Untied States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Finland on Monday, May 6, where he participated in the Eleventh Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council and delivered a speech on US Arctic policy. During his travels en route and in Finland as well as during news interviews, Secretary Pompeo also spoke about other significant foreign policy issues related to Iran, China, Russia, and Venezuela. Below are the transcripts provided by the State Department and edited down to only the questions, answers, and comments related to Latin America.
The following is a transcript of Secretary Pompeo’s remarks to the press while on a plane en route to Finland as it pertains to Latin America:
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if you could just talk a little bit more about where we are in Venezuela.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m having trouble hearing you. Yes.
MS ORTAGUS: Where we are in Venezuela, and what your message is to Mr. Lavrov on Russian meddling in the country?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, Maduro has to see that this is falling apart on him. I said earlier today that he still rules, but there’s no way he can govern; the situation on the ground continues to get worse for the Venezuelan people. This week while Maduro managed to maintain control of the military in some regards, there were many military who left, a senior intelligence officer departed, a very senior official who’d been closely connected to Maduro as well as his predecessor. He has to see how tenuous this is. He was, in fact, prepared to leave and then ultimately chose not to. He understands that time is limited and I think he’s searching for as much leverage as he can get before he ultimately makes his departure. I don’t know if that’ll be next week or a month from now, but they – the Venezuelan people can see conditions continue to deteriorate and that means he can’t maintain his presence there.
The following is a transcript of remarks by Secretary Pompeo to the press while in Finland related to Latin America:
QUESTION: You spoke about your conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov. Just, if you could give us a little bit more insight into the Venezuela portion of that conversation, how far apart you are on that, and whether that is one of the areas where you may have an opportunity to work together.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I don’t want to say too much other than I made clear our view that the Venezuelans deserve a democracy that is – doesn’t have any foreign party running their country or involved in their country on a consistent basis in a military way. Right? So we want the Cubans out, we want the Iranians out, Russia’s military out. We’ve – we had that conversation, and we started to talk about how our interests might be able to find a way forward. I don’t know that we’ll get to the right place, but we’ll have further conversations.
The following is a transcript of Secretary Pompeo’s interview with Tuomas Niskakangas of Helsingin Sanomat related to Latin America:
QUESTION: Okay, I want to talk briefly about your bilateral meeting with Minister Lavrov.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: And obviously, you’re going to talk about Venezuela. What’s your plan? What’s your plan to solve the situation in Venezuela, and what’s your main message to Minister Lavrov?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So the plan in Venezuela is really straightforward. We want the Venezuelan people to have an opportunity for democracy, free and fair elections. That can’t be done with Maduro in power. The Venezuelan people know that. Fifty-four nations have signed up for that as well. They understand too that Juan Guaido is the duly elected leader there in Venezuela.
And so our mission set is to support the Venezuelan people in every way we can, work with our partners in the region, and get the outcome that the Venezuelan people demand. You have starving children. You have children that can’t get medicine. And you have food and medicine sitting on the border, and Maduro won’t let it in.
And so any country that’s involved in Venezuela, whether that’s Cuba or China or the Iranians, needs to get out of the way, needs to cease that activity, needs to allow the Venezuelan people to begin to rebuild and reconstruct their country. This is an imperative, and the United States is prepared to continue to support that. And I’ll share that with Foreign Minister Lavrov or anyone else who asks.
QUESTION: Yes. But Venezuela has put a strain on your relationship with Russia and there is also Ukraine. That’s still unsolved. What’s your plan to deal with these tensions? It’s something that we’re always interested in Finland for historical reasons the tensions between Russia and Western powers like yourself.
The following is a transcript of Secretary Pompeo’s interview with Pirkko Pontinen of YLE TV1 as it related to Latin America:
QUESTION: One of the topics you will – if we are – we have been informed is Venezuela, which you are going to talk with Mr. Lavrov, and now Russia and United States have opposite views of who will be in the head of the country. So is it so that a solution in Venezuela is not anymore in the hands of Venezuelan people?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, just the opposite. No, this decision is being made by the Venezuelan people each and every day. They held an election. Their constitution required that the National Assembly select an interim president when a fraudulent election was held. They did so. They elected Juan Guaido. The Venezuelan people are speaking. They’re demanding democracy. They’re demanding that their country not be hijacked by a socialist and by Cubans, who have destroyed their economy. You have children starving in the streets of Venezuela. That is not acceptable to Venezuelan people, and the Organization of American States, the Lima Group, 54 countries are all joined together to help that poor child that is starving. That’s the mission set.
QUESTION: But anyway, that’s one of the questions you will have with Mr. Lavrov. So what are you discussing about?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sure we’ll talk about a range – a broad range of subjects. It won’t surprise me if Venezuela comes up.