In a closed-door meeting last week, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoTrump administration mulled kidnapping, assassinating Julian Assange: report Republican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services WashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal MORE said the U.S. has struggled to keep the opposition to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro united, according to The Washington Post.
“Our conundrum, which is to keep the opposition united, has proven devilishly difficult,” Pompeo said in audio obtained by the Post. “The moment Maduro leaves, everybody’s going to raise their hands and [say], ‘Take me, I’m the next president of Venezuela.’ It would be forty-plus people who believe they’re the rightful heir to Maduro.”
The secretary of State made the remarks last week during a meeting with Jewish leaders, according to the Post, at one point declining to answer a sensitive question because “someone’s probably got a tape recorder on.”
Pompeo added that while he believed Maduro would inevitably be ousted, he “couldn’t tell you the timing.” The secretary of State said the problems in uniting the opposition have been present since he became director of the CIA in 2017 and that internal squabbles among Maduro’s enemies were preventing a successful uprising.
Maduro, Pompeo said in the recording, "is mostly surrounded by Cubans," adding, "He doesn’t trust Venezuelans a lick. I don’t blame him. He shouldn’t. They were all plotting against him. Sadly, they were all plotting for themselves."
In public, the administration has betrayed no such doubts about the forces opposing Maduro and was the first of nearly 60 countries to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the South American nation’s interim president.
The sentiments Pompeo expresses in the recording are “a sober but accurate view,” Shannon O’Neil, a Venezuela expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the newspaper.
“They remain divided over how to take on the Maduro regime — whether or not to enter into dialogue, whether or not to engage with the military, whether or not to run a presidential candidate or boycott elections,” she told the Post. “They don’t even retweet each other.”
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.