Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – Outrageous. Disgusting. Nauseating. These are just a few of the long list of qualifiers against the Trump administration’s announcement to go ahead with building the infamous wall separating the United States from the rest of Latin America.
“We have to protect ourselves from the aggressive policy of persecuting migrants. The attacks against human rights is one of the central topics that brought us to this summit,” said Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa as he arrived in Punta Cana.
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“Our commitment is to defend the right to migrate, the most important form of movement. It is not the flow of capital or the flow of merchandise, but rather the mobility of human beings, which is a human right,” Correa added.
Ten heads of state and 33 foreign ministers gathered at the annual CELAC – the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States – summit in the Dominican Republic were already preparing to debate ways to confront a new regional reality.
“The phantom of protectionism and closure of borders would have grave consequences. We must de everything we can to prevent a return to the past … We are facing an adverse international scenario. We need to stick together to defend our alliance,” said host President Danilo Medina as he opened the summit.
But the speed with which the Trump administration has decided to go ahead with his electoral vow to build a wall along the US-Mexico border apparently caught everyone off guard.
Tuesday night, as his plane was preparing to fly him to Punta Cana for the summit, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto abruptly cancelled his trip, attributing it to reason of “internal agenda”.
The announcement came after Pena Nieto got wind of President Trump’s plans to announce details of “the wall of infamy”, as it is called in much of Latin America.
It is not just Mexico that would be affected, but tens of thousands of Central Americas and Caribbeans who for decades have used the US-Mexican border to enter the United States without visas.
The CELAC summit is due to end late on Wednesday with a strong condemnation of White House policy towards Latin American, including the renegotiation of free trade agreements with Mexico (NAFTA) and probably Central America (CAFTA).
Nevertheless, for now, Trump’s counterparts south of the border seem hard pressed to respond with something more substantial than just words.