United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the rounds on Fox News and Fox Business Network on Tuesday, April 30, to discuss the current situation in Venezuela and the Trump administrations support for the uprising led by Interim President Juan Guaido.
The following is a transcript of Pompeo’s interview with Trish Regan on April 30, 2019, following the Guaido’s call for massive demonstrations across Venezuela:
QUESTION: Did you have any idea this was coming? Because the expectation was that it was all going to start tomorrow, and instead, it started today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’ve been at this quite a while, and we knew that there would come a day where there were important activities, and tomorrow there will be, we think, lots of folks in the street, and this will be a continued part of our effort to restore democracy inside of Venezuela.
QUESTION: Are you seeing the response you anticipated or had hoped for, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I think in large measure, we have seen that. We can see that Maduro is, so far, unable to show himself. We haven’t seen Maduro for an awfully long time today. He’s hiding somewhere. There were a handful of people that had made clear they were coming across to the side to leave Maduro. The Defense Minister Padrino; the head of the supreme court, Moreno; the head of the presidential guard, Hernandez Dala, they had all indicated that they were prepared to help the Venezuelan people get their democracy back. They have not made a move that’s as strong as we would hope, but we —
QUESTION: Were they all lying? I mean, is that the problem?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We continue —
QUESTION: Did they lie?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We continue – we continue to believe that they understand where the right side of history is, and we are very hopeful that in the coming hours or days, they’ll make that decision.
QUESTION: Okay. We indeed hope so, and how do you make sure that the change happens swiftly, quickly, now? Because the people need it, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, at the end of the day, this change will be driven by the Venezuelan people. The work so far over the last three months-plus now where Juan Guaido announced that he would be the interim president, where the National Assembly supported that effort – all of these things have been driven by the Venezuelan people. I’m convinced that the tide of history is with them, that they’re going to demand that. We stand ready to help.
You’ve seen the work that we’ve done to put sanctions on that have literally crippled the leadership inside of Venezuela. They have made it so difficult for the Venezuelan regime to continue to pay their soldiers, pay their military. We’ve seen what Maduro has done, which has caused children not to be able to eat and sick kids not to be able to get medicine, in spite of the fact that the United States taxpayers delivered a couple hundred of metric tons of food and medicine to their very border. These are the kind of things that will drive the Venezuelan people to make the change that you’re speaking of, and I’m very hopeful that this will come in the – this will happen in the coming days.
QUESTION: What do we do about some of these outside players that are involved? I mean, you have the President very angry with Cuba right now, and I know we’ve put some sanctions into place with Cuba. I imagine there’s more we can do, but don’t forget, as you well know, sir, the Cubans are the ones that are effectively the lifeline for Nicolas Maduro and his socialist dictatorship. The Russians as well are in the background and even the Chinese?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s absolutely right on all three counts. It is the case that central to Maduro’s security has been the Cuban kleptocracy. They’ve cut a deal with the Venezuelans for tens of thousands of cheap barrels of oil every day. They provided security for Maduro. It’s – frankly, if you’re a Venezuelan military leader, it’s a bit embarrassing to have to hand over your senior leader to the Cubans and say, “You take care of him.”
What we’ve done is we’ve raised the cost for Cuba. We’ve – we began that several weeks back. We’ve put on increased pressure on Cuba; there’s more to follow. You’ve seen what the President has just communicated. We’re going to raise the cost. If Cuba wants to continue this malign activity and wants to continue the destruction of Venezuela, that’s going to come at an enormous cost to the Cuban leadership.
QUESTION: In terms of the costs to the U.S., what more can we do? Because there are some lawmakers now, including Senator Scott from Florida, who are saying we need to be prepared to take this all the way, and we need to stand with the people even if that means military involvement. Is it going to get to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope not, but the President has made clear we’re prepared to do that if that’s what ultimately is required. It’s our hope that the violence levels will remain low. We saw violence today; we regret that. We’re watching to see who chooses violence and who is choosing other means. We’ll hold those folks accountable when the time is right. But the President’s made very clear if the situation called for it, the military option remains on the table, and we’ve seen already military presence there, not only the Cubans that we’ve been speaking of, but the Russians have military on the ground there.
