Mon | Feb 24, 2020

Pompeo: Venezuelan crisis the worst I have seen anywhere

Published:Thursday | January 23, 2020 | 12:22 AM

United States (US) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the humanitarian crisis rocking Venezuela is the worst he has seen and was only comparable in scope to war-torn Syria.

More than six million people have been displaced from the two countries amid political and social upheavals over several years.

Pompeo, who arrived in the island on Tuesday evening, was making a presentation at yesterday’s policy discussion on US-Caribbean relations held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

“Venezuela happened because a single individual drove a nation to authoritarian dictatorship that fundamentally rejects everything that we have spoke about here today,” he said at his final engagement in Jamaica to which the media had access.

Pompeo was on a two-day working visit to the island.

He said the Venezuelan crisis was a man-made catastrophe, blaming embattled President Nicolás Maduro for economic and social calamity he said was fuelled “by bad policy, bad politics, and leaders who didn’t care about their own people”.

Restore democracy

“So as we stare at this, we need to do everything we can to restore Venezuelan democracy, and the US is doing our part, but what is fantastic is to watch the Organisation of American States (OAS) work this problem out and countries throughout the region taking responsibility for another country in their region,” Pompeo said.

He said that 50 or more nations were using multilateral tools to try to end the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and to offer free and fair elections.

The US viewed the re-election of Maduro in May 2018 as unconstitutional and fraudulent and has led the call by 53 other countries to recognise the National Assembly president Juan Guaidó, straining relations with some Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that insist on a policy of non-intervention.

Earlier, at a joint press conference at Jamaica House, Pompeo said that the US did not intend to divide CARICOM although strident statements from the prime ministers of both Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago suggest they believe otherwise.

According to the US Department of State website, since 2017, the US has provided more than US$256 million in assistance to support the regional response to the crisis.