American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has returned to the U.S. after a four-nation swing through northern South America in the past week that was clearly designed to hike up the rhetoric and pressure on Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro regime to demit the office ahead of the U.S. elections in November.
Pompeo first spent several hours in Dutch-speaking Suriname where he congratulated the new administration of President Chan Santokhi and later flew to neighboring Guyana where he did likewise, and also reactivated an agreement allowing American security enforcers to board ships and chase vessels and aircraft suspected of international narcotic and other forms of trafficking. He also flew to Colombia and Brazil.
A point to note is that of the four countries he visited, three of them—Guyana, Brazil and Colombia—surround Venezuela, leading to widespread speculation that the Trump administration is looking for new ways to rid the region of the Maduro government and install a puppet regime, less hostile to the U.S..
In Guyana, for example, major media houses, opposition parties, rights organizations and critics, all warned the Irfaan Ali administration not to allow the U.S. to place Guyana smack in the middle of hemispheric geopolitics, as the country of about 780,000 with armed forces numbering less than 10,000, would be no match for an angry Venezuelan military. They also fear that Guyana would be left in the open after, if and when, any military action is taken by the U.S. against Venezuela, especially so after American forces leave. Local authorities have denied moving to facilitate the Americans in any way, pointing only to the reactivation of the 2001 “Shiprider Agreement” that allows so-called joint patrols and boarding of vessels and aircraft by American agents in this part of the world. On the other hand, the local military and coastguard are bereft of any high seas vessels, meaning that any interdiction of vessels and aircraft would purely be left to the Americans.
In remarks while in Guyana and other nations, Pompeo was adamant that the U.S. position about regime change remains intact.
“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. For the people of Venezuela to have the democracy they need, the Cuban security forces must go and Maduro must leave,” he said, noting that “we want democracy and freedom and the rule of law just as in the same way we fought for you all to achieve that for yourselves. We want to fight for that to be achieved for the people of Venezuela as well.”
He announced a $5 million grant aid package to help Guyanese authorities deal with the estimated 30,000 plus Venezuelan refugees living in Guyana and enduring sustained hardships, but suspicions about larger American intentions in Guyana especially remained intact.
This is so because Washington had in fact asked permission for the Voice of America to establish a relay station in Guyana to beam propaganda broadcasts to Venezuela. As well, there have been verbal and other requests for stepped up American military presence in Guyana, moves that the previous administration had turned down.
While bashing the Maduro regime, Pompeo was clear to point out that a Growth in the Americas Initiative that Guyana and the U.S. signed last Friday was designed to stimulate and encourage American investment in Guyana and the region as Washington is mindful of the increasing presence Chinese and Russian money in the area. In a clear reference to China, he said that “there is lots of conversation about more foreign direct investment. The United States model is to bring out the best things about your country, and we don’t do so with political strings tied to them or engaged in activities that are corrupt.”