Monday, April 15, 2019
While the population suffers from extreme poverty, Venezuelan President Maduro continues to hold on to power. After a tour of South America, US Secretary of State Pompeo travels to the closed border – and directs clear words to the controversial head of state.
At the end of his trip to Latin America, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an emotional appeal to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. "Mr. Maduro, open this bridge, open that border," he said in the Colombian border town of Cucuta, where tons of relief supplies are stored for the troubled Venezuelan population. "You can finish this today." So far, Maduro refuses to let deliveries into the country.
Previously, Pompeo had spoken with Venezuelan refugees, who had to leave their homes because of the dramatic supply situation. Currently, 3.4 million Venezuelans are living abroad – that is about ten percent of the total population of the South American country. The United Nations expects the number of refugees to rise to 5.3 million by the end of the year.
"We stand by your side"
Pompeo talked about the Venezuelan mother Geraldine, who has to cross the border time and again to get the bare necessities for her children in Colombia. "She comes to buy diapers," said the chief diplomat. "It's available in every normal country under normal circumstances, but in Venezuela it can not find any more."
The once rich country suffers from a severe economic crisis. Due to the lack of foreign exchange, Venezuela can barely import food and everyday necessities. Healthcare has largely collapsed. The last time the electricity came off for days. In addition, head of state Maduro and the self-appointed interim president Juan Guaidó since January deliver a fierce power struggle.
"Colombia and the United States want a better future for the Venezuelans," US Secretary of State Pompeo said after visiting department stores with relief supplies for Venezuela. Colombian President Iván Duque addressed the neighbors directly: "We stand by your side to bring down the dictatorship."
On the other side of the border, the Venezuelan government objected: High-ranking official Freddy Bernal showed up with soldiers and members of the Colectivos – pro-government thugs – at the International Bridge Simón Bolívar. "A few yards over there is Mike Pompeo," Bernal said. "He came to intimidate us and give orders to his servant Iván Duque, but here we are, in civilian-military unity, with the Colectivos."
Lima Group agrees on further action
Pompeo had been touring the area in recent days to discuss the way forward with Venezuela's allies in the region, in the face of the still undecided power struggle. "Peru knows the pain that Nicolás Maduro has brought about the Venezuelan people, from their own experience," said Pompeo on Saturday at a meeting with his colleague Néstor Popolizio in Lima. "Peru has shown great leadership in the face of this challenge." The South American country has received about 700,000 Venezuelan refugees and is considered to be the driving force behind the socialist government of Maduro in the region.
On Monday, the so-called Lima group from a number of Latin American states wants to meet to agree on further steps against Maduro. "The illegitimate government of dictator Nicolás Maduro must resign," said Peru's Foreign Minister Popolizio. "Together with other countries, we are working to increase international pressure to isolate the illegitimate government of Maduro, so that there will soon be a change in Venezuela."
Prior to his visit to Peru Pompeo already campaigned in Chile and Paraguay for the US course against the government in Caracas. Washington is one of the closest allies of the opposition to the self-appointed interim president Guaidó. On the phone, Pompeo also spoke with Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo. They would have agreed to work together to resolve the political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, a US State Department spokesman said.