Tillerson embraces Latin America before visit

Secretary of State Tillerson rallies support for Venezuela sanctions

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is warning Latin American countries against Chinese investments, comparing it to European colonialism.

Russia, he said, "continues to sell arms and military equipment to unfriendly regimes who do not share or respect democratic values".

"The corrupt and hostile regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela clings to a false dream and antiquated vision for the region that has already failed its citizens", Tillerson said Thursday at the University of Texas at Austin during a stop en route to Mexico. As with in the Middle East, he is familiar with numerous main actors: He wrangled with Venezuelan officials shortly after becoming chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp. when the late President Hugo Chavez nationalized the company's assets in the country in 2007. "We can lift more people out of poverty". He also derided Russian Federation for selling weaponry to unfriendly, authoritarian governments in the region.

"We do not seek short-term deals with lopsided returns", he said. "You can not expect to have one without the other".

Tillerson also stressed the U.S.'s efforts to work with Mexico to help strengthen that nation's southern border.

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"The opioid epidemic we are facing in this country is a clear and tragic representation of how interconnected our hemisphere truly is", Tillerson said.

Acknowledging that US demand for drugs is driving the cartels' violence and lawlessness, Tillerson said the U.S.is working with other countries to find strategies to attack the organizations' revenue streams, halt the transfer of weapons from the USA and find and prosecute "the middlemen who enable them".

While Tillerson said the USA isn't seeking to orchestrate regime change, he said of Maduro: "If the kitchen gets a little too hot for him, I'm sure that he's got some friends over in Cuba that could give him a nice hacienda on the beach and he'd have a nice life over there".

Maduro's government, which is allied with Cuba's Communist leadership, says it is fighting a US-led right-wing conspiracy determined to end socialism in Latin America, hobble Venezuela's economy and steal its oil wealth.

He said China is using economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit, and warned Latin American countries to avoid excessive economic reliance on China.

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"The U.S.is eager to create even deeper relationships with the aim of expanding freedom to more people", Tillerson said. "The U.S. should take more of a hands-off approach to corruption". According to a recent survey by Gallup, only 16 percent of Latin Americans approve of Trump's job and they expect relations to worsen rather than to improve.

"We just need to get in place a visa program for the Red River, and we just won't issue any visas to the Oklahoma football team", Tillerson said in response.

Tillerson's visit has sparked mixed reactions.

Nauert said Shannon had served under six presidents and 10 secretaries of state. "You always bleed orange once you've been here, and I think it's really cool to see that in prominent individuals".

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