Joint strikes by the US, Britain and France on Syria and the political crisis in Venezuela have dominated the meeting of leaders at a Latin American summit in Lima, Peru.

Peru's President Martin Vizcarra, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet during the VIII Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, April 14, 2018.
Peru's President Martin Vizcarra, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet during the VIII Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, April 14, 2018. (Reuters)

In the Summit of the Americas in Peru's capital of Lima that has been overshadowed by the Syrian air strikes, the United States and more than a dozen Latin American countries on Saturday warned Venezuela its presidential election next month would be seen as illegitimate by the region unless it restored democratic standards.

US Vice President Mike Pence condemned an April presidential election that is being largely boycotted by Venezuela's opposition after the government of President Nicolas Maduro barred two of the opposition's top leaders -- Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles -- from running.

Although formally Venezuela was not on the agenda of the summit, the United States sought to have its allies take a tougher position to pressure Maduro, who was not invited to the meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Pence said the White House will not stand by and watch Venezuela collapse.

Yet Bolivian President Evo Morales, a Venezuela ally, expressed his outrage that Maduro had not been welcomed at the regional summit.

TRT World's Dimitri O'Donnell reports from Lima.

Tougher political stance

At the end of the summit, about 15 presidents of the continent and Pence signed a joint statement - the first at the level of heads of state - calling on the Venezuelan government to guarantee free and democratic elections under threat of not recognising the results if they do not comply with these promises.

A summit of Latin American, US and Canadian leaders also vowed a tougher political stance against corruption with a document making a common "commitment" but offering no enforcement measures.

Pence also held brief bilateral talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada on Saturday about the state of play in their NAFTA renegotiations, saying he was "encouraged" by recent progress towards a deal.

Reactions to joint strike on Syria

Hours after Trump hailed the missile strike targeting the Syria's suspected chemical weapons — tweeting, "Mission Accomplished!" — Pence defended the president while building support among US allies for the joint strikes with Britain and France.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed air strikes on Syria's chemical weapons programme by the US and its allies, but Argentina and Brazil at a summit in Lima voiced caution about escalating military action.

Addressing regional leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Peru, Trudeau and several other leaders across the Western Hemisphere condemned the use of chemical weapons.

"Those responsible must be brought to justice," Trudeau said in a plenary session.

But Washington's retaliatory strikes drew pleas for caution from Latin American countries.

"There's deep concern in Brazil with the escalation of military conflict in Syria. It's time to find permanent solutions based in the international law to a war that has been going for far too long and ended too many lives," Brazilian President Michel Temer said in the plenary.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri also called for the international community to seek to avoid flaming tensions further and to work "to preserve international peace and security."

Later, speaking in a cavernous hall of world leaders at the summit, Pence expressed gratitude to Canada, Colombia and other nations that had voiced support for the strike on Syria and urged "every nation in this hemisphere of freedom" to support the military action.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies