Rex Tillerson: China, Russia Roles In Americas 'alarming'

Sec. of State Rex Tillerson to outline Latin America policy priorities at UT Austin

Tillerson calls for 'modernized' NAFTA ahead of trip to Mexico

Tillerson warned that China and Russian Federation are assuming "alarming" roles in Latin America and urged regional powers to work with the U.S. instead.

Acknowledging that USA demand for drugs is driving the cartels' violence and lawlessness, Tillerson said the U.S.is working with other countries to find strategies to attack the organizations' revenue streams, halt the transfer of weapons from the US and find and prosecute "the middlemen who enable them".

This will be Tillerson's first visit to the region as Secretary of State.

"Today China is getting a foothold in Latin America".

CGTN's Franc Contreras reports from Mexico City.

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Noting the United States will continue adding pressure to Venezuelan government, Tillerson insisted, however, that his country would neither maneuver a regime change in the country, nor involve ordinary Venezuelans in the sanctions. He will meet with Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and visit President Enrique Peña Nieto on Friday.

"I understand how important NAFTA is for our economy, and then the continent", he said.

"The corrupt and hostile regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela clings to a false dream and antiquated vision for the region that has already failed its citizens", Tillerson said Thursday at the University of Texas at Austin during a stop en route to Mexico.

After visiting Mexico, Tillerson will travel to Argentina, Peru and Colombia, as well as a final stopover in Jamaica on February 7.

"Venezuelans are starving, looting is common and the sick do not receive the medical attention they desperately need", Tillerson says.

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But the Russian leader said he still wanted to improve ties with the United States and would refrain from any immediate retaliation.

"When individuals are living in poverty, a life of crime can look like the only opportunity available to make a living, legal and illegal immigration increases as people look for more opportunity elsewhere, and innocent people are more likely to become victims of drug cartels, human traffickers and corrupt law enforcement", he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump's language in reference to Mexico and other parts of Latin America stand in stark contrast to Tillerson's conciliatory tone.

The focus of the SoS' trip will be the growing crisis in Venezuela, as all of his hosts are members of the Lima Group, a Latin American collective created to coordinate a response to the political and economic turmoil in the Bolivarian country.

"We do not seek short-term deals with lopsided returns", he said. Patricia Zavala, Latin American studies and public affairs graduate student, asked about what can be done to combat government corruption in Latin America. "If we can set those limits very clearly, I think will be good enough".

His tenure in the Trump administration has been bumpy at times.

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