Jill Biden’s six-day trip to Latin America marks the high point of diplomacy

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Jill Biden is embarking on a six-day diplomatic tour of three Latin American countries, as part of a sensational activity marking her most significant time as the first woman on the world stage.

On Wednesday, he boarded a plane that would take him from the stunning Andean heights of Quito, Ecuador, through the coastal Panama City and to San Jose, Costa Rica’s inner capital city, which is technically located in a tropical rainforest.

This is the first woman’s second solo foreign trip this month, after her historic visit to western Ukraine on Mother’s Day – as well as to meet with refugees from the Russian war in Romania and Slovakia, Ukraine – and her third overall in the administration. (The first was to covid-destroy Japan as a member of the U.S. Olympic delegation.) And while visiting three U.S. hemisphere allies in Latin America is certainly less fulfilling than entering the battlefield, experts say the trip is the equivalent of a diplomatic tightrope walk.

Biden’s trip through the capital cities of central and northwestern South America is designed as a prelude to the US summit in June, the ninth gathering of leaders in the region. The United States is hosting the summit in Los Angeles for the first time since the inaugural conference in Miami in 1994.

But according to Ryan C. Berg, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the summit is being hailed as a “disaster” by the State Department’s website as “President Biden’s highest priority for the region.” Left-leaning leaders across Latin America and the Caribbean, led by Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, have threatened to boycott the US plan to exclude leaders from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. If he does, the absence of a president from one of the largest countries in the region could undermine what the United States hopes to accomplish at the summit, Berg said.

“I think there is a sense of crisis in the administration right now, where they can hold a summit where only 50 percent of the countries in the region are represented,” Berg said, adding that the United States has Plan to eliminate dictators.

A White House spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The first lady is now stepping into this delicate soup of diplomacy. It’s been more than a year since Vice President Harris’s first foreign trip to Guatemala and Mexico, earning him criticism for his scathing remarks on potential immigrants: “Don’t come.”

Biden, however, as a first lady brought a dexterous touch to relationship-building. During a trip to Ukraine in early May, he visited a school with First Lady Olena Zelenska, who has been in hiding since the Russian invasion began in February. On Tuesday, he joined the president in Buffalo, to escape racially motivated mass shootings at a Tops supermarket and to visit the families of the victims. His trip to the Tokyo Olympics, when the coronavirus was closed to foreigners due to concerns, was accompanied by a bilateral visit with Prime Minister Yoshihide Sugar, with pictures of Biden in an empty stand, decorated in red, white and blue, as one. The Women’s Cheering Squad for Team USA – whose members could not even keep their family members there.

During the visit, Biden chose to meet with three pro-US allies. It serves a dual purpose of praising countries that are working towards U.S. values ​​while trying to ensure at least a minimal presence at the summit, Berg said.

According to Vanda Felbab, in a region plagued by instability, corruption and human rights abuses, he will probably highlight the ways in which these countries are continuing their efforts to promote democracy, stop immigration and fight the role of China and Russia. Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Visiting friendly countries may seem like an easy task, but Anita McBride, director of the First Ladies Initiative at American University and former chief of staff at Laura Bush, says Biden is doing a fine job of ensuring allies remain allies.

“You want to strengthen those relationships, especially in an area where there are different perspectives, different personalities, different leadership perspectives on the United States,” McBride said. “You can’t ignore your friends when you’re trying to befriend your enemies.”

Biden’s tour begins in Quito, Ecuador, the world’s second-largest capital city at 9,350 feet. On Thursday, Biden will meet with the President and First Lady of Ecuador and visit a child development center. From there, he will travel to Panama City, where a key focus of the tour will be on the country’s efforts to combat HIV / AIDS. His last stop in the Costa Rican capital, San Jose, will make him the first high-ranking U.S. official to meet with President Rodrigo Chavez, who won his election in April amid allegations of sexual harassment from multiple women while working at the World Bank.

Ecuador, Panama, and Costa Rica have all been affected by immigration, with large numbers of Venezuelans fleeing authoritarianism and the economic downturn, and Ecuador or Venezuelans and Haitians entering Panama. Costa Rica, meanwhile, has kept its borders open to asylum seekers in the epidemic and has seen the population of refugees from its northern neighbor Nicaragua double in eight months, with more than 150,000 people looking for a new home there in February.

As part of his visit to Ecuador, he will meet immigrant teenagers from Venezuela and Colombia, as well as Ecuadorian teenagers who are receiving a quick education after leaving school.

Ahead of the US summit, there is a sense of neglect among Latin American countries, said Rebecca Bill Chavez, president and chief executive of the Inter-American Dialogue, a network of world leaders. “There is a growing perception in the region that the United States does not really care about the region except the North Triangle” – El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. In July 2021, the administration announced Build Back Better World Plans to bring $ 40 trillion infrastructure to developing countries. “That promise was made a year ago, but there has been no follow-through,” said Bill Chavez.

The summit is three weeks away, but the region’s top leaders have not been invited. Website scattered. “I saw an agenda about four weeks ago, and it was three-quarters of a page,” said Berg, who said he was given the document by a Democrat on Capitol Hill who was apprehensive. If the agenda gets stronger, Berg says, leaders will be afraid to miss opportunities without attending. But it stands to reason, he says, that there would be little political cost to avoiding the event.

The First Lady’s visit to Latin America also comes at a time when the administration’s attention is focused on Europe’s Ukraine and as the president prepares for his first trip to Asia, where he is expected to use his time in Japan and South Korea to get them. US allies are pushing for China to refuse to condemn Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Fidelbab-Brown said Biden would “address countries that are not receiving high-level, high-powered US attention.” He added that the administration has a lot of value in “spreading wealth” and sending “very personal conversations” to places like Costa Rica, traditionally emphasized as U.S. partners; Ecuador, which does not get too much exposure; And Panama, which is an important ally in dealing with Venezuela.

In the absence of such attention from the United States, Fellow-Brown says, China has been able to build an economic path, and Russia has pushed itself politically by supporting authoritarian regimes to disrupt regional stability and weaken the United States.

Biden also brought with him a worldwide spotlight. “I think these three countries have a really positive trend. … When the first lady visits, it shows, ‘Hey, we’re looking at these efforts and we want to highlight them,’ “said Sen. Tim Cain (D-Va.), Who chairs a Western subcommittee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hemisphere.

“Look, he’s really good,” he said of Biden, with whom he had an event when Joe Biden was vice president. “He has such an open, caring and winning attitude.” He feels “inspired” by his visit and is hopeful that this is the beginning of a more active role for the administration in the region.

Over the next six days, Biden will have to avoid some landmines that Harris set foot on during his trip to Latin America, which could explain why migration is a small part of the agenda. Harris is a “very compelling messenger,” says Fellbob-Brown, “but the problem is he has been tasked with bringing a message that is hard to follow.” People want to be able to move, and governments are not asked to reform. “If you don’t like the message, there are limitations to how charm can make a great reception,” he says.

Democrats are fighting to hold on to the midterm elections, but it remains to be seen whether Biden’s trip will reflect Latino voters.

Gabriel R., a colleague in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. Sanchez said: “What I find sad is that the majority of Latino voters, unfortunately, are still not very clear about where the Biden administration stands on immigration, which is what I’m all about.”

Cain said that if Biden’s trip did not move the index further with Latino voters, it could still be a reversal. Latino voters “know when we are paying attention and when we are not, and I think they are often frustrated by the lack of attention like people in those countries,” Kane said.

Biden’s visit, he said, “I think it will be seen as a sign of respect.”

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