And so I hear people talk about they don’t want the Americans to intervene in Venezuela, when in fact, it’s the Russians who have intervened, and they’ve done so without the consent of the government. They came in with the former regime of Maduro’s – Nicolas Maduro, his permission, but without the president of the duly elected government led by – led today by the Interim President Juan Guaido. The United States stands ready to do the things it needs to do to work with our allies, now some 54 nations that have recognized this new leader, to ensure that the Venezuelan democracy that the people are demanding there is ultimately delivered.
QUESTION: Tell me some more about the Russians. What is their goal here? What are they doing right here in our Western Hemisphere – direct violation, by the way, if you would, of the Monroe Doctrine – is this payback for us being involved in NATO? I wonder what’s really going through their heads and what kind of role they have had in keeping Nicolas Maduro there given the sanctions and economic pain, sir, that we have put him through.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I think at least one of their objectives is plain old greed. The crude oil there in Venezuela, there – Rosneft is there, there are Russian companies that get that crude oil. They’ve provided supplies, they’ve allowed some of that crude oil operation to continue there in Venezuela. So I think one of the elements is they’re owed money by Venezuela and they’d like that money paid back.
I think there’s a second purpose, which is they’ve had a long, deep relationship with Venezuela. These are non-democratic governments who often find themselves on the same side of issues and don’t like Western governments, don’t like democracies. And so the fact that the Venezuelan people are seeking democracy is antithetical to their understanding about how nations ought to work. So I think there’s multiple reasons the Russians are involved there.
QUESTION: Do you think that Maduro would have left had the Russians not intervened, sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, I do think he would have. I think the support that has been provided by the Russians combined with the support that is being – continue to be provided by the Cubans has provided Maduro sufficient support that he likely would have had to left in the – had to have left had that not been the case.
QUESTION: So I just wonder what – how close he might have been. What are your intelligence people telling you on that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we talked to hundreds of people on the ground today and over the past several months. It’s very clear that Maduro had intended to leave, that he had his plane ready, and that the Russians made clear that he ought not depart at this time.
QUESTION: Wow. I mean, that’s significant, and it shows you what we’re actually, I suppose, dealing with there. And this is not just —
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right. Look, it’s part and parcel —
QUESTION: — the Venezuelans.
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right. Look, it’s part and parcel of the deep desire to prevent the Venezuelan people from being successful and having a democracy and having their economy restored. We see it in the micro that I just described and we see it in bigger issues, economic issues, we see it in security issues – every element of power that’s being brought to bear to keep the Maduro regime in place there in Venezuela.
QUESTION: Can I ask you, how are you thinking about Juan Guaido right now, and even Leopoldo Lopez? Can we do anything to protect them? Because without them, Secretary Pompeo, I don’t know where this goes.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re doing everything we can to ensure that no harm comes to any of the leaders who choose the right course, that go in the right direction for democracy. Juan Guaido would certainly be at the center of that. He’s been very, very bold and very outspoken and very willing to take risks for himself. You saw today he was out and about. He was in the streets. We’ve all seen the pictures. Interestingly, we’ve not seen pictures of Nicolas Maduro. He’s been hiding out today. And so we’re doing all that we can to protect not only Juan Guaido, but all of those who have chosen the side of freedom and democracy, all of the —
QUESTION: I mean, is that Special Forces?
SECRETARY POMPEO: — members of the National Assembly.
QUESTION: Forgive me for asking, but I’m just – do we have security teams there to help them and to surround them? Because they’re awfully exposed. I mean, Juan Guaido is very exposed and he’s going up and talking to all the people and greeting them, and if Nicolas Maduro wanted to be really aggressive – and he certainly has shown he can be with those colectivos – what do we do then?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we’ve made clear our expectations that no harm or violence will come to Juan Guaido. I don’t want to talk about the details of the security situation on the ground. But not only has the United States made that clear; there have been more than 50 nations that made clear that imprisoning or harming Juan Guaido would be a significant step up in the threat that is posed, and I think that the world would respond strongly were the leaders there, were Maduro actually to take that course of action.
The following is a transcript of Pompeo’s interview with Bret Baier on April 30, 2019, that pertained to the crisis in Venezuela:
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thanks for being here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, it’s great to be with you this evening.
