(CNSNews.com) – The people of Latin America are shunning totalitarian communism and “it’s glorious,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday as he wrapped up a visit to a region where the “21st century socialism” championed by the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is in decline.
“There were many communist countries in Latin America for many years, but that’s the great thing that’s changed,” he told El Comercio, a Peruvian newspaper. “This idea of the totalitarian, Orwellian state of communism is being rejected by the people of South America. It’s glorious.”
Pompeo was asked about the U.S. competing with Russia – which has longstanding ties in the region – and with China, a leading commercial partner.
He said the U.S. approves of nations competing openly and transparently in free markets, but added that the people of Latin America see the lack of freedoms in China and how communism failed in Russia
“We’re convinced that democratic values and institutions, the things that we care so deeply about – basic human rights, things that don’t exist in China. I think the South American people see that,” he said.
“They see the horrors of a million Uighurs being held in China. They see the Orwellian information state, the police state that China is becoming. They see that communism has failed the Russian people.”
Pompeo said he believes people in the region appreciate that they should interact and do business with countries that share their values of “freedom, faith, liberty, rule of law.”
Those themes – a region moving away from corrupt leadership and “failed socialist models” and being aware of the risks entailed in doing business with China and Russia – featured prominently during Pompeo’s visit, which included stops in Paraguay, Peru, Chile, and Colombia.
“A wave of democratization is sweeping the continent, and it’s coupled with anti-corruption movements and a healthy dose of something no nation can live without: common sense,” he said in a speech in the Chilean capital, Santiago.
Last year, conservative Chilean businessman President Sebastián Piñera ended four years of socialist rule under Michelle Bachelet.
Conservatives have also come to power in formerly leftist-ruled Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Honduras.
Ecuador has moved to the center since the departure of former President Rafael Correa, and last summer withdrew from ALBA, the leftist regional bloc set up by Chavez in 2004 as a vehicle to promote his “21st century socialism” model.
And in Venezuela itself, Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime is facing an unprecedented challenge from National Assembly president Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. and more than 50 other countries recognize as the country’s interim president, pending new elections.
The Venezuelan crisis, coupled with U.S. sanctions, have in turn adding to the pressure on Cuba’s communist rulers, who are heavily dependent on Venezuelan crude oil.
‘Shrugging off failed socialist models’
“We have entered a new era, as governments across the region are shrugging off failed socialist models, plucking out the thorns of corruption, and creating dynamic economic systems with real and true reforms that will be lasting, that will benefit your children and your grandchildren,” Pompeo said in Santiago.
With those changes, he added, the region was becoming more wary of those who purport to be its friends, but whose support come at a cost.
“China, Russia – they’re showing up at the doorstep, but once they enter the house, we know the debt traps,” he said. “They will use debt traps, they will disregard rules, and they will spread disorder in your home. Thankfully, you all, South America, is not buying it. You should know that the United States will stand behind you.”
Pompeo during his visit repeatedly criticized Russia and China for their involvement in Venezuela and efforts to prop up Maduro, even while the two U.N. Security Council permanent members call for “non-intervention” in Venezuela.
Maduro has been using Chinese money – a no-strings-attached investment of $60 billion – “for tasks like paying off cronies, crushing pro-democracy activists, and funding ineffective social programs,” he alleged.
For Russia’s part, “flying in troops and opening a training center in Venezuela are obvious provocations,” Pompeo said, drawing attention too to Moscow’s “longstanding ties to authoritarian leaders in Cuba and in Nicaragua.”
“But the good news is, the good news for all of us, is that South American countries are pushing back against this external meddling.”
In an interview with VOA Spanish while in Paraguay, Pompeo underlined the nature of the regimes supportive Maduro – not just Russia and China, but also Cuba, which he said was running Maduro’s security apparatus, and Iran.
“There’s no doubt Iranian money remains in South America being used for malign purposes, supporting Hezbollah, supporting transnational criminal organizations, supporting efforts at terrorism throughout the region,” he said.