Moderator: Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Media Hub of the Americas in Miami, Florida. I would like to welcome our participants who have dialed in from the United States and across the region. This is an on-the-record press briefing with Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols. Assistant Secretary Nichols will discuss plans for the upcoming Ninth Summit of the Americas. He will give opening remarks and then take questions from participating journalists.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to Assistant Secretary Brian Nichols.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: Good afternoon. On Tuesday, the White House announced it will host the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, on June 6th to 10th, 2022, with a focus on “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future” for our hemisphere.
As many of you know, the Summit of the Americas takes place approximately once every three years and serves as the only hemisphere-wide meeting of the leaders from the countries of North, South, Central America and the Caribbean. The ninth summit marks the first time the United States has hosted since the inaugural meeting in Miami in 1994. It is President Biden’s highest priority event for the region.
Today I’d like to tell you where things stand in the summit process, and the challenges and priorities that we will focus on as host.
So where are we?
The United States selected the theme, “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future” in response to the most pressing issues facing our hemisphere. As chair of the summit process, we will work with the region’s stakeholders toward securing leader-level commitments and concrete actions that dramatically improve pandemic response and resilience, promote a green and equitable recovery, build strong and inclusive democracies, and address the root causes of irregular migration.
So on health and pandemic resilience, so many in our Western – in the Western Hemisphere will remember these last years as the most difficult time in recent memory. Summit commitments will help our countries strengthen health systems, build back better and more inclusively, and improve cooperation and investment to prepare for and prevent future pandemics.
On climate and green and equitable recovery, confronting the climate crisis means investing in our future by developing sustainable and accessible infrastructure, accelerating the clean energy transition, and creating new economic opportunities. The summit will also pursue a first-ever regional agenda for digital transformation, which will expand access to digital technologies and ensure growth is equitable and inclusive.
On root causes of irregular migration, our hemisphere’s challenges include failures to deliver the promise of democracy, unacceptable levels of inequality and insecurity, the devastating effects of the climate crisis, and the loss of economic opportunities. These drive people to leave their home countries in search of better opportunities elsewhere. We will launch joint action on migration and asylum at the summit to enshrine comprehensive, regional commitments to humane enforcement of immigration laws and safe, legal pathways to migration; and we will continue to address the root causes of migration.
On democracy, leaders have placed democracy at the center of each Summit of the Americas since its inception, and it remains imperative our hemisphere reaffirm our commitment to the principles and values articulated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter mandated at the 2001 Quebec Summit. Building on the Summit for Democracy, the ninth summit will focus governments, civil society, and the private sector on defending democracy, bolstering transparent and accountable governance, and promoting and protecting human rights, rule of law, diversity, social inclusion, and gender, racial, and ethnic equity in order to build hope and opportunities for all the people of the Americas.
We understand this is a tall order. However, the people of the Americas want – and deserve – effective and accountable governance that delivers.
Only equitable and inclusive engagement can ensure the summit’s priorities and outcomes reflect the practical needs of the people in the Americas. The United States, as summit host, looks forward to bringing the nations’ diverse voices to the table at the summit and its stakeholder forums. A successful summit depends on input from the private sector, from civil society, from the youth of our region, from Indigenous persons, and from vulnerable and historically marginalized groups.
Governments, civil society, and the private sector will use this opportunity to reach out to stakeholders in the hemisphere with proposals, suggestions, and firm plans of action for addressing shared challenges.
We look forward to working with the host city of Los Angeles, our second-largest city and one with deep ties throughout our hemisphere, to host a safe summit.
As we continue to work together, the summit will serve as an effective catalyst to build back better. Thanks very much.
Moderator: Thank you. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. Our first question was sent by Gabriel Bastidas from Monitoreamos, and the question is: “What initiatives or resolutions do you hope to promote at the Ninth Summit of the Americas to confront the human rights violations of the regimes of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua?”
Assistant Secretary Nichols: Thanks very much. Well, the summit should uphold the hemisphere’s longstanding commitment to democracy and human rights, consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and demonstrate to all people that democratic processes and institutions can respond effectively to their needs and deliver results.
We’re going to work with the leaders to identify concrete actions to implement our shared commitments on democracy, transparent governance, good regulatory policy, anti-corruption, human rights, and to address those governments and policies that are most prejudicial to democracy and human rights in our hemisphere. This is a process that is ongoing. I can’t tell you what the specific outcomes will be because we are engaging with our partner nations in the course of the next few months to concretize those efforts. But democracy, as I have said, will certainly be a key focus for the summit.
