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US urges Venezuela's Maduro to 'open these bridges'

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United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday urged Venezuela's acting President Nicolas Maduro to "change your ways" after visiting a migrant center in Cucuta, a Colombian border town.

More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages and a political crisis in their homeland. The UN estimates that figure will surpass 5 million by the end of the year.

What Pompeo said

Imitating US President Ronald Reagan's famous "Tear down this wall" speech in Berlin at the end of the Cold War, Pompeo called on Maduro to "open these bridges, open these borders. You can end this today." He went on to say:

  • "I hope you will care now when you see the horror, when you see the tragedy, to change your ways and to leave your country."
  • The United States "will continue to use every economic and political means at our disposal to help the Venezuelan people."
  • "Cubans must understand that there will be a cost with continued support of Nicolas Maduro, and we're going to have the same conversation with Russia as well."
Read more: Venezuela explained: Who backs Maduro, who backs Guaido?

Pompeo 'has come to intimidate us'

The US Secretary of State's visit to Cucuta with Colombian President Ivan Duque came as part of a four-nation South American tour aimed at applying pressure on Maduro.

On the Venezuelan side of the border, Freddy Bernal, a government leader close with the country's Maduro-supporting colectivos community, said Pompeo "has come to intimidate us and give orders to his servant Ivan Duque."

Humanitarian crisis:

Maduro has imposed a blockade along Venezuela's borders to prevent humanitarian aid from Colombia, Brazil and the Dutch Caribbean from entering the country. The acting Venezuelan president associates the aid with a US invasion and has cited US sanctions as the reason for the country's economic woes. Authorities in Venezuela have also accused Washington of attempting to overthrow Maduro and even blamed it for an electrical grid failure last month that left the country without power for days. Read more: US' Mike Pence urges UN to recognize Venezuela's Guaido

Political crisis:

In January, opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself Venezuela's interim president, a move aimed at forcing Maduro out of office. The United States was one of the first countries to recognize the moves and more than 50 other nations — including Germany — have since followed suit. But the support for Guaido has not loosened Maduro's grip on power, as the embattled leader continues to enjoy support from the armed forces. dv/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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