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.
The following is a transcript of Pompeo’s interview with Maria Bartiromo on May 1, 2019:
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for talking with us this morning.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you, Maria.
QUESTION: So first, let’s set the tone here. We want to get to the latest right off the bat. What do we know about the support for Guaido from the military and security forces, and where is Maduro?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So Maduro spoke last night. He went on a ramble for about an hour. It was the first time he had come out of hiding. He’s still pretty tucked away, unlike Interim President Guaido, who is in the street talking to real Venezuelan people – a very stark contrast, I think indicative of how he feels about – Maduro feels about his own security.
We had the most senior leader come across yesterday and leave Maduro. He was the head of the SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence service, a fellow named Christopher. And we had dozens of others, military depart Maduro’s forces yesterday. Today they expect big rallies. Guaido has been calling for the biggest rally in the history of Venezuela. We expect that there’ll be lots of people taking to the streets today to defend their democracy.
QUESTION: But look at this stronghold of support from Russia and Cuba to Maduro, with Russia providing weapons, Cuba providing intelligence. How significant is that? Viewers need to understand this triangle of strength if we were to see this continued support.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, it’s absolutely the case for a long time that Cubans have had an unbelievable amount of control inside of Venezuela. I think that’s why you see the economy having had such problems over the last five, six, seven years. You have Cubans, communists, in control of the Venezuelan economy and in control of the Venezuelan security situation, and now on top of that we’ve got an expanded role of Russia in Venezuela also propping up the thugs that are the Maduro regime.
QUESTION: So how far is the U.S. going to go to stop Russia from providing weaponry, stop Cuba from this support, and whether it’s intelligence or support for Maduro?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, you’ve seen the work that we’ve done already to raise the cost for the Cubans. We’ve taken a handful of actions. There are more that we will continue to work on. We’ll do the same for the Russians. They need to understand that it is – as the President said, they’ve got to go, and the Russians need to have the cost for that raised. We’re focused on making sure that we do everything we can to take this malign activity which is undermining Juan Guaido, who is the duly elected leader of Venezuela, and take these supports out from underneath him so that he’ll depart the country.
QUESTION: I mean, this is critical to the United States, right? So what is the impact of this support from Cuba on the U.S.? You’re talking about a region a three-hour flight from Miami.
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right. Look, this has been something the Obama administration took a very different approach to Cuba than the one that President Trump and our team have taken. We’re going to continue to challenge the leadership in Cuba and try and restore a decent way of life in Cuba as well.
But our focus today is Venezuela, Maria. I think I heard you talking a little bit earlier. The humanitarian crisis there alone is staggering. You’ve had 3 million people flee the country. We expect another 2 million if the situation doesn’t change to leave the country this year. This is a country of only 30 million people. That’s more than 10 percent of their population that will have fled.
They have done so because, in spite of the fact that the American taxpayers have been gracious enough to provide enormous medical and food assistance, the Maduro regime continues to allow starving children not to eat and kids who are sick not to get medicine. It’s been going on a long time. The devastation is deep. And it’s why you see the Venezuelan people in the streets today.
QUESTION: Yeah, and obviously Maduro is hiding out and has still not left. So what’s to say – I mean, why do we believe that, in fact, this is the moment that he will take the cue and actually get out of town? Do you think that this is actually the moment, or is he going to continue in hiding? This has been going on for some time, and he still hasn’t left.
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right, Maria. He’s always there until he’s not. We don’t know precisely when the moment is that he’ll make the right decision for the people of Venezuela. He has shown an utter lack of regard or care for their decency, for their dignity.
Our task is to continue to support all those who are supporting Juan Guaido. It’s not only the people in the National Assembly, but the Organization of American States, all the countries of the Lima Group, now 50-plus countries across the world, each of whom has recognized that the election that Maduro claims his power from was a fraud, it was a sham, that Juan Guaido indeed is the duly elected constitutional leader, and that we need free and fair elections. Our efforts are to drive towards that conclusion. I don’t make predictions about how long it will take. We’re going to continue with this until the Venezuelan people get the democracy that they’re demanding.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. support going to include troops? Are the military troops in the U.S. going to head there and support Guaido?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do. We’re trying to do everything we can to avoid violence. We’ve asked all the parties involved not to engage in that kind of activity. We’d prefer a peaceful transition of government there where Maduro leaves and a new election is held, but the President has made clear in the event that there comes a moment – and we’ll all have to make decisions about when that moment is and the President will ultimately have to make that decision – he is prepared to do that if that’s what’s required.
