SECRETARY POMPEO: Hello, this is Mike speaking.
QUESTION: This is Julio Sanchez. Secretary Pompeo, welcome to our country.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Julio, thank you. It’s great to be here. It’s great to be back.
QUESTION: Okay. We don’t have too much time, so let’s do it. (Inaudible) the peace agreement with FARC was supposed to have an impact on drug trafficking, and coca crops. Number are not good, are increases – increasing in both cases. Colombians think that we have lost the war on drugs. What is next, the aerial spraying?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, look, it’s important. I was with President Duque this morning talking about this very issue. It’s important that we continue to do everything we can to reduce both the coca crop as well as to interdict cocaine that’s traveling from here to the United States and around the world. I watched and listened to President Duque; he talked about their plan. Last year they eradicated some – almost 100,000 hectares of coca. It’s clearly not yet enough. There’s clearly more work yet to be done, but that’s the hard work. That’s the effort. I’m confident the Colombian people are supportive of that. The United States is prepared to do all that we can to help them achieve that mission. It’s important for our relationship, it’s important to the people of the United States, and most importantly, it’s important to the people of Colombia that we’re all successful in that.
QUESTION: Mr. Pompeo, you just had a meeting with Juan Guaido. The opposition in Venezuela is fractured. Is it reasonable for United States to keep supporting Juan Guaido if the opposition that he leads is divided?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I came into the administration three years ago, when the opposition was intensely divided. Since then, I’ve seen a fundamental transformation, and importantly, Juan Guaido just this past couple weeks was reelected as the duly elected leader of his country. The United States recognizes him as such; so do some five dozen or so countries. He’s the leader of Venezuela. Maduro is relegated to trying to use colectivos and terror to harm his people – now 1.6 million of them living here in Colombia. This is a devastation that has been wrought on the Venezuelan people by Maduro, and the United States, Europeans, South American countries – I was just with a big group of them today – all continue to support the Venezuelan people and their duly elected leader, Juan Guaido.
QUESTION: How strong is the information that the American intelligence has about the presence of Hizballah in Venezuela?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I don’t talk about particular pieces of intelligence, but make no mistake about it: We have the threat of Hizballah not only in the Middle East but in South America as well. This is a real threat. It poses a real challenge to the people of the country, and today you had gathered a dozen-plus leaders from all across Central and South America and from the Caribbean all working together to develop systems and processes and intelligence-sharing operations such that the threat not only from Hizballah but all other terror groups can be mitigated.
QUESTION: The United States just extended Exxon’s license to seek oil in Venezuela. Couldn’t this be seen as contradictory with the economic sanctions applied to the Maduro regime?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We have, alongside many of our partners, implemented a strategy that has weakened Maduro. We continue to develop that strategy. We continue to work to make sure that we’ve got it just right. We’ve imposed a number of sanctions, we’ve developed a coalition that has united in opposition to Maduro. Individual decisions that we make are constantly subject to review. We want to make sure that we get it right. We want medicine and food to be able to get to the Venezuelan people, but we want to deny the regime – the Maduro regime – the capacity to continue to inflict this terrible humanitarian crisis they inflicted on the Venezuelan people. We continue to be hard at it. It continues to be an important priority for the United States as well as for those dozens of other countries.
QUESTION: Military intervention – is it still in the agenda?
SECRETARY POMPEO: President’s made – answered that time and time again. We’re doing everything we can to resolve this in a way that is peaceful and reflects what the Venezuelan people want. They just want a chance to feed their families, to take care of themselves, to not be under the boot of Maduro. They want a free and fair election. Our aim is to deliver one for them.
QUESTION: On January the 1st in Illinois starts the legal recreational marijuana sales. In one day, in the first day, they sold $3.2 million in marijuana. What do you think that marijuana could be legal in Colombia?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll leave that to the Colombian people and I’ll leave U.S. domestic politics to them. I am America’s foreign secretary; I’ve got an awful lot on my plate.
QUESTION: Mr. Pompeo, last question.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: How is the government of President Duque doing with the implementation of the peace agreement with FARC?
SECRETARY POMPEO: From the way the United States observes this, we leave these domestic issues to the people of their country. What we care deeply about is that we have a good working relationship with the (inaudible) people and its leadership. We have that today with President Duque. Where we find care, where we find work that our teams can do to assist the Colombians in securing their own people, we’re aiming to do it. So we work our law enforcement teams, help them. Just this past weekend, the Colombian navy did remarkable work to help the United States when it had a terrible tragedy here in the region. These are the kind of relationships that are so central, so important to delivering better outcomes for both the American people and for the Colombian people, and we believe we have a wonderful partner with this administration here in Colombia.
QUESTION: Mr. Pompeo, thank you very much for this interview. We will try to find a longer time to speak with you with several items, but we know that your agenda in Colombia is very busy.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I would love that, Julio. Thank you so much for your time today, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Pompeo. Good trip.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir. So long.