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U.S. promises to ‘listen’ to regional leaders’ concerns at the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles

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Posted: Friday, April 29, 2022. 1:21 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: After a series of ad hoc meetings between government leaders in North and South America in the 1990s, the Summit of the Americas (SOA) was convened under the aegis of the Organization of American States (OAS) to bring together governments, civil society and private sector to plan for the regional future.

Los Angeles, California, has succeeded Lima, Peru (in 2018) as host and the meeting will be held between June 6 and 10 with U.S. President Joe Biden expected to be active in the discussions.

Biden appointed fellow former Senator and Latin American expert Christopher Dodd as his special advisor for the summit, held under the theme “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future”. Dodd recently completed a meeting with Caribbean Community [CARICOM] leaders in Barbados earlier this month, and on Thursday he met with regional press via Zoom to relay Washington’s expectations and commitments for the Los Angeles Summit.

Dodd said of Biden, “He really wants this summit to be different, in the sense that not only are we going to gather and discuss, there will be a lot of speeches given. But how do we move from that to actually getting the kind of things done that are critical? I’m not going to sit here today and tell you that we’re going to resolve every problem that will be raised and has been raised over the years, but I know the President of the United States and he cares deeply about this. They put together a great team already within the Biden Administration to focus on this… And they want to have it go beyond, obviously, the positions taken. How do we actually resolve some of these things and come together to work on them?”

He further acknowledged that the U.S. had made “mistakes” recently in its relations with CARICOM and Central America: “We haven’t been the best listener, that’s why we’re focused on listening, in a sense… too often, I think, there have been administrations that didn’t care as much about the region, had their attention elsewhere.”

Dodd called regional participation critical to the Summit’s success. That presumably includes Cuba, which has been shut out of the OAS but attended the past two summits in a special capacity, as well as Venezuela and Nicaragua, which have each had their own run-ins with the OAS. Not coincidentally, all three are socialist-run states that have faced diplomatic and economic sanctions from the U.S.

Dodd also commended CARICOM chair and Belize’s Prime Minister John Briceño for making the introductions at the Barbados meeting; the P.M. will likely represent both Belize and CARICOM in his final month in the capacity of the latter before handing over to Suriname in July.

 

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