Pence to meet with 4 Latin American leaders during summit

Pence to meet with 4 Latin American leaders during summit

WASHINGTON-Vice President Mike Pence communicated with members of Congress Friday evening over US strikes in Syria, a duty he conducted from Lima, Peru. And against a backdrop that includes the ongoing attempt to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, tension between the United States and China over potential tariffs, and the possibility the USA may decide to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Following last week's apparent chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma, President Donald Trump canceled a planned visit to South America to oversee the US response.

Pence was whisked away from the Summit of the Americas late Friday so he could inform USA congressional leaders by phone of Trump's plans to announce the missile strikes.

Shortly after arriving in Lima, Pence said the US would provide almost $16 million in humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans who have fled their country and met with opposition leaders who pleaded for more sanctions.

The vice president is to sit down with several Latin American leaders, including Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra and Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

It will be the first meeting between the two leaders.

He drafted a list of Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses that became the basis for USA sanctions.

The vice president announced that the US would provide almost $16 million in humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans who have fled their country under the rule of President Nicolas Maduro.

Antonio Ledezma, the former mayor of Caracas, pleaded with Pence through a translator to bolster sanctions against Maduro, asking for "not only humanitarian aid but humanitarian intervention".

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Agen says Pence was unable to reach Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer before the speech but planned to speak to him afterward. White House officials said the vice president would emphasize the U.S.as the "partner of choice" in Latin American trade, noting that almost half of the US trade agreements are based in the Western Hemisphere.

Pence is also expected to try to counter Chinese attempts to increase its economic influence in the Americas.

Yet the timing of the trade pitch will be delicate.

Protesters led by soccer legend Diego Maradona burned an effigy of President George W. Bush to protest the USA -led invasion of Iraq at the 2005 summit in Argentina.

Richard Feinberg, a senior fellow in the Latin America Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said it would be hard for the U.S. to make a case to become the "preferential trading partner" as Trump seeks to upend trade agreements.

Senator Rubio has said publicly that he and President Trump are "instinctively aligned" on the need to promote democracy in the Western Hemisphere. Many feared that if Trump had showed up at this year's summit, his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and threats to pull out of regional trade deals would have generated tense encounters.

Trump, meanwhile, has long assailed the impact of NAFTA on U.S. workers and has insisted on a new round of negotiations between the U.S., Canada and Mexico on NAFTA.

White House aides said Pence does not plan to meet Mexico's delegation to the summit.

For the region's leaders, many of whom were dreading shaking hands with the American president as he pushes forward with plans to build a wall on the Mexican border and renegotiate trade deals, there couldn't be a better stand-in.

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