QUESTION: Mr. Secretary. Gracias, Secretario Blinken, por la entrevista. El Presidente Biden llega el miércoles. President Biden arrives on Wednesday. That’s when the summit starts. Before it even started, there are those calling it a failure and saying that it shows lack of leadership, of American leadership, to the region. What is there to make this summit a success?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think the summit is going to be a success. We’re already seeing that. We have delegations – more than 60 delegations that are here. We will have more than 20, I think 23 heads of government or heads of state who will be here. And maybe as important as anything else, we have civil society, we have young people, we have the media, we have the business community – everyone coming together. This is, of course, about the governments, but it’s also about the much broader community of the Americas, all of which is coming together here in Los Angeles over the next three days.
QUESTION: Nine heads of state won’t be here. Three weren’t invited – Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua. Three decided not to come because they weren’t invited – Mexico, Honduras, and Bolivia. El Salvador and Guatemala didn’t come for other reasons, and Uruguay because the president has COVID. Is it going to be the same, and is it a Summit of the Americas if these – if all the leaders aren’t here?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, it’s a democratic hemisphere – at least, that’s what we want and hope, and that’s something we want to affirm with this summit. People can make their own decisions and choices about who’s here and who’s not. But virtually all of these governments are represented in the formal summit of leaders at very senior levels – either the head of state or, in some cases, the foreign minister. For example, my friend and counterpart Marcelo Ebrard from Mexico will be a full and active participant in this summit.
I can also tell you that Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua are here. I saw them. I met with them. I met with civil society leaders and activists from Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. There will be people from NGOs, from different parts of those societies, who are as representative and, frankly, more representative in my judgment of the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan people than the regimes that are in place right now, and they’ve very much a part of the summit. I’ve already met with a number of them.
QUESTION: You were at Arizona State University. You met with students. You spoke about journalism and the challenges that journalists face —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah.
QUESTION: — in Cuba, in Nicaragua, in Venezuela. And someone highlighted that you’re planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, which doesn’t respect journalists – we have the Jamal Khashoggi case – which isn’t considered a full democracy. Isn’t there a double standard where the U.S. has a – is looking for a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia, a country that has oil, but signals Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua and gets Andrés Manuel López Obrador to react and decide not to come?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, just in the case of Saudi Arabia, what we’ve said from the start of the administration is that we sought to recalibrate – not rupture, recalibrate – our relationship with Saudi Arabia to make sure that it reflected, better than we thought it did in the past, our own interests and our own values. Part of that was putting human rights and freedom at the center of that relationship.
We did that, among other ways, by putting out, with the full imprimatur of the United States Government, the report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. We did that by instituting something called the Khashoggi Ban, which enacts penalties against governments that seek to repress those who are engaged in criticizing the government when they do it from other countries, including from the United States. At the same time, we have, as we do with countries in the hemisphere, broad relationships that have many interests in play. We try to make – we try to account for all of them to best reflect our own interests and values. But the President has been very clear that whether it’s Saudi Arabia or other partners around the world, or whether it’s adversaries, we are going to make sure that human rights is fully reflected in our foreign policy.
QUESTION: Vice President Harris announced a 1.9 billion investment in Central America.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah.
QUESTION: But there’s a caravan forming and coming up. Now, it’s been very clear for months that they can’t get in. Title 42 is in place. There are measures for people not to be able to come in place. Why aren’t these announcements working? Why aren’t these measures working? Why aren’t people listening? And why do you think this has become such a focal issue in the United States that people are coming even if they can’t get in?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, there’s a lot going on here. And the first thing to recognize is that we’re dealing with a challenge that is quite literally historic, by which I mean this: Around the globe, there are more people on the move from their homes than at any time since World War II. In our own hemisphere, there are more people on the move than at any time that anyone can remember. And of course, it’s not only people in our hemisphere from Mexico, from El Salvador, from Honduras, from Guatemala, the so-called Northern Triangle countries; it’s also Venezuelans, it’s Nicaraguans, it’s Haitians, it’s Cubans, it’s Haitians and Cubans who have been living in other parts of the hemisphere who are moving north.
So we’re dealing with a challenge that, for a whole variety of reasons, is beyond anything that anyone has seen before, which is exactly why the approach that we’re taking, including here at the summit, is so important. And that is an approach of shared responsibility, where everyone in the hemisphere who is affected by irregular migration in particular, migration more generally – that is, countries of origin, transit countries, countries of destination – come together to take shared responsibility for managing this in a safe, humane, and orderly way. There’s going to be a declaration on migration coming out of the summit. I think that’s a very important indicator of a new sense of shared responsibility. We’re engaged in arrangements with different countries that also get at specific actions countries can take to try to deal with this challenge.
Ultimately, we – I think we both know this very well – there are short-term things that have to be done, but ultimately, this is a long-term challenge about dealing with what people famously called the root causes of migration. What is it that causes someone to give up everything they know, to maybe leave behind their family, their culture, their language, their home, their community, and to make an incredibly perilous journey northward and toward the United States? There has to be a profound driver for that to happen. We have to address that. We have to create opportunity for people where they live.
One of my colleagues in the hemisphere I remember at a meeting said that there should be a right to remain. Well, we are working to put that into force by actually creating the investment, creating the opportunity that over time will give people that right to remain. Meantime, countries are coming together to take shared responsibility for meeting this challenge today.
QUESTION: Before coming, President Bolsonaro, who will meet President Biden, once again questioned the legitimacy of President Biden’s victory, and that’s a country that’s supposed to be an ally. Now the region is leaning left. Lula could come back in Brazil. There is a possibility that Petro could win in Colombia. You have Xiomara Castro who had the Vice President go to her swearing-in, and she didn’t come. Is the U.S. losing leverage? Is the U.S. Government giving Russia and China the opportunity to expand their presence in the region?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Oh, I think on the contrary. And again, I think after a few days of the summit when you see the conclusions that come out of this, when you see the concrete actions, commitments, principles that countries across the hemisphere are signing on to, I think it reflects an agenda – a common agenda – that is trying to be responsive to the needs of our people.
So whether it’s greater health security for our citizens, whether it’s dealing with the impacts of climate change and helping countries adapt and show real resilience, whether it’s dealing with the challenges of migration, whether it’s trying to deepen our democracies and show that they’re responsive to citizens’ needs. All of this is exactly what we’re going to be talking about, and not only talking about – actually acting on. And that’s a shared agenda for the overwhelming majority of the countries in this hemisphere. It happens to reflect many of the things that we believe in as well.
So let’s see where we are after Friday when the summit concludes. But I’ll also say this: As important as these summits are, it’s as much the day-in, day-out work that we’re doing together. I have been engaged on behalf of President Biden intensely in our hemisphere, working with so many countries and so many partners on these shared issues. And there’s a common realization that I think most of us have, even when there’s a different political perspective sometimes being brought to bear, which is that these challenges like health and COVID, like climate, like the impact that all of these emerging technologies are having on us – no one country can effectively deal with them alone, even the United States. We need to be acting in partnership. I think there’s a realization of that. And even if you’re coming at this from a different political perspective, that’s a common denominator that ultimately, I think, brings us together.
QUESTION: Secretary Antony Blinken, muchas gracias *for the time you are giving to us today.*
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Gracias.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. It’s good to be with you.
QUESTION: Thank you for your time.