Pompeo to visit Brazil border as U.S. ramps up pressure on Maduro

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/Pool reuters_tickers
This content was published on September 15, 2020 - 21:46

BRASILIA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit the Brazilian city of Boa Vista near the border with Venezuela on Friday to meet with Venezuelan migrants, U.S. and Brazilian officials said on Tuesday, as Washington steps up pressure to oust its leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

His Sept. 17-20 trip will also take in Venezuela's other neighbors Colombia, Suriname and Guyana to meet their leaders, the State Department said.

It comes at a time when international efforts to advance democratic change in Venezuela appear to have stalled and Maduro has asserted his grip on power despite political and economic upheaval that drove 5 million Venezuelans to flee the country.

The trip will "highlight the United States' commitment to defend democracy," the State Department said. In Boa Vista, Pompeo will visit "Venezuelan migrants fleeing the manmade disaster in Venezuela," it said in a statement.

Pompeo will make a 3-hour-20-minute stop in Boa Vista on Friday afternoon to visit a triage center for receiving Venezuelan migrants and meet with Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, the Brazilian government said.

The border with Venezuela has been closed since March 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the flow of migrants crossing into Brazil has dropped from an average of 600 a day to a handful of Venezuelans who walk along cross-country trails.

U.S. sanctions targeting Venezuela's oil industry have slashed Caracas' crude exports to the lowest in decades, but they have failed to loosen Maduro's grip on power - something that has frustrated President Donald Trump, officials say.

With November's presidential election approaching, Washington is preparing to toughen its stance, especially with more sanctions targeting Venezuela's oil and gold industries.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Richard Chang)

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