Brazil's President Michel Temer, left, greets U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, June 26, 2018. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Brazil for a Latin American trip expected to focus on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Venezuela. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

US VP begins LatAm trip focused on Venezuela, immigration

June 26, 2018 - 1:15 pm

SAO PAULO (AP) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrived Tuesday in Brazil for a Latin American trip expected to focus on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Venezuela and migration to the United States.

Venezuela's economy is in a deep depression and shortages of food and medicine have sent people fleeing by the tens of thousands into neighboring countries, including Brazil. The Trump administration wants to further isolate the socialist government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who recently won a second term in an election condemned as illegitimate by the U.S. and other foreign governments.

After Brazilian President Michel Temer welcomed Pence at the presidential palace in Brasilia, the vice president told reporters that he was grateful for Brazil's leadership in confronting the crisis in Venezuela and said the U.S. backs regional efforts to restore democracy there.

He also offered solidarity to the "suffering people of Venezuela."

Pence and Temer were expected to discuss the wider global migrant crisis, as well as immigration into the U.S. Brazilian officials have said they will raise the separation of Brazilian children from parents who were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Brazil's Foreign Ministry has said the trip is an opportunity to discuss a wide range of matters, including space cooperation and trade. But it's unclear what can be achieved in discussions with Temer, who is deeply unpopular and a lame duck ahead of October elections.

The trip also comes at a time when many Brazilians will have their focus elsewhere: On Wednesday, soccer-mad Brazil plays Serbia at the World Cup.

During initial comments to the press, Temer joked that he hoped Pence would support the Brazil team if it goes all the way. Pence said that he would root for Brazil Tuesday and Wednesday — while he is on Brazilian soil.

On Wednesday, he will travel to Manaus, a city in the Brazilian Amazon, to visit a center for Venezuelan migrants. Then he'll head to Ecuador, where he is expected to continue to call for more pressure on Venezuela.

On Thursday, in Guatemala, Pence will meet with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to address immigration to the U.S. Many of the people crossing from Mexico into the U.S. are fleeing violence in those Central American countries. The Guatemala stop had originally been scheduled so Pence could meet with survivors of a recent volcanic eruption.

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