Moderator: Many thanks. The next question will go to Alejandra Arredondo from VOA.
Question: Hey, good afternoon. Thank you so much for doing this. My question is related to the other question my colleague made, is: Will the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela be invited to this summit, and have you had any thoughts on that yet?
Assistant Secretary Nichols: So the White House will decide which leaders to invite to Los Angeles. But as we’ve just discussed, democracy is a key hallmark of the summit process and of the Biden administration. You all recall well the Summit for Democracy and our commitment to advance democracy. I think that the key factors that the White House will use, among them will be a commitment to democracy, and I will leave it there and let the President come back in the next few weeks with the specific invitations.
Moderator: Thank you. The next question will go to Gustau Alegret from NTN 24.
Question: Assistant Secretary, thank you for this opportunity and for sharing your thoughts about the Summit of the Americas with us. Regarding to this initiative that you are planning to launch about immigration, could you elaborate a little bit more what is going to be included? What type of announcement do we have to expect? I mean, more resources, better coordination? What type of initiative? It’s going to be something different from the business as usual that we have seen in the last years? Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: The issue of migration is a challenging one for all the nations of our hemisphere. There are millions of irregular migrants throughout the Americas. It’s a topic that Secretary Blinken addressed jointly in cohosting a migration ministerial in Bogota, Colombia last – late last year, and it’s something that we and our partners work on regularly.
The process of the summit is ongoing. We have lots of engagements to do with our summit partners on the broad range of topics that we will address, and I don’t want to prejudge that outcome. But I believe you will see substantial progress on that issue as well as all the issues that I’ve already mentioned.
Moderator: Thanks. We will now go to Rafael Mathus from La Nación for his question.
Question: Thank you very much for this opportunity. My question relates to the Build Back Better World initiative. Can we expect the Biden administration to bring a concrete number of commitments of investments to the summit and perhaps to announce some key projects in the region? We know that this is an initiative seen as crucial to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: So thank you so much for that, because it’s a crucial issue, as you know. And Build Back Better World is building on the foundation of our values and delivering high-standard, transparent, and catalytic infrastructure partnerships along with other major democracies in our hemisphere to meet the tremendous infrastructure needs that we’re facing, particularly those of people who are living in low-income and middle-income countries in our hemisphere.
We believe that a transparent, sustainable investment process that has a strong private sector component will deliver the kinds of high-quality jobs and infrastructure that focus on things like climate, health, health security, digital connectivity, gender equity and equality – all of those things to the table with them would be a concrete outcome of the summit, and it’s something that we’re going to be focusing on in the weeks and months ahead.
Moderator: Thank you. Now we will go to David Alandete from Diario ABC.
Question: Hi. Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it. My question is very specific. I’m sorry if, like, some other [inaudible], but I had to connect and disconnect. But is it the intention of the U.S. Government to invite Juan Guaidó as a representative of the Venezuelan people as they did in the Summit of Democracy in the White House? It’s true that he was not in the plenary, but my question is if he’s going to be invited in any form to address the summit, if those are the plans. Thank you so much.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: Thank you. And as I said earlier, the specific invitations will be determined by the White House in the coming weeks ahead. But I will note that democracy is a key priority for us in connection with the summit, and more broadly in the Biden-Harris administration’s foreign policy, and that will be a key factor in who gets invited and who does not get invited.
Moderator: The next question was sent to us by Amilcar Avila from Publinews. The question is: “In the last Summit for Democracy, countries from the Northern Triangle of Central America were not included. Will they be invited to the summit, and what will be taken into account to invite these countries?”
Assistant Secretary Nichols: Well, I think we’ve gone over this a few times, and I’ll just note that democracy is a key element in how we determine who will be invited. But the decision rests with the President, as the host, and we expect that in the coming weeks the White House will send the specific invitations out.
Moderator: Thank you. We will now go to Bricio Segovia from MVS Radio.
Question: Thank you for doing this and taking my question. My question is regarding immigration. You just mentioned that there will be an announcement on joint actions on asylum, on immigration and you also discussed asylum. At the moment the U.S. is highly relying on Mexico to deliver on asylum through the MPP. I was wondering whether that signs or signals that the U.S. is not going to rescind this policy anytime soon? And also, if the safe, legal pathways that you just mentioned that it wants to be achieved is something that will depend on congressional action, or are we talking about some sort of executive order that the President might take? Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: So the Biden-Harris administration continues to focus its efforts, number one, on implementing U.S. law and our international obligations. That includes responding to the court orders that are in place now. But I will say that we’re building with our partners throughout the hemisphere a network of cooperation to deal with irregular migration along the lines that I talked about, making sure that there are safe and legal pathways for migration; to ensure that nations respond to legitimate and well-founded fears with the asylum process; that we cooperate to deal with those who would promote illegal migration through trafficking and smuggling; dealing with the infrastructure around migration to ensure that border posts and crossings are appropriately secure; to make sure that we’re sharing information among migratory authorities; to work to support those communities that are migrant recipients or migrant senders to reduce the root causes of migration from many different parts of our hemisphere.
