REMARKS TO THE PRESS
MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE
ERNESTO ARAUJO, BRAZILIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
ALA 7 AIR BASE
BOA VISTA, BRAZIL
SEPTEMBER 18, 2020
FOREIGN MINISTER ARAUJO: (Via translator) Thank you, thank you all for your presence. It is a joy to welcome here in Boa Vista my dear friend Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from the United States of America.
First and foremost, it is a joy to have this meeting here in Boa Vista, in the State of Roraima – a dear and important state to the Federation of Brazil that has suffered so many challenges – and see those challenges in person, for us coming from Brasilia, it is extremely important. We are also honored with the presence of Governor Antonio Denarium and Senator Chico Rodrigues, from Roraima.
This trip allowed us to visit the facilities of Operation “Acolhida” here in Boa Vista, the Triage Center and afterwards the Our Lady Consolata Parish. These visits – I already visited the Operation “Acolhida” before – but it always renews, and for the first time for Secretary Pompeo, a very strong and present feeling of the suffering of the Venezuelan people and the solidarity the Brazilian people are giving the Venezuelans.
The Venezuelan people are being forced to leave their country due to a humanitarian crisis that is caused by a despotic and tyrannic regime that isn’t concerned with the wellbeing of its own people and that deliberately creates the worst possible conditions for its own people’s lives.
So we are always working on two fronts – both Brazil and the United States and other countries interested in promoting democracy and prosperity in the Hemisphere – which are: to try and return democracy to Venezuela so that Venezuela can restore the conditions to have a government that is concerned about its people and that can provide good living conditions for its people; and, on the other hand, to receive the Venezuelans who take refuge in other countries, who flee that regime to other countries.
Here this is a very present situation. We talked with a few Venezuelans who are here being internalized into other states in Brazil in many cases, very grateful for the welcoming and, at the same time, emotional when talking about their country, when talking about Venezuela, about the degradation of living conditions in Venezuela that forced them to come here, sometimes walking 250 kilometers or more by foot to arrive in Brazil. This effort of Operation “Acolhida” that helps our Venezuelan friends has the collaboration of the United States of America, mainly through its agency USAID that provides a great part of the international cooperation that is given to Venezuelan refugees, as well as other nations and international organizations to which Brazil is extremely grateful.
We talked again in a meeting after that visit to Operation “Acolhida,” a very productive meeting, where we talked especially about Venezuela. I think that many people would wish that this theme would not be so prevalent in our agenda.
Sometimes we would like to forget that there is a dictatorship in Venezuela that forced more than 15 percent out of its population fleeing life conditions, the lack of freedom, and food shortages. But unfortunately, we can’t not talk about Venezuela.
One day we may have Venezuela again, we will have Venezuela again as a full member of the Hemispheric community of nations and the international community as a democratic and free country. But at the moment, we must talk about the existing Venezuela, a country that is dominated by a regime that is associated to the worst criminal factions, a regime that lives off drug trafficking, a regime that cynically still presents itself as the government of that country, but that is simply a wealth extraction scheme for personal benefit with a project to continue to simply destroy that country, which unfortunately was the project of certain political groups for the whole region and against which, in Brazil, we opposed.
We worry about Venezuela, but we also worry about the possible return of this project to the region. It’s Brazil’s responsibility, with friendly nations, who are friends of freedom and democracy, as is the case of the United States. We are always ready to coordinate with the U.S. for the good of the Hemisphere. So, we want to continue to work for the good of Venezuela.
We spoke about the recent report from the U.N. Human Rights Council, a report that shows tragedy […] in Venezuela that says that the Maduro and some of his Minister committed crimes against humanity, so it isn’t an ‘ordinary’ authoritarian regime. It is a terrible regime that really needs to disappear for the good of the Venezuelan people, for the good of the Western Hemisphere and the whole world. And we are sure that the Venezuelans themselves have the ability to find their own way, but the whole international community needs to help Venezuelans find their way to freedom.
