China accuses Mike Pompeo of ‘vile conspiracy’ to disrupt Latin American relationships
China’s embassy in Brazil has accused Mike Pompeo of engaging in a “vile conspiracy” to disrupt its relations with Latin America, following a tour of the region by the US secretary of state.
Pompeo’s four-day visit to Suriname, Guyana, Brazil and Colombia focused on offering alternatives to China for economic development in the region and on ratcheting up pressure on Venezuela, one of China’s closest partners in Latin America.
After talks with Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, Pompeo told the media he had discussed “the importance of keeping Brazil’s future networks safe from the Chinese Communist Party”.
A State Department statement added that he had thanked Brazil for hosting Venezuelan refugees and said the US and Brazil would work towards “increased trade and digital security”, without mentioning China or the telecoms giant Huawei.
The US has repeatedly warned Brazil to steer clear of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which it views as a security risk, and has encouraged other global partners to do the same.
In a brief Twitter post on Sunday following the visit, Beijing’s envoy accused Pompeo of telling lies and spreading false information.
The embassy “strongly condemned words and deeds that instigate and disrupt China’s relationship with Brazil and other Latin American countries. His vile conspiracy will not succeed,” the tweet read.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a phone call with Araujo on Saturday after Pompeo’s trip.
Wang said China was willing to expand investment in Brazilian energy, infrastructure, and technology, including 5G technology.
Before Pompeo’s departure, the State Department highlighted the alternatives it was offering to China’s influence in the region.
A spokeswoman for the department accused China of offering “predatory loans and vanity projects [that] saddle countries in the western hemisphere with unsustainable debts and threats to national security and sovereignty”.
Three of the four countries visited by Pompeo border Venezuela, a close ally of China, and a key target of the secretary’s regional tour.
While in Brazil, Pompeo visited a Venezuelan refugee camp and called for President Nicolas Maduro to step down. There are around 250,000 Venezuelan refugees in Brazil, escaping years of political and economic turmoil that has caused 5 million people to flee the country, according to UN figures.
A week before Pompeo’s tour began, China made its seventh shipment of coronavirus aid to Venezuela. Its ambassador to the country said “the government and people of China stand with the government and people of Venezuela”, at a ceremony marking the reception of the supplies.