubans are worse; I hope there'll be a change soon.

Question: Does the US have a plan to counter the growing presence of both Russia and Cuba in Venezuela?

Pompeo: The Russians are responsible for allowing Maduro to stay in power. The Cubans even more so, they've been there longer, they're more deeply committed. How the Cuban government can watch the faces of these people, to watch their starvation when there's food in the building in which we're sitting, see the kids not get medicine, vaccines, when there's medicine sitting right here in this building. How the Cubans and Russians permit that to happen is beyond me just as a human being, and the United States is committed to restoring democracy in Venezuela.

Question: Is the White House intensifying the blockade on Cuba as the government in Havana claims?

Pompeo: We need the Cubans to stop supporting that murderous tyrant Nicolaás Maduro; that's our goal, that's our objective. We are going to use the tools that we have available to create a setup so that the Cubans will see – the Cuban people will see that it's not in their best interest to control Venezuela and to keep Nicolás Maduro in power, that's our simple goal, that's our mission.

Question: Will the US support negotiations with new Chavista factions to remove Maduro from power?

Pompeo: Look, we've said all along, those who behave well, those who land on the right side of history, on the right side of freedom, they can be part of the government moving forward. Those who don't, those who commit acts of aggression, those who commit violence, those who act in ways that are inconsistent with it, those who support Maduro to the end, will face a very different fate.

Question: Will the US sanction the Spanish oil company Repsol for doing business in Venezuela?

Pompeo: We never get in front of announcing sanctions before we do them. We've made very clear what is lawful and what is unlawful, and each day that goes by we are further tightening that set of restrictions, not only the political restrictions but economic restrictions as well.

Question: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed today that the US is working with other countries to create a fund with $10 billion to help the next Venezuelan government. What impact could this fund have on the fall of Maduro?

Pompeo: Well, we are fully prepared for the day after, not only to provide the economic support that secretary Mnuchin spoke of, but to help provide the infrastructure, the political infrastructure, we want free and fair elections. Juan Guaidó is the interim president. We want to lead the path forward for democracy so that Venezuelan people can have the basic freedom that they so richly deserve. That's the mission for the day after Maduro leaves.

Question: How is the relationship between the US and Colombia? President Trump has criticized President Ivan Duque twice this month about the drug war.

Pompeo: I think you saw it today, the relationship with President Duque is excellent: we have economic relationships, we have political relationships, we are working incredibly closely to restore democracy in Venezuela, we have been working for years to reduce coca production here in Colombia, president Duque is working on that as well. We want it to go faster, I think President Duque wants it to go faster as well and we are committed to doing what we can to support that.

Question: How do you think that the withdrawal aid to the countries in the Northern Triangle of Central America (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) will contribute to reducing the flow of migrants to the US?

Pompeo: Here's what we know: hundreds of millions of dollars have been provided to the Northern Triangle countries and we have an enormous migration problem, people fleeing El Salvador, people fleeing Guatemala. What we're trying to do is get those governments to take this seriously, to assist the people of their country so that they won't have to do this long, dangerous track along Mexico. 

President Trump is committed to securing our southern border and that effort in the Northern Triangle is to get them to do what those countries need to do; to have not only the will, but to demonstrate that will in closing down the capacity of their people to flee their countries.

Question: The US government has said that this crisis at the southern border is caused by criminal gangs and drug dealers. Do you think that it's useful to separate those migrant kids from their parents in order to fight that crisis?

Pompeo: We're going to stop their flow across our southern border, period, full stop. President Trump has made that every country has the right to determine who comes into their country. We have to stop the flow of drugs, we have to stop the flow of migrants, to watch these people who are traversing Mexico. They're being preyed upon by drug cartels inside of Mexico. This is morally wrong and President Trump is determined to stop that.

Story highlights

The US' top diplomat spoke with Efe near the Tiendita international border bridge on the outskirts of the northeastern Colombian city of Cúcuta, which has witnessed a mass influx of migrants escaping the ongoing humanitarian and socio-economic crisis in oil-rich Venezuela.