Despite controversy at Americas summit, US hopes to focus on migration and economy

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After an outcry over its exclusion of guests from the Summit of the Americas, the Biden administration is pushing plans to address economic, health and food security issues in Latin America to stem migration to the United States.

Vice President Kamala Harris will announce $3.2 billion in corporate pledges on Tuesday to help address the “root causes” of migration from Central America, according to her office.

Corporate pledges include $270 million from Visa to help bring 6.5 million people into the formal banking system. Clothing company Gap has pledged $150 million to increase materials from the region.

President Joe Biden will announce an economic partnership for the Western Hemisphere later this week called the Partnership of the Americas for Economic Prosperity. It is focused on economic recovery by building on existing trade agreements, according to US administration officials.

Biden will also sign the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration, which a senior administration official said “is an ambitious and unprecedented step by the United States and regional partners to work together to address the migration crisis in comprehensive way”.

The Biden administration has faced backlash for its decision to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the summit.

Biden is under domestic pressure to maintain a hardline policy toward the three countries, especially ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Sen. Bob Menendez, DN.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee known for his tough stance on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, said the summit is “an opportunity for democracies – not authoritarian thugs “.

“Following my repeated consultations with the administration, I am pleased to see that the President will continue to deliver on this promise by preserving the standard that the Summit of the Americas remains a gathering for democracies,” Menendez said in a statement. .

Most heads of state are present, but Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Monday he would not attend the summit because Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were excluded.

His decision is not a surprise. For weeks, he and other left-wing leaders in the region, who support Cuba’s political system, had threatened to boycott the event unless all countries were invited. But López Obrador said he would still meet Biden in Washington in July to discuss immigration and push for more U.S. investment in Central America.

Honduran President Xiomara Castro said on Saturday she would not attend the summit and that Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina would take her place.

Bolivian President Luis Arce also said he would not participate unless all countries were included.

Critics say no-shows have the potential to turn the summit into an embarrassment for Biden. But administration officials said tensions will ease and the summit will be a success, whoever attends. At least 23 heads of state and government are expected, which an administration official said would be consistent with past gatherings.

The Biden administration had made last-minute efforts to persuade all presidents to attend. Former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., held talks with López Obrador on the summit. First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama in May to help lay the groundwork for the event.

But Cuba said the United States was “abusing its privilege of being the host country” by refusing the invitations.

“No reason justifies the undemocratic and arbitrary exclusion of a country of the hemisphere from this continental meeting.” Cuba said in a statement.

US administration officials said it would not include undemocratic governments and pointed to a charter signed at the 2001 summit by all countries in the region except Cuba, requiring that only democratically elected leaders can attend.

Held every three years in a different country, the ninth Summit of the Americas takes place in Los Angeles from June 6 to 10. It is the first summit hosted by the United States since the inaugural event in Miami in 1994.

The summit is an opportunity for U.S. and regional leaders to meet face-to-face and discuss issues of common concern, helping to strengthen alliances and shape U.S. policy.

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