QUESTION: You’re the first high-ranking U.S. Government official to visit Guyana, and under the impression by some that your presence here is to antagonize Venezuela. How would you respond to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: First, thanks for having me on. My presence here is to congratulate the Guyanese people on the enormous success they had in holding a democratic election and a peaceful transition to power, and it was quite remarkable to watch. We’re proud of what they’ve done. We think it will do great things for the people of Guyana and for the region. The government wanted me to come down, too, to talk about all the opportunities there are for the United States to invest and help build out better lives for the people of Guyana.
And of course, too, we want this for the people of Venezuela as well. We want them to have the very same chance to have a free, fair election, for the rule of law, for democracy, and for human rights in Venezuela. We watch people fleeing – fleeing into Guyana, fleeing into Colombia, fleeing into Peru, Ecuador, people having to flee from Maduro and his brutal regime. We very much want that to change. We want them to have the same opportunities that the people of Guyana have. That’s why we came down here today, to help make sure that the new leadership here in Guyana understood that the United States was a friendly nation with good intentions for them.
QUESTION: Good intentions. Okay. You spoke about having conversations with President Mohamed, Dr. Mahomed Irfaan Ali, and of course his team. And you’ve just expressed the confidence of the U.S. Government in his administration. But I understand a number of agreements were also signed and the U.S. is interested in assisting with the COVID-19 fight. I know you also are coming from a background of security, so that would have been key on the agenda as well. What does the U.S. (inaudible) in the COVID assistance fight to Guyana, and what other major areas have you discussed?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’ve been working to help with COVID response all across the Caribbean region, certainly here as well, over the past – goodness – now seven or eight months this has been going on. Our support is real. It’s serious. Guyana’s people have done a good job managing this. The real impact, too, besides all the lives lost across the world, is that economies have been decimated. And so we were talking about the ways we could work together to build our economies back coming out of this enormously challenging time. One of the – one of the agreements we talked about today was to help Guyana enforce its own sovereign rights. So there was a security agreement about a set of maritime issues and our capacity to jointly, with the consent of the Guyanese Government, to work together to reduce the risk from those who might want to invade Guyanese sovereignty from maritime (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Inaudible) security you said comes up on that issue as well. That forms a big part of it (inaudible) the drug trade and the narcotrafficking, and for that (inaudible) visit to Suriname moving on to Brazil —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure.
QUESTION: — and Colombia as well. When can we see tangible results or expect tangible results coming out of these discussions?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s a good question. So we will see increased support, increased efforts. When we’ll see the fruit of those efforts is always more difficult to answer. Look, these are ongoing, challenging problem sets that certainly no one nation can resolve on its own. Big maritime boundaries, big maritime borders, multiple countries. The problem of Venezuela as well sitting in the middle of all that, engaged in narcotrafficking. We’ve now indicted Nicolas Maduro. He engaged in narcotrafficking at a level that is unrivaled here in South America. And so all of these things will come together, but we are committed to – what the United States is committed to is to working with each of these countries, both separately and through multilateral institutions, to do everything we can to reduce the risks to the people of every one of those countries from the threats of arms trafficking, narcotics trafficking, and all the criminal elements that come alongside of it.
QUESTION: Your background is also in energy. Your background – you were a businessman. (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I was in the energy industry. A very small business, but yes.
QUESTION: Ah, 400 (inaudible). Interesting. Part of that, as you said, is helping the interests of the U.S. Government and the Guyana Government in terms of what opportunities we have looking at Guyana’s emerging energy sector as well. Have discussions been held with the private sector agencies or stakeholders, and how are we looking – how do we intend to have a discussion on accessing markets?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So I talk to American private sector leaders all the time. I consider it part of my job to help them understand how they can invest overseas in international markets, build their business up in the United States, and in the course of doing, benefit people of those countries as well. But multiple issues, right. We want to make sure that that foreign direct investment comes in in a way that’s fair and transparent. I think every country understands that when America shows up, we ask for nothing more than a fair shot at the competition, rule of law, contracts that are enforceable, a set of property rights. We don’t apply political pressure connected to our commercial enterprises. There are other nations that operate very differently.
China operates very differently. The Chinese Communist Party shows up with its military and commercial deeply intertwined. They put political pressure on countries to accept tenders from their country. That’s not how American businesses roll. We show up; we hire locally. We are great environmental stewards. We abide by the rule of law. We respect countries’ sovereignty. Those are the things that I think nations are looking for, and I think the new leadership here in Guyana is looking for. For those who want to come here and invest and grow Guyana, we’re all about trying to find American companies, not just in the energy industry but in agriculture – we talked about catfish today – all of these places where we think we can do a good turn and make it a lot better for both the American people and those here in Guyana as well.
QUESTION: These discussions all come together in one. Just about a month ago, Guyana and Suriname signed agreements —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
QUESTION: — to push businesses as well. You were in Suriname, here as well. Discussions are overlapping, I’m assuming, as well?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, I think that’s right. Look, across trade, across this region, right, French Guiana, Suriname, Brazil, all of the places where markets can be grown, these are important things that can merge all together.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the U.S. is entering into an election. There have been a number of – we’ve had our fair share of election issues and recommendations from the (inaudible) and other observer groups. How can the U.S. Government assist Guyana in terms of modernizing its election – it’s electoral system?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we certainly stand ready to help them. There are mechanisms or election monitoring systems. The Caribbean – the CARICOM has done some good work. And I think there are multilateral institutions that have done some of that work as well. But we think we – and I understand we’ve helped thousands of elections, municipal elections, city elections, school board elections. We know what makes a free and fair election. It’s a central idea of every person gets to vote who wants to vote, who’s eligible. Every vote gets counted in a way that everyone knows that their vote was counted, once not twice, and that there’s a fairness that’s associated with it that comes with that openness and that transparency so that the rules, the leadership, the policies that flow from that government that is duly elected fairly reflect what it is the people are demanding through their own democratic system.
We’re proud of that tradition in the United States, and we’re proud that wherever countries like Guyana, who’s now demonstrated its capacity to hold a free and fair election and a transition, a peaceful transition to power, we want to see that right alongside of them and help them continue to be successful.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for granting us this interview.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) schedule. Best wishes to you and your government.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir, very much. Bless you.