Key leaders Maduro, Trump will be absent from Summit of the Americas

World Today

Trade tensions are high on the list of priorities at the 8th Summit of the Americas in Peru.

North and South American leaders are gearing up for the event, but two presidents will be noticeably absent.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports from Lima.

Striking a balance at such a big gathering of regional heads of state isn’t easy, but the absence of the two most controversial leaders in the hemisphere may have eased tensions.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro was uninvited by the host country Peru and this week, U.S. President Donald Trump canceled his first official trip to Latin America. White House aides say Trump bowed out to monitor the crisis in Syria and Vice President Mike Pence will take his place.

It came just a week after the U.S. had urged its southern neighbors to put it first on trade.

That issue and the ongoing trade conflict between the U.S. and China could be a point of discord, according to China’s ambassador to Peru, Jia Guide.

“This issue must be analyzed from two points of view, the micro, and the macro,” he told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. “If China doesn’t care about commodities coming from the United States, it would have to import from other countries. And so disputes between China and the United States bring possibilities for Latin American countries. However, from the macro point of view, the essence of the disputes or commercial announcement between the first and second largest economies of the world consist in complying or not with international rules for multilateral commerce. If some damage has been caused to a multilateral mechanism, it will affect all the interests throughout the world.”

In 2015, the Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to invest $250 billion in the region over the next ten years. It’s no surprise that Latin America leaders are embracing relations with China, Cynthia Sanborn, vice rector of research at Lima’s Pacific University, told CGTN.

“I don’t think it’s the role of the United States to try to tell Latin America what it should and shouldn’t do in terms of trade policy, especially when the US is experimenting this reversal in terms of its free trade around the world,” she said. “There may be more opportunities for us due to the tensions between the US and China but everything indicates that those tensions are going to be reduced because of the actions of China.”

This summit will also focus on issues closer to home, such as the region’s biggest ever corruption scandal which is toppling politicians and business tycoons alike. A criminal investigation shows Brazilian firm Odebrecht paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes throughout the region. Last month, Peru appointed a new president after Pedro Pablo Kuczynski abruptly resigned over graft allegations.

Across the region, citizens have had enough but the culture of corruption which has left its mark on the sprawling city of Lima.

One reminder is a copy of Brazil’s iconic Corcovado statue – which overlooks the capital city’s bay – and has become known as the Christ of corruption. It was paid for by a former Peruvian president and the scandal-ridden firm Odebrecht.

Perhaps the summit could be a chance for the assembled leaders to think on their sins?