In an interview with Christopher Heath of WFTV 9, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the situation in Venezuela and the role of Cuba in supporting the Maduro regime. Cuba’s role in Venezuela is open to debate as explained in an an article in DW. The transcript below was edited to only include issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean.
QUESTION: Moving to Central and South America, obviously Venezuela continues to be a problem for the region. How difficult is it that Maduro continues to stay in power? Is – his power may be limited, he may be using some authority here and there, but we’re going on almost a year since we have asked him to step down, and he continues to maintain power.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m here in Florida today talking to veterans. I’ll talk about Venezuela. I mention Florida because Cuba is at the center of this problem as well. Several thousand Cuban intelligence officials, military officials propping up the Maduro regime.
To your question, Maduro has to go. While you’ve made a good point, that he’s not truly governing this country today, he’s inflicted enormous, enormous devastation on the Venezuelan people. Now, over 3 million people, 10 percent of their country, has fled the nation. Our mission set is to work alongside our partners, our friends in the region. I just traveled in from El Salvador, I was in Mexico, and Ecuador, and in Argentina, and they all understand the threat to their region from Maduro and the Cubans and their cronies. Our mission is to convince them that they’ve got to leave and then restore democracy for the Venezuelan people. It’s pretty straight forward.
QUESTION: It was Alexander Haig who actually said sooner or later you have to go to the source. Speaking of Cuba, is that still kind of where we’re at?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It is. In the end, the Cuban Government’s going to have a difficult decision to make. They’ve got to decide whether they want to support a rogue regime that has devastated the life of tens of millions of Venezuelans, allowed them not to have food, medicine, the basic things that every human being in the world ought to be entitled. If that’s the kind of regime they want to support, that’s one decision and America will respond as you’ve seen the Trump administration respond, by putting increased pressure on the Cuban leadership. Or if they want to (2) join the community of nations and be a good country, a country that works to develop their own country, to create opportunities for their own people. That’s the choice of the Cuban leadership. The United States is going to continue to do all that we can to convince them to take a better path.
QUESTION: All right. I’ve been given the wrap signal.