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US Secretary of State visits Venezuelan migrants in Colombia

AP  |  Cucuta (Colombia) 

US met with Venezuelan migrants in on Sunday as he wrapped up a four-nation tour of aimed at pressuring Venezuela's socialist president,

Pompeo went to a migrant centre in the border town of with Colombian Not far away, Venezuelan security forces with riot gear stood in the middle of the Simon Bolivar international bridge separating the two

The migrant centre has been the first stop for some 3.4 million Venezuelans who have fled hyperinflation, severe shortages of and medicine, and political upheaval in their homeland.

Pompeo described a "very moving" encounter with a Venezuelan mother named Geraldine who crossed into and was torn about abandoning her country even as she had to scavenge for diapers, medicine and other basic goods she could no longer find in

Mimicking Ronald Reagan's famous "Tear down this wall" speech in at the end of the Cold War, Pompeo urged Maduro to lift a military blockade preventing the entry of tons of humanitarian aid that has sat for months on Venezuela's borders with Colombia, and the

"Mr. Maduro, open these bridges, open these borders. You can end this today," Pompeo said. "I hope you will care now when you see the horror, when you see the tragedy, to change your ways and to leave your country."

The US was the first of more than now 50 nations that in January recognised Venezuelan when he declared himself his country's interim

The opposition, with the support of the US and other countries, claimed Maduro's re-election last year to be illegitimate because leading critics were barred from running.

But significant popular support for Guaid at home hasn't loosened Maduro's grip on power, and the embattled leader continues to enjoy the support of the armed forces, the traditional of political disputes in

Authorities in have accused of plotting Maduro's overthrow and even blamed it for a failure of the electrical grid last month that left much of the country without power for days. On Sunday, a top ridiculed Pompeo's visit to the border.

"Confirmed: and ratify as the regular stage for their most decadent and cheap spectacles," said in a message on

"In the meantime, the abandoned people of continue to live off the Venezuelan economy." The US has provided almost USD 275 million in aid to Colombia, and other South American allies to absorb the flood of migrants from Venezuela.

When pressed by a on whether the generosity shown Venezuelans fleeing Maduro is in conflict with the Trump administration's hostile policies toward migrants on the border, Pompeo called the comparison "ludicrous." "People are starving because is denying that is sitting here. This is horrific. There is nothing else like this," Pompeo said while flying back to

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, April 15 2019. 07:15 IST