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PM’s “real talk” at 9th Summit of the Americas

HeadlinePM’s “real talk” at 9th Summit of the Americas

“Geography, not politics, defines the
Summit of the Americas,” Prime Minister
Hon. John Briceño said in his official
remarks at the summit in Los Angeles.

by Marco Lopez
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. June 9, 2022
On Monday, June 6, the 9th Summit
of the Americas commenced under the
theme, “Building a Sustainable,
Resilient, and Equitable Future”. This
summit has already been marred by the
exclusion of three countries in the
hemisphere: Cuba, Venezuela, and
Nicaragua, which United States officials
have tried to justify through claims that
this meeting is held for “democratic
states” only. Nonetheless, the Biden

administration has high hopes and
expectations for this would-be
hemispherical assembly. Prime Minister
of Belize, and current Chairman of
CARICOM, Hon. John Briceño, flew
out to Los Angeles yesterday to attend
the Summit from the 8th to the 10th of
June, despite CARICOM taking an
initial stand with the three excluded
countries. That stance taken by the
regional body later disintegrated—with
most leaders from the Caribbean in LA
for this summit.
“I believe that as the Chairman of
CARICOM and the Prime Minister of
Belize it was important for us to be here
so that they can hear us not only as
CARICOM but also so that they can
hear us as Belize,” PM Briceño
remarked in an interview yesterday. He
added, “CARICOM generally decided
that who wants to participate or wish
to participate they can. We do not have
a list of who is going to be able to be
here or not here, but we just decided
that those that can make it, should make
it, and several of us are going to be
here.”
Yesterday, during a meeting of the
Summit Implementation Review Group
that was broadcasted live, the US
Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and
the Secretary-General of the OAS, Luis
Almagro, delivered remarks. Blinken
said that this summit will focus on five
major areas: greater health and
pandemic resilience, closing the digital
divide, accelerated transition to clean
energy, doubling down on investment
in climate resilience, and finally,
advancing democracy.
“We all know the democratic
process is not always easy or swift.
That’s true within a single democracy.
It’s amplified when we bring together
dozens of democracies, as we’ve done
for this summit. But the fact is, we also
acknowledge our shortcomings.
They’re out in the open. We don’t
sweep them under a rug. And we work
to try to address them together, and
ultimately that is the greatest strength
that we bring to the table as
democracies. And there are few regions
in the world like this one, where you
see so many democracies – from the
left, from the right, from the center –
that are able to set out a shared
roadmap for addressing complex
problems. I think that’s something to
celebrate even as we’re clear-eyed
about all of the work that we have ahead
of us,” stated Blinken.
During Secretary General Almagro’s
remarks, he emphasized the need to
achieve a democratic governance
instrument to strengthen democracy
across the region.
“Throughout the years, we have
achieved important advances to achieve
prosperity, democracy, and security in
the Americas. However, though some
of the challenges we faced at the time
still persist, the current challenge have
no precedent, in contrast to the first
summit with a true consensus around
democracy. Today, we definitely have
to ensure that we achieve a democratic
governance instrument as one
fundamental to strengthen the
democratic charter of the Americas,”
Almagro said. He went on to say that
the summit is an opportunity for leaders
in the region to reaffirm their
commitment to democracy.
“Citizens who achieve this and the
peoples who achieve this authority is
through the adoption of a plan of action
geared to strengthen this democratic
governance. That’s why it’s more
important than ever now that the
governments, institutions, enterprises,
and the citizens of the Americas work
together to deal with these challenges
and to create new opportunities to
advance in the – with the objectives of
the ninth summit,” Almagro said.
The White House stated in a release
issued yesterday, June 7, “Our
Administration and partners will push
back against the threats to our
democracies by fortifying democratic
institutions, investing in civil society,
strengthening independent media, and
following through on a regional digital
transformation that is transparent and
equitable.”
To forward this agenda, the
administration intends to implement the
Inter-American Action Plan on
Democratic Governance, invest in civil
society; devote $42 million to the Voices
(Voces) Initiative to protect, defend, and
promote civic space in Central America;
and promote independent media and
information integrity and global
partnership for action on gender-based
online harassment and abuse.
Notably, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and
Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López
Obrador decided not to attend the
Summit due to the Biden
administration’s exclusion of Cuba,
Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Belize’s Hon.
John Briceño had signaled his intention
to attend after “extensive consultations”
with other leaders in the region, and he
had remarked that it would be a good
opportunity to speak about the
assistance needed by the region to
respond to the COVID-19 pandemic
and regional debt.
During his official remarks today, in
the presence of the other heads of state,
he took the opportunity to also highlight
the region’s position on the exclusion
of the three nations. He said, “The
power of the Summit of the Americas
is the space it provides for all the
countries of the Americas to dialogue
and to agree on joint actions. This
summit belongs to all of the Americas.
It is therefore inexcusable that all
countries of the Americas are not here,
and the power of the Summit is
diminished by their absence. It is
incomprehensible that we would isolate
countries of the Americas which have
provided strong leadership and
contributed to the hemisphere on the
critical issues of our times. Cuba has
provided consistent unmatched
cooperation in health to almost twothirds
of the countries in this
hemisphere, including Belize. The illegal
blockade against Cuba is an affront to
humanity. In fact, it is un-American.
The time has come, Mr. President, to
lift the blockade and build back bonds
of friendship with the people of Cuba.
Similarly, Venezuela has done so much
toward energy security for the

