Pompeo tells divided Security Council nations should support change in Venezuela

By Pamela Falk

/ CBS News

Diplomats in Venezuela ordered home

United Nations — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on all members of the United Nations Security Council Saturday "to support Venezuela's democratic transition."

Pomeo was at the U.N. to garner support for the presidency of opposition leader and self-proclaimed President Juan Guaidó, and to urge nations to abandon the government of Nicolas Maduro, who was inaugurated for a second term earlier this month after an election that was considered a sham.

He spoke of the desperate conditions in Venezuela, where protests in the past week have turned deadly. The Trump administration is urging the world to follow its lead to recognize Guaidó as the nation's legitimate interim leader.

"We stand with the Venezuelan people as they seek to build a better life," Pompeo told the Security Council. "We cannot ignore the suffering or tyranny taking place in this proud nation. Neither should other countries who care about freedom and prosperity."

"Our nations must stand up for the rule of law, and support the leader who the Venezuelan people have affirmed as their legitimate interim president. It is our hope that free and fair elections happen as soon as possible," he said.

But support in the Council was divided, and an effort to have a statement approved failed before the meeting began.

Russia's ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, called the U.S attempt to pass a statement "an unethical ploy," said the Trump administration's support for Guaido is a "coup d'etat."

The U.N. meeting took place place at a time of extreme volatility in Venezuela, where the economy is in a downward spiral and hyperinflation is making life impossible despite the country's oil revenue. Nearly a tenth of the population has fled in recent years.

The U.S., along with Canada, the European Union, the Organization of American States and an alliance of over a dozen Latin American nations, have dropped their relations with the Maduro government and recognized the government of Guaidó, while Russia, China, Mexico, and Cuba have stood by their relations with the Maduro government.

First published on January 26, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Pamela Falk

Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.

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