Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Pence announces $16M in aid for refugees fleeing Venezuela

Pence announces $16M in aid for refugees fleeing Venezuela

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and US Vice President Mike Pence plan to meet on Saturday on the sidelines of a Summit of the Americas in Peru to discuss ties frayed by NAFTA renegotiations and border tensions.

Pence's deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, says Pence called House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi before Trump's speech Friday night.

Pence was attending the Summit of the Americas on Friday before being whisked away from the gathering and to his hotel shortly before Trump's address to the nation.

Pence met with Julio Borges, a Venezuelan opposition lawmaker and former speaker of the National Assembly, David Smolansky, former mayor of the city of El Hatillo, Carlos Vecchio, political coordinator of the Popular Will party he co-founded with opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, and Antonio Ledezma, former mayor of Caracas.

At the Summit of the Americas, Pence on Saturday will meet Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra and President Mauricio Macri of Argentina.

Backed by Washington, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been barred from this year's summit over his plans to hold a presidential election that the opposition is boycotting and several regional governments consider a sham.

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The total US humanitarian response to the Venezuela crisis comes to more than $21 million since the 2017 fiscal year.

Vice President Mike Pence says there's a "real possibility" the US could reach a deal with Canada and Mexico on a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement "within the next several weeks".

The vice president says Maduro has turned Venezuela into a dictatorship and has brought about "abject misery".

Participants in both events also agreed to express Cuba's support to the people and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and to denounce the expanding use of legal charges of corruption against left wing leaders, for political purposes, ignoring the will of the people.

Opposition leader David Smolansky says Maduro's government "has become a threat to the region".

Pence said Friday in Lima, Peru, that the aid will help Venezuelans in Colombia and Brazil access safe drinking water, shelters, and work and educational opportunities.

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

The funds are through the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. He was meeting with Venezuelan opposition leaders.

Summit host Peru played down the decision by US President Donald Trump to skip the Summit of the Americas, saying Mike Pence was an acceptable substitution, on April 12, 2018.

Trump said he is skipping the summit to focus on the USA response to an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria. Leaders also discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional levels.

Pence, who filled in for Trump, spent part of the summit trying to drum up support for further isolating Venezuela, which faces mounting USA sanctions.

Cuba is present as in the meeting of peoples from the continent, an activity organized independently from the Summit of the Americas, that has taken place since 1998, when its first edition was held in Santiago de Chile.

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