Mr Pompeo said he had been talking to Mexico and Colombia about the situation in Venezuela Getty
The head of the CIA has suggested the agency is working to change the elected government of Venezuela and is collaborating with two countries in the region to do so.
In one of the clearest clues yet about Washington’s latest meddling in the politics of Latin America, CIA director Mike Pompeo said he was “hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there”.
He added: “I was just down in Mexico City and in Bogota a week before last talking about this very issue, trying to help them understand the things they might do so that they can get a better outcome for their part of the world and our part of the world.”
Mr Pompeo’s comments, delivered during a Q&A session at a security forum organised by the Aspen Institute think tank, have sparked outcry among supporters of Venezuela’s government. President Nicolas Maduro, who was elected in 2013, has denounced Mr Pompeo’s remarks and hit out at the governments of Mexico and Colombia.
“The director of the CIA has said ‘The CIA and the US government work in direct collaboration with the Mexican government and the Colombian government to overthrow the constitutional government in Venezuela and to intervene in our beloved Venezuela,’” Mr Maduro said in a televised interview, according to TeleSur.
“I demand the government of Mexico and the government of Colombia to properly clarify the declarations from the CIA and I will make political and diplomatic decisions accordingly before this audacity.”
The US, which is currently gripped by allegations that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, has a long history of interfering with democratically elected governments in Latin America, from Chile to Nicaragua, and Argentina to Haiti.
Pro-Maduro activists shoot at voters in Venezuela
In Venezuela, it has sought to weaken the elected governments of both Mr Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, who was briefly ousted in a 2002 coup. Some of the effort has been in distributing funds to opposition groups through organisations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, while some has been in the form of simple propaganda.
In May 2016 unidentified US officials told reporters in a background briefing that Venezuela was descending into a deepening “crisis” that could end in violence. They said they doubted Mr Maduro was not likely to be able to complete his term, which is due to end after elections in late 2018.
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, said that for the past 15 years of so it had been US policy to seek a change of government in Caracas.
“They have been trying to get rid of this government for a long time and they feel they are getting closer then ever,” he told The Independent.
The development comes as both Mr Maduro and his country face mounting problems. Against a backdrop of food shortages, soaring inflation and civil unrest, the president has been accused of resorting to mounting authoritarianism. The opposition has called for him to stand down and there have been widespread protests.