Ecuador, US first ladies discuss education, pandemic, democracy

Quito, May 19 (EFE).- The first ladies of the United States and Ecuador met in Quito on Thursday and discussed education, the Covid-190 pandemic, families and the importance of democracy in their two countries.

Dr. Jill Biden said as much upon leaving her 50-minute meeting with Maria de Lourdes Alcivar at Carondelet Palace, the Ecuadorian government seat which also serves as the presidential residence.

“We talked about everything … And so, we’re friends already,” said Biden, who on Thursday began the official activities scheduled for her six-day Latin American tour, which will also take her to Panama and Costa Rica.

Saying that “the United States is committed to Ecuador,” the US first lady added that she and Alcivar had spoken about how important democracies are in today’s world.

Meanwhile, Alcivar expressed interest in what Biden had observed during her recent Mother’s Day visit to Ukraine, which since Feb. 24 has been fighting off a massive Russian military invasion that has left much of the country in ruins and resulted in thousands of dead and wounded on both sides.

The conversation between the two ladies lasted longer than scheduled, with the pair talking about the family and what it means to have grandchildren, and toward the end of the encounter Maria Mercedes Lasso, the daughter of Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso and Alcivar, joined them to greet Ms. Biden.

From Carondelet Palace, the two first ladies headed to the San Francisco Childhood Development Center in the capital, which Alcivar touted as an example of the effort the Ecuadorian government is making to fight chronic childhood malnutrition, a problem affecting some 30 percent of all children under 2 in the South American country.

There, Biden and Alcivar were welcomed by a group of children with a song and chatted with them while they received one of the four healthy meals provided each day by the center, meals that included bananas, pineapples and papaya.

Also present during the first ladies’ visit to the center was Ecuadorian Economic and Social Inclusion Minister Esteban Bernal and the director of the Ecuadorian government’s secretariat that oversees programs to ensure that children grow up without suffering from malnutrition, Erwin Ronquillo.

The center was founded in 1978 after the Municipality of Quito donated the installations to the then-Social Welfare Ministry, and currently it is fully financed by the government to serve 56 children between the ages of 1 and 3.

After the visit, the US first lady’s agenda included providing a public statement at Carondelet and a visit to a school where the students are teenagers from Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela who in the past had dropped out of school but who now have resumed their studies.

EFE fgg/cfa/bp

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