Those are all things that we are collectively working on, and as I said earlier, this is a hemispheric-wide challenge – it’s really a global phenomenon when you look at other parts of the world as well – and it will be part of our effort, but there are many other things that this summit will be focused on as well.
Moderator: Thank you. The next question is for Alina Dieste from AFP.
Question: Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Nichols, for doing this. I would like to know, in the First Summit of the Americas in Miami in 1994, the U.S. promoted a free trade area of the Americas. Will the U.S. pursue a similar initiative this time?
Assistant Secretary Nichols: Well, thanks very much. The United States is the largest or second-largest trading partner for all the nations in our hemisphere. We’re working on continuing our robust economic relations, trying to sweep away impediments to investment like harmonizing the regulatory frameworks that impede trade, making sure that countries are aware of the value of transparent and effective regulation and contracting policies, supporting private sector-led investment in the hemisphere. That’s going to be the focus for us going forward. And we believe that that will lead to greater growth, investment, and prosperity as well as high-paying, quality jobs for the people of our region.
Moderator: Thanks. We now will have the question from José Luis Sanz from El Faro.
Question: Thank you for this opportunity. My question is related with the real possibility of strong achievements and agreements. Do the level of polarization right now in the region – do you think that President Biden has the level of leadership and the position to really accomplish real agreements on democracy with presidents like Bukele, Ortega, etcetera?
Assistant Secretary Nichols: I think that the President has shown incredible and dramatic leadership on key issues like democracy, climate, human rights. And I think that our hemisphere is one where there are greater commitments to democracy and greater shared values than in any other region in the world. And I think that we are focused in a holistic effort with our partners to advance the cause of economic prosperity, sustainable economic growth, climate resilience. And I expect that the leaders of our hemisphere will come together to deliver real, meaningful progress for their peoples.
Moderator: Thank you. The next question is for Margella Douyon from AHJI.
Question: Hello. First of all, thank you for the opportunity. Here’s my question: According to the summit, what are the solutions, policies, about the actual issue that’s facing Haiti now so she can keep her partnership with the other countries in the hemisphere? Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: So I’ll just note that tomorrow, Canada will host a ministerial meeting in support of the Haitian people and in addressing the challenges that Haiti faces, and look forward to a strong commitment from countries both within the Americas and around the world in support of the Haitian people. As we approach the summit, I expect that we will continue efforts among the nations of our hemisphere as well as partners from around the world to support those nations in the Americas that need more help. And Haiti is obviously very much among them. And as we go forward, I hope that the Haitian people will come together around a unified way forward that will put that nation back on the path to democracy and economic growth.
Moderator: Thank you. The next question was sent to us by Jose Tenorio from El Mecurio in Chile. The question is: “President Biden said yesterday during his press conference that his administration wants to address the damage done by the foreign policy decisions made by the previous administration in Latin America. How is his administration planning to repair the damage in the region? And how important is it for the Biden administration to promote a bigger presence of the United States in the region at a time when the influence of strategic rivals, such as China, is becoming bigger ever day?”
Assistant Secretary Nichols: So we’re reaching out to the nations of the Americas as friends and partners. We are emphasizing democratic governance. We’re emphasizing that no matter where you lie on the political spectrum, if you were elected democratically and govern democratically, we want to work with you to build a better future for our peoples and our respective nations. The Biden administration is honored to host the Summit of the Americas as a real capstone of our engagement in the hemisphere for this year. It’s the leading event that the President will host in 2022. And in the runup, we will be engaged in vigorous diplomacy, vigorous actions to promote people-to-people exchanges, robust cooperation on health and pandemic response, cooperation to deal with the enormous climate challenges that our globe faces. And all of those things will benefit the average men and women of our hemisphere, and it’s something that we believe is going to lay the groundwork for stronger relations between the United States and all the countries of our hemisphere going forward.
Moderator: Thank you. We will now go to Trinidad de Apellaniz from La Nación.
