BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – A senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump skipped the inauguration of new Argentine President Alberto Fernandez and work meetings planned for Wednesday, unhappy with the presence of officials from the government of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.
The special envoy, Mauricio Claver-Carone, told local newspaper Clarin that he had left early before the inauguration after being “surprised” at the presence of guests including Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodríguez.
The United States and many Western nations have called for Maduro to step down and have recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate president.
Peronist leader Fernandez faces a diplomatic juggling act between the United States and leftist allies including Venezuela. His vice president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was close with Maduro at the end of her 2007-2015 twin terms.
“Unfortunately, due to some invitations and some surprises we received upon arrival, I decided not to go and I am leaving early. I will not have the work meetings I had scheduled for tomorrow,” Claver-Carone told Clarin.
The envoy said that ties with Maduro “do not bring any benefits to Argentina,” which he said should focus on “how they can work bilaterally with us and with other allies.”
Other U.S. officials did still attend and meet with Fernandez, including U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar and Michael Kozak, the U.S. acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
The U.S. embassy in Argentina did not immediately comment.
Argentine’s former conservative leader, Mauricio Macri, who handed over power to Fernandez on Tuesday, had been a close ally of the United States over Venezuela.
Fernandez has been cautious with his stance over the Maduro government though he has emphasized ties with other leftist politicians in the region including Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Bolivia’s unseated leader, Evo Morales, and former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel and Ecuador’s former president, Rafael Correa, were also present at the inauguration, while Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro did not attend, instead sending his vice president.
Argentina, which received a $57 billion credit facility from the International Monetary Fund last year, will hope to receive U.S. support as it looks to restructure a large debt pile amid an economic crisis and credit default fears.
Reporting by Adam Jourdan, Cassandra Garrison and Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Steve Orlofsky