Latin America’s leaders criticise Maduro, Pence defends Syria strikes
Joint strikes by the US, Britain and France on Syria and the political crisis in Venezuela have dominated the meeting of leaders at a Latin American summit in Lima, Peru.
Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet during the VIII Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, April 14, 2018. (Reuters)
In the Summit of the Americas in Peru’s capital of Lima that has been overshadowed by the Syrian air strikes, the United States and more than a dozen Latin American countries on Saturday warned Venezuela its presidential election next month would be seen as illegitimate by the region unless it restored democratic standards.
US Vice President Mike Pence condemned an April presidential election that is being largely boycotted by Venezuela’s opposition after the government of President Nicolas Maduro barred two of the opposition’s top leaders — Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles — from running.
Although formally Venezuela was not on the agenda of the summit, the United States sought to have its allies take a tougher position to pressure Maduro, who was not invited to the meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Pence said the White House will not stand by and watch Venezuela collapse.
Yet Bolivian President Evo Morales, a Venezuela ally, expressed his outrage that Maduro had not been welcomed at the regional summit.
TRT World’s Dimitri O’Donnell reports from Lima.
Tougher political stance
At the end of the summit, about 15 presidents of the continent and Pence signed a joint statement – the first at the level of heads of state – calling on the Venezuelan government to guarantee free and democratic elections under threat of not recognising the results if they do not comply with these promises.
A summit of Latin American, US and Canadian leaders also vowed a tougher political stance against corruption with a document making a common “commitment” but offering no enforcement measures.
Pence also held brief bilateral talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada on Saturday about the state of play in their NAFTA renegotiations, saying he was “encouraged” by recent progress towards a deal.
As he concluded #SummitPeru, Acting Secretary John Sullivan responded to a question about elections in #Venezuela: "The elections in Venezuela… they’re expressly designed to suppress the will of the Venezuelan people."
Read the Lima Group Declaration on Venezuela —> pic.twitter.com/TnupardOpO
— Department of State (@StateDept) April 15, 2018
Reactions to joint strike on Syria
Hours after Trump hailed the missile strike targeting the Syria’s suspected chemical weapons — tweeting, “Mission Accomplished!” — Pence defended the president while building support among US allies for the joint strikes with Britain and France.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed air strikes on Syria’s chemical weapons programme by the US and its allies, but Argentina and Brazil at a summit in Lima voiced caution about escalating military action.
Met Chilean President @sebastianpinera & discussed trade, security & strengthening democracy. Also spoke about the disastrous humanitarian crisis in Venezuela & I emphasized that the region must do more to return democracy to Venezuela. #SummitPeru pic.twitter.com/RBlwqRDlRE
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) April 15, 2018
Addressing regional leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Peru, Trudeau and several other leaders across the Western Hemisphere condemned the use of chemical weapons.
“Those responsible must be brought to justice,” Trudeau said in a plenary session.
But Washington’s retaliatory strikes drew pleas for caution from Latin American countries.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and @VP of the United States, Mike Pence, discuss various issues, including the progress made in the ongoing negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, during a meeting in Lima, Peru. pic.twitter.com/MoLZPVyzKG
— CanadianPM (@CanadianPM) April 14, 2018