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Interview With Sandra Ramirez of El Tiempo

QUESTION: (In progress) with President Duque, indeed, the first (inaudible) issue and the advancing that (inaudible) the United States. What do you (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We have a great relationship with Colombia. I think you saw that on full display today. It is absolutely the case that President Trump and the United States share President Duque’s goal of reducing coca production as quickly and as rapidly as can be done. That’s what the president was communicating. It’s important. It’s important to the United States. We need to do our part to reduce drug demand, but it’s important to the United States that coca production – not only here but in other places in South America – be reduced as quickly as possible.

We have deep economic relationships. We work closely, as you see today, on the issue of restoring democracy inside of Venezuela. You see that the United States has been enormously generous, providing tens and tens of millions of tons of food into the building in which we are sitting. The United States is committed to this objective, and our partnership with Colombia is strong.

QUESTION: Okay. Does Colombia have to worry about (inaudible) as partner of the United States in the fight against drugs?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Colombia needs to do all that it can, and I know President Duque is doing everything he can. He inherited a terrible problem, the growth of coca. So we’re going to do what we can to support President Duque’s efforts in this regard.

QUESTION: Okay. The United States have been increasing the economic and the diplomatic pressures so that Nicolas Maduro leaves power, but he refuses to do so. Is the strategy not working?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Every thug, every tyrant, remains in power until the moment that they do not. That pressure and the pressure on the regime is working. We’re closer today than we were yesterday. We’ll be closer again tomorrow. We’re going to continue to increase that pressure.

We’re working, too, to try to convince the Russians and the Chinese to stop their activity, which is boosting Maduro, giving Maduro more power, more capacity, and then the Cubans as well. The Cubans are largely providing the security for Nicolas Maduro. That’s morally wrong, and we hope that the Cubans will recognize that that’s not in their best interest, and we will do the things we need to do to make sure the Cubans understand that it’s not in their – it’s not in their best interest to continue to support Nicolas Maduro.

The progress that has been made to date is important, but as you can see from the people who are fleeing the country, the individuals who I had a chance to speak with today, the tragedy, the human suffering that has been imposed by the Russians and the Cubans and Nicolas Maduro, is truly tragic.

QUESTION: Tons of humanitarian aid are right here inside Colombia. It has been sent by the United States. It didn’t go through (inaudible) because it was not possible. (Inaudible) what is the United States going to do to make or to get it over?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re going to keep trying.

QUESTION: All right.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, we’ve done an enormous amount of work. Other countries, too, have joined in this effort. Colombia has been an incredible partner to host this food aid here. Other countries have been prepared to do that as well.

What needs to change is Nicolas Maduro needs to leave. When that leaves, the Venezuelan people will get the medicine they need for their sick kids. I saw some of them today. They’ll have the food for their starving children. I had a chance to see some of them today. We’re determined to create a better humanitarian condition not only for those fleeing but for everyone inside of Venezuela. The thing that has to happen is Maduro must go.

QUESTION: One of the techniques that Mr. Maduro has been using to undermine the (inaudible) opposition in Venezuela is wear them down. What is the United States going to —

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’ll be Maduro that’s worn down. Nicolas Maduro is being worn down. We are – Maduro is not winning this fight. Don’t let anybody fool you. Don’t let anybody fool the people of Colombia or Peru or Chile or the people of the United States, nor fool the Venezuelan people. The effort that the Lima Group will make tomorrow in Santiago, the good news out of the OAS this past week, these are all important diplomatic efforts that continue to tighten the screws on Maduro and his thugs.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Mr. Guaido (inaudible) and it seems like if the possibility for (inaudible) close, would a decision that maybe accelerate the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve said all options are on the table. The arrest of Juan Guaido would be a major, major (inaudible) on behalf of Nicolas Maduro. We hope that he will not take that. We hope he won’t invoke violence. We hope he won’t arrest other senior leaders inside of Venezuela. Those are all things that I think the world would see as major steps in continuing to deny the Venezuelan people the rights that they deserve.

QUESTION: Vice President Pence asked this week at the United Nations that President Guaido was recognized as such, but China and Russia are supporting Nicolas Maduro. When or how soon is this recognition of Mr. Guaido going to happen?

SECRETARY POMPEO: You’ll have to ask the Chinese and the Russians.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. And the last question will be (inaudible) the fact that on the 23rd of February, the humanitarian aid didn’t make it to Venezuela, but now Maduro has agreed to get humanitarian aid from the international community if the Red Cross is bringing it into the country.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We want to make sure that people are fed and that sick children get medicine.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.

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