The Washington Post said Pompeo made the comments at a meeting last week in New York of which it had a recording, despite the official US support for self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido.

Washington and more than 50 other countries have recognized Guaido since he proclaimed himself interim president in January, beginning a months-long power struggle with Maduro in the economically-devastated country where shortages of food, medicine and other essentials have forced millions to flee.

Maduro has withstood an intense US sanctions campaign and enjoys support from Russia, China and Cuba, as well as his own military.


“Our conundrum, which is to keep the opposition united, has proven devilishly difficult,” Pompeo was quoted as saying.

“The moment Maduro leaves, everybody’s going to raise their hands and (say), ‘Take me, I’m the next president of Venezuela.’ It would be 40-plus people who believe they’re the rightful heir to Maduro.”

He reportedly blamed competing interests for the failure of Guaido’s April 30 bid to set off a decisive uprising, which quickly fizzled out.

Divisions in Venezuela’s opposition are no secret but the United States has frequently said that the emergence of Guaido, a 35-year-old engineer, had offered a fresh face that brought unity.