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Pence announces $16M in aid for refugees fleeing Venezuela

Heads of states pose for the family

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.

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

Ana Quintana, a senior policy analyst on Latin America and the Western Hemisphere for the Heritage Foundation, said Pence would seek to "continue the momentum" of USA policy on Venezuela.

The United States on Friday announced that it's earmarking an additional $16 million to aid Venezuelan migrants who are fleeing that country's hunger, violence and economic collapse. But a coterie of leftists, including Brazil's Lula da Silva, Argentina's Néstor Kirchner, and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, with the support of soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona, buried the idea, arguing that free-trade agreements were an imperialist US weapon. He says, "We want one message to be clear: We are with the people of Venezuela".

The U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, said the new funds would include a contribution to the United Nations Refugee Agency, which is aiding Venezuelans in Brazil and Colombia.

Pence is in Lima for an worldwide summit.

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Trump had been scheduled to attend the Americas summit but decided this week to send Pence instead so he could remain in the United States to focus on formulating a US response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria last weekend.

Richard Feinberg, a senior fellow in the Latin America Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said it would be hard for the U.S.to make a case to become the "preferential trading partner" as Trump seeks to upend trade agreements.

Peru's decision to withdraw the invitation to Venezuela and, by extension, to President Nicolas Maduro, is reminiscent of the time when Cuba was excluded from that mechanism of debate established in Miami in 1994, under the auspices of the United States and the Organization of American States (OAS).

Pence is departing for the Summit of the Americas in Lima on Friday. He'll also discuss the influence of Chinese trade in the region. He'll be subbing for President Donald Trump after the president pulled out of his first planned visit to Latin America to manage the US response to an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria.

Speaking on background, Canadian officials said they expect the meeting to focus on NAFTA and the benefits of free trade for all three North American nations.

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