World / Politics

Mike Pompeo visits Colombia-Venezuela border and hears critic after praising Peru refugee policy

AFP-JIJI

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ended a visit to Peru on Sunday and traveled to the Colombian border city of Cucuta, crossed through by thousands of Venezuelans fleeing crisis under President Nicolas Maduro.

After attending a Sunday service in the Peruvian capital Lima, the chief U.S. diplomat set off shortly after noon for the final leg of his tour of South America, which began Friday in Chile.

The highlight of Pompeo’s trip will be the brief visit to Cucuta, where he will meet refugees.

All four countries on his itinerary — the fourth being Paraguay — are led by right-wing or center-right leaders favorable to Washington’s uncompromising approach to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“Peru has felt firsthand the effects of the disastrous Nicolas Maduro and the pain that he has brought to the Venezuelan people,” he had said Saturday, following talks with President Martin Vizcarra and Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio.

Pompeo said that Peru had shown “enormous leadership in responding to this challenge.”

Over 3 million Venezuelans, around 10 percent of the population, now live outside the crisis-hit country. The United Nations predicts that number will hit 5.3 million by the end of 2019.

Peru has received the most Venezuelans after Colombia: 750,000, according to Popolizio, testing the capacity of the country’s public services.

On Saturday, Pompeo paid tribute to Peru’s welcome for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees. But he became irritated when a reporter asked if that contradicted U.S. President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policy at home.

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