Kamala Harris seeks to clean up her image at the Summit of the Americas

The Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, seeks to use the Summit of the Americas, which takes place this week in Los Angeles, as a platform from which to relaunch her image, after a series of misunderstandings and a collapse in her popularity.

Kamala Harris seeks to clean up her image at the Summit of the Americas

The Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, seeks to use the Summit of the Americas, which takes place this week in Los Angeles, as a platform from which to relaunch her image, after a series of misunderstandings and a collapse in her popularity. That strategy, however, begins with a misstep: Harris mediated directly so that the president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, who was absent at the last minute, in an affront to the White House, attended the summit. In two years, almost half a million Hondurans have been detained after entering the US without papers, out of a total of almost four million asylum seekers, according to an official US count.

Upon arriving at the White House, President Joe Biden tasked Harris with

a strategy to solve the very serious migration crisis on the southern border of the United States. The vice president was slow to visit that same border, and focused on dealing with the countries that send those without papers to support them with investment for development. Since then, Harris has visited Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala. In the latter country, however, she provoked a controversy by telling Guatemalan emigrants: "Don't come, don't keep coming, the US will continue to apply the law and protect its borders." Several Democrats criticized the vice president for denying these emigrants the right to asylum when they flee misery and violence in their countries, and that she did so with words that were nothing different from those that the Trump Administration would have pronounced.

Following her trip to Mexico and Guatemala, Harris' popularity plummeted. According to an average of Real Clear Politics polls, after the visit more people suspended Harris than approved of it. Today only 41% of her have a favorable image of her, compared to 52% who do not see her with good eyes. According to other polls, if Biden does not stand for re-election, Harris could lose to Trump if the latter battles again in his party's primaries.

The truth is that the Summit of the Americas, which is being held on US soil for the first time since 1994, is absent from the three leaders with whom Harris has met in their own countries: Castro from Honduras, Andrés Manuel López Obrador from Mexico and Alejandro Giammatei, from Guatemala.

In the end, López Obrador has led an initiative to boycott the summit due to Biden's resistance to inviting the dictators of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Of the 35 members of the Organization of American States, 30 were invited and 22 heads of state or government attended, in addition to Biden. They send to ministers, from Foreign Affairs or other portfolios, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Uruguay, among others.

Sources from the Biden Administration who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity on Monday said that the important thing is that there are delegations from all the American countries —except Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela— and that they have the power to sign migratory agreements, although they do not are the presidents. “We trust that the countries that sign the declaration on migration will commit to its objectives. And that includes Mexico. The Mexican government will be represented at the ministerial level by the foreign minister in Los Angeles. He has fully participated in the development of the migration initiative that will be launched this week. And we believe in every way that they are fully committed to it."

The Venezuelan delegation is absent from the final list. The White House, for reasons that it has not explained, has not invited Juan Guaidó, whom since 2019 it has recognized as the legitimate representative of the Venezuelan people as leader of the National Assembly. Guaidó was invited to the summit of democracies that Biden organized at the end of 2021, and to which, again, López Obrador did not attend, although it was all by videoconference. So the Mexican president did not even bother to send his foreign minister, but was represented by the ambassador in Washington, Esteban Moctezuma.

The vice president's office has prepared an ambitious plan that includes more than 1,900 million dollars (almost 1,800 million euros at current exchange rates) in investment commitments from private companies in the area, to create jobs that foster economic growth and deter young adults from leaving their homes, alone or with their families. Those investments include $700 million for mobile networks in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and $270 million from Visa to promote digital payments, among others.

The public investments contemplated by the White House in that area are barely 300 million. In reality, an aid package of 4,000 million dollars for Central America that is being processed in the Capitol has stalled, with no sign of immediately prospering due to lack of support. Biden will also announce an ambitious reform of the Inter-American Development Bank.

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