With less than a month to go until the Summit of the Americas is held, the United States has not yet extended official invitations, but has made it quite clear that it does not count on Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which has provoked criticism from the Government of the Havana and a challenge from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has made his participation in the meeting subject to the invitation of those nations.
Brian Nichols (Providence, Rhode Island, 1965), a long-time diplomat with extensive experience in Latin America, who now holds the position of US Undersecretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, defends not inviting nations that do not respect democracy. That supposes a starting threat for a summit that has not yet finalized its agenda despite the proximity of the event. Nichols assures that it will deal with issues of development, health, ecology and also immigration. In an interview with EL PAÍS, the Undersecretary of State defends the right of people to emigrate from a theoretical point of view.
Ask. have you stayed Latin America displaced from the priorities of the Biden Administration by the war in Ukraine?
Response. Absolutely not. This year we are going to hold the Summit of the Americas, the most important event in four years where the leaders of the hemisphere, foreign ministers, businessmen, youth, and civil society meet in different interconnected forums. That is an example of the priority of our region for the White House. We are always in contact with different personalities to promote relations between the United States and the countries of the Americas.
P. There is only one month left for the Summit of the Americas and the agenda is still very incomplete.
R. I wouldn’t say it like that. We are in the process of the summit implementation group meetings, advance visits have been made by many countries in the region. We are in the process of finalizing the political commitments within the summit such as democratic governance, health and pandemic resistance, clean energy transition, green future and digital transformation, which are the leaders’ five essential commitments for the summit. We are also focused on combating disinformation that corrodes democracy by undermining citizens’ trust in government and the media.
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P. And the migration?
R. Also alongside the formal summit process, we are going to make a Los Angeles statement related to migration. Migration is a consequence of the lack of opportunities, the lack of access to health and education in our hemisphere. It is important to address the causes, but also treat the symptoms in order to promote legal, safe, and orderly migration in our hemisphere. We live at a time when there is an unprecedented number of migrants globally, more than 90 million people around the world and millions of them in the Americas. We are going to deal with all those issues during the summit.
P. Is the focus of the Biden administration to try to promote the development of countries to curb migration at origin?
R. Our perspective is to support people wherever they are around the hemisphere, to support the communities that are hosts to migrants. We have provided more than $1 billion in support to communities in South and Central America that are hosts to migrants. Our undersecretary has just traveled to Chile, for example, to announce a new donation for communities with migrants in Chile. Obviously, it is well known that we have given around 700 million dollars to Colombia to attend to the needs of migrants there, [en su gran mayoría venezolanos]. But we are also sharing information with governments, training migration officials in different countries, reaching bilateral agreements with different countries to help safeguard people who are migrating to their territories, among other things. It is a complicated issue, but we are facing this challenge in all its aspects to support people, who always have a right to migration.
P. Less than a month before the summit, is the list of attendees already closed? Is there no chance that they will invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua?
R. In my public statements I have already given my opinion of the low probability of the presence of these countries. The invitations are the responsibility of the White House and the formal invitations have not yet left the White House.
P. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that he wants the Summit of the Americas to be the most inclusive in history. Can a summit that excludes three countries be inclusive?
R. He has also said that our foundation in the hemisphere is democracy. We have the Democratic Charter of the Americas, the OAS Charter, the Quebec and Lima declarations. There is a democratic sentiment and vision in the Americas and we are going to respect that. And, therefore, we don’t think it’s convenient to include countries that disrespect democracy.
P. After the war in Ukraine and the rise in oil prices, the Biden Administration approached the Venezuelan government. Is there any chance that the sanctions could be relaxed in the near future?
R. We have always said that we can be flexible with sanctions when there is progress between the Nicolás Maduro regime, the unitary opposition platform and the interim government of Juan Guaidó. We fully support a negotiation process by the Venezuelans that follows a path towards full democracy. I hope they return to the negotiating table as soon as possible. We also have an interest in obtaining the freedom of Americans wrongfully detained in Venezuela. It is another priority for us and we will continue to make every effort to obtain his freedom.
P. What goals do you set to consider the Summit of the Americas a success?
R. We want a hemisphere surrounded by those principles of democracy, the fight against climate change, a green future, resistant to pandemics, with improvements in access to health and education for ordinary people. That is important for us, but the summit is not the end, it is the beginning of a very important effort. We are going to attend to the needs of the people in our hemisphere, who have had some really difficult years between the pandemic, the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation or the lack of access to food chains… After the summit we are going to see other events that also support these goals, at the level of ministers, experts and the private sector.
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