Channel 1 Los Angeles
Michael R. Pompeo USA Secretary of State
Juan Guaidó’s Safety must be guaranteed. The Venezuelan people are demanding change, a peaceful democratic transition, & return to prosperity. It’s time for the illegitimate regime to step aside.
QUESTION: Heard in an interview earlier you said that Nicolas Maduro was on his way out or planning to leave by plane to Havana, Cuba. How close did he get?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s an understanding that he was ready to go, he’d made a decision that we’ve been urging him to make for quite some time, and then he was diverted from that action by the Russians. We hope he’ll reconsider and get back on that plane. We’ve made it very clear: We support the National Assembly and their interim President Juan Guaido, and we’re supporting the Venezuelan people in their hour where it’s time to get it right and begin to build back their economy so that starving children can eat and those that are sick can actually get medicine that’s sitting on the nation’s very border.
QUESTION: Would he have safe passage to Havana if he got on that plane?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, we’ve made very clear what are the expectations for Maduro’s departure, for the departure of others too. And what our expectations, what assurances we’re willing to provide them, I’m not going to discuss those here.
QUESTION: But living is one of them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, I’m just not going to start down that path.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, what about the Russians? Has there been communication with the Russians since they told him to stay in Caracas?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, I don’t want to get into all of the conversations we had today, but it’s very clear the Cubans and the Russians understand that they are upsetting the duly elected leader there in Venezuela. They know that. I hear sometimes people saying, well, the United States is considering an invasion. The invasion has taken place. The Cubans have thousands of their officers inside of Venezuela today. They are not there with the consent of the government; they’re there with the consent of the thug Nicolas Maduro, but not Juan Guaido, the duly elected leader of the Venezuelan Government today. And for the Russians it’s the same.
Look, it’s time for Maduro to leave, it’s time for there to be free and fair elections, and it’s time to begin to rebuild this once-great economy.
QUESTION: Talking to Cuba and Russia, you have, as you look at the map here, 45 nations around the world have recognized Guaido as the leader of Venezuela, including the U.S., but there are 14 countries that continue to support Maduro: Russia, China, Turkey, Cuba, Bolivia, Iran, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Mexico, Syria, Belarus, South Africa, Cambodia, and North Korea. I mean, are you turning the screws on these countries? How is that pressure building to accept Guaido?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the State Department team has been hard at this. We’re now up over 50 nations – I think it’s 54 or 56 nations – that are supporting Juan Guaido. We’re happy to have the 57th the moment we can get it. We’ve made clear to the nations that you just called out – we’ve made clear to them they’re on the wrong side of history, and that the rule of law and democracy ought to be restored, that the destruction that’s taken place over years inside of Venezuela will be a struggle to rebuild, but it is a worthy cause, and Nicolas Maduro cannot be anywhere in the country if the Venezuelan people hope to finally achieve that outcome. I’m confident they’ll get there and the United States, the Lima Group, the countries in the region, the Organization of American States are all supporting that.
QUESTION: You mentioned that some in the Maduro regime talk about the U.S. possibly invading Venezuela. One of those was the ambassador to the UN for Venezuela, who said that the buildup at the embassy in Bogota, Colombia, next door, has been to get ready for war. Listen to this.
(Video is played.)
QUESTION: What’s your response to that as we look at live pictures in Caracas, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, we never talk about the numbers we have at any particular embassy. They change from day to day. But if the question is, is the United States prepared to consider military action if that’s what it takes to restore the democracy there in Venezuela, the President’s been consistent and unambiguous about that – that the option to use military force is available if that’s what is ultimately called for. We hope it’s not. We hope there can be a peaceful resolution and that Maduro will leave without violence. We’re watching those who are engaged in violence and we will hold them accountable. But the President has made very, very clear that we are going to ensure that Venezuelan democracy is restored.
QUESTION: Nicolas Maduro did issue a tweet today, and he said: “Nerves of steel. I’ve spoken to all commanders in the integral defense regions and integral defense zones around the country who have pledged their total loyalty to the people, the constitution, and their fatherland. I call for maximum popular mobilization to assure the victory of peace. We will win.”
I mean, Mr. Secretary, that does not sound like a guy that’s getting ready to leave.
