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Pompeo meets with Venezuelan opposition leader in Colombia

Almost one year to the day after the United States recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as that country’s legitimate president, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo re-emphasized the US’ support in his first face-to-face meeting with Guaido.

The two officials met Monday on the sidelines of the Third Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial in Bogota, Colombia. Guaido went to the Colombian capital city in defiance of a ban on his travel outside of Venezuela put in place by the government of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. He had defied it only once before.

In Bogota, Pompeo voiced the administration’s solidarity with Guaido. The United States is one of more than 50 countries that recognize the leader of the National Assembly as the President of Venezuela.

“For the Venezuelan people, I want you to know that your President is a great leader who wants to take your country in the right direction — the direction of freedom, democracy, to restore economic prosperity,” Pompeo said in briefing remarks during their meeting. “You should know that countries across the world — in Latin America where we are today, in Colombia, in Europe, the United States, all across North America — the people, the democratic people of those countries are with you.”

From Colombia, Guaido will travel on to London, Brussels and Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. Guaido declined to say whether he will meet with President Donald Trump, who will also be attending the international meeting in Davos. The White House did not comment on a potential meeting.

According to Guaido’s press team the purpose of the international trip is “to denounce the links of Nicolas Maduro with terrorism and the operation of these groups in Venezuela.”

Pompeo, speaking in Bogota, also accused the embattled Venezuelan leader of “working alongside terror organizations” and “running an operation that looks more like a cartel.”

The US has aimed to pressure Maduro to leave power, primarily through a campaign of targeted sanctions, for nearly a year to no avail. On Monday, Pompeo said he “would fully expect there will be further actions that the United States will take to continue to support President Guaido and the Venezuelan people.”