U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is “no doubt” that Iran has a financial presence in Latin America and that Tehran remains a “global threat.”
Questioned about whether Iran has some presence in Latin America, Pompeo told Voice of America, “There’s no doubt. Iranian money remains in South America… supporting Hezbollah, supporting transnational criminal organizations, supporting efforts at terrorism throughout the region.”
He added, “We see Iran for what it is: the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. That’s a global threat.”
Pompeo noted that an airline had begun direct flights last week from Tehran to Caracas, Venezuela. The carrier, Mahan Air, has been sanctioned by the U.S. for allegedly transporting military equipment to Middle East war zones.
“This is Iran intervening in South America. That’s not in the best interests of the South American people, and the United States stands ready.
Pompeo has made three stops in South America – Chile and Paraguay on Friday and Peru on Saturday – and will be in Colombia on Sunday, to gain support for U.S. President Donald Trump’s stance against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his regime.
Pompeo spoke to VOA during a stop in Paraguay. “Maduro and his henchmen have destroyed this nation,” Pompeo said, speaking of Venezuela. “He’s handed over all his power to the Cubans and to the Russians.”
Russia, Iran, China, Cuba and Nicaragua are among the countries supporting Maduro, while some 50 countries, including much of Europe and Latin America, back the U.S. support for Juan Guaido.
Pompeo clarified earlier statements about Chinese involvement in Louth America, saying, “We want China to thrive and prosper. Here’s what we don’t want, especially in South America. We don’t want China to just show up with bags full of money and bribe officials. … we don’t want corrupt activity.”
Regarding Nicaragua, which is also embroiled in turmoil, Pompeo said, “We want the Nicaraguan people to have all the great things that they’re entitled to, that they so desperately want, and [President Daniel] Ortega and his wife both need to change their ways in order to give Nicaragua that very opportunity.”
“We’ll continue to isolate Maduro,” Pompeo said. “Just this week the Organization of American States (OAS) voted to give Juan Guaido’s ambassador a seat at the table. This is good news.”
Speaking on Chile’s Mega TV Friday, Pompero said U.S. military intervention in Venezuela remains an option.
“We will restore democracy,” he said. “Juan Guaido is the proper leader of his country. And we’ll be with him today, we’ll be with him the day that Maduro leaves, and we’ll be with him in the days thereafter to begin to rebuild Venezuela.”