Adrian Whitsett of NBC interviewed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Orlando, Florida, following Pompeo’s trip to Latin America and the Caribbean. The transcript below was edited to only include issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean.
QUESTION: Tell us about your recent trip. There’s some talk right now of trying to make Guatemala a safe third country for asylum seekers from Honduras, I believe. Where are those talks right now? Because this was a big event. It was the 25th anniversary, I believe, of a deadly incident that happened in Latin America.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there is a brand new set of relationships between the United States and South America, very important relationships for our country. It’s really, truly a new era, and I wanted to go down and talk to the leaders there. We have an immigration problem on our southern border. The President is very focused on that, so I traveled to Mexico and El Salvador and spoke to my foreign minister counterpart in Mexico and the president of El Salvador, working together to ensure that we have sovereignty for the United States of America.
And I was in Ecuador and Argentina. In Argentina, I was down there to talk to them about the terror threat. We don’t think about that so much in our hemisphere, and yet the Argentineans saw fit to designate Hizballah a terrorist arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran, underwritten by Iran. It was an important counterterrorism conversation to make sure that not only the people of Argentina and South America are safe, but those right here in places like Florida.
QUESTION: And how does that also tie into the situation with Venezuela? Is it also creating more of a partnership with those countries to talk to – to deal with Venezuela as well as Iran? We’re talking about two completely different sides of the —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. Sadly, they’re connected. Yesterday, the Iranian foreign minister was in Venezuela working, talking, conspiring with the Venezuelans. The people of Florida get how close Venezuela is to us, and there are many Venezuelans who live here. The Maduro regime has wrought horrible devastation down there. You all know the story about the poverty, the desperate situation that the Maduro regime has inflicted on the Venezuelan people. And the United States has stood with now 55 allies all around the world who understand that Maduro’s got to leave and that we have to continue to do all the right things so that the Venezuelan people can take their country back and they can have democracy and they can build our their economy and they can live their lives in the way that they see fit.
QUESTION: What do you – so you’re in this very interesting position where you’ve been a congressman for six years, you were the CIA director, now you’re the Secretary of State. When you look at all the different hats that you’ve worn over the years, is this the most crucial job for you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s the biggest, broadest job to serve America, to help President Trump deliver. I’m here at this gathering for a reason. These are the people who, if we do this right, we can ensure that the power that they project – the deterrence, the peace that they build out through the strength of our military – it doesn’t have to be used. And so the burden, the duty to get this right, to get diplomacy in the right place so that the bad guys don’t win, is very important.
QUESTION: And what do you want or what do you hope that your legacy is when this is all said and done for you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I just – I hope everyone will see that me and the team at the State Department worked their tails off. We understood our service mission to deliver on behalf of the people of the United States of America, and that we did that, that we left America more secure than when we came in.
QUESTION: And when you go back – so you were in Latin America. Obviously, you travel extensively with your job as the Secretary. When you go back to Washington, what is the debrief sort of like for you? Because you pack in all this information, the information gets disseminated, and then you’ve got your boss, the President, who you also have to relay all this information back to as well.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ll do a couple things. One is I’ll make sure that my team understands what we accomplished, what the next steps are, so that we can actually execute and implement the things that we talked about with Mexico and Ecuador and El Salvador and Argentina. But then either tonight on the flight back or often during the trip or I’ll have lunch with the President tomorrow, I’ll fill him in on all the conversations that I had, I’ll get further guidance from him on how he wants us to proceed, and then I’ll head back out again.
QUESTION: Wonderful. Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, sir.
QUESTION: We appreciate it. Thank you all.