Biden hails democratic unity despite summit no-shows

LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Joe Biden said Wednesday that democracy is an “essential ingredient” for the future of the Western Hemisphere as he welcomed leaders to the Summit of the Americas, an implicit rebuttal to those who have boycotted the rally because the authoritarians were not invited.

What do you want to know

  • President Joe Biden landed in Los Angeles on Wednesday for the summit
  • Biden told those gathered that ‘all of our nations have a responsibility to step up and ease the pressure that people are feeling today’
  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the White House “will invest specific funds to produce tangible results.”
  • The ‘Los Angeles Declaration’ will be announced as Biden meets with counterparts in North, Central and South America Wednesday through Friday

He also drew stark contrasts around one of the central issues of the summit, immigration, saying that “safe and orderly migration is good for all our economies” but that “illegal” forms are unacceptable.

“We will enforce our borders through innovative and coordinated action with our regional partners,” Biden said at the opening ceremony for the events that will run through Friday in Los Angeles.

Biden attempted to ease many of the hardline immigration policies instituted by his predecessor, Donald Trump, and used his first days in office to offer a sweeping immigration proposal that would have created a pathway to US citizenship for million people in the United States illegally. But it has stalled in Congress, and the president’s attention has largely turned to other issues, including soaring inflation and Russia’s war with Ukraine.

His administration insists the summit can be successful despite the absence of several key leaders, as officials sought to highlight efforts in food security, climate and other areas of government. common interest.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and other leaders are staying away because the United States has excluded Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – all countries that send large numbers of migrants to the United States and the neighboring countries – because they are ruled by authoritarians.

“Our region is vast and diverse. We don’t always agree on everything,” Biden said. “But because we are democracies, we resolve our disagreements with mutual respect and dialogue.”

He also promised that the rally would involve “bold ideas, ambitious actions” that would “demonstrate to our people the incredible power of democracies to deliver real benefits and improve the lives of all.”

Despite this call for unity, a stark reminder of the boycotts came when the president and first lady Jill Biden stood on the red carpet to greet the foreign leaders in attendance, and few of the arrivals were heads of state. Instead of the president of Guatemala, Biden shook hands with the foreign minister. He then greeted the Minister of Public Affairs of El Salvador, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Honduras and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

With migrants increasingly coming from Colombia, Ecuador and other countries outside of Mexico and northern Central America, Biden was appealing directly to leaders whose support is critical to any regional strategy on a complicated issue. without clear or immediate solutions.

His broad call for other leaders to work together on migration marked a contrast to Trump, whose unilateral demands for cooperation included a threat to Mexico to close the border and raise tariffs. Many top Republicans are eager to make up for Biden’s failure to meaningfully address large numbers of people fleeing violence and poverty by entering the United States via Mexico, even though Trump has offered few solutions. neither are they sustainable.

Biden also told those gathered that “all of our nations have a responsibility to step up and ease the pressure that people are feeling today.”

Among the new programs he is expected to unveil in the coming days are a $300 million Food Security Financing Initiative, a new Caribbean Climate Partnership that will help Caribbean countries gain access to low energy sources. carbon emissions and a training program for 500,000 health workers in the Americas. over the next five years.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the White House “will invest specific funds to produce tangible results.”

“When you add it all up and look at the practical impact of what the deliverables of the US summit will mean for the public sphere, it has far more impact on the actual lives and livelihoods of people in this region. than the types of extractive projects that China has invested in,” Sullivan told reporters Wednesday aboard Air Force One.

The “Los Angeles Declaration,” which will be announced as Biden meets with his counterparts in North, Central and South America, is a brief call to action that supporters hope will guide country on one of the most pressing migration issues – the reception of people fleeing violence. and persecution and the search for greater economic stability.

“We view this as an unprecedented set of statements and actions … to address a hemispheric crisis,” Sullivan said.

The United States has been the most popular destination for asylum seekers since 2017, posing a challenge that has baffled Biden and his immediate predecessors, Trump and Barack Obama.

But the United States is far from alone. Colombia and neighboring South American countries are hosting millions of people who have fled Venezuela. Mexico filed more than 130,000 asylum applications last year, many of them Haitians, triple the number in 2020. Many Nicaraguans are fleeing to Costa Rica, while displaced Venezuelans make up about a sixth of the population of little Aruba.

“Countries already have to do this, so rather than each country trying to sort this out and figure it out on its own, what we’re doing is saying, ‘Let’s come together cohesively and build a framework so that we can all work together to make this situation more humane and manageable,” said Brian Nichols, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Biden arrived trailed by questions about how much progress he can make on migration and other issues when some of his regional counterparts stay at home. Controversy has undermined the start of the summit, which is being hosted by the United States for the first time since the inaugural event in 1994, at a time when China is trying to make inroads in the region.

Some concrete measures could be announced, such as possible funding from development banks. Nichols said in an interview that it would be premature to discuss specific initiatives, but officials made it clear that the deal would be broadly ambitious.

It is widely accepted that relief should aim at the growth and stability of entire communities in which migrants live, not just migrants.

Experts who have seen early drafts say the deal could require more pathways to legal status, family reunification mechanisms, more efficient and humane border controls and better information sharing.

Biden also announced a new initiative, the American Partnership for Economic Prosperity, to help rebuild the economies of Latin American and Caribbean countries, which have suffered the sharpest contractions during the pandemic and have struggled with inflation. world that followed.

The administration wants to attract more private investment to these countries, including through a focus on clean energy, stronger supply chains and better governance on corruption and taxation.

Leaders from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — each essential to any regional migration strategy — are skipping the Summit of the Americas, robbing Biden of symbolic weight and unity amid photo opportunities and pageantry.

Leaving for Los Angeles on Tuesday, Mexican Marcelo Ebrard said his country’s close relationship with the United States was unchanged and noted that López Obrador would visit Washington in July.

President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador said an agreement on migration would be an important recognition of what governments are facing.

“(When) you talk about problems and it’s part of a declaration, of a summit as important as this, obviously the problem exists, the problem enters the consciousness of those who should be part of the solution” , he told a group of citizens. activists in Los Angeles.

About Matthew Berkey

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