Pompeo talks Venezuela, Cuba with Cusack of The Hill

On April 29, 2019, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down for a conversation with The Hill‘s Bob Cusack.

Pompeo called on allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to withdraw their support and join the United States in recognizing the leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the legitimate president of Venezuela. Although he would not give a timetable, Pompeo did say that progress was being made in Venezuela.

MR CUSACK: Venezuela. You said on Fox & Friends earlier this month that Russia must stop influencing the situation there, they must leave. It’s later in the month. Have you seen any progress in that area?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Nothing I can share with you this morning. I can say this: You’ve seen the efforts we’ve made to try and convince the Cubans – who have hundreds of intelligence officers, thousands of people working with the Maduro regime – to convince them that that’s not the right foreign policy, that Maduro is going to leave. And when it leaves, they will be in a far better place if they chose a different path. We are making the same case to all the parties that are supporting Maduro, certainly the people inside his own military, his own army, the Cubans the next ring out, the Russians, but I – if you’ve been watching the news, the Iranians are providing support in Venezuela today as well. The Chinese, too, could do more. They could recognize the National Assembly and its – the chosen leader of Venezuela Juan Guaido.

There are many efforts at the State Department to restore democracy for the Venezuelan people. I – it is an imperative. It’s in our space; it’s here in the Western hemisphere. The opportunities in South America are enormous. We’ve seen this shift to freer economies, more democratically-elected leaders, and if we can get Venezuela to go right – this is a once-wealthy nation, it can be so again, and we can make sure that South America, Central America has a next 20 or 30 years that is democratic-led with free markets so there will be enormous economic growth that will benefit not only those country and the people in those countries, but the United States as well.

MR CUSACK: Do you believe he will be ousted this year? Are you seeing progress in that area?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t do timelines.

MR CUSACK: Okay. Journalists love timelines.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. I don’t do timelines, because you won’t give me any credit when we beat it.

MR CUSACK: That’s fair, that’s fair, but what about on the ground? Has there been progress made at least in that direction? That’s what you’re pushing for.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I – yes, I absolutely think there is. I think we see leaders inside of Maduro’s inner circle now trying to figure out what the golden ticket looks like. What does is look like if I leave? When they start asking those questions, surely, someone of them will decide that there are better times ahead not supporting that thug.

Later on in the conversation, the topic the North American Free Trade Agreement’s successor, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and recent restrictions on Major League Baseball came up.

MR CUSACK: You served in Congress. Do you think that Congress will pass the USMCA this year?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m out of that business. (Laughter.)

MR CUSACK: How — (inaudible.)

SECRETARY POMPEO: I will say this: It has a national security component to it that I care about deeply, and so I will be working members of Congress to convince them that this is the right path forward for Canada and for the United States and for Mexico to get this right and to support this agreement. It’s the right thing to do for our national security relationships with those two countries as well, and so I – while I won’t predict how members of Congress will vote, I will work to see that they support the administration’s objective of getting this agreement across the finish line.

MR CUSACK: Cuba and the Major League Baseball Association had an agreement that the Trump administration basically scrapped, allowing Cuban players to join professional ranks. Why did you do that? And don’t you think that some players are going to come anyway, which they did before this agreement was there, and possibly risk their lives?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I won’t predict what players will choose to do or not do. They’ll each get to make that decision on their own. We made this decision because we had monies going to bad actors in Cuba, and that’s not good for the Cuban people. It’s that simple.

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