Biden calls for unity at a Summit of the Americas marked by exclusions

By Lucia Leal

Los Angeles, US, Jun 8 (EFE).- The president of the United States tried on Wednesday to generate unity among those attending the 9th Summit of the Americas, marked by his exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, which has led to notable absences of leaders from other countries.

Without referring directly to the origin of the controversy – his ban of the three countries that he does not consider democratic, Biden turned his speech at the opening of the summit into a defense of democracy, a system of government that he said is “under assault around the world.”

“Let us unite again and renew our conviction that democracy is not only the defining feature of American histories, but the essential ingredient to Americas’ futures,” the US president urged at the opening ceremony of the summit in Los Angeles.

That message sought to revitalize a gathering that began lackluster, with the further absences of the leaders of Mexico, Bolivia and Honduras, among others.

All of them decided to send their respective foreign ministers in their place as a protest against the decision of the host country not to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua on the grounds that they do not fit in with the democratic values of the summit.

The Summit of the Americas, initiated in 1994 by the US with a meeting in Miami, did not include Cuba in its first editions, but the island nation did participate in the last two meetings in Panama in 2015 and Peru in 2018.

That last summit was marked by Peru’s decision not to invite Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, but this is the first time that three countries have been excluded from the meeting, which is held every three or four years with the goal of regional integration.

“There is no reason why the Western Hemisphere shouldn’t be secure, prosperous, and democratic, from Canada’s northernmost reaches to the southern tips of Chile. We have all the tools we need,” Biden insisted in his speech.

Earlier, some of those attending the meeting had on the sidelines of the summit reiterated their disagreement with Washington’s decision.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard asked Washington to promote “another type of relationship in the Americas” based on mutual respect, while Honduras’ Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina said all states must work and all must attend the summit.

To the absences derived from the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are two presidents who did not travel to Los Angeles due to their poor relationships with the US: Guatemala’s Alejandro Giammattei and El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele.

The consequence is that the summit, where migration is one of the most important issues, does not include the leaders of the origin countries of the main migration flows to the US – Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba and Venezuela.

Despite this, Biden assured that the Los Angeles Declaration on migration, which will be signed on Friday, will ensure a “new approach to managing migration and sharing responsibility across the hemisphere.”

“The declaration represents a mutual commitment to invest in regional solutions that enhance stability, increase opportunities for safe and orderly migration through the region, and crack down on criminal and human trafficking who prey on desperate people,” said the US president.

Biden stressed that unlawful migration is “not acceptable” at a time when the flow of undocumented immigrants arriving in the US is increasing and the influx of Cubans is unprecedented in almost three decades.

The president also announced a mechanism to promote regional economic integration to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the economy, although without creating new trade agreements.

In addition, Biden proposed a reform of the Inter-American Development Bank aimed at giving the private sector a greater role in the development of the continent.

His speech took place at an opening ceremony full of musical performances, in which the only other president who spoke was Peru’s Pedro Castillo because his country hosted the last summit in Lima in 2018.

“This platform (…) is once again a valuable management tool to move from words to deeds,” Castillo said about the summit system, without mentioning the controversy. EFE

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