Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Untied States will start doing more to support Venezuela's opposition leader and self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaido.
Pompeo and Guaido met with reporters Monday on the sidelines of a regional counterterrorism meeting in Bogota, Colombia.
Guaido, head of the National Assembly, declared himself Venezuelan president one year ago, after ruling that President Nicolas Maduro's re-election was illegitimate.
The Trump administration and about 50 other countries recognize Guaido as Venezuela's true president.
"I want you to know that your president is a great leader who wants to take your country in the right direction — the direction of freedom, democracy, to restore economic prosperity," Pompeo said in remarks directed at the Venezuelan people. He said the U.S. will do everything to ensure they get that opportunity.
Guaido's initial momentum and popular uprising against Maduro has appeared to wane over the past year. But Guaido told reporters the fight for democracy "finds alternatives, different pathways, and reinforced mechanisms."
He said getting rid of Maduro is a "long-term strategy."
"The dictators won't want to give up the power they've taken. ... We're much more like Syria than like Cuba ... in terms of migration, access to services, the inflation. There's no vaccines for our children. They are dying because of lack of food," Guaido said through an interpreter.
Venezuela's ruling Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello dismissed Guaido on Monday as ineffective.
"It is totally irrelevant for us that a lackey has gone to meet his masters in Colombia. He hasn't achieved anything he promised," Cabello said at a press conference.
U.S. 'actions' unclear
Pompeo did not specify what "further actions" the U.S. would take to back Guaido. It has already imposed sanctions on a number of senior Venezuelan politicians and on the Venezuelan oil sector. U.S. military action against Venezuela has never been taken off the table.
The U.S. accuses the Maduro regime of having links to Colombian rebel groups and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terrorists.
Pompeo would not say if the U.S. is planning to designate Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism, telling reporters it is "constantly evaluating" who belongs on the list.
Guaido heads to the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. He leaves Venezuela at great personal risk because the Venezuelan Supreme Court has barred him from leaving the country, and he may not be allowed to return home.
Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country in the past two years after failed socialist policies, corruption, and the drop in world energy policies wrecked the oil-rich country's economy. Gasoline, medicine, and many basic foods are in short supply or priced out of reach because of hyperinflation.
Maduro has said he is ready to hold direct talks with the United States.