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Secretary Pompeo’s Visit Challenges Maduro’s Regime and China’s Influence Over Latin America

As U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, concludes his four-day tour throughout South America, the stability of Latin America’s relationship with China and the United States is tested. One of the main purposes of this trip was to garner support and add pressure against Maduro’s contested presidency over Venezuela.

Secretary Pompeo met with President Mario Abdo Benítez of Paraguay in Asunción and President Sebastián Piñera of Chile in Santiago respectively to discuss the situation in Venezuela. President Abdo Benítez commented, “As a member of the Lima Group, Paraguay stands among the leaders in our hemisphere in defense of democracy in calling out Maduro for what he truly is – a power-hungry tyrant who has brought ruin to his people.”

President Piñera receiving Secretary Pompeo in Santiago, Chile.  Photo:  South China Morning Post

President Piñera receiving Secretary Pompeo in Santiago, Chile.

Photo: South China Morning Post

Secretary Pompeo then met with President Martín Vizcarra and Foreign Minister Néstor Popolizio of Peru in Lima, where he paid tribute to Peru for welcoming Venezuelan refugees and he congratulated President Vizcarra’s fight against corruption.

One reporter asked if such a praise to receiving refugees and fighting corruption contradicted U.S. President Trump’s immigration policy and current regime. Secretary Pompeo responded to this criticism at a press conference by saying, “Our objective is to allow people to stay in their home countries, this is President Trump’s desire, we want to create conditions in these countries where they can stay in their own country.”

During his final stop in Colombia, Secretary Pompeo met with Venezuelan immigrants in Cucuta, accompanied by Colombian president, Ivan Duque. Secretary Pompeo implored Maduro to lift the military blockade he implemented to prevent humanitarian aid from entering Venezuela in the name of national sovereignty.

President Duque and Secretary Pompeo meet with Venezuelan refugees in Cucuta, Colombia.  Photo:  The Japan Times

President Duque and Secretary Pompeo meet with Venezuelan refugees in Cucuta, Colombia.

Photo: The Japan Times

Secretary Pompeo pleaded, “Mr. Maduro, open these bridges, open these borders. You can end this today. I hope you will care now when you see the horror, when you see the tragedy, to change your ways and to leave your country.” This call has been compared to former U.S. President Reagan’s notorious “Tear Down This Wall” speech in Berlin in 1987.

Secretary Pompeo also did not hesitate to criticize China, who he states has invested over $60 billion USD in Venezuela which has “helped precipitate and prolong the crisis in that country.” Furthermore, Secretary Pompeo stated, “China and others are being hypocritical calling for non-intervention in Venezuela’s affairs. Their own financial interventions have helped destroy that country.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang furiously opposed Pompeo’s criticisms and stated, “U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo, on China-Latin America relations, is wantonly slanderous, deliberately instigating, irresponsible, and unreasonable. We strongly oppose this.”

Lu Kang added, “For a long time, the United States has regarded Latin America as its own backyard, and pressured, threatened and even toppled other countries’ political regimes.”

Due to China’s booming economy and interests in Latin America’s raw materials, China has an increasing geopolitical and economic influence over the region, much to the dismay of the United States. The top trading partner of Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, is China.

At the conclusion of his trip, Secretary Pompeo added onto his previous criticisms of Maduro, “People are starving because Nicolás Maduro is denying food that is sitting there. This is horrific. There is nothing else like this.”

The future direction of Venezuela remains uncertain, despite great pressures at play from the international community, particularly from China and the United States.