Leaders from across Latin America said they’ll unite to confront the threat posed by “protectionist” U.S. policies, just hours after President Donald Trump took the first step to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Presidents and diplomats from 33 countries in the region met at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, with many calling for greater integration to combat Trump’s “America first” policies.
The leaders applauded passage of a joint declaration Wednesday evening, that, among other things, warned of the economic threat posed by protectionism and volatility in international financial markets. The declaration also condemned “all forms of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination against migrants.”
“The solution to the question of migration is not walls or borders,” said Ecuador President Rafael Correa, one of 10 presidents and prime ministers attending the summit. “We should take a clear position in defense of migrants, not just from Latin America but from around the world.”
Earlier in the day, Trump signed a directive to begin the process of building a wall at the southwest U.S. border, the latest in a series of a measures that will affect Latin America. Trump has already withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact that includes three Latin American countries, vowed to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement, and immediately after election vowed to deport as many as 3 million undocumented immigrants.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega called recent U.S. policies “profoundly protectionist.”
The bloc, which was formed in 2010 as a counterbalance to U.S. influence in the region, met without heads of state from the region’s largest countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Mexico.
Although speakers rarely mentioned Trump by name, several referred to U.S. policies and the effects of protectionist trade policies.
“We are concerned that this growing discourse of protectionism and border closure is not limited to the economic sphere, but can also have grave consequences on our migrant populations,” said Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina in his opening address to the summit Tuesday evening, which was preceded by a moment of silence for former Cuban president, the late Fidel Castro, one of the bloc’s founders.
In its 20-page final declaration, the bloc said it supported talks among political parties in Venezuela, called for the the U.S. to end its economic embargo against Cuba and for the Falkland Islands to be returned to Argentina.