Pompeo: Russia talked Maduro out of leaving Venezuela

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack US-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack The US must do its part in closing the largest outdoor prison in the world MORE said Tuesday that Russia persuaded beleaguered Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro to stay in the country amid an apparent coup attempt.

“We’ve watched throughout the day, it's been a long time since anyone's seen Maduro,” Pompeo said on CNN. “He had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning as we understand it, and the Russians indicated he should stay.”

The comments came after the Trump administration declared its support of an apparent attempt to overthrow Maduro led by supporters of National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó, whom Washington and other world powers have recognized as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. With the international support, Guaidó invoked Venezuela's constitution to assume an interim presidency in January.

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“Today interim President Juan Guaido announced start of Operación Libertad,” Pompeo tweeted Tuesday morning. “The U.S. Government fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy. Democracy cannot be defeated.”

“We’re urging there to be a nonviolent solution. Maduro simply should leave. It’s his time, he has no answers for the Venezuelan people, and the United States is determined to assist the Venezuelan people in restoring democracy and beginning to build back their economy,” he said on CNN, noting Washington had given Guaidó “strong assurances” throughout the day that he would be supported. 

Street clashes have continued throughout the day in Caracas and other parts of the country in a situation the secretary of State characterized as “incredibly fluid.”

Pompeo vowed to hold any perpetrators of violence accountable and urged all parties to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

“We’re making clear to everyone that we are watching. We will hold accountable those that turn to violence or inflict violence upon the Venezuelan people, so there will be a day for accountability for all those who engage in this. And we’re encouraging all the parties on the ground to resolve this peacefully,” he said.

However, Pompeo refused to say whether Maduro would be allowed to safely depart to Cuba, his assumed destination earlier Tuesday.

“Mr. Maduro understands what will happen if he gets on that airplane,” he said. “He knows our expectations.”

The administration has blasted Cuba for helping prop up Maduro, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE threatening to place an embargo on the island if it does not withdraw its security aid from Venezuela.

The White House has already slapped a slew of tariffs on Venezuelan officials to try to force Maduro from power but has also not ruled out a military option.