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Rebuffing criticism, China says US treats Latin American like its 'backyard'

Beijing fires back after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accuses China of prolonging crisis in Venezuela.

Monday 15 April, 2019
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) and Colombian President Iván Duque shake hands as they offer a statement to the press at the Tienditas International Bridge in Cúcuta, on the border with Venezuela, on April 14, 2019.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) and Colombian President Iván Duque shake hands as they offer a statement to the press at the Tienditas International Bridge in Cúcuta, on the border with Venezuela, on April 14, 2019. Foto:JUAN BARRETO / AFP

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Beijing fired back at the United States on Monday after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised China's role in Venezuela as prolonging the crisis there.

Pompeo's accusations were "unfounded" and "deliberately drove a wedge" between China and Latin America, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular briefing. He said the US official had "wantonly slandered" China-Latin America relations.

"For a long time, the United States has regarded Latin America as its own backyard to pressure, threaten and even subvert political power in other countries at every turn," Lu said, adding that "some American politicians have been harping on one string" in order to "smear China across the world."

"The words and deeds are despicable. But lies are lies, even if you say it a thousand times, they are still lies. Mr Pompeo, you can stop," he said.

Pompeo said last Friday that China's financing of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's government helped "precipitate and prolong" the country's crisis. He accused China of investing more than US$60 billion of "no strings attached" funds that were used for actions such as crushing pro-democracy activists and bankrolling ineffective social programs.

"I think there's a lesson, a lesson to be learned for all of us: China and others are being hypocritical calling for non-intervention in Venezuela's affairs," Pompeo said. "Their own financial interventions have helped destroy that country."

Hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine and other hardships have caused more than 3 million Venezuelans — about one-tenth of the population — to flee the country in the last few years.

US President Donald Trump's administration, which recognises opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president, has been trying to remove Maduro from power. China, meanwhile, is a close ally of Maduro and has urged other countries to not intervene in Venezuela's affairs.

Pompeo wrapped up his four-nation tour of South America on Sunday with a visit to Cucuta, a Colombian city bordering Venezuela and crossing point for thousands of Venezuelans who have fled the crisis in their homeland.

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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