On March 30, I was sworn as the new U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of Americas States (OAS). Four days later, I hopped on a plane for my first official act — representing the United States as part of its official delegation to the Eighth Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru.
The Summit of the Americas is a triennial gathering where leaders from around the hemisphere come together to focus on our shared challenges and create opportunities for our citizens. Since the Summit of the Americas began in 1994 in my home town of Miami, it has led to landmark achievements in the hemisphere. Thanks to recent Summits, we have seen partnerships on energy security, cooperation on poverty –fighting strategies, regional networks that expanded economic opportunities, and joint efforts to strengthen democracy, citizen security, and expand educational opportunities.
At the 2018 Summit, I worked with Vice President Pence and his team to advance President Trump’s agenda: namely, our shared objectives on security, prosperity, and democratic governance in the Western Hemisphere. We strongly supported Peru’s ambitious Summit agenda on “Democratic Governance against Corruption.” I had the privilege to finalize our negotiations on the Lima Commitment, which reflects the region’s pledge to combat corruption and promote transparency. The Summit agenda embodied in that document reaffirms the hemisphere’s commitment to implement the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, increase fiscal transparency, combat transnational criminal organizations and their corrupt activities, enhance international legal cooperation, and combat bribery of domestic and foreign public officials.
We also made several other landmark announcements at the Summit. Assistant to the President and Advisor Ivanka Trump, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) President and CEO Ray W. Washburne, and Acting U.S. Secretary of State John Sullivan announced OPIC’s 2X Americas Latin American #Women’s Initiative to mobilize $500 million in private capital to invest in projects that empower women in Latin America. Acting Secretary Sullivan made it clear that women’s economic empowerment was a foreign policy imperative, saying, “From the U.S. Government’s perspective, the case for advancing women’s full participation in society is clear; further, advancing women’s economic participation globally is absolutely critical to achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives and is directly linked to our national security.”
Finally, the United States used the Summit platform to call on governments to uphold and reaffirm their collective commitment to democracy. Venezuela was once a flourishing democracy, but has now collapsed into authoritarianism. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has corroded and corrupted Venezuelan democracy, and bears responsibility for the current suffering of the Venezuelan people. Maduro’s abuses have not gone without response: Summit host Peru disinvited him for his violations of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The free nations of the hemisphere showed strong unity in supporting Peru’s decision, calling on the Maduro regime to return Venezuela to a constitutional order, hold free and fair elections, release political prisoners, and allow humanitarian assistance for desperate Venezuelans.
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is this hemisphere’s most pressing crisis, which is forcing hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to flee into neighboring countries. At the Summit, Vice President Pence announced $16 million in new humanitarian assistance to support Venezuelans fleeing their country. With this funding, the State Department will expand our support for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s regional response to the Venezuela crisis, on top of existing USAID-provided emergency assistance to Venezuelans and host communities in Colombia and Brazil. The United States has to date committed $18.5 million for Venezuelans fleeing their country. Unfortunately, the Maduro regime continues to reject offers of international assistance. We call on the Maduro regime to open up their country to life-saving aid the Venezuelan people so desperately need.
I come away from the Summit of the Americas impressed by the generosity and compassion of those countries throughout the hemisphere who lead by example, hosting hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans and providing them with lifesaving humanitarian aid. I also want to commend the humanitarian contributions from our partners in Asia and Europe, and encourage additional contributions to meet growing humanitarian needs.
Finally, the Summit provided a critical opportunity to give voice to civil society from throughout the Americas. I was proud to be able to able to join Vice President Pence and Acting Secretary Sullivan in meeting with the brave human rights defenders and democracy advocates from Cuba and Venezuela who risk their lives for standing up for their right to democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the principles at the core of our hemispheric union.
As I depart Lima, I want to thank our Peruvian hosts for their warm welcome and hospitality. Under Peru’s Summit leadership, they set a positive tone for cooperation among regional governments and for collaboration with stakeholders. At the conclusion of the Summit, Vice President Mike Pence announced the U.S. bid to host the 2021 Summit of the Americas. My entire team and I welcome the opportunity to host our partners around the hemisphere at the Ninth Summit of the Americas as we continue to advance prosperity, security, and democratic governance in the Western Hemisphere.
About the Author: Carlos Trujillo serves as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States.