Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a tough, four-word message to Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro during a CNN interview on Tuesday.
Pompeo claimed during the interview with anchor Wolf Blitzer that Maduro was preparing to board a plane to leave Venezuela for Cuba amid military uprisings, but that Russia talked him out of leaving the country.
“He had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning as we understand it and the Russians indicated he should stay,” Pompeo explained. “He was headed for Havana.”
Blitzer asked Pompeo what his message to Maduro would be if he were watching the interview at that moment.
“Fire up the plane,” Pompeo replied, stone-faced.
Blitzer asked if Maduro would be assured safe travel to Cuba if he boarded the plane, to which Pompeo stated, “He knows our expectations.”
The United States declared Maduro to be an illegitimate leader after they determined his reelection to be fraught with fraud and corruption. Maduro has been accused of jailing and killing his political opponents and stifling protests from his people. (RELATED: Firefights In Venezuelan Capital As Military Uprising Ensues)
Opposition leader and interim president Juan Guaido urged the military to rise up against Maduro on Tuesday as part of “Operacion Libertad.” Firefights broke out in the capital as pro and anti-Maduro forces clashed. Citizens, who are banned from owning firearms, armed themselves with rocks and molotov cocktails against the pro-Maduro military.