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Trump’s canceled trip to summit seen as confirmation of “his lack of interest in Latin America”

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MIAMI, Fla. — With negative reaction to Donald Trump’s cancelled trip to attend the Summit of the Americas in Peru and Trump’s previous comments and actions regarding some Latin American countries, Vice President Mike Pence’s message that the region should turn to the U.S. as their main trading partner may fall on deaf ears.

The summit would have been Trump’s first foreign trip to Latin America. Now, it will mark the first time an American president has not attended the summit since it was first held in 1994.

Trump, who was supposed to attend the 8th summit of hemispheric leaders that starts Friday, cancelled the trip to “oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world,” White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Tuesday. Pence will go in his place but will skip a trip to Colombia that had been planned for Trump.

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In a statement, Pence deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, said the vice president is honored to attend the summit, stating he had gone to the region last year and worked on trade deals and on putting pressure on the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

But Latin America experts say it’s not the same with Pence.

“The vice president in no way is a credible substitute,” said Richard Feinberg, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor at the University of California, San Diego. He is in Lima to attend what will be his seventh summit. “Coward,” he said, referring to Trump.

Although official delegations have yet to arrive, members of Peru’s civil sector and average Peruvians are speculating Trump fears he would be poorly received by many Latin American delegations that dislike his “anti-immigrant, anti-trade, anti-democracy postures,” said Feinberg.

“The absence of Trump confirms his lack of interest in Latin America,” said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, professor emeritus of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburg, who said he is not convinced Trump cancelled the trip in order to evaluate the ongoing crisis in Syria.

He said Trump would have had to confront criticism from Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua -which all have leftist governments – and their solidarity with Venezuela. The Trump administration has sanctioned numerous Venezuelan officials, banned U.S. citizens from using their new cryptocurrency, and are looking into oil sanctions

The message to regional leaders to view the U.S. as their main trading partner comes on the heels of Trump’s escalating confrontation over trade with Beijing. China is a top trade partner for Latin American countries ranging from Brazil, the region’s largest economy, to Uruguay. So far, the leaders have been mostly silent, but much of Trump’s tough rhetoric on illegal immigration, tariffs, and trade deals, may not bode well with leaders.

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Recently, Trump said U.S. aid to Honduras’ is “in play” while a caravan of migrants were moving through Mexico to request asylum at the U.S. border. Last week, he announced sending National Guard troops along the southern border with Mexico.

He has been sparring with Mexico and Canada on an overhaul of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The administration is arguing with Argentina over biodiesel. Brazil, a top supplier of steel, was threatened as well by the administration with tariffs on its imports. The tariffs on steel and aluminum have also sparked criticism from many leaders that will be at he summit.

“The protectionist message will not resonate,” said Frank Mora, a former Pentagon official that heads Florida International University’s Latin America Center. He added that Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and protectionism is not well received by the region as well as Latin American leaders.Trump’s approval rating in Latin America was at 16 percent, according to a Gallup poll released in January.

Trump has also clashed with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto over funding of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Trump has always insisted that Mexico pay for the wall. The disagreement escalated earlier this year, prompting Peña Nieto to cancel his plans to visit the White House.

The conflict Trump has created with Mexico is hurting trade, according to Mesa-Lago. Trade between the U.S. and Latin America benefits both, he said. “There is a favorable trade balance. It’s a relationship that’s mutually beneficial.” There are a series of advantages, including the proximity with Latin America, he said.

When Trump took office, he promised to take the U.S. out of NAFTA unless it could be reworked to better serve American interests. Trump argues that the 1994 agreement was a “disaster” that has shifted manufacturing jobs to Mexico at the expense of the U.S.

Talks have been underway with officials from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada to renegotiate the agreement. With Trump’s conflict with China over tariffs, Trump administration officials had been pushing to announce a deal, at least in principle, in Peru, but Trump later said there is “no rush.”

Feinberg said he took Trump’s trip to Lima for the summit as pushing the negotiators to come to an interim accord. “But without Trump traveling, now the pressure is going to be diminished.”

“Here is a guy who has transformed the United States into an unreliable economic partner. Why should any country anywhere look to the U.S. as a preferential trading partner,” said Feinberg.

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More than 20,000 Haitians are gathered in Colombia for possible migration to U.S.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are tracking large groups of Haitians in Latin America, including more than 20,000 in Colombia, who like the thousands now massed on the Texas border may soon try to reach the U.S., according to an internal document obtained by NBC News.

