'US regard Latin America as its own backyard'

World | AGENCIES 16 Apr 2019

Beijing fired back at the US after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized 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, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

"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."

Pompeo said last Friday that China's financing of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government helped "precipitate and prolong" the country's crisis.

He accused China of investing more than US$60 billion (HK$470 billion) of "no strings attached" funds that were used for actions such as crushing pro-democracy activists and bankrolling ineffective social programs.

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.

President Donald Trump's administration, which recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido 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.

The influence of the United States in Latin America has been increasingly challenged by China, whose booming economy over the past two decades has driven up demand for South America's raw materials.

China is already the top trade partner for Brazil.

The pivot by it and other countries in the region towards Beijing for financing has alarmed Washington.

Highlighting the gains Latin American countries had made from economic and trade cooperation with the United States, Pompeo warned about "predatory" lending practices and "malign or nefarious" actions, mirroring criticism previous US officials have made about China.

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