Caribbean region, through its
innovative financing programs.
Venezuela’s absence is unforgivable.”
Prime Minister Gaston Brown of
Antigua and Barbuda, despite strong
comments on the matter of exclusion
of the three states, also departed for
LA yesterday, and Jamaica’s Prime
Minister, Andrew Holness, is in
attendance at the summit as well. Mia
Mottley, the Prime Minister of
Barbados, is also in attendance. By all
indications, the only Caribbean leader
reportedly not in attendance is Prime
Minister of St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, Prime Minister Ralph
Gonsalves.
The Secretary-General of
the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples
of Our America (ALBA), Sacha
Llorenti, said in a press conference on
May 31 that the 9th Summit of the
Americas has already failed and that it
is “neither a summit nor a Summit of
the Americas.”
He said, “The United States has no
interest in promoting democracy or
human rights”, and “what it wants is
for its conditions to be imposed and
its interests prioritized above the
common interests of the region.”
Reports are that the Community of
Latin American and Caribbean States
(CELAC) has planned a summit
parallel to that of the one being hosted
in Los Angeles where representatives
from Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua
could participate.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19,
Venezuela, Syria, and Iran have been
grappling with severe difficulties with
a struggling economy and strained
medical resources due to prolonged
US sanctions. Under such
circumstances, the US, rather than
halting those sanctions, redoubled
them, making things even worse for
these countries.” China’s Foreign
Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian
said in a recent press conference.
He added, “Under the pretext of
so-called democracy and human
rights, the US has been ganging up to
suppress countries that have different
opinions, wantonly abused unilateral
sanctions, and interfered in and
manipulated the internal affairs of
countries in Latin America and the
Caribbean. This is typical hegemony
that gravely violates the purposes of
the UN Charter and the basic norms
governing international relations, and
seriously contravenes the sovereignty
and dignity of countries in the region.
China firmly rejects this. I would like
to stress that Latin America is by no
means a ‘front court’ or ‘backyard’
of a certain country, and the Summit
of the Americas is not a ‘Summit of
the United States of America’. The US
scheme to interfere in regional affairs
by taking advantage of its capacity as
the host of the Summit of the Americas
is doomed to fail.”
It must be noted that a caravan of
thousands of migrants is en route to
the US-Mexican border in hopes of
PM’s “real talk” at 9th Summit …
crossing over to California while
President Biden is still in that state.
The US Migration Policy Institute
says that Los Angeles is the home of
more immigrants from Mexico than
anywhere else in Central America.
On the issue of migration, Prime
Minister Briceño stated that they have
made requests to access a portion of
the $1.9 billion in private-sector
funding being provided to boost job
opportunities in the region in hopes
of stemming the tide of migration into
the United States. PM Briceño said
we will need funds to protect our own
borders, and he pointed out that most
of the caravan headed to the US are
coming from El Salvador, Honduras,
and Guatemala, some of our direct
neighbors.
“The US refers to them as the
Northern Triangle, and have been
talking to them as to how they could
address the threat of migration to the
US. Now we are told that Vice-
President Harris is going to announce
a $1.5 billion to assist these three
countries to be able to control the
migration coming into the United
States. We’ve said it to them already,
and I’ll repeat it again: we feel very
strongly that we should also be
included with these other three
countries, because once you block off
those other three countries, what are
they going to do? They are going to
come to Belize; we don’t have the
resources; we don’t have the
manpower to be able to stop a migrant
caravan of 5, 10 thousand people. So,
we feel strongly that we should be
included in a part of this discussion
and also with the funds that are being
made available in Central America,”
PM Briceño said.
During his official remarks this
evening at the summit, the PM took
the opportunity to illustrate the
economic reality of CARICOM
member states in light of the ongoing
COVID-19 pandemic, and recent
strains brought on by the war in
Ukraine.
“Notwithstanding the six percent
recovery in global growth in 2021,
CARICOM member states, except
for Guyana, recorded an average
growth rate of one percent. A few
member states experienced even
further GDP losses, ranging from
negative one percent to negative 6.3
percent. Member states were expected
to record a stronger growth
performance in 2022, but the effects
of the war, rising inflation, rising oil
costs, and further supply chain
distributions have led the IMF to
downgrade growth projections for the
region. We cannot continue on this
path; the recession was not of our
making. We have come to Los
Angeles to agree on specific
deliverables on climate change, debt
relief, access to concessionary
financing, energy, and food security,”
PM Briceño said.
The summit concludes on Friday,
June 10. Prime Minister Briceño
returns on the 11th.

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