US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said foreign nations – Russia, China, Iran and Cuba – must stay clear of Venezuela, so that the one foreign nation not on the list “can begin to do the work to rebuild that country.”
In an interview to Argentina’s Infobae website on Friday, Pompeo, who is currently on a four-day tour of Latin America, said that the nations that continue to stand by Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro should “leave.”
“Well, we hope every foreign power will leave. We want the Venezuelan people to control their own destiny. We think that would be best. In the end, I’m confident that the Venezuelan people will take back their country,“ Pompeo said when asked about the role that Russia, China and Iran play in the region.
One name was conspicuously absent from his list of “every foreign power,” though – the one power with a very clear-cut idea on which way Venezuelans should “control their own destiny.” The US has been openly calling for regime change in Venezuela, applying layers of sanctions and telling its President Nicolas Maduro to step down and make way for the US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido. Pompeo took the Friday interview’s opportunity to say it again.
“They [Maduro and his allies] need to leave Venezuela, and then we can begin to do the work to rebuild that country democratically, with free and fair elections, in a way that will truly restore the greatness that Venezuela once had,” he said.
Venezuela’s neighbor and closest ally, Cuba, has become a thorn in Washington’s side as Guaido struggles to regain momentum after the failed coup attempt on April, 30. The US has blamed the island nation for Guaido’s failure and bombarded Havana with rounds of punitive sanctions aimed at “severing ties” between it and Caracas.
“In the end, I think the Cubans are going to have a very difficult decision to make,” Pompeo said in Friday’s interview. “They have propped up this regime for an awfully long time. They need to leave. They need to go back.”
Speaking on the ongoing talks between the Maduro government and the Venezuelan opposition in Barbados, Pompeo said that any conversation “can only be about one thing, that Maduro must leave.” Guaido, after finally agreeing to the talks after weeks of stalling, voiced the same noncompromising stance, saying he only wanted to “negotiate the departure of the dictatorship.”
Hawkish US National Security Adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, reinforced the US push for the overthrow of “despotic” Maduro, tweeting that the US “will not rest” until he is gone, while announcing a new batch of sanctions against Venezuela’s military intelligence officials.
Maduro rebuffed Washington’s attempts to interfere in the country’s intra-political dialog, saying on Friday that the agreements that might be signed in Barbados could only be “absolutely sovereign.”
“Venezuela will not give in to blackmail from the side of the US and EU,” he said.