LIMA, Peru (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence, soon after arriving in Peru for a regional summit, fulfilled an urgent assignment from the White House: informing top American lawmakers about the U.S.-led airstrikes on Syria before the Trump administration’s announcement.
Latin American leaders were to hear Saturday from Pence about President Donald Trump’s decision to join with Britain and France in the military operation intended as a response to a suspected chemical attack last weekend.
Pence left the Summit of the Americas late Friday so he could confer with U.S. congressional leaders by telephone from his hotel suite about Trump’s plans to announce the missile strikes. Pence then attended a banquet hosted by Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra.
Trump pulled out of the summit earlier in the week as he set the stage for an allied response in Syria.
Pence’s motorcade took him from opening events surrounding the summit about 45 minutes before Trump addressed the U.S. public on the military attack. Aides said Pence was in touch with Trump “multiple times” as he traveled to Peru aboard Air Force Two and conferred with national security adviser John Bolton.
Jarrod Agen, Pence’s deputy chief of staff, said the vice president intended to update summit participants on Saturday.
Pence has scheduled talks with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has yet to meet with Trump amid an impasse over the wall Trump has pledged to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trump’s recent call to send National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border has added further tensions just as Mexico and Canada work to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Much of Pence’s message during his brief visit to Peru was expected to be aimed at building support for further isolating Venezuela, which has faced U.S. sanctions amid a political crisis led by President Nicolas Maduro.
Shortly after arriving in Lima, Pence said the U.S. would provide nearly $16 million in humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans who have fled their country and met with opposition leaders who pleaded for more sanctions.
In a series of meetings with Latin American leaders, Pence planned to promote good governance and democratic institutions and urge allies to maintain pressure on Maduro. The U.S. has sanctioned Maduro and dozens of top officials, accusing the country of human rights abuses and sliding into a dictatorship.
Maduro has been barred from the summit over his plans to hold a presidential election that the opposition is boycotting and that many foreign governments consider a sham.
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