April 21, 2018

Trump to skip 'Summit of the Americas' to deal with Syria

11 April 2018, 11:19 | Rufus Hill

U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump

The region has gotten little mention from Trump's White House except as a source of migrants, drugs and gang violence that the president blames Mexico and other neighbors for failing to stem.

In February, Peru announced that is was disinviting Maduro from the event, speaking on behalf of the Lima Group, an assembly of states formed to tackle the crisis in Venezuela that also includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay.

The amount of parties involved in the Syrian conflict, both on the opposition and governmental sides, make retaliation against a chemical attack incredibly complicated.

Trump said on Monday that he was consulting with advisers on a response to a suspected chemical attack in a rebel-held town near Damascus in which 42 people were killed.

Trump has reportedly told White House officials that Vladimir Putin bore responsibility for the attack by backing Bashar al-Assad's regime, whereas Russian Federation denies that the poison gas attack took place at all despite videos and pictures shared on social media and news sites. The raid was separate from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The cancellation of Trump's trip took some aides by surprise.

Trump was also expected to use the speech to criticize Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a leftist leader considered a dictator by his critics.

Latin America analysts said they had expected to hear a national security-focused exploration of Trump's focus on border security and reducing illegal and legal immigration to the United States. Maduro was disinvited from the gathering last month, an unusual diplomatic break among Latin American nations that USA analysts consider a positive sign.

This will be the second trip to the region for Vice President Mike Pence.

The announcement comes just a day after US President Donald Trump also canceled his attendance, opting to stay in Washington to deal with Syria policy.

A Peruvian diplomat who asked not to be named said it might be easier for regional leaders to tackle tough issues ranging from corruption to Venezuela without Trump looming over the talks. Saturday's large gathering of leaders in Lima would have been the only opportunity for a chance meeting between Castro and Trump before the Castro era ends in Cuba.

Pence "will expand the regional coalition against Venezuela's dictatorship and demonstrate why the USA should remain Latin America's economic partner of choice", Quintana said.

Pence's deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, said in a statement that Pence is "honored" to attend the summit, adding that past year he "traveled to the region to meet with the Presidents of Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Panama to increase the pressure against the Maduro regime and negotiate better trade deals that benefit American workers". And Trump's departure could actually be an opportunity for Pence and Rubio to work without all the added dynamics and distractions that come when a USA president or secretary of state attends a summit. (New York Times, Washington Post).

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