Trump administration signals how little it cares about the Summit of the Americas

President Trump will be the only U.S. president to ever skip the summit.

President Trump, with Vice President Pence, speaks after signing the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress in March. CREDIT: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images.
President Trump, with Vice President Pence, speaks after signing the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress in March. CREDIT: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images.

President Donald Trump cancelled his plans to attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru this weekend, saying that he needs to stay in the United States in order to decide how to respond to Saturday’s deadly chemical attack in Syria.

Trump has already blown his own 48-hour deadline for making a decision on how to proceed, but has so far threatened Russian forces supporting the regime of Syrian Bashar al-Assad with missile strikes and dialed it back.

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Trump will be the only U.S. president to have skipped the summit since its inception in 1994, a decision that was announced not immediately after the chemical attack in Syria, but the day after the FBI raided his lawyer’s office.

That Trump decided not to go might be a further blow to U.S. relations with Latin American countries, where he has a 16 percent approval rating. The president has had a tense relationship with Latin American countries since coming into office.

He’s accused Mexico of failing to protect the border and said the country exports its criminals to the United States. He tried to get Mexico to pay for a border wall (which Mexico has said will not happen) and is pushing for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico (which is not going well).

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He has slapped sanctions on Venezuela, where an ongoing political crisis has led the country to the brink of economic collapse and a major shortage of food and medical supplies.

When it comes to missing the summit, Trump is in bad company.

Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolas Maduro, is the only other leader who is not attending the summit. Maduro, however, has been barred from the summit because he has failed to make the democratic reforms and hold free and fair elections.

So, while the president and his advisers weigh whether or not to respond to the chemical attack, Vice President Mike Pence is being sent instead. The trouble is, his team doesn’t seem to know who he is actually meeting.

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The Washington Post reported on Friday that Pence’s office noted that the vice president would be attending “a banquet hosted by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru.” It appears that that Pence’s team is not up on the weeks-old news out the country, however:

One problem: Kuczynski resigned more than three weeks ago after becoming ensnared in a corruption scandal involving Latin America’s largest construction firm. Kuczynski’s decision came on the eve of a congressional impeachment vote. Kuczynski has continued to deny wrongdoing.

The error has since been corrected in an updated itinerary.