U.S. defends South American democracies with ‘realism and restraint’

Mike Pompeo sitting (© Timothy D. Easley/AP Images)
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo at the University of Louisville McConnell Center on December 2 (© Timothy D. Easley/AP Images)

As citizen protests reinforce South America’s “sharp turn” away from authoritarianism toward increased freedom, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo is pledging U.S. support for the region’s democracies through a foreign policy of realism and restraint.

In December 2 remarks, Pompeo said the U.S. is responding to calls for greater freedom in South America with support for democratic governments and resolve against the lingering influence of dictatorship within the region.

“Many nations have made a sharp turn towards democracy and capitalism, good government, away from dictatorship and socialism and the corruption that has been endemic in some of those countries,” Pompeo told the McConnell Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

“No one in the region any longer believes that authoritarianism is the way forward, that it’s the right path.”

Pompeo said recent protests in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador reflect “the character of legitimate democratic governments and democratic expression inside of their countries.” He called on the region’s democracies to respect nonviolent protest.

Pompeo hailed increased cooperation in the region as the greatest in its history, citing the Rio Treaty nations’ unified response to the illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela as an example. The treaty commits member nations to working together to defend democracy in the Americas.

In September, the United States and 15 other Rio Treaty members passed a resolution paving the way for collective action against the former Maduro regime.

Photo of Pompeo, quote on democratic cooperation (© Timothy D. Easley/AP Images)But Pompeo cautioned that the region’s remnants of authoritarianism are not going quietly. He warned dictators in Cuba and Venezuela not to hijack calls for greater democratic freedoms in the region and not to introduce outside influences that oppose those values.

Pompeo noted that Maduro’s reliance on a state-owned Russian oil company to boost his failing regime is costing the Venezuelan people billions of dollars a year.

While the United States is blessed with strong democratic institutions, Pompeo said, that situation brings a desire to assist other democratic governments in maintaining those freedoms for their people.

We will “work with legitimate governments to prevent protests from morphing into riots and violence that don’t reflect the democratic will of the people,” Pompeo said.