US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of supporting terrorism in Latin America in an interview with the Voice of America while touring the continent.
"There's no doubt. Iranian money remains in South America… supporting Hezbollah, supporting transnational criminal organizations, supporting efforts at terrorism throughout the region," the top US diplomat said when he was asked if Tehran is present in the region.
He also branded the Islamic Republic “the world's largest state sponsor of terror”, noting: “That’s a global threat”.
He also took aim at Venezuela’s elected president, Nicolas Maduro, claiming that he and “his henchmen have destroyed this nation”. He slammed the current leader for cooperating with Russia and Cuba.
“He’s handed over all his power to the Cubans and to the Russians”, Pompeo said.
The US secretary of state, at the same time, downplayed his recent invective against China’s presence in Venezuela when he claimed that their “financial interventions have helped destroy the country" and blamed China for injecting “corrosive capital into the economic bloodstream, giving life to corruption”.
“We want China to thrive and prosper. Here’s what we don’t want, especially in South America. We don’t want China to just show up with bags full of money and bribe officials…. we don’t want corrupt activity”, he said in the VoA interview.
On Sunday, Pompeo is to visit the Columbian city of Cucuta on the Venezuelan border, where the US humanitarian cargo for Venezuela was stalled, and will reportedly meet refugees there. During his tour across South America, he has already visited Peru, Paraguay and Chile, lashing out at Venezuelan President Maduro and Russia and China’s presence in the region.
Since January 23, the US has been a vocal and material supporter of Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself Venezuela's interim president. However, Guaido's attempt to oust Maduro has fizzled so far.
While the US and a number of Western states and South American countries denounced Maduro's administration as undemocratic and called for Maduro's ouster, Russia, China, and Turkey have supported the constitutionally elected president and refused to recognize Guaido.
Maduro himself has called Guaido a US puppet and accused Washington of attempting to orchestrate a coup to overthrow Venezuela’s legitimate government.