US Secretary of State Pompeo blames Cuba, targets Mexico

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While visiting Ecuador at the weekend, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that free and fair elections in Venezuela would not be possible while Cuba was supporting embattled president, Nicolas Maduro.

“With respect to Maduro staying, it seems incomprehensible that you could have a free and fair election with Maduro still in Venezuela on the ground. I don’t want to rule out the possibility that someone could find a clever way to do that, but it seems that to the extent that you have the Cubans protecting Maduro, they would not be able to deliver a free and fair election,” Pompeo said in Ecuador on Saturday evening. 

Read more: How much influence does Cuba have over Venezuela?

The United States has been leading efforts to oust Maduro since his re-election in 2018, which Washington considers illegitimate.

The US is one of many states supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has failed to oust Maduro despite declaring himself Venezuela’s rightful president.

Maduro maintains that Guaido is a puppet backed by the United States and other western countries seeking to oust him.

Supported by the military, Maduro has the ongoing support of China, Russia and Cuba.

Maduro has presided over a crumbling economy that has led to one of the worst refugee crises to ever hit Latin America. 

Read more: 3 million people have fled Venezuela

Trade and migration in Mexico talks

Moving on to Mexico, Pompeo was due to meet with Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Sunday morning, a day before the deadline on a key trade arrangement.

In June, Mexico averted punishing tariffs on shipments to the US by promising to restrict the flow of illegal migrants from Central America by July 22.

That 45-day period expires on Monday and should the US determine that Mexico has not done enough to stem the migrant tide, talks will start to change rules so that most asylum seekers apply for refuge in Mexico, and not in the United States.

Mexico has long resisted pressure to accept this “safe third country” status

Conditions at migrant camps on the US border have been strongly criticized by US lawmakers and rights’ groups. 

Ebrard said Mexico has fulfilled its commitment to reduce migration from Central America, in part by deploying 21,000 National Guardsmen. 

kw/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters) 

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