The Department of Homeland Security document also said the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility, the agency’s internal watchdog, is investigating an incident in which a Border Patrol agent on horseback in Del Rio, Texas, grabbed a Haitian migrant by the shirt. The incident, captured by a news photographer, drew widespread criticism Monday, prompting White House press secretary Jen Psaki to describe it as “horrific.”

In addition to the 20,000 Haitians gathered in northern Colombia, DHS is also monitoring groups of about 1,500 in Panama and 3,000 in Peru, the document said. A senior DHS official said it remains to be seen when and whether those migrants will come to the U.S., but they have begun “staging” in the various countries, potentially signaling they are planning to travel in large numbers.

Like the surge of 15,000 Haitian migrants who arrived in Del Rio over the past week, most of the migrants in Central and South America left Haiti years ago, many of them after the 2010 earthquake, and have been living in other countries.

Recent economic conditions in those countries, as well as what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described as misinformation about the Biden administration’s willingness to take in Haitians, have triggered many to seek protections in the U.S.

When DHS has previously monitored caravans of migrants headed to the U.S. border in large numbers, there has been a two to three-week lag between their departure and their arrival. But many of the recently arrived Haitians took buses through Mexico, expediting their arrival and increasing their numbers.

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CIA director’s team member reported Havana Syndrome symptoms during India trip

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A CIA official reported symptoms consistent with so-called Havana Syndrome, a mysterious affliction that has struck diplomats, spies and other government workers at home and abroad, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News on Monday.

The unidentified employee was traveling with CIA director Bill Burns during a trip to India this month. The employee was immediately tested as part of a protocol the CIA has established to deal with the mysterious brain symptoms typically associated with Havana Syndrome and is receiving medical treatment, the sources said.

The incident was first reported by CNN.

This is the latest reported case of a U.S. government employee reporting symptoms associated with the mysterious ailment. Havana Syndrome first came into public view in 2017 after U.S. diplomats and other government workers stationed in Cuba reported feeling unusual physical sensations after hearing strange high- and low-pitched sounds. U.S. government employees have also reported cases while in China and the Washington, D.C. area.

In late August, at least two U.S. diplomats were medically evacuated from Vietnam after Havana Syndrome incidents were reported in the capital city of Hanoi ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris’ arrival.

“The health and well-being of American public servants is of paramount importance to the administration, and we take extremely seriously any report by our personnel of an anomalous health incident,” a senior administration official said Monday night. “It is a top priority for the U.S. government to determine the cause of these incidents as quickly as possible and that we ensure any affected individuals get the care they need.”

Many people who have experienced Havana Syndrome report experiencing vertigo, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and intense headaches. Some describe it as being hit by an invisible blast wave. Some have no longer been able to work.

The India incident has raised questions about whether a foreign adversary had intentionally targeted the CIA director’s staff, but the sources said the agency is unclear what exactly could have caused the incident. The case is one of a number of new incidents in recent months involving CIA personnel who experienced what U.S. officials call “anomalous health incidents,” the sources said.

A CIA spokeswoman declined to confirm the case in India but said the U.S. government and the agency are taking every incident seriously.

“Director Burns has made it a top priority to ensure officers get the care they need and that we get to the bottom of this,” the spokeswoman said. “We’ve strengthened efforts to determine the origins of the incidents, including assembling a team of our very best experts — bringing an intensity and expertise to this issue akin to our efforts to find Bin Ladin.”

The spokeswoman added that a panel of experts has been convened from across intelligence agencies “to work collectively to increase our understanding of the possible mechanisms that could be causing [anomalous health incidents].”

Many U.S. officials suspect the incidents, which have caused permanent brain injuries in some victims, are a result of an attack or surveillance operation by Russian spies, but the evidence is inconclusive.

The National Academies of Sciences said in a report last year the most likely cause of the injuries was directed microwave energy, but that conclusion is being debated in the scientific community.

Last week, deputy CIA director David Cohen said the agency is getting closer to solving the mystery, but there are limitations.

“In terms of have we gotten closer, I think the answer is yes — but not close enough to make analytic judgment that people are waiting for,” he said.

Josh Lederman contributed.



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Boris Johnson tells jab-sceptic Brazilian President to get 'great' AstraZeneca vaccine

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BORIS JOHNSON has told the jab-sceptic Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to get a dose of the “great” Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccine.

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