In Swipe at UK Opposition Leader, Pompeo Calls Support for Maduro ‘Disgusting’

By Patrick Goodenough | May 9, 2019 | 4:20 AM EDT

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on May 8, 2019. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

( – In an unusually scathing remark directed at a politician who could be a future British prime minister, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday described as “disgusting” any expression of support – in Britain or the U.S. – for Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela.

During a visit to London, Pompeo replied to a question that had been put, not to him but to his British counterpart. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was asked his reaction to “the endorsement of Maduro’s dictatorship by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.”

“It is disgusting to see leaders in not only the United Kingdom, but in the United States as well, who continue to support the murderous dictator Maduro,” Pompeo said. “And it is not in either of our countries’ best interest for those leaders to continue to advocate on their behalf.”

Pompeo noted that the elected National Assembly has appointed its head, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela’s interim president in accordance with the constitution. The U.S., Britain, and around 52 other countries recognize him as such.

“Maduro is on borrowed time,’ he said. “And to see American leaders, or leaders from this country, continue to provide support and comfort to a regime that has created so much devastation, so much destruction –”

Pompeo recalled seeing stricken Venezuelan families who had fled to Colombia, and who “had to make choices about whether to feed their children on even days or odd days.”

“That is a direct result of Nicolas Maduro,” he said. “And no leader in a country with Western democratic values ought to stand behind them.”

In his own response, Hunt also touched on the humanitarian crisis, and added a dig of his own at another senior Labour leader, John McDonnell.

“This is a country where three million people have fled the country. GDP’s gone down by 40 percent in the last four years,” he said. “People can’t access basic meds, and people are rifling through rubbish bags to get food in the streets.”

“And John McDonnell describes this as ‘socialism in action,’” Hunt added. “And I think people need to draw their own conclusions about what his own plans might be for the U.K.”

‘Outside interference’

Pompeo repeated the strong language in a subsequent television interview.

“It’s disgusting, I repeat that,” he told Sky News when asked about his use of the word.

“Look, this is supporting an individual, Maduro, who has for years systemically looted Venezuela and caused women to not be able to feed their babies and to provide medical care for their children,” he said, noting that regime is blocking at the border food and medicine supplied by the European Union and American taxpayers.

“Jeremy Corbyn said there just shouldn’t be outside interference in Venezuela,” the interviewer interjected.

“Providing food to starving children isn’t interference,” replied Pompeo. “It’s support; it’s what we do. It’s in our deepest traditions of humanitarian assistance.”

Alluding to the presence in Venezuela of thousands of Cuban security personnel, he added, “I hope Mr. Corbyn will ask the Cubans to cease their interference in Venezuela.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool in September 2018. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

In February, after Britain and a number of other E.U. countries followed the U.S. in recognizing Guaido as interim president, Hunt called for sanctions against the regime.

Corbyn described the policies of Maduro’s predecessor and mentor Hugo Chavez – who died the previous year – as “socialism in action.”

A year ago, when asked about the economic crisis there, McDonnell attributed the problems to Maduro having taken “a wrong turn” after Chavez died, saying Venezuela had not followed “the socialist policies that Chavez was developing.”

(In the U.S., House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) argued last February that Venezuela was “not a socialist country” but a “kleptocracy.”)

Last January McDonnell joined other senior Labour members – although not Corbyn – in signing a letter published in The Guardian saying that “[t]he far-right governments of Trump and [Brazilian President Jair] Bolsonaro offer no hope to Venezuela or to the majority of people in Latin America.”

“Whatever views people hold on Venezuela, there is no justification for backing the U.S. attempt at regime change under way, which, if successful, could go the way of the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya,” they wrote.

Two years before becoming Labour leader in 2015, Corbyn addressed a meeting of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, and called Chavez – who died weeks earlier after handpicking Maduro as his successor – as “an absolute legend in every way.”

“His memory will be that he was the one, more than anyone else, who effectively ended the Monroe Doctrine, of the U.S.A. treating Latin America as its own backyard,” he said.

“He’s asserted the independence of Latin America by a combination of political leadership and use of resources for the good of the people, rather than the profits of the oil companies, up north or in Switzerland or somewhere else.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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