Moreover, we talked about many other issues in our agenda, and our regional agenda. We talked about the excellent perspective of relations with a neighboring country to Roraima state: Guyana, which was also visited by Secretary Mike Pompeo that has a new government. He is excited and Brazil is also excited to work with the new government of Guyana. We are working, as you know, on the road connection from Roraima to Georgetown. It will be a great change in the economic paradigm of this region from Brazil, and access to the Caribbean will certainly change the panorama.
We also talked about the challenges of COVID-19, and about our expectations of economic recovery. Brazil, as you know, is in an accelerated process of economic recovery. Among emerging countries, it is the one with the best numbers in face of the crisis. And economic partnership with the U.S. is fundamental for us to resume growth.
We talked about the good trade prospects due to frequent contact and dialogues with the USTR, always with the strong support of the State Department and the U.S. government. Because this advancement in trade reflects a decision made by the Presidents and the new spirit that Presidents Bolsonaro and Trump brought to the relationship since their meeting in Mar-a-Lago last March – the creation of a true economic partnership between Brazil and the United States. We continue to work diligently, and Secretary Mike Pompeo has been decisive so that we can implement the Presidents’ desire. I would like to thank Secretary Mike Pompeo’s collaboration and joint work to this end.
I would also like to mention the prospect of continuing to work on the environment issue, which is something that interests us evidently in this region, in the Amazon Region. Our bilateral talks on cooperation in this area continue. Brazil continues with its environmental policy that we consider absolutely solid, absolutely capable of protecting the Amazon, while ensuring Amazon’s sustainable development within our sovereignty. And, to that end, we also need sustainable investments in this region. And we are sure that the United States can be a fundamental partner in these sustainable investments in the Amazon.
Well, these are just a few issues that we discussed. I want to leave the floor to Secretary Mike Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good evening, everyone. I was – I was last in Brazil for President Bolsonaro’s inauguration now almost two years ago – hard to believe. It’s great to be back in this beautiful country and in Boa Vista today with another strong partner of the United States, Foreign Minister Araujo. Thank you so much for joining me here. Brazil celebrated its 198th anniversary of independence just 11 days ago. Congratulations. I’m proud that the United States under President Monroe was the first nation to recognize that independence in 1822. From our founding to yours we saw a kindred spirit in Brazil.
Saw that again today. The spirit of goodwill and shared values continues. The foreign minister and I agreed that the two largest democracies and economies in the Western Hemisphere are powerful forces for good when we work together. Our partnership is especially needed as we overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. USAID recently completed the donation of 1,000 ventilators to Brazil. Our government has committed roughly 13.8 million in pandemic aid to date, and our private sector has pledged roughly $55 million. We’re proud to do this work alongside a friend and a friendly nation.
I’m in Boa Vista because we’re working together to help the Venezuelan people overcome the humanitarian man-made crisis brought on by the illegitimate Maduro regime. Foreign Minister, your government’s compassion and support for freedom in this area is truly a model for the entire hemisphere. You provided shelter to nearly 265,000 Venezuelans who are deeply in need. Thank you for that. I met with some of these individuals. Some of you were able to join us. It was at a migrant and refugee reception center. We spoke to a handful of them. They want what all human beings want: dignity. They want a democratic, peaceful, sovereign Venezuela to call home, one where they and their children could find jobs and live with that dignity. We, the United States and Brazil, support them.
To date my government has provided roughly $50 million in humanitarian aid for this cause, primarily here in this state. Those funds have supplied safe drinking water, as I saw at a USAID-sponsored NGO earlier today. They’ve also meant food and jobs for thousands of Brazilians and Venezuelans alike, and I’m glad today to announce an additional $348 million in humanitarian assistance to help Venezuelans who have fled Maduro’s brutality, including $30 million in support for the generous host communities here in Brazil. This brings the United States total assistance for Venezuelan crisis response to a bit over $1.2 billion since 2017.
On the economic front, last March President Trump and President Bolsonaro established the U.S-Brazil Energy Forum. The first ministerial took place in Rio de Janeiro back in February. I’m proud that American companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron are investing here and that Brazil is such a strong partner. Congratulations on becoming one of the world’s biggest oil exporters. I’m pleased to note, too, that we’re also starting new technical cooperation with Brazil to support energy resource mineral development and good governance in that sector.