SECRETARY POMPEO: “Nerves of steel” hasn’t shown himself very much today, Bret. While Juan Guaido is out talking to the people of Venezuela, he’s on the street shaking hands, rallying people behind him, while Nicolas Maduro has been hiding for the whole day. So much for nerves of steel.
QUESTION: As we’re continuing to look live there, were you taken by surprise that this happened on this day and not tomorrow?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve been working to restore democracy for months. As events unfold day to day you can never predict which day particular events will happen on. We’ve been – we’ve known that there would always be some day that looked about like today in the sense of the increasing opportunity for Venezuelan democracy, and we’re continuing to support that effort.
QUESTION: Is there a red line in Venezuela – if Maduro does X, the U.S. does something?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We have planned out lots of options. We’re prepared for lots of things. I don’t want to talk about what particular actions may trigger particular responses. The President just talked about the need for the Cubans to change their ways and what we will do if the Cubans make a decision to continue to engage in violence, to take down the duly elected leadership in Venezuela. But beyond that, I don’t want to get into where particular lines are.
But the Venezuelan people should know that not just the United States, but 50-plus countries, the Organization of American States are all prepared to continue to work and support them and stand with them.
Courtesy info By Crisis Group Org. Ivan Briscoe
Venezuela faces a major political, economic and social crisis, with hyperinflation, acute scarcity of food, medicine and other basic goods and one of the world’s highest murder rates. The opposition has been staging widespread protests against the increasingly totalitarian policies enacted by Maduro’s government
In Venezuela, the lights go off nearly every day, and there is little for most families to put on the dinner table. Amid the growing misery, will the government’s social base abandon it for the opposition challenger? And will the government itself crack under pressure?
Ángela (not her real name) handles delivery of the state food rations known as CLAPs in her working-class neighbourhood in Caracas. She is a lifelong supporter of chavismo – the left-wing populist philosophy and command economy preached by the late president, Hugo Chávez – and loyal to his successor, the embattled Nicolás Maduro. But today, with numerous outside powers backing opposition figurehead Juan Guaidó’s claim to the presidency and Venezuela sinking ever deeper into poverty and despair, she admits that she and her friends are “weary”. At what point in the U.S.-driven effort to asphyxiate the Maduro government, I wonder, might she finally give up the cause? At what point might the sanctions and other pressure have the intended effect? Her eyes glaze over at the question. “I cannot live without my medicine”.
As I sit in her front room, a friend or family member passes by with a bag of beef bones. Ángela nods her approval. I am not sure whether she intends to boil them for her family to eat, or to feed them to the slender dog curled up at my side. It could be either, for meat is scarcely affordable for most Venezuelans and the local butchers are now charging prices in U.S. dollars – though Ángela says she has never handled a dollar banknote in her life. But it would be rude to ask. We are in La Vega, a populous district in the capital’s west that ballooned decades ago on the fringes of a factory supplying the concrete that raised the towers and paved the highways of a once-prosperous metropolis. La Vega’s chavistas, and there are many, point to the historic achievements of their idol’s fifteen years of rule. For once, they say, a Venezuelan government heeded the cries of the poor. Thanks to high oil prices, it handed out lines of credit for ordinary working people to build houses. It supplied them with secure jobs and decent health care. No longer were the masses shunted aside by the upper classes, who instead cowered at their political might.
A Brave Front
Guaidó’s challenge is posing similar questions to high-ranking chavista officials and military officers. How long can they continue to back the incumbent if the government cannot provide basic services or ensure that families like Ángela’s have enough to eat? How bad does it have to get before the government caves in?
In the government’s upper echelons, chavistas are counting small, tactical victories over the Venezuelan opposition’s campaign, backed by the U.S. and its Latin American and European allies, to remove Maduro. They chalk up as successes that the military high command has maintained its cohesion; that in February the government thwarted the entry of opposition humanitarian aid; and that the country has withstood repeated nationwide power cuts with only limited, local breakdowns of order. Multiple sources close to government attest that a survivalist logic has seized the state. It ascribes each public service outage, without evidence, to imperialist intrigues; it hardens its anti-opposition stance with each new day. It has placed Guaidó, the would-be opposition president, under a travel ban, blocked him from running for office and stripped him of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution, while jailing his chief of staff.