Blinken’s visit to Colombia, Ecuador sends ‘clear signal’ of US support

Washington DC, Oct 18 (EFE).- The upcoming visit to Ecuador and Colombia by United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken sends a “clear signal” of support to those countries, a senior State Department official said Monday.

In a virtual press conference ahead of Blinken’s Tuesday and Thursday visit, Western Hemisphere Affairs Assistant Secretary Brian A. Nichols highlighted the importance of American ties with Quito and Bogotá.

He referred to the shared values, including democracy and the challenge that migration from Venezuela and Haiti entails for the region.

“The visit to Colombia and Ecuador sends a clear signal that we support vibrant, inclusive democracies that respect the rights of their citizens,” said Nichols.

The official will accompany Blinken on his third trip to Latin America after Costa Rica and Mexico.

Nichols said Blinken would meet Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso and Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo in Quito on Tuesday.

The following day, he will “deliver his first remarks on the importance of democracy through which he will showcase how inclusive and responsive democratic institutions fend off corruption and implement economic policies that emphasize inclusive growth and environmental protection.”

On Wednesday, Blinken will travel to Bogotá to meet President Ivan Duque and Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez.

On Thursday, he will lead a ministerial conference co-hosted with Colombia to address irregular migration.

“A substantial focus of the conversation” would be “the two largest migrant flows on the continent (Venezuelans and Haitians)” and “specific steps that countries can take to mitigate the situation,” Nichols said.

The Secretary of State will also participate in the US-Colombia High-Level Dialogue on human rights with Colombian youth leaders and civic activists.

He will also attend a climate crisis event.

Asked about Venezuela, Nichols pointed out the decision by Caracas to suspend talks with the Venezuelan opposition following the extradition of Colombian businessman Alex Saab to the US.

“By suspending participation in these negotiations, the Maduro regime places its own interests and the interests of perhaps one person over that of the Venezuelan people,” he said.

The US official urged Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government to return to the negotiating table to show that it “is serious about wanting to forge a better future for its people.”

“If the Maduro regime were serious about its stated concerns for the Venezuelan people, they would actually sit down with their fellow countrymen and work toward solutions. And if they make progress in that regard, the United States will welcome it,” he said.

He added that the talks, being held in Mexico City, “should lead to the peaceful restoration of the democracy that Venezuelans deserve and the end to the deeply troubling and horrific human rights abuses in that country and alleviation of Venezuela’s dire humanitarian crisis.”

The fourth round of the talks was to begin on Sunday in the Mexican capital.

On Monday, Saab appeared for his first hearing in a South Florida court to face money laundering charges.

The Colombian businessman was arrested on June 12, 2020, in Cabo Verde and extradited Saturday. EFE

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