Belize PM Briceno Blasts U.S. Summit for Snub of Cuba, Venezuela
“The summit belongs to all the Americas. It is incomprehensible that we isolate countries of the Americas that have provided strong leadership and have contributed in the hemisphere on critical issues of our times.” (Photo by Etienne Laurent/EFE/EPA)
Shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden’s speech extolling the virtues of democracy in the Americas, Belize’s Prime Minister John Briceno called Washington’s decision to exclude Venezuela and Cuba from the IX Summit of the Americas “incomprehensible and unforgivable”, reported TeleSUR (June 9).
Briceno also described the “illegal blockade against Cuba” as “an affront to humanity”.
“In fact, it is un-American. The time has come, Mr. President, to lift the blockade,” said Briceno, to Biden, who sat only a few feet away, at the summit in Los Angeles, according to Reuters (June 10).
Briceno, who is also the current president of CARICOM (Caribbean Community), was followed by Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernandez, who also lashed out at the United States and called for a change in the rules that allowed Biden, as the host of the summit, to decide on the guest list, according to The New York Times (June 9).
“We definitely would have wished for a different Summit of the Americas,” said Fernandez. “The silence of those who are absent is calling to us.”
Besides Cuba and Venezuela, Nicaragua was the third nation not to have been issued an invitation to the regional summit, said people familiar with U.S. deliberations, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about the matter publicly, reported Bloomberg (June 6). The U.S. decision was based on concerns about the lack of democracy and respect for human rights in the three countries, according to the same sources.
“Leading up to the summit, the Biden administration scrambled to avoid the embarrassment of a boycott by key leaders (of the regional powerhouse of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Bolivia) – only to find its overtures rejected,” reported The New York Times (June 9).
Two other speakers at the summit, the leaders of Panama and Paraguay, mostly stuck to the summit agenda, reported Reuters (June 10).
According to TeleSUR, during the first plenary session, Briceno said:
“The summit belongs to all the Americas. It is incomprehensible that we isolate countries of the Americas that have provided strong leadership and have contributed in the hemisphere on critical issues of our times.”
“Cuba has provided constant cooperation in health to two-thirds of the countries in this hemisphere, including Belize,” said Belize’s prime minister.
As for Venezuela, Briceno said that the country “has done much for energy security in the Caribbean region”, and its absence from the summit is “unforgivable”.
“The Summit of the Americas should have been inclusive,” Briceno said, according to TeleSUR, which is based in Venezuela. “Geography, and not politics, define the Americas.”
Biden has sought to use the regional summit to repair the damage of the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump to U.S. ties with the Americas and to counter China’s growing clout in the region, reported Reuters (June 9). However, Biden’s efforts have been undercut by the controversy over the guest list.
Until the last moment, the countries of CARICOM (Caribbean Community) had threatened to boycott the summit in protest of the United States’ decision not to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Finally, some countries, such as Belize, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Guyana, decided to attend, while other members of CARICOM are not participating in the summit.
In his speech, Briceno urged a commitment “to build an America with social justice” and said that “a turning point” had been reached on many issues. Among them, he cited the vulnerability of Caribbean countries to climate change, debt crises and vaccination against COVID-19.
The Prime Minister of Belize called for the IX Summit of the Americas, which ends on June 10, to have positive results.
“With firm commitments, we can move forward.”
According to The New York Times, President Biden said that the United States and other American countries will announce on June 10 a joint “Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection”. He described it as “a transformative new approach to invest in the region and solutions that embrace stability”. The declaration is expected to include Spain and Canada, in addition to the other countries.
The declaration will contain four pillars: stabilization and assistance to countries hosting migrants; new legal pathways for foreign workers; a joint approach to border protection, including tackling smuggling networks, and a coordinated response to historic flows across the U.S.-Mexico border.
However, leaders from Colombia and Ecuador, which have recently announced separate programs to provide temporary legal status to up to 3 million Venezuelan migrants, said they needed more U.S. investment and better trade terms to help their economies absorb the newcomers, reported The Times.
The Biden administration has announced $1.9 billion in pledges by companies to invest in the Americas. However, President Ivan Duque of Colombia said that less than 30 percent of the money pledged by the international community last year to help his government integrate Venezuelan migrants has been delivered, reported The Times.
About 6 million displaced Venezuelans have fled the economic and political turmoil of their country in the past five years to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Portugal, among other countries. Also, many Central Americans facing gang violence and climate change have sought fresh starts in neighboring countries. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans targeted by a crackdown on dissent, have moved to Costa Rica, where about 10 percent of the population consists of refugees, according to The Times.
In a hastily arranged meeting between the presidents of Brazil and the United States in an attempt to shore up attendance at a summit roiled by the partial boycott, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, an admirer of ex-President Trump, said that the two countries should forge closer ties after the two drifted apart for ideological reasons, reported Reuters (June 9).
A White House summary issued after the meeting said that the two leaders agreed to work together on preventing further deforestation of the Amazon.
As Biden closed the first plenary session on June 9, he acknowledged the guest list rift, said The New York Times (June 9).
“Notwithstanding some of the disagreements related to participation, on the substantive matters, what I heard was almost uniformity.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, the theme of the summit is “Building a Sustainable, Resilient and Equitable Future.”
“The United States developed the theme for the Ninth Summit with the region’s governments, civil society and private sector, and the 13 international organizations that comprise the Joint Working Group and support the summit process.
“People, institutions and governments across our hemisphere have shared with us their priorities and concerns, and these include the COVID-19 pandemic and the cracks it exposed in health, economic, educational and social systems; they include threats to democracy; the climate crisis; and a lack of equitable access to economic, social and political opportunities that places a heavy burden on the most vulnerable and underrepresented among us.”