On top of that, just a week and a half ago, 10 days ago, our two countries held the first working group meeting under the Growth in the Americas Memorandum of Understanding. What we’re doing there is pretty straightforward. We’re incentivizing private sector investment in infrastructure and energy, transportation, telecommunications. The U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum in less than two weeks will recommend ways to deepen our bilateral trade and investment further. So we’re subscribed; everybody on both sides wants to be a part of this enormous opportunity. I’m thrilled with that.
Looking ahead to October, not far off, we’re launching an environmental partnership dialogue. Here in the Amazon we see the bounty of God’s creation. With this dialogue we’ll share best practices and show the world how we can develop our economies while still protecting our ecosystems. This can be done.
And finally, the foreign minister and I also discussed national security and the importance of keeping Brazil’s future networks safe from the Chinese Communist Party.
I’ll close with a personal note by thanking the foreign minister again for being such an indispensable partner to the United States. I’m grateful for your hospitality and for your leadership, and that of President Bolsonaro. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Let’s begin our Q&A session. The first question will be asked by Mr. Thiago Nolasko from TV Record.
QUESTION: First, I would like to ask Minister Ernesto Araújo and later Secretary Pompeo. Minister Araújo, the U.S.-Brazil partnership in these areas has been growing, and I noticed that Brazil has made concessions to the United States, and we can cite the ethanol issue and the presidency of the IADB. I’d like to know: what does Brazil want in return? What kind of support Brazil hopes to get from the U.S. Government in return?
And, to Secretary Pompeo, I would like to know how is the situation regarding Venezuela at the moment, is the use of military force still not considered at this moment? Is it being discarded or not?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.
QUESTION: (In Portuguese.)
STAFF: Foreign Minister?
QUESTION: (In Portuguese.)
MODERATOR: (In Portuguese.)
FOREIGN MINISTER ARAUJO: (Via translator) Obrigado, Thiago. The relation we are building with the U.S. is a long-term relationship. It’s an extremely diverse relationship, as shown in the quality of the meeting we just held, and about which we talked here. Certain movements exist on both sides in a positive sense. The idea that they are concessions, I don’t think we should perceive them this way because concession sounds like something static and what we have is a dynamic reality. In the Ethanol and sugar sector, for instance, what we did was to extend a quota for American ethanol in Brazil to begin a negotiation process in the next three months, and if everything works out, and I’m sure it will, it will lead to new opportunities in the alcohol sector of Brazil in the U.S.
With reference to IADB’s presidency, what we need is an active IADB, an IADB committed not only to the Bank’s financial soundness, but also committed towards development, democracy and prosperity of the Hemisphere, bringing investments, bringing new projects. And we are sure that it doesn’t depend on a Brazilian candidate or a candidate from any other country. What is important is the convergence we have about the IADB concept. I am sure that a Brazilian candidate could bring these advancements as well as the American candidate, the winning Mauricio Claver-Carone, a friend of us, certainly will be able to do it. So, the issue isn’t nationality, but the program, that will be good to Brazil for sure, to bring more investment and more opportunities to Brazil, including to the Amazon Region.
In terms of this relationship also, I think the numbers presented here by Secretary Pompeo about donations here to Operation “Acolhida,” are impressive, because, if I summed them correctly, with the new donations – for which the Brazilian Government is extremely thankful – the U.S. support totals US$ 80 million, in an operation that already cost Brazil US$ 400 million in the past two years. So, you see that this donation from the U.S. represents 20% of the total, which is extremely significant and shows in practice the commitment of this Brazil-U.S. partnership to find solutions to our problems.
Well, I would like to add as well that we are also grateful for the donations during the pandemic, especially of respirators and other items by the U.S. Government.
