Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at the United Nations Saturday, urging all nations to support Venezuelans as they try to free themselves from President Nicholas Maduro’s “illegitimate mafia state."
Pompeo's address during a U.N. Security Council meeting on Venezuela came days after the U.S. threw its support behind National Assembly President Juan Guaidó who declared himself the nation’s acting president.
“We’re here to urge all nations to support the democratic aspirations of Venezuelan people as they try to free themselves from former President Maduro’s illegitimate mafia state,” Pompeo said.
He said the humanitarian situation in Venezuela demanded immediate action.
“Today nine out of ten citizens living in poverty. Millions lack access to drinking water and food," Pompeo said. "Three out of four hospitals have been abandoned. Three millions Venezuelans have been forced to flee their homelands thereby flooding the region and threatening international peace and security.”
Pompeo also told the Council that now was the time for every nation to pick a side in Venezuela.
"No more delays, no more games," he said. "Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem."
Pompeo added that some countries have publicly taken former president Maduro’s side.
"China, Russia, Syria, and Iran are just four of them," he said. "Just this morning, we tried to find a way for this Council to speak in one voice in support of the Venezuelan people and democratic ideals through a presidential statement of this Council."
The U.S. received the minimum nine “yes” votes to hold Saturday’s meeting on the situation in Venezuela, with four countries voting “no” and two abstaining.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia opposed the meeting, saying Venezuela does not represent a threat to international peace and security.
Instead, he said, the country is facing a U.S. effort “to attempt a coup d’etat in the country.”
The European Union as a whole says it could recognize opposition leader Guaidó as Venezeula's leader if the government doesn't announce new elections within the coming days.
Earlier Saturday, France, Germany, Britain and Spain set an eight-day deadline for calling elections for recognizing Guaido's leadership.
Venezuela's foreign minister Jorge Arreaza joined Nebenzia in criticizing the U.S., as well as U.S. allies in Europe.
“The United States is not behind the coup d’état,” Arreaza said, according to the Miami Herald. “It is in advance. It’s in the vanguard of the coup d’état. It is dictating orders, not only to the Venezuelan opposition but also to the satellite governments in the region and, it seems, in Europe and the other parts of the world.”
Venezuela’s military dealt a blow to the Trump administration's declaration of support for Guaidó by announcing it was sticking with embattled President Nicolás Maduro.
Meantime, the Bank of England has thwarted efforts by Maduro's croineis to pull $1.2 billion worth of gold out of the bank, Bloomberg News reported Saturday.
The decision to deny the withdrawal request comes after top U.S. officials, including Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, lobbied their U.K. counterparts to help cut off the Maduro regime from its overseas assets, Bloomberg reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.