QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for receiving us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you. Thank you.
QUESTION: You have just concluded your meeting with President Macri. What are the differences between the U.S.-Argentina relations now as compared with the Kirchnerist years?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s night and day. It’s truly a new era of relationship between our two countries. We work cooperatively together economically, we work on security issues together, we work on a whole range of issues to make life better for the people here in Argentina and the people in the United States. It’s a great level of cooperation, one that will benefit our two countries for years and years to come.
QUESTION: What are your views on today’s polarized political landscape toward the October election here in Argentina?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I mean, I’ll leave it to the Argentinian people, but I’ve watched up close President Macri make great decisions about the economy. They’re tough sometimes, but he’s made the right decision, which will spur growth, create opportunity, take down risk to the Argentinian economy. That’s great for the Argentinian people; it’s great for the relationship between our two countries as well. The opportunities for increased trade and for people-to-people exchanges, all the things that our two countries can do together, are definitely increased because of the relationship and the tough, hard, smart work that the president has done.
QUESTION: I move you to Venezuela. What is your opinion about the talks currently developing in Barbados between the representatives of the Maduro regime and the Venezuelan opposition?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I always live in hope, but in the end, the conversation can only be about one thing, that Maduro must leave. He’s wreaked devastation on the Venezuelan people, now impacting people all over South America. There’s tens of thousands of refugees here in Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile – all are experiencing challenges. From people who have had to flee their homes, people who wanted to live in Venezuela who couldn’t find or make a living for themselves and for their children. That’s unacceptable, and the cause of that is Maduro and his cronies. They need to leave Venezuela, and then we can begin to do the work to rebuild that country democratically, with free and fair elections, in a way that will truly restore the greatness that Venezuela once had.
QUESTION: The United Nations Human Rights Council report was accurate and tough.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it was devastating.
SECRETARY POMPEO: The description of what’s taken place there is truly devastating.
QUESTION: The atrocities of the regime is terrible. So how much longer can this dictatorship survive, remain in power?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s the question everybody wants to know the answer to. I can’t do timeline. I can say this: Maduro can’t govern that country again, and I believe he knows that, and I think all the Venezuelan people know that and all those around him know it. In the end, I think the Cubans are going to have a very difficult decision to make. They have propped up this regime for an awfully long time. They need to leave. They need to go back. When they do that, the Venezuelan people will rise, they’ll vote, they’ll pick – they’ll elect someone. I don’t know who they’ll elect, but they’ll have had the opportunity to have a free and fair election and they can start the rebuilding that needs to take place. It will take months and months and months to begin to rebuild the Venezuelan economy, and we need to start that. It can’t be started with the Cubans still controlling the security services and running the intelligence operations inside of Venezuela.
QUESTION: Cuba is key, but Russia, China, and Iran are also in Venezuela and Latin America. What is your message for them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we hope every foreign power will leave. We want the Venezuelan people to control their own destiny. We think that would be best. In the end, I’m confident that the Venezuelan people will take back their country.
QUESTION: About one of them, Iran, to what extent can the political tension escalate, and is there a red line that Tehran must not cross?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Here today, sitting in Argentina, we had an enormous moment where we reflected 25 years after Iran had conducted a terrorist campaign right here at the AMIA facility, killing 85 people, people from – not just from Argentina but citizens of other countries as well. I think this is an indicator. It’s why we came here to work on counterterrorism today, was the purpose of my visit to Argentina: to help the whole region take down the threat of terror from a number of sources, but certainly from Iran. I was very happy to see the country’s decision, President Macri’s decision to designate Hizballah a terrorist organization.
We’re doing everything we can in the United States to de-escalate with Iran. We want them simply to cease being the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.
QUESTION: China is other of the regimes with presence in the region, and now the Chinese company Huawei wants to deploy its own 5G network in Latin America. What is your opinion about that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: America’s view is very clear: We don’t want American citizens to have their information stolen by the Chinese Government, the Chinese Communist Party. We feel the same way about citizens in Argentina and all throughout South America. These systems are controlled by the state in China and we think it would be a poor decision for the citizens of Argentina to be exposed to having their information, their data stored on Chinese technology which, by the Chinese own constitution, if they ask for it has to be turned over to the government. So we’re urging every country to think carefully about that and make good decisions so that their people can have confidence that their networks aren’t controlled by China and the Chinese Communist Party.
QUESTION: Russia today said that it will support Ortega regime in Nicaragua.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, they’ve got the wrong end of the stick. The Nicaraguan people know better, that the Ortega regime is also headed in a bad direction, and we hope that he and his wife will both make a decision to leave Nicaragua and allow the Nicaraguan people to have the opportunity that they so richly deserve.
QUESTION: And lastly, what country in Latin America besides Venezuela concerns you the most?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness, there’s challenges everywhere. But frankly, when I look at South America today, I don’t see challenges, I see enormous opportunity. I see this new era where countries like Argentina with President Macri and Brazil with President Bolsonaro and Chile, Peru, all moving in the right direction towards growing economies, less government influence driving the economy, real opportunity for their citizens in ways that South America hasn’t had for an awfully long time. So as I stare at the opportunities here in South America, they far outweigh all of those very challenges.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, sir.