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U.S. president enlists Latin American leaders to keep Venezuela regime in check

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Trump says democracy must be restored in Venezuela soon during a during a working dinner with Latin American leaders in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017. In photo, U.S. President with Brazil President Michel Temer (center R).

By Jennifer Jacobs and Samy Adghirni

Petroleumworld 09 19

President Donald Trump praised the good relationship between the U.S. and Latin America and said he wants to turn the tables on trade with the region “just a little bit.”

Trump made his remarks at the start of a dinner in New York on Monday where he hosted presidents from Brazil, Colombia, Panama as well as Argentina's vice president. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, chief of staff John Kelly were also present.

The U.S. president also lashed out against Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, calling his rule “disastrous.” He said that people in Venezuela “are starving and the country is collapsing.

The U.S. "has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable and we're prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on a path to imposing authoritarian rule," Trump said. He thanked the Latin American leaders for "condemning the regime."

Brazil's President Michel Temer said all leaders “agreed on maintaining pressure on Venezuela's government.” But further sanctions on the country should be “verbal.”

The U.S. has increased its pressure on Venezuela in the aftermath of President Maduro's moves to seize more authority amid a crippling recession and months of violent protests. Last month the Treasury Department barred trading of new debt by the government and state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA. Other rounds of sanctions have targeted senior individuals in Maduro's administration including PDVSA's Chief Financial Officer Simon Zerpa Delgado.

The dinner is taking place at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The menu included carrot ginger soup and rack of lamb.

Earlier Monday, Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos told Bloomberg Television that military intervention “is something that was not on the agenda of any country in Latin America, that would create a worse situation still.”

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