The Latest: Pence, 15 nations urge free vote in Venezuela
LIMA, Peru (AP) — The Latest on the Summit of the Americas meeting in Peru (all times local):
Vice President Mike Pence has joined heads of state from 15 hemispheric nations in calling on Venezuela to hold free and transparent presidential elections in which all political parties are allowed to participate.
The seven-point statement was released on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas by a handful of mostly conservative-run countries that have been highly critical of Venezuela’s socialist government, which was barred from participating in the regional gathering.
It also calls on government to expand measures aimed at re-establishing Venezuela’s democracy as well as urges the United Nations and other multilateral institutions to help alleviate the country’s humanitarian crisis.
Vice President Mike Pence in prepared remarks to regional leaders at the Summit of America twice recalled traveling to the border with Venezuela during a trip last year to Colombia. The problem is he never did.
Pence in a visit to Colombia last August did meet and pray with struggling Venezuelan migrants in a trip to Cartagena. But the colonial tourist mecca is several hundred miles from the border with Venezuela.
Despite the mistake, Pence in his speech said that it was time for the region to do more to isolate President Nicolas Maduro, who he said was single-handedly responsible for the humanitarian crisis plaguing the oil-rich nation. He added that the U.S. will not “stand by idly” as Venezuela “crumbles” and would work with its regional partners to restore Venezuelans’ democratic “birthright.”
A press conference with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio took a heated turn when a journalist with Cuba’s state-run newspaper Granma asked him about accepting campaign money from the National Rifle Association.
After noting that the theme of this year’s Summit of the Americas is stopping corruption, the Granma journalist asked Rubio if he would continue accepting money from the NRA after the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
When the journalist revealed what news outlet he works for a number of Miami-based reporters in the room began crying out that it was great he could be there because many of them haven’t been allowed to enter and report in Cuba.
Rubio chimed in saying he was willing to debate questions in an open forum and that anyone who doesn’t agree with his position on the Second Amendment has the right to vote him out of office.
When pressed again by the reporter to answer his question, Rubio said he was glad they could have a discussion, “because in Cuba we can’t have a debate.”
He didn’t further address the shooting victims or whether he was considering changing his stance on accepting NRA funds.
Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra has opened the Summit of the Americas plenary session with a call for heads of state to approve a declaration with a list of measures aimed at preventing corruption.
The declaration was met with applause Saturday— but not everyone at the meeting in Lima, Peru, agrees on how to root out corruption.
Bolivian President Evo Morales told his counterparts that the capitalist system allows corruption to prosper and said it should be dismantled. He also assailed the United States as the biggest threat to world peace and democracy.
The theme of the summit is battling corruption though many are skeptical that any agreement reached will lead to practical change.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has endorsed the U.S.-led military strike against Syria’s government.
He says “Canada stands with our friends in this necessary response and we condemn in strongest possible terms” the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
He made the comments Saturday at the Summit of Americas taking place in Lima, Peru.
Trudeau said that Canada will work with others to investigate the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians and that “those responsible must be brought to justice.”