Americas’ Leaders Condemn Syria’s Use of Chemical Weapons

Syria airstrike, Venezuelan crisis, corruption, and drug trafficking took center stage at the 8th Summit of the Americas
April 15, 2018 Updated: April 15, 2018

LIMA, PERU—Leaders of North and South America decried the use of chemical weapons by Syria at the Summit of the Americas on April 14.

All countries throughout the Americas except Bolivia and Cuba condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and urged him to stop chemical attacks on his citizens.

Standing in for Trump at the Lima summit, Vice President Mike Pence briefed leaders on the April 13 military action in Syria.

“I’m pleased to report that the strike by the United States, U.K., and French forces was effective, overwhelming and successful,” he said.

He criticized Russia for “deliberately spreading disinformation about Assad’s heinous actions.”

Countries including Canada and Colombia expressed support for the U.S.-led airstrike on Syria. While Argentina, Brazil, and Peru voiced concerns about escalating problems in the Middle East. Bolivia and Cuba were the only countries in the summit condemning the United States and its allies.

Trump who had planned to attend the Summit of the Americas canceled his trip a few days before the meeting, choosing to stay in Washington to oversee the American response to chemical attacks by the Assad regime.

Thirty-three out of 35 counties in the Western hemisphere attended the eighth Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru on April 13 and 14. The summit is held every three years.

“We will be submitting a bid to host the 9th Summit of the Americas three years from now in 2021,” said Pence during the meeting.

Combatting Corruption

The formal theme of this year’s summit was “Democratic Governance against Corruption.”

All leaders pledged to confront systemic corruption during the summit at a time when a wave of corruption scandals has been sweeping out their governments.

Host country Peru was the latest country to be rocked by a bribery scandal linked to the Brazilian construction firm Odebracht that has shaken some major countries in Latin America. Peru’s former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned over his role in the scandal a few weeks before the summit. His vice-president, Martin Vizcarra, who took power last month hosted the summit.

In addition, the leaders also raised concerns about the mass immigration of Venezuelans into neighboring countries as the political and economic crisis in the country deepens.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Madura has been barred from attending the summit by Peru. Madura earlier insisted that he would appear at the summit anyway. However, he announced later that he would not attend the meeting, calling it “a waste of time.” His announcement came a day after Trump canceled his trip to Latin America.

The members also condemned the murder of two Ecuadorean journalists and their driver by Colombian drug traffickers.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno returned to his country early from the summit after he confirmed the deaths of the hostages on April 13.

Reporter Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas, and driver Efrain Segarra were on assignment for Ecuadorian El Comercio newspaper on the border between Ecuador and Colombia when they were held hostage by former fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) last month.

More than a thousand FARC fighters refused to demobilize under last year’s peace deal with Colombia and joined dissident drug-trafficking groups.

Leaders expressed their solidarity with the Ecuadorian President and vowed to fight against criminal gangs and drug traffickers.

Follow Emel on Twitter: @mlakan