By Caroline Kelly
(CNN)Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States would take further action to pressure embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after several people were killed in clashes with the country’s military blocking humanitarian aid from entering the country.
“There’s more sanctions to be had. There’s more humanitarian assistance, I think, that we can provide,” Pompeo told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday. “I think we’ll find other ways to make sure that food gets to the people who need it, and we will.”
Pompeo added that “further action will be contemplated” at a meeting Monday of the Lima Group, the diplomatic body established in 2017 to help mitigate the Venezuelan crisis.
He also pushed back against critics alleging that the White House was using the aid as a negotiating tool to spur a regime change.
“This aid went in … at the request of the legitimate president of Venezuela,” Pompeo said, referencing US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó. “He said, ‘Please bring food to my people. Please bring medicine to the sick that are here.’ That’s what we’ve been working on these past few weeks.”
When Tapper asked Pompeo’s response to groups citing previous instances of the United States smuggling weapons along with humanitarian aid, he replied, “It’s just humanitarian aid.” He added that it was “USAID-marked” and that other countries have also assisted aid operations.
Asked whether Venezuela’s substantial oil reserves played a role in the United States’ focus on the conflict, Pompeo said, “We’re aimed at a singular mission — ensuring that the Venezuelan people get the democracy that they so richly deserve and that the Cubans, and the Russians who have been driving this country into the ground for years and years and years no longer hold sway.”
He added that if the Venezuelan military, currently acting to support Maduro, began protecting the people, “I think good things will happen including the restoration of the wealth that was created by those oil fields.”
Despite Maduro’s continued cling to military power, Pompeo expressed confidence that the situation would shift.
“I am confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro’s days are numbered,” he said.