On Pompeo’s Latin America visit, Venezuela crisis and China trade loom large

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday began a three-day visit to Chile, Paraguay and Peru, a clutch of fast-growing countries in a region where China’s growing presence is a concern for Washington and Venezuela’s crisis has escalated.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate foreign Relations Committee hearing on the State Department budget request in Washington, U.S. April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

It will be the first time since 1965 that a U.S. secretary of state has visited Paraguay, a symbolic gesture that experts say underscores U.S. commitment to the region.

Pompeo will also travel on Sunday to Cucuta, a Colombian border city receiving many of the millions of Venezuelan migrants fleeing hunger and violence in their homeland.

Venezuela’s political crisis is expected to dominate the trip as the United States pressures President Nicolas Maduro to step down and urges more countries to join the coalition supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido.

“The trip is an opportunity to showcase the transformation that is happening for the great majority of South American nations where like-minded democracies are coming together to solve regional challenges,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

The visit comes as Washington considers more sanctions against Maduro’s government and pushes Russia to remove its troops from Venezuela.

Vice President Mike Pence, in an address to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, encouraged more countries to join the coalition in support of Guaido. While most Western nations have recognised Guaido as head of state, Russia, China and Cuba have stood by Maduro.

Roberta Braga, a director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Centre at the Atlantic Council, said she expected Pompeo to reiterate the importance of Peru’s leadership as part of the Lima Group regional bloc in addressing Venezuela’s crisis.

“At the top of the priority list for Pompeo’s trip this week will be to continue to reinforce and strengthen the coalition that has been built in support of Guaido,” Braga said.

“Pompeo will likely reiterate the administration’s prior warnings to external actors, including China, Cuba and Russia, to not intervene in the crisis.”

About a quarter of Venezuelans are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations, with people lacking food, medicine and basic services.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said this week Venezuela’s economy was expected to contract by one-fourth in 2019, and a further 10 percent in 2020 – a greater collapse than it projected in October.

The Fund said the decline “generates a sizable drag on projected growth for the region and for the emerging

market and developing economy group in both years.”

During his travels, Pompeo is expected to highlight the gains from economic and trade cooperation with America, whose regional influence has been increasingly challenged by China.

China, whose demand for raw materials increased during rapid economic growth the past two decades, is already the top trade partner for countries ranging from Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy and the world’s top soybean exporter, to tiny Uruguay.

Latin American countries’ turn to China for financing has alarmed Washington even as its own policy toward the region shifts.

Trump’s December 2017 national security strategy said China was seeking to “pull the region into its orbit through state-led investment and loans.”

Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region has risen by $70 billion since 2012, according to the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Centre. While the United States remains the largest source of FDI, its share fell to 20 percent in 2016 from 25.7 percent in 2015 and 24 percent in 2012, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish

Source

more recommended stories

  • Bombs kill more than 200 in Sri Lankan churches, hotels on Easter Sunday

    COLOMBO (Reuters) – More than 200.

  • Saudi Arabia, UAE grant $3 billion of support to Sudan

    DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and.

  • Sri Lanka government declares curfew, shuts down access to major social media sites

    Sri Lankan military stand guard in.

  • In nod to debt concerns, China Belt and Road summit to urge sustainable financing

    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – World leaders meeting.

  • Doves, heartbreak and hope on 20th anniversary of Columbine High massacre

    LITTLETON, Colo. (Reuters) – A week-long.

  • Death toll from Congo boat accident rises to 40 – interior minister

    KINSHASA (Reuters) – Twenty-seven more people.

  • Yellow vest demonstrators, police clash in Paris

    PARIS (Reuters) – Clashes broke out.

  • Clashes break out between police and some yellow vest rioters in Paris

    PARIS (Reuters) – Clashes broke out.

  • Kosovo brings back fighters, families of jihadists from Syria

    PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo brought back.

  • China to show new warships as Beijing flexes military muscle on navy anniversary

    QINGDAO, China (Reuters) – China will.

  • Pompeo says nothing’s changed on North Korea talks – ‘It’ll be my team’

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State.

  • Mueller report strengthens resolves on both sides of political spectrum

    CLEARWATER, Florida/LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – After.

  • Democrats make legal bid for all Russia probe evidence, Trump calls Mueller report ‘crazy’

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats on.

  • Explainer – Egypt votes on changing its constitution

    CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt holds a.

  • ‘Tank man’ video for Leica sparks outcry in China ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

    BEIJING (Reuters) – Germany’s Leica Camera.

  • China says Silk Road not geopolitical tool, understands concerns

    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Belt and.

  • Trump spoke with Abu Dhabi crown prince on Thursday – White House

    FILE PHOTO: Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince.

  • In unflattering detail, Mueller report reveals Trump actions to impede inquiry

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert.

  • Mueller report provides intimate scenes from the Trump White House

    (Advisory: Story includes language throughout that.

  • Barr begins rollout of Russia report in landmark moment for Trump

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General.

  • Time-lapse shots of Notre-Dame spire may offer clues on blaze

    A view shows Notre-Dame Cathedral after.

  • Iran says its armed forces are not a regional threat, calls for unity against U.S.

    LONDON (Reuters) – President Hassan Rouhani.

  • White House, Justice Department officials discussed Mueller report ahead of release – NYT

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House lawyers.

  • Release of Mueller’s Trump-Russia report looms as fight brews over redactions

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats could.

  • Saudi Arabia to host G20 Leaders’ Summit in November 2020: SPA news agency

    CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will.

  • Peru ex-president Garcia shoots himself as police try to arrest him

    FILE PHOTO: Former Peruvian president Alan.

  • Indonesia presidential election unofficial results

    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian President Joko.

  • Spain’s Socialists hold lead ahead of election, still short of majority – poll

    MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s Socialists broadened.

  • Trump vetoes congressional resolution to end U.S. involvement in Yemen war

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump.

  • 150 missing after shipwreck in eastern Congo

    KINSHASA (Reuters) – About 150 people.

  • Mutual friends and borrowed cars – how Ukraine’s would-be leader is linked to tycoon

    KIEV (Reuters) – Volodymyr Zelenskiy, front.

  • No sign of arson in Notre-Dame blaze as nation grieves for symbol

    PARIS (Reuters) – The fire that.