U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged the people of South America to resist offers of investment and aid from U.S. economic competitors China and Russia, saying the United States is a better friend and investment partner to its regional neighbors.
Speaking Friday in Santiago, Chile, Pompeo said the United States believes this is a time of opportunity for South America 'to cement a future of democracy, prosperity, and peace for this hemisphere. ... The chance is ours to seize or squander.'
Pompeo warned that China and Russia, both of whom have invested in South American countries, bring corrosion and corruption to the economy, pointing out a dam project in Ecuador, financed by Chinese money, that has not been successful.
'The dam was supposed to solve Ecuador's energy needs and help lift the country out of poverty,' he said. 'But now the dam runs at half-capacity. ... Nearly every top official involved in the dam's construction is either imprisoned or sentenced on bribery charges.'
He accused Russia of escalating unrest in Venezuela by propping up the regime of Nicolas Maduro and sending soldiers to establish a training center. 'We shouldn't stand for Russia escalating an already precarious situation in these ways,' he said.
He also said Russia has sold arms and opened a police training center in Nicaragua. 'The results of Russia's involvement in Nicaragua, to put it mildly, aren't good,' Pompeo said.
In contrast, Pompeo said the United States is establishing fair trade agreements with South American nations, facilitating regional cooperation, and supporting Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is fighting for control of the nation.
'We'll continue to isolate Maduro,' Pompeo said. 'Just this week the Organization of American States voted to give Juan Guaido's ambassador a seat at the table. This is good news.'
Earlier, Pompeo met with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera to discuss bilateral cooperation, regional investment, and the political situations in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Pompeo told reporters the United States will work with Chile and other partners like it to stand up to the Nicaraguan regime.
Regarding Venezuela, Pompeo said the U.S. and its allies, such as Chile, 'will not quit this fight.' He said they will continue to stand up for democracy.
Chile is the first stop on Pompeo's three-day trip, which takes him to Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Colombia.
Pompeo travels Saturday to Paraguay's capital, Asuncion, where he will meet with the president and foreign minister, and on Sunday he is expected to do the same in Peru. In both countries, they are expected to discuss transnational crime and support for Venezuelan refugees.
Pompeo also is expected to visit Colombia briefly, touching down in the border city of Cucuta, where a number of entities are working to support Venezuelan refugees.