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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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The JIG IS UP! Theresa May ally breaks silence on 'soft' Brexit deal plot

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REMAINER David Gauke has broken his silence on Theresa May’s “soft Brexit deal” plot more than a year after she was forced out of Downing Street.

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In dueling Florida rallies, Trump and Biden paint different pictures of Covid — and America

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Joe Biden and President Donald Trump held dueling rallies in Florida on Thursday, painting a stark contrast in how they viewed the United States and the Covid-19 pandemic in the key battleground state just five days before Election Day.

In Coconut Creek, Florida, just outside Fort Lauderdale, Biden held a drive-in car rally with strict social distance rules, during which he attacked Trump over his administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its failure to combat systemic racism.

“I know it’s hard. Over the past few months there’s been so much pain, so much suffering, so much loss,” the Democratic presidential nominee said. “Millions of people out there are out of work, on the edge, can’t see the light of the end of the tunnel, and Donald Trump has given up.”

“He is doing nothing. We’re learning to die with it and Donald Trump has waved the white flag, abandoned our families and surrendered to the virus,” he added. “But the American people don’t give up, we don’t give in and we surely don’t cower, and nor will I under any circumstances.”

Trump, meanwhile, held a “Make America Great Again” rally in Tampa, where a large crowd of mostly maskless fans sitting close to one another cheered loudly as the president touted his own quick recovery from Covid-19 — a virus that has so far, in the U.S., sickened nearly 9 million people and killed more than 229,000.

“You know the bottom line, though?” Trump told the crowd. “You’re gonna get better. You’re gonna get better.”

“If I can get better, anybody can get better. And I got better fast,” he added, as rallygoers cheered wildly.

But Trump’s Covid-19 treatment was different from the experience of average Americans sickened with the virus. He was under the care of more than a dozen doctors and received a number of experimental and expensive treatments to which many Americans would not typically have such rapid access.

In his speech Thursday, Biden also addressed nationwide protests against systemic racism in the U.S., using the topic to draw stark contrasts between himself and the president.

“While Donald Trump fails to condemn white supremacy, we can deliver on racial justice,” Biden said. “Donald Trump believes he doesn’t believe there is any such thing as systemic racism as a problem. He won’t even say Black Lives Matter.”

“You know and I know Black lives do matter and so do others, and that’s why this season a protest is broken out all across the nation,” he said.

Trump, for his part, attacked the protests, claiming that unrest in Minneapolis in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, which sparked a global uprising, would result in him winning Minnesota next week.

He also attacked Biden for having previously referred to antifa as an ideology rather than a specific group.

“Biden called it an idea, he said antifa is just an idea. I said not when you get hit over the head behind your back with a baseball bat, that is not an idea,” Trump said.

Trump spoke for just under an hour, and temperatures in the high-80s wound up sending a dozen attendees to the hospital, officials said. A total of 17 rallygoers needed medical treatment, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.

Biden held a second drive-in rally later in the day in Tampa as part of a furious effort in the waning days of the race to flip Florida blue, but he wound up cutting the rally short after it started to rain. “I’m going to shorten this for you all,” Biden told the crowd after speaking for about 20 minutes. “Get out of the rain!”

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Tampa, Fla., on Oct. 29, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

In Coconut Creek, Biden told the crowd, “If Florida goes blue, it’s over, it’s over,” to the sound of blaring car horns and cheers.

Biden also spoke directly to the state’s large Latino population — specifically its Cuban population — whom he’ll need to perform well if he wants to carry the state.

“We have to vote for a new Cuba policy as well. This administration approach isn’t working. Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy today than it was four years ago,” he said.

Trump, meanwhile, attempted to tie Biden to the leftist wing of the Democratic Party — and then tied that to socialist regimes in Latin America which many Latino voters in Florida have fled from.

“As long as I am president, America will never be a socialist country, and I say it all the time. This election will decide whether our children will be condemned to the misery of socialism or whether they will inherit the glorious legacy of American freedom,” Trump said.

Polls show the race in Florida in a dead heat.

A Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released earlier Thursday showed Biden leading Trump in the state 45 percent to 42 percent. A Monmouth University poll of registered voters in Florida released earlier Thursday showed Biden leading Trump 50 percent to 45 percent. Both the results of both polls were within their margins of error.

Meanwhile, the latest Real Clear Politics polling average in the state shows Biden leading Trump by 1.4 percentage points.



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Nicola Sturgeon rudely interrupted in FMQs as mobile phone goes off mid-session – VIDEO

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WATCH the moment Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was rudely interrupted by a mobile phone going off during a session in Scottish Parliament.

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