Mike Pompeo lambasts journalist for asking if Trump’s sanctions on Venezuela may impact humanitarian crisis

'Your question showed an incredible lack of understanding,' secretary of state tells journalist while wrongly accusing him of asking a different question

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 16 April 2019 00:41 BST
Journalists allegedly detained by Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro after showing him a video of people eating rubbish

Mike Pompeo attacked a journalist for his supposed “incredible lack of understanding” about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela during his trip through South America last week.

The US secretary of state lambasted the Washington Post’s John Hudson for asking the foreign minister of Peru about the potential implications surrounding severe sanctions against Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela.

Mr Hudson, who posted the exchange on Twitter, asked the foreign minister if his country might “consider changing strategies and other diplomatic tactics” – including the potential to engage with the Maduro government – if the sanctioning “begins exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and creating more refugees in Peru”.

Mr Pompeo ridiculed the journalist immediately after the foreign minister responded during the joint press conference, accusing him of blaming the refugee crisis on recent US actions.

“Your question showed an incredible lack of understanding to have suggested that somehow the policies that Peru has taken or that the Lima Group has taken or that the United States has taken have driven these refugees,” the secretary of state said.

The journalist was instead asking whether Peru’s stance in the region could increase the number of refugees – not whether it already had.

But Mr Pompeo seemed frustrated by the line of questioning, telling the journalist: “You shouldn’t ask questions like that.”

The secretary of state went on to note “the responsibility for these refugees lies squarely with Nicolas Maduro, not any policies that any Democratic nation has taken with our deep intent to make lives better for the Venezuelan people".

“A hundred per cent of the refugee challenge that is faced by Peru and Columbia is the direct result of the Russians, the Cubans and Nicolas Maduro,” he added.

Tweeting a transcript of the exchange, Mr Hudson wrote: “I asked Peru’s foreign minister what he might do if sanctions against Maduro start negatively impacting the humanitarian situation in Venezuela. Pompeo stepped in & said I “shouldn’t ask questions like that” & accused me of blaming the crisis on the US. I didn’t, but you decide.”

Tensions have risen in recent months after the US and many other nations recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the next interim president of Venezuela, demanding the immediate ousting of Mr Maduro, whose re-election has been called fraudulent by the international community.

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The US and other Democratic countries have spearheaded an effort to severely weaken the nation’s economy with restrictive sanctions, while Russia, China and several other nations have stood by the Maduro government.

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