Pompeo to highlight Venezuelan refugees at Brazil border


Washington (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday he would highlight the plight of refugees from Nicolas Maduro's Venezuela on a regional trip that includes the country's border area with Brazil.

Pompeo will head Friday to the Brazilian city of Boa Vista before going to Colombia, the State Department said.

He also confirmed that he will on Thursday pay the first visit by a US secretary of state to Guyana and Suriname, which both have new leaders and enticing energy resources.

Pompeo said in a tweet that he was traveling to "celebrate and fight for democracy in the Western Hemisphere."

In Bogota, Pompeo will speak to President Ivan Duque on "tackling the threats to regional security from narcotraffickers, terror groups and Maduro's illegitimate regime," the State Department said in a statement.

Nearly five million people have fled Venezuela after years of economic blight and political strife under the leftist Maduro, according to UN figures.

President Donald Trump's administration enjoys strong support from the right-leaning governments in Colombia and Brazil for removing Maduro, but the campaign has made little headway since its launch in January 2019.

Maduro still enjoys the backing of Venezuela's military, along with support from Russia, China and Cuba.

Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, will wrap up his trip in the Dallas area with a visit to Prestonwood Baptist Church, a megachurch that draws thousands of worshippers.

Evangelicals are a crucial voting bloc for Trump in November 3 elections. The statement said Pompeo would "discuss Department of State priorities" at the church.