At Summit of the Americas, US President Joe Biden Warns Democracy is Under Assault Worldwide

US President Joe Biden addressing the opening of the Ninth Summit of Americas in Los Angeles (CMC Photo)

LOS ANGELES, CA – President Joe Biden has warned that democracy is under assault around the world and called on leaders of the Americas to unite and renew their conviction that democracy is not only the defining feature of American histories, but the essential ingredient to Americas’ futures.

“To state the obvious, our region is large and diverse.  We don’t always agree on everything, but, because we’re democracies, we work through our disagreements with mutual respect and dialogue,” Biden told the opening of the Ninth Summit of the Americas on Wednesday night.

“At this summit, we have an opportunity for us to come together around some bold ideas, ambitious actions, and to demonstrate to our people the incredible power of democracies to deliver concrete benefits and make life better for everyone.

“And no longer is this a question of what will we do, what will the United States do for the Americas. The question is what we accomplish by working together as true partners with diverse capabilities but equal and mutual respect, recognizing both our individual sovereignty and our shared responsibilities.”

At least eight Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders are participating in the event that ends on Friday. CARICOM countries had been divided on whether or not to attend the Summit in support of calls for the host nation to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the deliberations.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr.  Ralph Gonsalves is the only CARICOM leader who has publicly announced that he nor any other government minister will be attending the summit that is also not being attended by several other countries notably among them, Mexico.

President Biden told the opening ceremony that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had hit the region hard.

“While we account for just 12 percent of the global population, we experienced more than 40 percent of reported global pandemic-related deaths.  It’s an enormous tragedy that has left too many families grief-stricken.

“And the ensuing economic crisis, triggered by the pandemic, ravaged economies throughout the hemisphere, wiping out much of the hard-earned progress we had made,” Biden added.

Biden told the ceremony that 22 million more people fell into poverty in just the first year of the pandemic, noting that inequity continues to rise.

He said global inflammatory pressures were made worse by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine” and making it harder for families to make ends meet.

The US president said all of these factors are contributing to “vastly increased” migration flows throughout hemisphere, “with too many people feeling there is no option available to them to provide for themselves and their families.

“These challenges affect all of us.  All of our nations have a responsibility to step up and ease the pressure people are feeling today.”

In the months leading up to this summit, Biden said countries have made “meaningful and concrete commitments” to address these challenges, stating that the United States is attempting to do its part as well.”

He noted that, on Tuesday, the US launched the Cities Forward initiative, recognizing the key roles of mayors and local governments in delivering for the people where they live.  The US will host the inaugural Cities Summit of the Americas in Denver, Colorado, in 2023.

On Wednesday, the US announced a new Americas Health Corps, with 500,000 public health and medical professionals being trained in the region over the next five years to help strengthen the health systems throughout the hemisphere.

Biden said in the next few days, Washington will be rolling out another new initiative created in cooperation with many regional countries.

He said it includes the US-Caribbean partnership to address the climate crisis, which US Vice President Kamala Harris, the daughter of a retired Jamaican economist, will lead, and to increase food production for export, as well as increase fertilizer production for transportation.

As summit leaders discuss ways to better target more than a half a billion dollars, Biden said the United States is devoted to increasing security for all citizens, working with partners to disrupt transnational criminal organizations, go after drug traffickers and illicit firearms, advancing anticorruption efforts, and strengthening the rule of law.

In a new economic partnership that he said builds on all the work done with the region, Biden announced the launch of the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity initiative that will help economies grow “from the bottom up and the middle out, not the top down.

“We need to break the cycle where marginalized communities are hit the hardest by disasters and have the fewest resources to recover from crises and prepare for the next one. Together, we have to invest in making sure our trade is sustainable and responsible, and creating supply chains that are more resilient, more secure and more sustainable.

“By working with close friends who share our values, we can make sure that we are not left vulnerable to unexpected shocks while generating economic opportunity for the people in our region,” Biden added.

In addition, he said the Americas Partnership will foster innovation and help governments to deliver for their own people.

Biden also said that Washington is ready to put new capital in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) private sector lending arm, the IDB investment, to help catalyse in the “critical flow of private capital into the region, especially to those startup, digital connectivity, renewable energy and health.

He said Summit leaders will, on Friday, launch the Los Angeles Declaration, a ground-breaking, integrated new approach to managing migration and sharing responsibility across the hemisphere.

Biden said the declaration represents a mutual commitment to invest in regional solutions that enhance stability, increase opportunities for safe and orderly migration through the region, and crack down on criminal and human trafficking who prey on desperate people.

The Summit is being held under the theme “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future” for the hemisphere and Washington has said that “as Chair and Host” it 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”.