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World News

Pompeo hails Colombia's stance on Maduro, pledges more help in drugs fight

BOGOTA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday thanked Colombian President Ivan Duque for his stance against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and pledged continued assistance to help fight drug trafficking.

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In the fourth stop on his tour of South America, Pompeo said the partnership between Colombia and the United States was a force for good in the region.

“Your support for interim (Venezuelan) president Juan Guaido and the democratic transition for a sovereign Venezuela free of malign influence ... is incredibly valued,” Pompeo told Duque in a joint press conference in Bogota.

Pompeo has used the tour to increase pressure on Maduro, who has overseen a six-year economic collapse and has been indicted in the United States on narcoterrorism charges, to resign.

A report this week by United Nations investigators found Maduro’s government has committed systematic human rights violations including killings and torture amounting to crimes against humanity.

“The international community has to act to bring this situation to an end,” said Duque, who calls Maduro a dictator and often accuses him of sheltering and supporting members of Colombian rebel groups.

The Colombian government is among more than 50 countries which consider Venezuela’s opposition leader Guaido to be the country’s interim president.

Pompeo said the United States will continue to provide expertise and resources to help Colombia fight drug trafficking.

Colombia faces constant pressure from the United States, a major destination for cocaine, to reduce the size of crops of coca, the drug’s chief ingredient.

Duque has set a target to destroy 130,000 hectares (321,237 acres) of coca this year, up from 100,000 hectares last year, and has signaled aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate could restart.

Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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