President Biden formally opened the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on Wednesday by declaring democracy “a hallmark of our region,” as he sought to calm tensions over his decision to dismiss some leaders the United States deems authoritarian, a move that led to a partial boycott of the conference.
“As we meet again today, at a moment when democracy is under attack around the world, let us unite once again and renew our conviction that democracy is not only the hallmark of American history, but the essential component of the future of the Americas,” Biden said during a 15-minute speech at the opening of the summit. At Microsoft Theatre.
He added, “Our region is large and diverse.” “We do not always agree on everything. But because we are democracies, we work through our differences with mutual respect and dialogue.”
Prior to the speech, President and First Lady Jill Biden received more than 20 heads of state from the Western Hemisphere, including Canada, Brazil and Argentina. But the summit, held in the United States for the first time since its inaugural meeting in Miami in 1994, was overshadowed by the fallout from the exclusion of the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an influential leader in the region, announced on Monday that he would skip the summit over the row and send his foreign minister instead.
Nor are the leaders of Bolivia, Guatemala and Honduras not attending — dealing a blow to Biden’s efforts to reassert US leadership in the region on issues of economic cooperation, immigration and climate change.
In his remarks, Biden unveiled an economic framework that he said would make regional trade more sustainable, strengthen supply chains, create clean energy jobs, and tackle the climate crisis.
“We need to break the cycle in which marginalized communities are most exposed to disasters and have the fewest resources to recover from crises and prepare for the next,” Biden said.
Latin America and the Caribbean has been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, accounting for more than 40% of all reported global deaths, according to the White House. The region has also suffered from economic collapse, amplified by global inflation, as well as environmental disasters and political instability.
To address these challenges, the President proposed a fundamental change to the Inter-American Development Bank and pledged to invest US capital in the bank’s private sector financing arm to advance digital connectivity, renewable energy and health.
However, the president’s economic framework is unlikely to satisfy those looking for more commercial access. Administration officials, who briefed reporters before Biden’s remarks, emphasized that his plan was based on existing free trade agreements, but declined to say how much US investment in them. No country has yet signed the framework as participants.
The president also reviewed the immigration announcement that will be unveiled on Friday, calling it a “pioneering new, integrated approach to immigration management and shared responsibility across the hemisphere.”
The ad comes as a file A caravan of thousands of immigrants, Most of them from Central America, Venezuela and Haiti began heading north from near Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala earlier this week to protest their conditions.
The Biden administration has struggled to manage a record influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border over the past year. Border officials made nearly 202,000 arrests in April, a slight decrease from March, which saw a 22-year high.
“Safe and orderly immigration is beneficial to all of our economies, including the United States,” Biden said, calling it a “catalyst for sustainable growth.”
But, he added, “illegal immigration is not acceptable.”
Biden said the declaration is expected to include commitments from regional leaders to promote stability and increase opportunities for safe and orderly migration across the region. It’s unclear which countries will end up signing off on the plan, but White House officials are insisting that Mexico, Latin America’s second-most populous country and a key US partner in managing immigration, participate.
Among the most serious challenges facing the region is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed serious shortcomings and disparities in medical care across Latin America.
Biden announced the launch of a new US Health team to train 500,000 public health and medical professionals in the region within five years, as well as a new partnership between the two largest food exporters in the hemisphere — the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and Mexico — to increase food production for export and produce fertilizer for transportation. .
Many area health experts in Los Angeles are pushing for more vaccines, equipment, and technology to produce them. They would also like to have access to more diagnostic and treatment equipment.
“What we’ve been through is training for the next pandemic,” Colombian Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said in an interview.
Ruiz is attending the summit as part of the Colombian delegation and hopes to share experiences in dealing with the pandemic, during which Colombia has done reasonably well. “The next outbreak is knocking on the door.”
White House officials insist that the guest list controversy will not undermine the president’s efforts to boost the region’s economies. Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday announced nearly $2 billion in new private investments in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, bringing total corporate pledges to invest in the region to $3.2 billion since the initiative began last year.
Harris said in a speech earlier Wednesday that her work in attracting billions of dollars in new investment from companies and organizations was “essential” to improving conditions in Latin America.
The vice president added that she and Biden see this week as “an opportunity to launch new initiatives, start new conversations, and build new partnerships.”
On Thursday, Biden will meet for the first time with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has threatened to skip the summit. The right-wing populist was one of the last world leaders to congratulate Biden after taking office last year, and he renewed his doubts about the outcome of the 2020 US election in a television interview earlier this week.
While traveling to Los Angeles, Biden spoke by phone with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by the United States as the “interim” president of Venezuela. Guaidó
It was not included in this year’s summit.
Writer Tracy Wilkinson contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
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