Secretary of State Tillerson rallies support for Venezuela sanctions

Wendy Jensen
February 4, 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began a six-day trip to Latin America.

He also pitched the United States as the region's strongest partner at a time when countries like Russian Federation and China continue to make inroads into Latin America.

China's Foreign Ministry defended its economic ties with the region claiming they are based on mutual interest.

During the South American part of the trip, Tillerson is expected to rally the region's governments in pressing for democratic reforms in Venezuela.

The statement also rejected claims that China is undermining US interest in the region.

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Mr Tillerson raised the prospect of a Venezuelan military coup ahead of a five-day tour of Latin America.

"The relevant USA views fully contradict facts, this is disrespectful to most Latin American countries ..."

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During a speech at the University of Texas at Austin Thursday, the top official said that "China is getting a foothold in Latin America". Commentators have said his statements disregarded the role military dictatorships on the continent have had in subverting democracy and committing human rights violations including killings, kidnappings, and forced disappearances.

Tillerson's tour is also motivated by US "apprehension" at its diminishing influence in the region.

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After a short stay in Mexico, Tillerson travels to Argentina, followed by Peru, Colombia and Jamaica.

The three officials met to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to the Associated Press. "The trip reflects President [Donald] Trump's realization that we need to stop drug inflows, work harder with allies and take a page from history", he said.

But Tillerson, who is often left with the task of explaining why Trump's "America First" slogan does not mean "America Alone", was keen to tout a more positive approach to relations.

His comments followed remarks late past year by US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who said there was already evidence of Russian meddling in Mexican elections set for July.

Addressing the second ministerial meeting under the framework of the China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Forum, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China will actively support Latin America in the fields of transportation, infrastructure and energy.

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