QUESTION: Gracias. Thank you so much for talking to us.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you, Jorge. It’s good to be with you.
QUESTION: So the fact that nine countries are not here, is that challenging or questioning U.S. leadership in the hemisphere?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, actually, those countries are here. For example, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua – I met with representatives from all three countries from civil society, also human rights activists and defenders. I would argue that they’re as – and probably more representative of their respective peoples than the governments or regimes in place. So they’re fully here, they’re a vibrant presence at the summit, and that’s important.
Other countries are here represented at different levels, but we have more than 60 delegations. We have 22, I think, heads of government, heads of state. And what we’re already seeing is an incredibly vibrant conversation where people are focused not on who is here or who is not here, at what level, but they’re focused on what we’re actually doing at the summit to answer some of the problems that people across our hemispheres are facing, and where we need to work together to solve them.
QUESTION: So let me insist on this: So the fact that obviously the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, they’re not here, but also neither are the presidents of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bolivia. Are we seeing the creation of an anti-democratic bloc in the hemisphere? Is that a concern to you?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: First, Jorge, when it comes to Mexico, we’ve had and I’ve had extensive conversations with my friend and counterpart Marcelo Ebrard. The President is very much looking forward to receiving President López Obrador at the White House in July. We have a very deep and ongoing collaboration on virtually all the issues that concern both our countries. We have a difference of opinion on this particular question of attendance at the summit. Typically, the hosts make those decisions. We decided that it was important to focus on the underlying democratic principles that bring our hemisphere together. Back in 2001 at the Summit of the Americas, that gave rise to the Democratic Charter, and we want to make sure that countries continue to look to those principles.
But we’re seeing – we have – there’s an incredibly vibrant hemisphere. We have democracies of the left, of the right, center, but here is the common denominator: All of these governments are motivated by a need to demonstrate that they can deliver effectively for their people. And I think there is a growing consciousness that most of the problems that we face and challenges we face and opportunities we face on COVID, on climate, on managing technology, which is defining so many of our lives, on dealing with migration, we have to tackle them together if we want to get results. And that’s the spirit that I’m finding animates these conversations.
QUESTION: Let me ask about Mexico. Senator Menendez – I don’t know if you saw his tweet. He recently said that López Obrador basically tried to blackmail President Biden into insisting countries that are not democratic be invited to the summit. Did President López Obrador blackmail President Biden? Did he try?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We had a very legitimate difference of opinion on this. We’ve had many conversations about it in very good faith. And as I said, President Biden is looking forward to seeing President López Obrador at the White House in July.
QUESTION: In a tweet, you said you were concerned about the killing of Mexican journalists. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, he says that he’s concerned that drug cartels are controlling parts of Mexican territory. Is the López Obrador government a security concern for the U.S.?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: When it comes to journalists, let me say two things. First, broadly, we have deep concerns about threats being posed to journalists throughout our hemisphere. In the first half of this year alone, 17 journalists have been killed just for doing their jobs. There may be more, but we can document 17. So this has been an important part of the meetings that we’ve already had and will continue to have: What measures can we put in place to protect and support media, independent journalists doing their job in our hemisphere? And there’s a lot to be said about that, but concrete steps are being taken.
In Mexico itself, President López Obrador has vowed to take even stronger preventive action to make sure that journalists are protected up front, to try to get at some of the root causes that are sparking some of the violence being directed at journalists. Mostly it’s because they’re trying to expose criminal gangs, corruption, drug trafficking. So we’ll work closely with Mexico and any other country in the hemisphere on this because we are determined to protect journalists. This is – this free, independent media are at the heart of our democracies. If we lose that, we lose our democracies.
QUESTION: And let me just say that it’s incredibly dangerous to be a journalist —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah.
QUESTION: — in Mexico. Let me finish with this. I want to understand your philosophy right now between the U.S. and dictatorships. In 2016, President Obama went to Cuba and he believed that more contacts, more tourism, more diplomacy would promote democracy in the region. You and President Biden seem to be going a different way, probably more sanctions, isolating Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. What’s the right way?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: These are complicated, challenging questions that we face for many, many years. Our focus in each of these countries is to take the steps we believe are most effective in advancing and certainly defending the human rights of people in those countries and their democratic aspirations, which are shared across all of those countries.
In the case of Cuba, we had the protests in July of last year, and we saw the incredibly repressive reaction of the government: putting minors in jail, sentences of 30 to 35 years, most recently artists who are kind of icons for those protesting last July being threatened now with sentences of ten and six years for simply expressing their views artistically. So we’ve seen that. We think it’s very important to stand up for those who are being repressed, persecuted. At the same time, we’ve taken some limited steps – in terms of family reunifications, in terms of travel, remittances, in terms of investing in entrepreneurs – that we think can also help advance the Cuban people in meeting their own aspirations.
QUESTION: Yeah, but maybe the question is: If the U.S. is treating other dictatorships the same way, why treat Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua in one way and China and Saudi Arabia in a different way?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think in each of these cases, there are a multiplicity of interests that come into play. We have to look out for all of the interests of the American people, and hopefully the people that we’re engaged with. And what President Biden has done in each of these cases is to put human rights and democracy at the heart of our foreign policy, but it’s not the only thing that we look at. We have to bring everything together in a way that advances the interests of the United States. And one could go through each of these at the same time, but there isn’t – there are underlying principles, including the principle that we need to be standing up for the rights of people when they’re being repressed in one way or another. But the question is: How do we do that most effectively? And the answer in an individual case may be a little bit different.
QUESTION: Okay. Should this be the last Summit of the Americas? Some people are suggesting that in the future we should have more regional meetings.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: No, I don’t think so at all. To the contrary, what we’ve seen just at the beginning of the summit – we have three days here. What gets lost sometimes is that as important as it is for the governments to come together – and by the way, this is the first time in more than four years that the heads of state have come together —
QUESTION: That is true.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — at a time where collective, coordinated action is more necessary than ever. But we have civil society here, we have the private sector, we have young people here. And all of these groups are connecting in different ways together. These are all the stakeholders in the future of our hemisphere. We have a powerful shared future if we can work at it together. This is one way of doing it. But it’s three days; 362 days after the summit are even more important. What we do coming out of here in terms of making good on what we’ve agreed to, implementing the various initiatives that we’re taking – including, for example, just to cite one, we have a commitment and the resources to train 500,000 health workers, doctors, technicians in our hemisphere between now and the end of 2024 – that can make a huge difference in lifting the health care for millions of people throughout our hemisphere. We have to deliver on it.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you so much. Muchas gracias.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Great.