U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday defended sanctions on Venezuela and said countries in the region would understand that the United States was not the “malign actor” in the socialist-run country’s deepening economic and political crisis, ONA reports citing Reuters.
Pompeo was embarking on a three-day visit to Chile, Paraguay and Peru, a clutch of fast-growing countries in a region where Washington concerns are focused on China’s growing presence, as well as the Venezuelan crisis.
Pompeo will also travel on Sunday to Cucuta, a Colombian border city receiving significant numbers of Venezuelan migrants fleeing hunger and violence in their homeland.
“This is an historic opportunity,” Pompeo told reporters en route to Chile’s capital Santiago, where he touched down in the early hours of Friday morning. The region contained countries that “were truly market driven, democratic in ways that we haven’t had in South America for decades,” he said.
“I think they understand who the malign actor is here and I think they’ll see all the countries in the region, including the United States, as truly trying to help them,” he said.
“There’s a deep recognition that this is a years and years long problem almost exclusively the result of Maduro handing over the keys to the country to Cuba, and that’s not the guy who you want being part of the conversation about how to move democracy forward.”
During his travels, Pompeo is expected to highlight the gains from economic and trade cooperation with the United States, whose regional influence has been increasingly challenged by China.