Sat, Apr 14, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Pence to take hard line on Venezuela, promote trade


Vice President Mike Pence, left, arrives for an event at the White House Rose Garden in Washington on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Filling in for his boss, US Vice President Mike Pence intends to promote the US as a steady trading partner and press Latin American partners to further isolate Venezuela during his weekend trip to Peru.

Pence was yesterday scheduled to depart for the Summit of the Americas in Lima, subbing for US President Donald Trump, who pulled out of his first planned visit to Latin America to manage the US response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria.

In meetings with Latin American leaders, Pence is expected to promote good governance and democratic institutions, and urge allies to maintain pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The US has sanctioned Maduro and dozens of his top officials, accusing Venezuela of human rights abuses and sliding into a dictatorship.

With the White House’s encouragement, Maduro has been barred from the summit over his plans to hold a presidential election that the opposition is boycotting and many foreign governments consider a sham.

Shortly after arriving in Lima, Pence was to meet with Venezuelan opposition leaders.

The Trump administration is considering imposing an oil embargo on the OPEC nation.

Panama recently said it would pursue sanctions of its own — the first Latin American nation do so — by blacklisting dozens of Venezuelan officials from doing business in the Central American country.

Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst on Latin America and the Western Hemisphere Ana Quintana said Pence would seek to “continue the momentum” of US policy on Venezuela.

“The vast majority of the region’s democratic leaders have been so united on addressing the crisis,” she said.

Pence would likely also aim to counter China’s attempt to exert more economic influence in the Americas at a time when the Trump administration has been embroiled in a trade dispute with Beijing.

White House officials said the vice president would emphasize the US as the “partner of choice” in Latin American trade, noting that nearly half of the US’ trade agreements are based in the Western Hemisphere.

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

“If it means reliable, predictable, Trump is the opposite,” Feinberg said. “If preferred means lowering trade barriers, Trump is the opposite of that. He’s talking about higher trade barriers and tariffs.”

Trump has long assailed the effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement on US workers and has insisted on a new round of negotiations between the US, Canada and Mexico on the deal.

Pence is planning to meet in Lima with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the White House said no meetings were scheduled with members of the Mexican delegation.

Trump has over the past few weeks been pushing a tougher line on immigration and seeking stronger protections along the US-Mexican border.

The president’s recent tweets called on Mexico to halt “caravans” of migrants, many from Honduras, a message that Pence might be asked about in his discussions.

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.

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