President Barack Obama will travel to Trinidad and Tobago in April to the Summit of the Americas. In preparation for the summit, Vice President Joe Biden met with Latin American leaders in Chile and Costa Rica to discuss the challenges facing countries in the Western Hemisphere.
The prosperity and security of all the peoples of the Americas will take center stage at the summit. Our first task is to ensure that the global economic crisis does not undermine all the progress we have made to reduce inequality in the region. The U.S. recognizes that the world economic downturn requires a shared solution.
“Our economic interconnection,” said Vice President Biden, “means that a robust U.S. economy is good for the hemisphere and can become an engine for bottom up economic growth and equality throughout the region.” Sound financial institutions are critical to rekindling growth and job creation in the U.S. and in the Americas.
The U.S. recognizes that many people in our Hemisphere do not feel safe in their homes or on the street. Gang violence and the illegal trafficking of weapons and narcotics plague many countries in the Western Hemisphere. The U.S., said Mr. Biden, “needs to do more to reduce demand for illicit drugs and stem the flow of weapons and bulk cash south across our borders.”
Mexico has taken a courageous stand against violent drug cartels, as has the government of Colombia. The U.S. is committed to the Merida Initiative, designed to work with our partners in Mexico and the Central American nations to identify solutions to our shared challenge in the drug trade.
Promoting democracy in Latin America is also an important goal for the Summit of the Americas. Vice President Biden stressed that democracy is about more than elections; it is about transparent governance, thriving civil society, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.
Finally, Vice President Biden called on the countries of Latin America to take up the issue of climate change and the need to develop clean energy sources.
“As we face these threats and as we confront the most serious economic crisis in generations,” said Mr. Biden, “the countries of the Hemisphere must look forward. And we must work together, as partners, to give our citizens hope that brighter days lie ahead.