Tillerson ruffled feathers across the region on the eve of his five-nation tour with comments in Texas defending 19th century United States foreign policy in Latin America and suggesting the Venezuelan army could manage "a peaceful transition" from Maduro.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) met with Canada's Foreign Relations Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray in Mexico City on Friday. "It does not represent the vision of millions of Venezuelans".
Tillerson will also visit Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Jamaica on the tour.
A previous effort by the Trump administration to rally support on Venezuela, made in June at a meeting of the Organization of American States, failed as critics of Maduro splintered over what approach to take.
Venezuela's leaders haven't been deterred by the U.S.'s push to ratchet up sanctions pressure, announcing last month that they would proceed with presidential elections in April.
So much for Tillerson's week-long goodwill tour of the region, as Trump's words inevitably traveled south.
"I think in many ways the relationship today is more fluid, it's closer than it was with previous administrations, which might be surprising to some people but that's a fact of life", said Mexico's top diplomat.
The trip will be an effort to reassure nations that the USA remains interested in a region that under President Donald Trump is mentioned mostly as a source of illegal immigrants and crime.
Mexico is trying to prove itself a good US ally in hopes of getting a favorable outcome from renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and the United States.
Following two years of contraction in 2015 and 2016, trade volume between China and Latin America and the Caribbean amounted to 247.4 billion US dollars in the first 11 months of 2017, up 22.2 percent year-on-year.
He said Russian Federation is undermining Democratic governments through arms sales, which is something Latin America must guard against in order to restore shared values in the region.
"We do not seek short-term deals with lopsided returns", he said.