And this partnership, as I said, shouldn’t be seen from an immediate perspective, but it’s a partnership that is making a difference to Brazil, and certainly will make even more, and to the world. This is what I think is fundamental. We also discussed, we’ve been talking a lot, Secretary Pompeo and I, about our responsibility, of Brazil and the United States, to defend our democratic values in a post-COVID world. This is something that we’ve been talking about with other Ministers. I think that today Brazil and the United States are leaders in this discussion. And that in a post-COVID world we must not question globalization, but we need a globalization based on democracy and freedom. This is a vision that I share with the Secretary of State, a vision that is not simply of our bilateral relationship, but of the role we can have in the world.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I want to follow up on what Ernesto said. You could look at any point along the way and look at any particular element and say, boy, what did we get in exchange? That’s not how our two countries think about this. This is a relationship, not a transactional space. It’s not about we’ll do X and you’ll do Y. It’s about partners working together to build out their economies together, to jointly push back against threats to our countries in an equal way. There’ll be days when the United States does things and you can’t identify the counter thing that Brazil did for the United States and vice versa – friends don’t work that way. They don’t count on what (inaudible) look at any particular transaction. What they look at is the direction of march. How are the two countries working together to make life better for each of their two peoples? And what I have observed between our two administrations, the Bolsonaro and Trump administrations, every day we are working as foreign ministers, as traders, our militaries, all of the elements of power beginning to find common ways to ensure that we have joint security, joint economic prosperity, and that the lives of our people are better off as a result of the work that we do together.
So it’s not – the right approach isn’t to look at any particular one thing, but rather to look at the whole relationship. And I think it is unmistakable that the Brazilian people and the American people are better off as a result of the work that we do together.
And your second question was to me with respect to – if I understood the question correctly, it was about the use of military force in Venezuela.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Is that right? President Trump’s been unambiguous. Our mission set is to make sure that the Venezuelan people ultimately get the democracy that the people of Brazil enjoy. I was in Suriname and then Guyana. I’ve watched two now nations conduct elections where they were free, open, and transparent and got to the right outcome, the right outcome being the will of the people of those two countries. We are looking forward to the day when the Venezuelan people get a chance to do that. That’s not going to be the fake election that Maduro’s going to hold here in just a couple of months. That won’t be remotely free, it won’t be remotely fair; it’ll be a completely rigged election which won’t remotely represent the Venezuelan people, too many of whom – too many of whom have had to flee their country. We saw a handful of them today. None of those people will be given the opportunity to express their desires, let alone the people inside of Venezuela being adequately reflected.
So as for what the United States will do, we will work to continue to build out our coalition. We will continue to deny the regime resources, money, the tools of oppression. We will continue to communicate human rights violations. We’ll talk about the values set. I think Ernesto was very articulate talking about the UN report of this past week that talked about the inhumanity of the Maduro regime, the cruelty that is being exhibited, the brutality that this narcoterrorist that nominally claims himself the leader of these people.
Those people I spoke to today, the Venezuelans who are here in Brazil that I spoke to today, were desperate to return. They’re here in Brazil; they’re thrilled that the Brazilians have taken such good care of them, but much like the people I saw in Cucuta, Colombia now months back, they want to return to their homeland, the place that they love, the place that they know. And they are proud of what Brazil and the United States and so many coalition partners to increase the likelihood that they will be able to do that sooner rather than later.
MR BROWN: Thanks. For our second question, let’s go to Shaun Tandon.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi, Shaun.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister. I wanted to follow up on Venezuela. You’ve mentioned the (inaudible) of the Maduro regime. But how much confidence do you have currently in Juan Guaido? You’ve described him as a legitimate leader. Do you think this is realistic, that the Maduro regime will fall sometime in the near future? It’s been over a year and a half since (inaudible).
And some specific things on Venezuela. Mr. Secretary, there have been reports that there are more Iranian oil tankers heading to Venezuela. What does the United States, if anything, plan to do in this case?
And to both of you, you’ve talked about the generosity toward Venezuelans. Do you think there’s any issue with how to treat Venezuelans who are actually in the countries? The border is currently closed, if I understand it right, between Brazil and Venezuela. Venezuelans in the United States have (inaudible) been asking for temporary protected status. Is there more (inaudible) can actually do more for the Venezuelans (inaudible)? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks. Let me try and take those. I think I counted four questions. So the question of when will Maduro leave can only be answered the day he departs. If you remember, leaders in East Germany and Romania, the Soviet Union – everyone asked the hard question, saying when will – when will the policy of democracy and human rights, the love of freedom, property value, property rights – all things that the West holds dear – when will it work? When will it dislodge this tyrant? And no one could pick the day. The day will come.
