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Western Hemisphere: Interview With Jorge Gil of EFE

QUESTION: Okay. Mr. Secretary, (inaudible) visit to the border, do you think that the fall of Nicolas Maduro is getting closer? And what do you think about what you saw on the Simon Bolivar Bridge?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So it was really quite something today to see. We visited one of the migration centers, got to talk to some of the children, some of the families that fled the horrible conditions that had been imposed on them by Maduro and his military thugs. It was really quite something to get a chance to talk to them, hear what their lives were like before and then how bad they’ve gotten under Maduro.

To your first question, yes, I think every minute, every hour, is one step closer to Maduro leaving. All the Venezuelan people want is democracy restored and a chance to live, to work, to be with their families, and Maduro is denying them that. The Russians are no help. The Cubans are worse. I hope, hope, there’ll be a change here soon.

QUESTION: Okay. You talk about Russia and – well, does the USA have a plan to – against the growing presence of Russia in Venezuela, and Cuba, of course? And is Washington worried about – about that Russian presence?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The Russians are responsible for allowing Maduro to stay in power, the Cubans even more so. They’ve been in there longer; they’re more deeply committed. How the Cuban Government can watch the faces of these people, to watch their starvation when there’s food in the building in which we’re sitting; to see the kids not get medicine, vaccines, when there’s medicine sitting right here in this building; how the Cubans and the Russians permit that to happen is beyond me just as a human being, and the United States is committed to restoring democracy in Venezuela.

QUESTION: Okay. Will the USA support (inaudible) to remove Maduro from power?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve said all along those who behave well, those who land on the side of the right side of history, on the right side of freedom, they can be part of the government moving forward. Those who don’t, those who commit acts of aggression, those who commit violence, those who act in ways that are inconsistent with it, those who support Maduro to the end, will face a very different fate.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I will like to know if the USA will sanction the Spanish-owned company Repsol for its – for making business in Venezuela.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We never get in front of announcing sanctions before we do them, and we have made very clear what is lawful and what is unlawful. And each day that goes by we are further tightening that set of restrictions, not only the political restrictions but economic restrictions as well.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, Secretary Mnuchin previewed today that the USA is working with other countries to create a fund with $10,000 million to help the next Venezuelan government. I will like to know which impact – which impact will have this fund in the fall of Maduro.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We are fully prepared for the day after, not only to provide the economic support that Secretary Mnuchin spoke of, but to help provide the infrastructure, the political infrastructure. We want freedom and fair elections. Juan Guaido is the interim president who wanted to lead the path forward to democracy so the Venezuelan people can have the basic freedoms that they so richly deserve. That’s the mission for the day after Maduro leaves.

QUESTION: Okay. Mr. Secretary, I will like to know how is the relationship with Colombia. President Trump has criticized twice this month President Duque for the drug war. What can you tell me about it?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I think you saw it today. I was with President Duque. The relationship is excellent. We have economic relationships, we have political relationships, we are working incredibly closely to restore democracy in Venezuela. We have been working for years to reduce coca production here in Colombia. President Duque is working on that as well. We want it to go faster. I think President Duque wants it to go faster as well, and we’re committed to doing what we can to support that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, how do you think that the withdrawal of assistance to the countries of the Northern Triangle will contribute towards the flow of migrants to the USA?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, here’s what we know. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been provided to the Northern Triangle countries, and we have an enormous migration problem, people fleeing El Salvador, people fleeing Honduras, people fleeing Guatemala. What we’re trying to do is get those governments to take this seriously, to assist their people of their countries so they won’t have to make this long, dangerous trek across Mexico.

President Trump is committed to securing our southern border, and that effort in the Northern Triangle is to get them to do what those countries need to do to have not only the will, but to demonstrate that will, in closing down the capacity of their people to flee their countries.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, the U.S. Government has said that the safety crisis – the safety crisis in its southern border is caused by criminal bands, by drug dealers. So do you think that (inaudible) those migrant kids from their parents in order to fight that crisis?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re going to stop the flow across our southern border, period, full stop. President Trump’s made that – every country, every country, has the right to determine who comes into their country, and we have to stop the flow of drugs, and we have to stop the flow of migrants. You watch these people who are traversing Mexico. They’re being preyed upon by drug cartels inside of Mexico. This is morally wrong, and President Trump is determined to stop that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I will like to know the – what do you think about the thing that said yesterday the Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who said yesterday that the USA pushed back to (inaudible) bilateral relations, and to the worst level. What do you think about that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I didn’t see the quote.

QUESTION: Yeah. He said (inaudible) that the USA pushed back (inaudible) bilateral relations to the worst level. What do you think about that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t have anything to say about that. I’m not sure I understand what his point was.

QUESTION: Okay. Is the White House intensifying the blockade to come – to Cuba, as Havana government says?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We need the Cubans to stop supporting the murderous tyrant Nicolas Maduro. That’s our goal. That’s our objective. We’re going to use the tools that we have available to create incentives so that the Cubans will see, that the Cuban people will see, that it is not in their best interest to control Venezuela and to keep Nicolas Maduro in power. That’s our simple goal. That’s our mission.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Great, thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s wonderful to meet.

QUESTION: Nice meeting you.