Tillerson speaks at UT on strengthening ties with Latin American countries

Tillerson defies critics, marks important milestone

Before embarking on his trip, Tillerson delivered a speech Thursday at his alma mater, University of Texas at Austin, during which he warned that China and Russian Federation are assuming "alarming" roles in Latin America and urged regional powers to work with the USA instead.

"It's been a very busy whirlwind year", Tillerson said during the mid-day speech. "A military option is certainly something we could pursue", he said at the time.

Political turmoil in Venezuela is set to be a central topic during Tillerson's trip, which includes stops in Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Jamaica.

Prior to his week-long trip to Latin America, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the region should not depend heavily on its economic ties with China, and added that Russia's presence there is also "alarming".

On his trip, Tillerson will be pushing good governance and anti-corruption efforts as well as promoting trade with the United States, which he hailed as a better alternative to China.

He lamented that China is now the largest trading partner with Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.

SOUTH OF THE BORDER US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) is met by US Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson upon his arrival in Mexico City on Thursday (Friday in Manila).

"I'm a Texan, a former energy executive and I'm also a rancher". Tillerson and his counterparts are not directly involved in the negotiations. "Our aim is simple, to strengthen our economy and all of North America".




"We have not advocated for regime change or removal of President Maduro". "There has not been any natural disaster, its citizens suffer because a corrupt regime robs its people".

Tillerson is also expected to rally the region's governments in pressing democratic reforms in crisis-ridden Venezuela.

While Tillerson said the USA isn't seeking to orchestrate regime change, he said of Maduro: "If the kitchen gets a little too hot for him, I'm sure that he's got some friends over in Cuba that could give him a nice hacienda on the beach and he'd have a nice life over there".

Tillerson said that "strong institutions and governments that are accountable to their people also secure their sovereignty against potential predatory actors that are now showing up in our hemisphere".

"The U.S. would need to step away from meddling so much in the governments, in their elections, in their development", Zavala said.

By helping people out of poverty, Tillerson said crime and especially the power of transnational criminal organizations, such as drug cartels, will be severely weakened in the region.

Tillerson, in Latin America to build support for a tough stance against Venezuela's beleaguered government and make the case for closer economic ties and warn of Chinese encroachment, is not the USA trade representative and could do without the row.

The trip will be an effort to reassure nations that the US remains interested in a region that under President Donald Trump is mentioned mostly as a source of illegal immigrants and crime.

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