U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he does not think the Venezuelan people will tolerate the Maduro regime much longer. “The devastation wrought by Nicolas Maruro, the tragedy of the humanitarian situation there bought out solely by Maduro making the choice to bring in the Cubans, to allow Russians to intervene in the country — those are things that are destroying the lives of young people in Venezuela,” Pompeo told Peru’s El Comercio newspaper Sunday.
Pompeo was on the last day of a four-nation tour of South America, where the economic and political calamity in Venezuela was among the top concerns during talks in Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Colombia.
“This is not something that has happened in the last weeks or months. This is devastation wrought by the Cubans, the Russians and Maduro over the last years. … I’m very hopeful that it’ll come to its conclusion quickly,” he said.
Pompeo again said all options are on the table when it comes to U.S. involvement in Venezuela. But the Trump administration has not said under what circumstances it would use military action.
The U.S. has already imposed a number of sanctions against some Venezuelan officials and the country’s oil sector. Pompeo’s stop in Colombia will include a visit to the border city of Cucuta, which is separated from Venezuela by a bridge.
Tons of U.S. food, medicine and other relief supplies are sitting in warehouses in Cucuta, waiting to be delivered. Maduro has refused to let U.S. aid into the country, calling it the vanguard of a U.S. invasion.
Pompeo said the Trump administration wants to be deeply engaged in Central and South America, noting that great democracies, free market economies and transparency have not always flourished in the region.
“There were many communist countries in Latin America for many years, but that’s the great thing that’s changed. This idea of the totalitarian Orwellian state of communism is being rejected by the people of South America. It’s glorious,” the secretary said.
But while Pompeo said the U.S. welcomes Chinese private enterprises bringing goods and services to Latin America, competing with what the U.S. has to offer, he said Latin countries must be aware that Chinese companies may come instead for “malign activities.”
“State-owned enterprises, companies deeply connected to the Chinese government that want to put infrastructure, telecommunications infrastructure inside of your country … we want to make sure everyone has their eyes wide open,” Pompeo said.
The United States has accused Chinese computer and telecommunications firms, including Huawei, of installing spyware in its products – charges the companies deny. Pompeo told the Peruvian newspaper that if the country uses Chinese technology, its information would be “in the hands of President Xi (Jinping) and the People’s Liberation Army.”