US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Venezuelan migrants in Colombia on Sunday as he wrapped up a four-nation tour of South America aimed at pressuring Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.
Pompeo went to a migrant centre in the border town of Cucuta with Colombian President Ivan Duque. The migrant centre has been the first stop for some 3.4 million Venezuelans who have fled hyperinflation, severe shortages of food and medicine, and political upheaval in their homeland.
“Mr. Maduro, open these bridges, open these borders. You can end this today,” Pompeo said enacting President Ronald Reagan’s famous “Tear down this wall” speech in Berlin at the end of the Cold War. “I hope you will care now when you see the horror, when you see the tragedy, to change your ways and to leave your country.”
“Peru has felt firsthand the effects of the disastrous Nicolas Maduro and the pain that he has brought to the Venezuelan people,” Pompeo has said Saturday, following talks with President Martin Vizcarra and Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio.
Over 3 million Venezuelans, around 10 percent of the population, now live outside the crisis-hit country. The United Nations predicts that number will hit 5.3 million by the end of 2019.
The US has provided almost USD 275 million in aid to Colombia, Peru and other South American allies to absorb the flood of migrants from Venezuela.
All four countries on his itinerary — the fourth being Paraguay — are led by right-wing or center-right leaders favorable to Washington’s uncompromising approach to Venezuelan President Maduro.