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Venezuela dominates agenda ahead of Trump’s Latin American visit

Venezuela will be the dominant issue during the first visit of’U.S. President Donald Trump to Latin America this week, but according to analysts, a crusade by the president against the administration of Nicolás Maduro could be counterproductive to U.S. interests.

Trump, whose relationship with the United States’ southern neighbors has been marked by his diatribes against illegal immigration and trade practices he considers damaging to U.S. workers, will participated in the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru on April 13-14. Trump will visit Colombia, a traditional ally, on April 15.

The president is expected to focus on “demonstrating U.S. leadership in relation to Venezuela” and “the need to return to democracy” in that country, a high-ranking administration official told journalists.

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The International Monetary Fund projects inflation of up to 13,000 percent in Venezuela this year, and experts have estimated that 1.7 people will leave the country. The situation in Venezuela was already the focal point of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the region last year and that of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February.

The United States has already applied numerous economic sanctions against Maduro and current or former officials from his administration. The administration official who spoke to the press said that “we do not anticipate any new announcements at the summit,” but added that it is likely that the United States will take “additional steps to punish Maduro” in the coming months.

The source said that Panama has given the region a “great example” by adopting eocnomic sanctions against Maduro, and that Costa Rica has adopted measures against Venezuelan military leaders for money laundering and other crimes.

Months ago, Trump evoked the possibility of a military intervention in Venezuela, something that may be more likely with the presence of additional “hawks” at the White House, most notably new National Security Advisor John Bolton.

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