US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo derided the Washington Post’s John Hudson for his supposed “incredible lack of understanding” about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela during his trip through South America last week.
Hudson earlier asked the foreign minister of Peru about the potential implications surrounding further sanctions against Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela. Pompeo ridiculed the journalist immediately after the foreign minister responded at the joint press conference, accusing him of blaming the refugee crisis on recent US actions.
“Your question showed an incredible lack of understanding to have suggested that somehow the policies that Peru has taken or that the Lima Group has taken or that the United States has taken have driven these refugees,” the secretary of state said.
The journalist was asking whether Peru’s stance in the region could increase the number of refugees – not whether it already had done so. But Mr Pompeo went on to note “the responsibility for these refugees lies squarely with Nicolas Maduro, not any policies that any Democratic nation has taken with our deep intent to make lives better for the Venezuelan people".
Elaborating, he said: “A hundred per cent of the refugee challenge that is faced by Peru and Columbia is the direct result of the Russians, the Cubans and Nicolas Maduro,” he added.
“This story is not complete without acknowledging the central role Cuba and Russia have played and continue to play in undermining the democratic dreams of the Venezuelan people and their welfare. Moscow, like Havana, continues to provide political cover to the Maduro regime, while pressuring countries to disregard the democratic legitimacy of the interim president Guaido,” Pompeo stated.
Meanwhile, the US secretary of state travelled to Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Paraguay during his trip to Latin America on 11-15 April, to participate in high-level bilateral meetings in each country to discuss the Venezuelan crisis, security cooperation and economic ties, according to the State Department.
Pompeo’s Latin America tour focused on engaging with multilateral institutions to apply pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his government, as well as coordinating relief efforts, according to a senior State Department official.
On Sunday, Pompeo travelled to the Colombian city of Cucuta near the Venezuelan border to visit organisations supporting Venezuelan refugees and assess the challenges the closed border has created.
Meanwhile, Vice President Pence on Wednesday announced that the United States would send an additional $60 million in humanitarian aid to supposedly help refugees from Venezuela.
In February the US sent humanitarian aid destined for Venezuela to the Colombian city of Cucuta, located near the Venezuelan border, in a bid to boost their efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The aid — said to be "nutritional supplements" and hygiene kits — was delivered via Boeing C-17 military cargo planes, and is estimated to have cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The humanitarian aid was supposed to reach Venezuela on 23 February, a date set by self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido.
However, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the US could be delivering weapons in aid containers, and subsequently blocked roads to Cucuta, ordering the armed forces to be ready to counter "conspiracies and provocations."
The latest round of US humanitarian aid comes as Washington tries to weaken Venezuela’s economy with crippling sanctions targeting its oil sector. According to UN Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy, the US sanctions have exacerbated the country’s acute economic crisis and might lead to starvation and medical shortages.