U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Friday in Brazil and visited a Venezuelan refugee processing center, while calling for democracy and for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down.
About 250,000 Venezuelan refugees are now in Brazil, with about 600 arriving daily before the border was closed because of the coronavirus. Pompeo visited the center alongside Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo.
During a joint press conference in Guyana earlier in the day, Pompeo and Guyana's President Irfaan Ali discussed the need for democracy in Venezuela.
"We know that the Maduro regime has decimated the people of Venezuela and that Maduro himself is an indicted narcotics trafficker. That means he has to leave," the secretary of state said, referring to U.S. drug trafficking charges against Maduro. "The United States and dozens of countries have made clear that Juan Guaido is the duly elected leader of Venezuela. This is the objective - we want democracy and freedom and the rule of law."
The visit to Brazil comes after a historic first-ever trip to Suriname and Guyana by a U.S. secretary of state. There, he met with those nations' leaders to discuss economic development in the wake of recent oil discoveries in both countries.
Pompeo met Thursday with the president of Suriname, Chan Santokhi, before heading to Guyana. Both presidents are newly elected.
In 2015, Exxon announced it had discovered a large oil reserve off the coast of Guyana, South America's second-poorest nation. The BBC has reported that the 5.5 billion barrels' worth of crude could make it the continent's wealthiest nation.
Exxon is already working in Suriname.
During a brief appearance Friday, Ali and Pompeo both said they had not discussed Exxon's deal with Guyana.
"We did not discuss this. But I want to say that we are open to investment," Ali said. "We are open to investors. ... As we have said, prior to the elections, there are issues that we'll have to review."
Pompeo said the negotiations were between Exxon and the Guyanese government, something he called "the American model."
China has been courting both Guyana and Suriname as they seek foreign investment.