We’ve also – the United States has also indicted Nicolas Maduro for drug trafficking. We shouldn’t forget that he is not only a leader who has destroyed his own country, a man-made crisis of the most extraordinary proportions in modern history, he is also a drug trafficker, transiting illicit drugs into the United States impacting Americans each and every day. So our will is consistent, our work will be tireless, and we will get to the right place. It will be the right place for America, it will be the right place for Brazil, but most importantly it will be the right place for the Venezuelan people.
What was the second question?
QUESTION: The Iranian oil tankers.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. I believe we’ve done the best we can to use every tool in our toolbox to deny the regime the capacity to create wealth and continue their payments to their military to conduct the terror campaign inside their own country. We’re watching what they’re doing. I’m not going to get in front of any decision we may or may not take. But as I think the world has seen, we’ve stopped previous shipments from coming into Venezuela, and we do our best to track each of them and deny as many of them the capacity to create wealth for Nicolas Maduro and his thugs.
Do you want to answer the second – the final question about people here and how they’re being taken care of?
FOREIGN MINISTER ARAUJO: Sure. Sure. Yeah, I think everyone that visits here at the welcome operation and who knows the reality knows that not only the Brazilian Government and so many agencies with international help, including U.S. help – everything that is being done for them by the agency – but also the way the Brazilian people themselves are welcoming their Venezuelan brothers and sisters, not only here but across the country with the process that we call internalization, which is to help those people – not only just send them to other states, but to find jobs and find livelihoods for them and their families. So this is a process that is ingrained in the Brazilian personality – solidarity and care for other people and deep respect. At the same time, a growing concern in Brazil about what is going on there, and so our solidarity takes the form of receiving Venezuelans but also of pushing to create pressure for the end of the tyranny and dictatorship there.
So the question of borders closing, the question is that the Maduro regime cannot provide any amount of health care to its own population so that we have to protect also our health situation here regarding the COVID pandemic. So that’s why basically we don’t think it’s possible now to open the border because there’s no fighting against COVID across the border over there in terms of the wreckage that Maduro has done to his country and to services in Venezuela. But I think the solidarity that we have and that we feel is proven by everything that you see here in Boa Vista, Pacaraima, over the border, and across the whole country.
SECRETARY POMPEO: If I may, you reminded me there was another question you asked about Juan Guaido and our continued support for him. I don’t want to leave that open-ended. We continue to support him; the coalition continues to support him. He is indeed the duly elected leader of that country. And so long as he is the duly elected leader, he is the appropriate person for the United States, and we think every country, to recognize as the leader of that nation. We are doing everything we can to help those forces that want to re-establish democracy, that want to re-establish the rule of law, to do the basic things to take care of their own people, to have the resources and capabilities to do so today. Juan Guaido is leading that effort. The United States continues to support his efforts in that regard.
FOREIGN MINISTER ARAUJO: If I may just complement on President Guaido, I think we support Juan Guaido, and supporting Guaido is not only supporting a very courageous and able leader, but also supporting rights over force, because what you have in Guaido is a constitutional leader. He was declared the leader of Venezuela, the interim president by the legitimately elected National Assembly following the Bolivarian constitution, according to decisions by the legitimate Supreme Court, whose members had to flee the country but who are still the legitimate Supreme Court – they fled the country not to be killed – so that’s right. That’s the sheer force of right, okay?
On the other side you have the militia, you have armed forces that still back Maduro, but for everyone across the world who supports the value of law, the value of right, the value of a country’s constitution over sheer force, Guaido is the leader of Venezuela. So we are very pleased that he is there. I personally admire Juan Guaido a lot, and Brazil does support Guaido, of course.
QUESTION: (In Portuguese.)
FOREIGN MINISTER ARAUJO: (In Portuguese.)
MODERATOR: (In Portuguese.)