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Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido
January 21, 2020





JANUARY 20, 2020


SECRETARY POMPEO: President Guaido, thank you for being here today. And thank you for joining a huge group of countries today who’s working on fighting terrorism all around the world, including in Venezuela.

A couple thoughts. First, for the Venezuelan people, I want you to know that your president is a great leader who wants to take your country in the right direction – the direction of freedom, democracy, to restore economic prosperity. You should know that countries across the world – in Latin America, where we are today, here in Colombia; in Europe; the United States; all across North America – the people, the democratic people of those countries are with you. We’re here to ensure – to do everything we can to ensure that you get that opportunity, you get the chance simply to live the lives that you want, with democracy and freedom, so that you can take care of your families. And President Guaido is working diligently to achieve that.

On the other hand, Maduro has engaged in activities that have now caused millions of people to have to flee Venezuela. He’s destroyed lives. He’s destroyed families. He’s now added to his terror regime, working alongside terror organizations inside of his own country. He’s now running an operation that looks more like a cartel than anything else that one could describe. This isn’t good for Venezuela, it’s not good for the countries that are around Venezuela – here in Colombia, Ecuador, or all the countries of the region, for Peru, for Brazil. These people have now had to flee those countries so that they could do the simple thing of taking care of their family because of Maduro’s terrorism.

The United States and all the countries that assembled here today for this Counterterrorism Ministerial will continue to work to solve this problem set. We have a real opportunity to expand on democracy and freedoms throughout South America. We’ve seen in the last years, we’ve seen it expand and grow. We will get this hemisphere of freedom, and we’re prepared to work alongside President Guaido and the good people of Venezuela to deliver democracy.

Thank you for (inaudible).

MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Humeyra, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello. Could you tell us a little bit about your meetings in Davos? Are you going to be meeting with President Trump? And how are you planning to get back into the country? Are you not worried about getting arrested?

And to Secretary Pompeo: Are you prepared to sanction Russia over its backing of the Maduro government? For example, oil company Rosneft Thank you.

INTERIM PRESIDENT GUAIDO: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) at the risk of being jailed or killed. The dictatorship is brutal, and there are thousands that are maintaining (inaudible) in jail in several others. The risk exists in Venezuela. We are aware of that, and we have the duty to get a transition (inaudible). Yes, there is a risk we assume on behalf of Venezuelans, in behalf of democracy. It is – and this is important because we are not alone, the Venezuelans. We are fighting in Venezuela. We’re facing armed groups, paramilitary groups that are financed by the dictators. We are joined in a cause. We are a country united, fighting to recover democracy. There is no problem among ideological tendencies. It’s a problem of terrorism, a turning against democracy and freedom.

And as we go forwards, I will talk about details of our important meetings in Europe with the European Union. And they will take place in Davos, yes.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We don’t talk about particular sanctions, but everyone can fully expect that the United States is not done. The work that we’ve done over these past months has been building to the place that we find ourselves today, and I would fully expect that there will be further actions that the United States will take to continue to support President Guaido and the Venezuelan people.


QUESTION: Yes, hi. How are you? Mr. Guaido, Mr. Secretary Pompeo, thanks for being here. If is – if there’s evidence of the presence of Hizballah in Venezuela, will the Department of State of the United States will consider putting the regiment of Venezuela in the list of the countries that support terrorism?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’re constantly evaluating which countries to designate as terrorist entities. But make no mistake about it, whether it’s the ELN or the FARC, there are elements of Hizballah throughout many countries in South America. Very happy today to see that the Colombians today added to their list of terrorist organizations Hizballah. We’ve now seen multiple countries in Central and South America follow the lead of the United States, have designated Hizballah a terrorist organization. And the United States is constantly reviewing how we can most effectively drive out this terrorism not only from the United States, but from the entire North American continent.


QUESTION: Just to follow up on the first question, specifically what can European leaders do to help you? And do you feel like you’ve lost momentum at home?

INTERIM PRESIDENT GUAIDO: (Via interpreter) The fight for democracy does not lose momentum. We find alternatives, different pathways; we reinforce mechanisms. And we – when a dictatorship with links with the ELN and Hizballah and who has not been ashamed to infiltrate the different organizations in murdering political leaders in Venezuela. They are very active. And Venezuela has mobilized to (inaudible) is in Europe. He’ll be in London tomorrow. We’ll have bilaterals at the World Economic Forum.

But I prefer to talk about that later. We live in a dictatorship, so we are implementing strategies to attain our objectives, reinforce the pressure against dictatorships. The dictators won’t want to give up the power they’ve taken. They generated the greatest migration in the continent. We’re much more like Syria than like Cuba. The indicators in terms of migration, access to services, the inflation, there’s no vaccines for our children – they are dying because of lack of food.

So this is a long-term strategy. We’re facing it. So there are forces that cannot be stopped when you seek democracy. This is what we’re seeing in Venezuela. We’re mobilizing. We have demonstrating, and we are not going to be different in the next few months.

MS ORTAGUS: Blu Radio.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary Pompeo, right here. Colombia has now the same terrorist list as the United States, but the government had to make clear that FARC is not on our terrorist list since the peace process was signed. Why after three years of the peace process FARC is still in the terrorist list of the United States?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Each country makes its own sovereign decisions. And I spoke with President Duque today. There is no separation between our vision for how it is that terrorism needs to be fought. We’re working together on that. Our teams across multiple agencies are working to deliver on efforts to take – counter terrorism not only out of Colombia, but out of the provinces that adjoin Colombia from Venezuela. We are united in that mission. There is no daylight between how Colombia and the United States think about the battle for freedom and the fight against terrorists.

QUESTION: But are you considering taking out FARC?

SECRETARY POMPEO: May I – may I just go back? You asked a question about what the Europeans can do. There – it was suggested in that question somehow that there’s separation between how the Europeans and the Americans and others are thinking about this. I was just with the leaders from Europe last night in Berlin. They share the same view we do. This is a failed state, and the fight for democracy is valuable and real. It’s just as valuable and real to the Europeans as it is to the Americans. And so we are working closely alongside them to deliver freedom for the people of Venezuela. No one should – I’ve heard ideas, something of that we underestimated Maduro. What’s been underestimated is the desire for freedom that rests in the hearts of the Venezuelan people. We are collectively – the Europeans, the other countries in South America, and the United States – determined to deliver that outcome for the people of Venezuela.

QUESTION: And you’re not afraid that losing momentum —

MS ORTAGUS: Thank you, press.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS ORTAGUS: Thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.