Venezuela's Maduro has to leave, says Pompeo on South America trip

President Nicolas Maduro speaking during a meeting with members of Venezuela's United Socialist Party in Caracas, Sept 17, 2020.
President Nicolas Maduro speaking during a meeting with members of Venezuela's United Socialist Party in Caracas, Sept 17, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA (AFP) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used his visit to Guyana in South America on Friday (Sept 18) to increase pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to leave power in neighbouring Venezuela.

"We know that the Maduro regime has decimated the people of Venezuela and that Maduro himself is an indicted narcotics trafficker. That means he has to leave," Pompeo said during a joint press conference with President Irfaan Ali in Georgetown.

The US official said Washington was giving $3 million to help Guyana support Venezuelan refugees.

The tiny country on the northeastern shoulder of South America has taken in around 22,000 of the nearly five million Venezuelans who fled the country's economic crisis, which the US blames on Maduro's mismanagement and corruption.

The US and some 50 other countries view Maduro's 2018 reelection as fraudulent and demand the restoration of democracy in the South American country.

Earlier this year, the US Justice Department filed drug-trafficking charges against Maduro and his inner circle, putting a US$15 million (S$20 million) bounty on his head.

However, Maduro has steadfastly refused to back down and retains the support of the armed forces, as well as key allies in Russia and Iran.

Pompeo was due to visit Brazil's border with Venezuela later Friday before heading to Colombia, part of a campaign to highlight the economic devastation of Venezuela under Maduro's rule.

He began his three-day South American trip on Thursday in Suriname.