QUESTION: On the bridge as we were walking out, there were people shouting, “Liberty,” and “Maduro must go.” And with the help of Mark, my fabulous bilingual cameraman, I asked them what they wanted from the United States. And they said, “Intervention.”
My question is: I understand you said that all options are on the table, but has the State Department asked the Pentagon to prepare any kind of indirect military intervention to put additional pressure on Maduro, things like joint military exercises with the Colombians or with the Brazilians, or maybe putting pressure on Russia in another venue, the Mediterranean, to try to get them, as you say, to get out of Venezuela?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So it’s remarkable to be here in this place where the Venezuelans are – you can see them as you drove in today, thousands of Venezuelans every day fleeing Nicolas Maduro. I’m not going to talk about discussions that are happening inside the United States Government. We’ve made clear that all options are on the table. And you watched; you watched the political and diplomatic noose tighten around Maduro’s neck. We will begin to do the same thing. The Cubans must understand, too, that there will be a cost associated with their continued support of Nicolas Maduro, and we’re going to have that same conversation with the Russians as well.
QUESTION: Are you considering those kinds of non-direct intervention measures?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I never talk about things that we’re working on.
QUESTION: What would you say to the people who were asking the U.S. for intervention on the bridge?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, I’d say several things. First, you can see (inaudible) this warehouse filled with taxpayer – U.S. taxpayer-supported food and medicine. We’re here to help them. We’re here to provide the humanitarian assistance that they need. We were in the shelters today. We saw children that were sick. We saw families that were eating only every other day.
This is a tragedy foisted upon them by their leader in Venezuela, by Nicolas Maduro. The United States is committed to continuing to restore democracy and to try as best we can to get food to the starving and medicine to those kids that are sick. It was truly something to see these families that have been displaced. They want to go back to Venezuela. They want to go back home. But today, the Cubans and Nicolas Maduro are preventing them from doing that.
QUESTION: You’ve spoken very passionately throughout our trip about the generosity of countries taking in Venezuelan migrants and the treatment and how much they have welcomed them. But as you know and as we’ve talked about, the U.S. is facing its own immigration crisis at the border, and I’m wondering if you really don’t see any kind of disconnect or inconsistency with the way the administration treats different groups of displaced desperate people, because I would imagine if you went to the southern border, a lot of people would have similar stories as to the ones you heard today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: There is nothing like what’s taking place at the hands of Nicolas Maduro anywhere in Central or South America. To compare the two is ludicrous. Nicolas Maduro is denying food that’s sitting here. These aren’t people that are starving because the country doesn’t have wealth. These are people that are starving because the political leadership, the military thugs inside of Venezuela, have destroyed their capacity to produce crude oil, they have destroyed the capacity to grow crops, they have denied their people aid that is sitting right at the border. You saw the bridge today – welded trucks preventing food from getting in. This is horrific. There is nothing else in South America that compares to this. This is the largest movement of migrants in the history of the world absent war. This is at the hands of Nicolas Maduro and no one else, and to compare it to situations anywhere else I think just belies any true knowledge of the facts on the ground.
QUESTION: But if President Duque said to these people because it’s such a strain on their resources and as – as we’ve talked about throughout this trip, if he said, I’m sorry, we just can’t take you anymore and stopped them at the border, as we’ve been doing in Mexico, I don’t think you’d be okay with that policy.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We are trying in every instance to keep people capable of staying in their own country. That’s the common theme. We want these Venezuelans to return home. We want the people in the Northern Triangle to be able to live in their own countries as well. Every nation, every nation, has the right to make decisions about who comes in and out of their country. President Duque today wants these people to have food and shelter. But when Maduro falls, he wants them to go home. That’s the same thing that we’re trying to do along our southern border. We want those people to have good lives in Guatemala and El Salvador and Honduras. We want that for the Venezuelan people that I saw today here, too.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to President Guaido recently? Where is President Guaido?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I haven’t spoken to him (inaudible).
QUESTION: Anything else you’d like to add? Thank you, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, I think that’s it. All right.
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