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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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Northern Ireland Protocol 'dead in the water' claims Boris ally as Brexit fears reemerge

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THE NORTHERN IRELAND Protocol is “dead in the water”, according to a senior ally of the Prime Minister.

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Matt Gaetz equates sex trafficking investigation with earmarks in Ohio speech

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STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican mired in controversy, told a crowd of Republican activists Saturday that sexual misconduct allegations involving him are as benign as legislative earmarks.

“I’m being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors,” Gaetz said at the Ohio Political Summit, a gathering sponsored by the Strongsville GOP in suburban Cleveland. “Yet, Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that that’s the corruption.”

Gaetz’s keynote speech came a day after Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax official and associate of the congressman, pleaded guilty to six charges and is cooperating in a federal sex trafficking investigation. Federal officials are looking into whether Gaetz and Greenberg used the internet to find women they could pay for sex and whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a minor he paid to travel with him, the New York Times reported.

Documents filed in connection the Greenberg’s plea agreement do not mention Gaetz. He has not been charged with a crime and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

An audience of at least 400 in person and others online turned out for the event, billed as a major forum ahead of the 2022 midterm election. A dozen or so guests trickled out after hearing from conservative commentator Candace Owens, who spoke before Gaetz, who delivered the final speech of the afternoon. But Gaetz received a standing ovation from those who stayed, and a dozen or so others lingered afterward for autographs and selfies.

Several Republican candidates for governor and U.S. House and Senate, had planned to address the crowd but backed out in recent days. Representatives from their campaigns declined to say why on the record, but all of them had committed before Gaetz was added to the program. Another scheduled keynote speaker, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., didn’t show.

To fill the time, organizers used everything from video footage from Trump rallies to a local conservative radio host and others who acknowledged on stage that they had been pressed into speaking duty at the last minute.

The scene at a suburban banquet hall offered a preview of how GOP campaigns, particularly in messy primaries, will proceed over the next 18 months. Strongsville is the center of Ohio’s 16th congressional district, represented by Anthony Gonzalez, one of the few Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. The Ohio Republican Party, nudged along by the Strongsville GOP, has called on Gonzalez to resign. Here, many people believe the lie that the last election was stolen. (“Trump Won,” read a bumper sticker in the parking lot.)

Attendees booed whenever someone mentioned Gonzalez or Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican who has become a villain to many in the party base for his acceptance of the 2020 election results and his cautious approach to the coronavirus pandemic. Far-right activists have taken to calling DeWine a RINO, or Republican In Name Only. If DeWine is renominated next year — and this week former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale got behind former Rep. Jim Renacci as a potential primary challenger — some are considering protest votes.

“I’ll vote for Nan Whaley before I vote for Mike DeWine,” said Dave Desser, a Toledo businessman who is pushing a No More DeWine effort online. Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, is a Democratic candidate for governor whose team relishes such intramural GOP squabbling.

Aware they’d be on hostile ground, DeWine and Gonzalez had never planned to attend Saturday’s summit. Renacci bailed after Gaetz was added to the program. Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide who is challenging Gonzalez with the former-president’s endorsement, appeared via a pre-taped video. That left Joe Blystone and Jonah Schulz, lesser-known candidates for governor and the Ohio 16th, respectively, with the audience to themselves.

“We’re going to Trump this state,” said Blystone, a farmer who campaigns in a cowboy hat.

The most prominent 2022 candidate to speak was Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer who has aggressively positioned himself as the most pro-Trump candidate in the Senate race. At one point Mandel, who is seeking retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s seat, went on an extended attack against a reporter, making sure attendees knew she was in the room as he read her tweets aloud. Mandel also revved up the crowd by lying about the 2020 election.

“Let me be very clear, this election was stolen from Donald Trump,” Mandel said. “My squishy establishment opponents in this race won’t say those words. But I will.”

Gaetz spent much of his speech railing against establishment Republicans such as Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, and Paul Ryan, the former House speaker from Wisconsin. He praised one Ohio congressman, Rep. Jim Jordan, saying he aspired to be “the Robin to his Batman,” while castigating another, Gonzalez, a former first-round NFL draft pick who played in parts of five seasons.

“Is it likely that the Anthony Gonzalez congressional career might mirror the Anthony Gonzalez NFL career?” Gaetz wondered. “Whole lot of hype, first round draft pick, out in four years.”

The absent Gonzalez appeared to issue a subtle rebuke of Gaetz and the Strongsville GOP from afar.

“Ending child exploitation remains one of my top policy initiatives in Congress,” Gonzalez, alluding to the controversy surrounding Gaetz, tweeted during the event. “Anyone engaged in these heinous acts needs to be held accountable and taken off the streets.”



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Confusing pension statements to be banned in huge retirement shake-up

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PENSION providers are to be forced to give much clearer information to people saving for retirement under new regulations being introduced by the government.

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