The crisis in Syria will get Donald Trump’s full attention, meaning the president won’t be attending the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, which opened yesterday. Instead, Vice-President Mike Pence and Senator Marco Rubio will lead the American delegation. Rubio was an easy choice, given his knowledge of Latin America and foreign policy. (Fox News)

In Trump’s absence from the meeting, the Florida Republican is playing an even more prominent role. He began the week presiding over a Senate hearing on the summit, lunched Wednesday at the White House to brief Pence for the trip and starting Friday, when he arrives in Lima, will meet one-on-one with a half-dozen heads of state — about the same number as Pence himself.

Rubio, in a phone interview from Washington, called Trump’s absence understandable but a nonetheless disappointing example of how Latin America often takes a backseat to more pressing national security challenges. In his absence, he said he and Pence, who visited Latin America in August, would work with leaders to take tougher action on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who at the U.S. administration’s urging was the only Western Hemisphere leader barred from the gathering.

Since Trump’s election, Rubio has exerted outside influence over U.S. policy toward Latin America. He drafted a list of Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses that became the basis for U.S. sanctions. He also urged Trump to roll back the U.S.’ opening to communist Cuba that led to President Raul Castro’s historic handshake with Obama at the last Summit of the Americas three years ago. Castro is again expected to attend this year, a farewell tour as he prepares to step down later this

Pence’s team tweeted that they were meeting Thursday in preparation for the trip.

First Daughter Ivanka Trump arrived ahead of the opening day in Lima with plans of promoting female economic empowerment and women-owned businesses. Thursday she met with women leaders to promote U.S. initiatives. She did the same at the G20. At that conference, she announced an initiative of her creating with the World Bank for an international entrepreneurship fund. In Lima, she will use entrepreneurship to promote empowering women to open small businesses.  (Voice of America)

“While in Peru, I’m excited to announce a new initiative to propel women’s economic empowerment in the region. Furthermore, to underline the joint collaboration between the United States and Peru, both in the public and private sector,” she said. She did not provide further details about the initiative.

The first daughter, who will speak at the CEO Summit of the Americas, said one goal is to increase the number of women in Latin America who open their own businesses.

President Trump has not yet visited South America as president. Often overlooked with so many other hot spots in the world, Venezuela will be a focus for the American delegation. Emphasis will be made on garnering support from other countries to band together and demand the country’s dictator, Nicolas Maduro, change course to end the country’s free fall. Maduro’s invitation to the summit was rescinded and he will attend the Peoples’ Summit. Sounds like he’s going to an alternative hippie convention.

The alternative summit is set to take place alongside the official event. The Peoples’ Summit is billed as an alternative to the Summit for the Americas, in which social movements and progressives gather to counter neoliberal policies.

Every summit brings demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. The Summit of the Americas will, too. Anarchists love these opportunities to grab some attention as they destroy property and disrupt life for locals. We will see what this summit brings.