U.S. President Donald Trump has canceled his Latin American travel plans to Bogotá and to Lima's Summit of the Americas in order to respond to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, according to a statement from the White House.
The last Summit, held in Panama in April 2015, saw Barack Obama hold a bilateral meeting with Raul Castro - the first time the two countries' leaders had met since the Cuban Revolution.
The announcement came a day after the president called an apparent chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military "barbaric," adding the United States "cannot allow atrocities like that", Trump said during a Cabinet meeting with his top national security officials seated around him. "The president will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world".
Speaking to reporters at the White House, he said: "We're making decisions as to what we do with respect to the disgusting attack that was made near Damascus". Trump values his European allies and has often said so.
The change comes amid a tumultuous week for the White House - an Federal Bureau of Investigation raid Monday targeted the Manhattan office and hotel room of Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer. Trump found himself consumed by the Cohen raids Monday, fuming in private as well as going on a tirade about the "witch hunt" in front of reporters. The United States will still be represented there, but with Vice President Mike Pence taking his place. It will be interesting to see how Vice President Pence manages the situation at the summit, and how the other countries react to him.
The region has gotten little mention from Trump's White House except as a source of migrants, drugs and gang violence that the president blames Mexico and other neighbors for failing to stem. It's also a missed opportunity for Trump to build bridges in the region; he's widely unpopular with Latin Americans thanks, in part, to his statements on immigration. Anyway, it seems like America will be making huge strides forwards in their handling of the Syria crisis, even if it means Trump missing an important summit in South America.