Biden Needs a Holistic Strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean
In 1994, the United States hosted the first Summit of the Americas in Miami, when democracy was on the rise and the economic success of many of Latin America’s largest economies was celebrated and expected to continue. In sharp contrast, President Biden is hosting this week’s gathering in Los Angeles at a time when the region is politically and socially polarized, COVID-19 has laid bare public health and economic challenges, democracy is in its second decade of retreat, climate change threatens the health and safety of people throughout the hemisphere, and global rivals such as China are making their financial and political presence strongly felt.
What makes these challenges even more acute is the growing belief in the region that the U.S. is not prioritizing the hemisphere and that perhaps America just doesn’t care about the well-being of its neighbors to the south. Given the pervasiveness of such sentiments, the Biden administration should use this Summit of theAmericas to announce a much-needed holistic strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean. Rather than a discrete one-and-done event, the gathering should be a launching pad for a larger effort to re-engage with the Americas, reassert the U.S. position as a hemispheric partner and leader, and demonstrate that the U.S. cares deeply about the Americas’ collective future and well-being.
First on the agenda should be the hemisphere-wide migration crisis, which the U.S. government should address head on. The Biden administration must demonstrate that it cares about more than the U.S. southern border. Irregular migration is a tragic humanitarian issue that impacts countries across the Americas — a truly hemispheric challenge that is best addressed in collaboration with regional partners. For example, over 6 million Venezuelan refugees are overwhelming Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and many other Latin American and Caribbean countries. This number rivals Syria’s demographic collapse — and yet the amount of international funding per Venezuelan refugee is only 10 percent of its Syrian counterpart. We see the U.S. generously stepping up to assist Ukrainian refugees; it’s time to do the same for refugees in our hemisphere.
It was just over a year ago that leaders of 34 nations of the hemisphere gathered in Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas. How much progress has been made in the past year on the goals expressed at the summit?