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Terrorism and Venezuela will be focus for Pompeo in Costa Rica, Latin America

January 17, 2020

The fight against terrorism and the crisis in Venezuela will dominate U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s seventh visit to Latin America and the Caribbean, a region of “crucial importance” for the government of Donald Trump.

The trip, which will begin Monday in Colombia and will include stops in Costa Rica and Jamaica, seeks to promote “shared priorities” in the fight against terrorism and the strengthening of democracy, a senior State Department official told reporters.

The United States government leads the international pressure for the departure of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, whom it considers a “dictator,” and supports the efforts of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, whom it recognizes as interim president, for holding “free and transparent” elections.

During an information session held on condition of anonymity, the senior diplomat said that in Bogotá, Pompeo will meet with President Iván Duque and will take the opportunity to “congratulate the Colombian people and government for receiving more than 1.63 million Venezuelan refugees fleeing the corruption, repression and disastrous policies of Maduro,” who has been in power since 2013.

More than 4.6 million people have left Venezuela in recent years, according to the UN.

In San José, Pompeo will also thank President Carlos Alvarado for the “constant condemnation” of Costa Rica against “the abuses of Maduro,” and for welcoming those fleeing the regime of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, another member of the “Troika of tyranny” along with Venezuela and Cuba, according to the Trump administration.

In Colombia, Pompeo will speak at the Third Ministerial Conference against Terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, where he will continue to promote greater regional collaboration to combat “regional and global terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah,” said another official, referring to Iran’s allied Lebanese Shiite movement.

“At the last ministerial meeting against terrorism in Buenos Aires in June, we commemorate Hezbollah’s attack in 1994 against the Jewish Center AMIA. That threat persists to this day,” he said.

“We remain deeply concerned that Maduro’s Venezuela has extended its refuge to the National Liberation Army (ELN), to the dissidents of the (extinct Colombian guerrilla) FARC and to Hezbollah supporters. This is simply unacceptable.”

First visit to Costa Rica in a decade

The trip to Costa Rica will be the first for a US Secretary of State in a decade.

“We will talk about issues of high importance in the framework of security cooperation and development of the region,” Alvarado tweeted as soon as Pompeo’s tour was known.

The stop in Kingston, which includes a bilateral with Prime Minister Andrew Holness, aims to strengthen ties with the Caribbean, one of the diplomats told reporters.

In Jamaica, Washington’s main ally in that region, Pompeo will participate in a round table with the foreign ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia.

The support of the Caribbean countries is key to the re-election of Luis Almagro as secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), which Trump’s government actively promotes.

“Almagro is the leader we need for the OAS to continue proactively addressing the central challenges facing the region,” said Pompeo last week, who will speak at the OAS headquarters in Washington on Friday before the delegates of the 34 active members of the organism.

Michael Shifter, who leads the Inter-American Dialogue analysis center, said that Pompeo “will probably seek support from Costa Rica and Jamaica for the re-election of Almagro,” which he considers “a priority” given his firm stance against Maduro.

“He will do what he can to ensure that the strong opposition of the region to Maduro, and his insistence on a democratic transition, does not decline,” Shifter told AFP.

Prior to the regional tour, Pompeo will go to Berlin this weekend to participate in the United Nations-sponsored Conference on Libya to move toward peace in the African country, which has been devastated by a conflict since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi eight years ago.

Pompeo’s journey will end on Thursday 23 in Florida, a fundamental state for Trump’s re-election in 2020.

In Miami, he will talk about Venezuela with Governor Ronald DeSantis. And in the city of Bushnell, he will give a speech on Trump’s foreign policy, which according to Shifter, will be addressed to the Venezuelan, Cuban and Nicaraguan diaspora.

Since taking office in 2018, Pompeo visited Mexico in July; Panama and Mexico in October, and Argentina in November. In 2019, he was in Brazil and Colombia in January; in Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Colombia in April, and in Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico and El Salvador in July.

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