Pompeo begins tour of Latin America as Venezuela’s crisis escalates

File Reuters

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a three-day trip on Friday to visit Chile, Paraguay and Peru, a fast-growing country in an area that has raised China’s growing influence in Washington.

It will be the first visit by a US secretary of state to Paraguay since 1965 in a symbolic gesture that experts say highlights the US commitment to the region.

Pompeo will travel on Sunday to the border town of Cucuta, Colombia, which receives many of the millions of Venezuelan migrants fleeing hunger and violence in their country.

The round is expected to dominate the political crisis in Venezuela, where the United States is pressing its president, Nicolas Maduro, to step down and urges more countries to join a coalition that backs opposition leader Juan Guido.

Most Western countries have recognized Guido as president of Venezuela, but Russia, China and Cuba stand alongside Maduro.

“The visit is an opportunity to show the transformation of the vast majority of South American countries where democracies that are thinking the same way together face regional challenges,” State Department spokesman Robert Paladino told reporters.

The visit comes as Washington looks to impose further sanctions on Maduro’s government and urges Russia to withdraw its troops from Venezuela.

Pompeo is also expected to shed light on the gains of economic and trade cooperation with the United States, whose regional influence is facing increasing challenges because of China.

China is already the largest trading partner of many countries in the region from Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, to the small Uruguayan state. China’s demand for raw materials has grown as its economic growth has accelerated over the past two decades.

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