Question: Hello. Today ended the trip of Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero to the United States with the purpose of signing an agreement between Argentina and the International Monetary Fund. There are numerous reasons that can influence the signing of the agreement such as the need for the definition of an economic plan by the Argentine Government or the international relations that Argentina maintains with countries such as Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, and China. For example, the presence of the Argentine ambassador in Nicaragua, Daniel Capitanich, at the assumption of Daniel Ortega as president, where Mohsen Rezaei, an Iranian implicated in the bombing of AMIA in Argentina, joined them on stage. In this context, do you see the imminent signing of an agreement possible?
Assistant Secretary Nichols: Well, I’ll just note that Foreign Minister Cafiero and Secretary Blinken had a very positive meeting the other day. We talked about the strength of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Argentina. We want to see a strong, prosperous, successful Argentina. And we hope that Argentina will reach an agreement with the IMF, and we look forward to supporting that process. The relationship between our two countries is longstanding and positive, and we want to be as supportive as we can.
Moderator: Thank you. The next question is for Carla Angola from EVTV.
Question: Thank you so much for this opportunity. Many are concerned about the security of the hemisphere due to the permanence in power of Maduro and his allies in Nicaragua and Cuba, but also because of the presence of the Russians in Venezuelan territory. That is why I want to ask you if this is a topic to be discussed in this summit? And beyond Russia as a threat to send troops to Venezuela and Cuba, does the United States how – know exactly how much military weapons Russia has in Venezuela, what kind of war equipment and Russian military technical personnel is already in Venezuela? Thank you so much.
Assistant Secretary Nichols: As the administration has made clear, we’re not going to respond to bluster. If Russia starts moving in that direction, we would deal with it decisively. And I’ll just leave it there. Thanks.
Moderator: Thank you. The next question goes to Katherine Argudo from Expreso Ecuador.
Question: Hi. Hello. Good afternoon and thank you. I know – okay. Knowing that justice is an important element in the democratic societies, will the U.S. Government discuss and share some information about those canceled visas from some officers with the Ecuadorian authorities?
Assistant Secretary Nichols: I’m sorry. I don’t think I fully followed the question.
Question: Did you listen to me? The thing is about knowing that it’s important – that justice is an important element in the democratic societies, will the U.S. Government discuss and share some information they have about those canceled visas to some officers with the Ecuadorian authorities?
Assistant Secretary Nichols: So with regard to visa cancellations, I will just note that the visa process is one where applicants as well as the visa process is confidential, and the United States does not reveal the specifics of details with regard to the visa application or revocation or cancellation process.
Moderator: Thank you. We have one question that was submitted by Roberto Collado from Despacho 505. The question is: “Does the United States see a threat to its national and regional security, the fact that a character under presumption of terrorism such as Mohsen Rezaei circulates with the protection of a government such as that of Daniel Ortega?”
Assistant Secretary Nichols: The United States was proud to partner with the Argentine Government in putting forward a joint statement calling upon governments in the Organization of American States to enforce the Interpol red notice against all of the bombing suspects, particularly Mohsen Rezaei. And the fact that we had 21 nations sign on to that statement that was put forward yesterday I think is a sign of strong support within our hemisphere for the rule of law, the cooperation to bring those responsible for terrorist acts to justice, the unacceptability of anti-Semitic attacks and violence. And the fact that the Government of Nicaragua would invite such a person to their so-called inauguration was deeply disturbing to everyone in our hemisphere who values the rule of law and condemns senseless violence and terrorism.
Moderator: Thank you. We have time for one last question. The question was submitted by Mauricio Caminos from El Diario in Argentina. The question is: “Within the framework of the Summit of the Americas, what role will the United States Government have in dealing with the economic problems of Latin American countries, as it is the case of Argentina, which is facing a negotiation with the IMF that is soon to expire?”
Assistant Secretary Nichols: So I think the Build Back Better World initiative and our broader efforts to address the challenges that the people of the Americas face, to deal with the root causes of irregular migration, to put forward a vision of private sector-led growth that brings high-quality investment and jobs to our hemisphere, is central to the future that we seek to build in our hemisphere. The summit is an opportunity to advance those goals, and we believe that the peoples of our hemisphere deserve prosperity, good-quality healthcare, high-paying jobs, and an equitable, just future. And we’re going to work with our partners in the hemisphere to achieve that.
Moderator: Thank you. That concludes today’s call. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Nichols for joining us and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you may contact the Miami Media Hub at MiamiHub@state.gov. Thank you, and have a good day.