US VP drops summit banquet, abruptly goes to hotel in Peru

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of US activist Martin Luther King Jr. at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas

The announcement came as Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Lima Friday for the eighth Summit of the Americas - an event that draws leaders from across the region.

While the press focuses on whether Pence will meet with Cuba's Raúl Castro-who has oddly been invited despite the exclusion of Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro for being a dictator-attention should be on the need of a wide-ranging vision for hemispheric relations. "Sullivan and Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray co-hosted a meeting with President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, Vice President Jafeth Cabrera of Guatemala, and Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez of El Salvador on the margins of the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru", Nauert said on Friday.

Pence, who is accompanied by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor tasked with various global foreign policy issues, is filling in for Trump, who canceled his trip to Peru to watch over America's response to a suspected poison gas attack in Syria.

According to the US State Department, the United States is providing $16 million in extra funding for humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans who have fled as economic conditions worsen. And against a backdrop that includes the ongoing attempt to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, tension between the United States and China over potential tariffs, and the possibility the USA may decide to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Hyperinflation, scarcities of basic food and medicine, and skyrocketing violence are gripping Venezuela, prompting a swelling exodus of its citizens that is increasingly concerning the UN. "Many have died of starvation and deprivation, and millions have fled the oppression of the dictatorship in Venezuela", Pence said. Many head to Brazil, Colombia and Panama, and often beyond.

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