Pompeo finishes Latin America tour with focus on Venezuela

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center in black shirt, and Colombian President Ivan Duque, sixth from left, pose for photos with a Venezuelan delegation inside a warehouse storing humanitarian aid for Venezuela, near the Tienditas International Bridge, coined "Unity Bridge," which connects Cucuta, Colombia with Tienditas, Venezuela, Sunday, April 14, 2019. Pompeo is on a four-day Latin American tour, making his final stop at the Colombian border to meet with representatives of Venezuelan refugees.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday wrapped up a tour of four South American countries — three of them neighbours of Venezuela, whose socialist government is under intense US pressure.

After a meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque today, the two vowed to deepen ties — including US investment in the country’s struggling economy — and Pompeo praised Colombia’s tough stance against Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.

Pompeo said Colombia’s backing of opposition leader Juan Guaido “and the democratic transition for a sovereign Venezuela free of malign influence from Cuba, from Russia, from Iran, is incredibly valued.

“You are a true leader for the region and the dignity of all of its people,” he said at a news conference.

In a separate statement, Pompeo announced an additional $348 million in aid for Venezuelans, including the some 5 million who have left the crisis-wracked nation. His office said that new funding now brings the total amount of US humanitarian and development assistance toward the Venezuela crisis to more than $1.2 billion since 2017.

Pompeo’s three-day trip to the region comes as the US presidential election nears, with Florida — which has hosted an expanding Venezuelan diaspora — a key battleground.

Duque highlighted a report by the UN’s top human rights body accusing Maduro’s government of crimes against humanity, including torture and killings carried by security forces.

“The situation there is unsustainable,” he said.

Shoring up support for the Trump administration’s Venezuela policy was a key focus of the trip, which included stops in Guyana and Brazil, where he emphasised US calls for a presidential election to replace Maduro. He also stopped in Suriname, like Guyana a budding oil exporter.

Colombia has been flooded with migrants fleeing Venezuela’s increasing economic crisis while accusing its neighbour of backing armed groups on Colombian soil.

Duque said he is hoping to attract more US investment to Colombia and he hailed a US government initiative aimed at enhancing private sector investment in infrastructure.

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