April 13 (UPI) — Vice President Mike Pence will arrive in Peru for the Summit of Americas Friday — taking the place of President Donald Trump, who chose to remain in Washington to monitor developments on Syria.
Trump canceled the trip after a suspected chemical weapons attack killed dozens of civilians last weekend. The president said there wasn’t “much of a doubt” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the attack, with influence from Russia and Iran.
By choosing to stay to weigh a potential military response, Trump may cause leaders to question U.S. commitment to Latin America under his administration.
“[Pence] is not the president, and so that sends the message that the U.S. under this administration gives Latin America no priority, so that’s a problem,” Mark Schneider, a senior adviser on the Americas at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told ABC of Pence’s visit to Peru.
Trump was expected to promote the United States as a trade “partner of choice”, over China, at the two-day summit and was planning to focus on promoting American prosperity in the Western Hemisphere, fair reciprocal trade and leadership on Venezuela.
Although many Latin American countries want to do business with the United States, experts say getting them to abandon China may be a tough sell.
“Latin Americans are much more independent, much more interconnected globally,” Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, told NPR. “I think if the U.S. puts them in the position of saying, ‘Either you deal with us or you deal with China,’ that’s going to create real problems and even deepen the resentments in Latin America. They want to deal with both.”
Pence will now be tasked with bringing Trump’s message to the summit — and will hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Canada, the White House said.
The vice president is not expected to meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro, and no meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Earlier this week, senior adviser Ivanka Trump said she would go to Lima to promote women’s economic empowerment.