Venezuela: Pompeo Exposes Frustration Over Opposition Divisions as China, Russia Call for Non-Interference

The US Secretary of State claims efforts to unify the opposition have been “devilishly difficult.”

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Venezuela’s self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido. (Brendan Smialowski and Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Venezuela’s self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido. (Brendan Smialowski and Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters)
By Paul Dobson
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Merida, June 6 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has allegedly exposed his frustration with the inability of the Venezuelan opposition to unite behind self-proclaimed and US-backed “Interim President” Juan Guaido.

The information came after a leaked audio was given to the Washington Post, allegedly from a closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders held in New York last week.

“Our conundrum, which is to keep the opposition united, has proven devilishly difficult,” the Post claim Pompeo said.

“The moment [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro leaves, everybody’s going to raise their hands and [say], ‘Take me, I’m the next president of Venezuela.’ It would be forty-plus people who believe they’re the rightful heir to Maduro,” he allegedly went on to say. Pompeo reportedly added he was “confident” that Maduro would be ousted, but refused to offer a timescale.

The US government recognise Juan Guaido as “interim president” of Venezuela following his self-proclamation on January 23. Since, Guaido has led a number of unsuccessful efforts to oust Maduro.

The National Assembly president, who comes from the hardline Popular Will party, has also assumed the de facto leadership of the opposition. In the audio, however, Pompeo questions Guaido’s leadership position, allegedly describing it as “tenuous.”

A number of rifts among opposition factions have come to the fore in recent years, with the MUD alliance all but disintegrating in 2018 following differing positions on whether to participate in or boycott the presidential election. The majority of opposition figures, including two-time candidate Henrique Capriles, were likewise reportedly opposed to Guaido’s self-proclamation on January 23, and a handful have also publicly opposed a number of his tactics since, including calling for foreign intervention, a failed putsch on April 30, and the Oslo dialogue.

Figures such as Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo Lopez, have been floated as possible future candidates for a presidential election.

In response to the leaked audio, National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello told supporters that the US government’s failure to unite the opposition, given the “power” they have, demonstrates their “great incompetence.”

He also reaffirmed that, in his opinion, Guaido and his team have deceived US authorities about the power dynamics in the country.

“Someone told [the US government] that [Guaido] had the support of the Armed Forces, they lied to them, and Pompeo, as CIA director, as secretary of state, with the age he has, continues to believe the Venezuelan opposition,” Cabello continued.

China and Russia call for stability

As Pompeo spoke about the White House’s apparent frustration over the divisions in Venezuela’s opposition, Maduro’s two main international allies – China and Russia - met in Moscow to discuss, amongst other issues, the “stabilization” of Venezuela.

In a joint statement, both governments called on the all parties “to respect the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, to aid a peaceful solution of the country’s issues by means of inclusive political dialogue and to stand against a military intervention in Venezuela."

In a pre-visit interview with Russia’s TASS news portal, Chinese President Xi Jinping also offered rare comment on the issue, reaffirming his government’s willingness “to play a positive and constructive role.”

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during their meeting at the Grand Kremlin Palace on Wednesday in Moscow. Xi called Putin his “best friend” on the visit. (AFP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during their meeting at the Grand Kremlin Palace on Wednesday in Moscow. Xi called Putin his “best friend” on the visit. (AFP)

Moscow, for its part, debunked recent Twitter claims by US President Donald Trump on Monday that Russia had “removed most of their people from Venezuela.” The Kremlin stated that it was unaware of where this claim came from, and that it’s military and economic advisors and specialists continue to work in Venezuela in accordance with plans established with the current government.

Russia went on to announce further cooperation with Venezuela at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum. The latest agreements are centred on developing new technology to increase pharmaceutical production in Venezuela, especially concerning insulin and other diabetes treatments.

Venezuela’s health sector, which largely depends on imports, has been hard hit by US-led financial sanctions, limiting the country’s capacity to bring vital supplies in. A recent report from Washington DC think tank Centre for Economic and Policy Research estimated that US sanctions were responsible for over 40,000 deaths in the Caribbean country since 2017.

Lima Group shuns military intervention

This week also saw a meeting between the so-called Lima Group and International Contact Group in New York calling for “increased pressure” against the Maduro government.

The Lima Group is an ad hoc organization of 13 Latin American countries and Canada, with the declared purpose of finding an “exit” to the crisis in Venezuela. The International Contact Group brings together a dozen European and Latin American governments along with the European Union, and was created to look for a mediated solution to the political crisis produced by Guaido’s self-proclamation.

Those present at the New York meeting also discussed the situation of Venezuelan immigrants and the need to bring other “international actors” into the situation.

The final statement by the two groups did, however, once again reject calls for military pressure on Caracas, preferring to opt for calls for a “peaceful” and “democratic” solution to the standoff, solidifying a recent policy reversal by the Lima Group.

At the subsequent press conference, Lima Group spokesperson and Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero also told reporters that his government opposes military interference in any country in any part of the world, including Venezuela.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.

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