American leaders target corruption, Maduro as 8th Summit opens in Peru

Frederick Owens
April 17, 2018

Leaders from throughout the Americas agreed to an informal promise that they would abstain from and root out political corruption in their respective countries at the Summit of the Americas in Lima this weekend.

The summit in Peru is a once-every-three-years meeting of leaders from across Latin America, the United States and Canada.

For the first time, the United States backed a statement by heads of state from the Lima Group of nations - established past year to seek a peaceful end to Venezuela's political turmoil - which called on Maduro to release political prisoners and hold free elections.

In the end, the statement was signed by 16 nations, fewer than half of the 35 countries that are members of the Organization of American States (OAS).

"When the left-wing governments were the majority in the region, we maintained a dialogue of diversity with right-wing governments", said Maduro.

Latin American leaders met in Peru for a regional summit on Friday that was overshadowed by Washington's decision to order military strikes on Syria, prompting U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to abruptly leave the opening ceremony.

Sixteen countries at the meeting issued a declaration calling for transparent elections in Venezuela and on worldwide organizations to "immediately implement a program of humanitarian assistance".

Pence had been scheduled to attend a banquet hosted by Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra on Friday night, and it was not immediately clear if he would still attend.

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President Donald Trump has long assailed the impact of NAFTA on USA workers and insisted on a new round of negotiations with Canada and Mexico on the deal. Pence's deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, told Reuters he planned to discuss the strikes in his speech on Saturday and in meetings with leaders.

Shortly after arriving Friday, Pence announced the USA would provide almost US$ 16 million in humanitarian aid to Venezuelans who are fleeing.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, among others, repudiated Syria's use of chemical weapons but expressed caution at escalating the situation following the US attacks on Damascus. They both ignored reporters who shouted out questions about the border wall and who was going to pay for it. Pena Nieto has canceled two trips to Washington during Trump's tenure over disputes about the proposed border wall and how the two would talk about it.

The summit gave an chance to press far more isolation of Venezuela and on the case for sanctions across the region to Pence.

For Pence, the calls and schedule changes served as the latest example of his supporting role here in place of Trump, who pulled out of the summit so he could manage the US response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria.

President Nicolas Maduro was barred from attending the summit his aims to put on a presidential elections that a sham is considered by lots of governments and that the opposition is boycotting.

"Canada stands with our friends in this necessary response, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in last week's attack", Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the gathering of regional leaders. How ironic that today the US president is disfiguring the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the argument that Mexico takes unfair advantage of the United States!

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