QUESTION: Well, the President is trying to send a message to Cuba. He tweeted this last night: “If Cuban Troops and Militia do not immediate CEASE military and other operations for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela, a full and complete embargo, together with highest-level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba. Hopefully, all Cuban soldiers will promptly and peacefully return to their island!”
What is the plan in terms of sanctions?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, I never get ahead of the team on exactly what those sanctions will be. You saw what we did with what’s called Title III of a piece of legislation back in the ‘90s. No administration had imposed those burdens on Cuba. We did. We’ve announced a set of travel restrictions, monetary restrictions. There’s certainly more to follow. The President, I think, couldn’t have been clearer in the tweet that he put out about the cost there will be to the communist regime in Cuba if they don’t change their way, if they don’t depart Venezuela, and if they don’t cease their support – violent support – inside of that country.
QUESTION: And what about Russia? I mean, how far is the U.S. willing to go to get Russia to stop providing weaponry to Maduro?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the mission is very clear. The President has laid down a very clear requirement for the Russians. They’ve got to leave. And most importantly, they’ve got to take down that support for Maduro. They are, in fact, the force that is propping up the Maduro regime. I said yesterday, Maria, there are indications that Maduro was prepared to leave and that the Russians asked him not to go. Those are very dangerous things – dangerous for the Venezuelan people and things that create an enormous amount of risk that violence will escalate, something that I think no country in the region wants.
QUESTION: And escalate and impact the broader region as well. I mean, the pictures are looking more and more like Syria and a civil war every day. So – and characterize for our audience the impact on places like Brazil, Colombia, and the United States.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, I’m not sure the analogy to Syria is appropriate. A very different set of challenges. But in terms of the humanitarian crisis, I think the scale here is now almost equal. The Colombians are now hosting over a million six in refugees. Peru, Chile all beginning to be impacted, their economies beginning to be burdened by the cost of hosting those who have fled from Venezuela, and more are streaming outside of Venezuela each and every day. I was down in Cucuta, Colombia now several weeks back. I saw where these people were coming across a river bend, coming across because they were fleeing a place where they could not feed their kids, they could not take care of their children. And these mothers who had been so devastated, who had wanted to stay in their home country, simply couldn’t do so.
QUESTION: Yeah. And then there’s also the question of Guaido and if we were to see the military support Maduro in a bigger way if they were to imprison Guaido.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maduro’s regime has not chosen to do that so far. We have all – not just the United States but every country has made crystal clear to Maduro and those who are supporting him, including the Cubans, taking out the duly elected leader, the constitutionally elected interim president in Venezuela, would be a significant escalation, and there’ll be a response if that should happen.
QUESTION: Yeah, has – so has a red line been crossed in terms of the U.S.?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t talk about red lines. This is a mission, a mission to restore democracy and to begin the process to rebuild seven years of disastrous economic conditions inside of Venezuela. This is a government-owned destruction of their country. I think, Maria, about all the places that have economic challenges. Some of them are caused by natural disasters. Some of them are caused because countries don’t have wealth or capacity. Venezuela is not that. This was because of their socialist government. This was because a leader chose not to honor the desires of his own people. And the enormous destruction of a once proud country’s economy is devastating for the people of that country, and we’re working to restore better conditions.
QUESTION: And very quickly, Mr. Secretary, before you go, a word on China. The Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Bob Lighthizer holding trade talks in China. You have had your own investigation and serious and important approach to China’s behavior. Tell us how you look at this. As we’re talking about business and trade, you’re looking at espionage and bad behavior from China in a whole host of other areas.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, China presents an enormous challenge for the United States. They are a country with 1.5 billion people and therefore a big market for U.S. companies. But at the same time, they pose a national security challenge to us, and we have to do each of those two things at the same time. I hope the trade discussions go well this week in China.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it’s good to see you. Thanks very much for joining us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Maria, great to be with you.