President Abinader receiving the award

L-R: Susan Segal, Luis Abinader, Andrés Gluski, and Eric Farnsworth. (Image: Mark Finkenstaedt)


Hemispheric Leaders Focus on U.S.-Latin American Integration at Washington Conference

Top U.S. and Latin American officials and experts convened to discuss economic engagement, democracy, and digital transformation at COA's event.

Washington D.C. May 8, 2024—The 54th annual Washington Conference on the Americas, hosted by the Council of the Americas (COA), kicked-off on Tuesday, May 7, with a keynote luncheon held at the historic Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room at the U.S. Department of State. The keynote speaker was U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who spoke about the current challenges that exist across the region and how the United States—through partnerships—is trying to tackle them.

"Nations across this hemisphere are bound by many things, by our people, by businesses, by our shared history and heritage, but above all, we're bound by a common commitment to democracy. That is the root of our resilience, that is how we should be able to overcome every challenge," said Sullivan.

On Wednesday, May 8, the conference, held in partnership with U.S. Department of State, took place at the Organization of American States and gathered senior-level officials to talk about critical issues affecting the Western Hemisphere.

At the event, COA Chairman Andrés Gluski honored President of the Dominican Republic Luis Abinader with the Chairman’s Award for Leadership in the Americas, a recognition given to democratically elected officials who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the Western Hemisphere. Gluski said that President Abinader's vision has ushered in an era of growth and stability during turbulent times.

"I feel very honored to be the first Dominican president to receive this award," said President Abinader. "This recognition implies greater responsibility with democratic governance and I commit to you to continue deepening it until the last day I hold the office of president."

At the start of the conference, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols highlighted that "the transformational and historic work that [Council of the Americas] has done for over half a century is really vital to the vision that we have in the administration." COA Chairman Emeritus John Negroponte introduced U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who gave keynote remarks titled "The United States and the Americas: A Partnership Built to Last."

"The United States is fully committed to the success of the Western Hemisphere because our futures our inextricably linked. When countries across the region succeed, we all succeed," said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.

During the panel on economic engagement, Special Presidential Advisor for the Americas Christopher Dodd, Deputy Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President Rebecca Lissner, Executive Secretary at Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, and Assistant Secretary for Global Markets and Director General for the Commercial Service at the U.S. Department of Commerce Arun Venkataraman discussed the "real partnership” between the United States and Latin America and its effect on stability, democracy, and economic growth. AS/COA President and CEO Susan Segal moderated the conversation.

Dodd highlighted the importance of the Americas Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation with the goal of boosting regional integration.

"Our hemisphere could be the most prosperous, the most democratic, and the most secure. That's the aspiration we all ought to have. I think it's within our reach to do so," said Senator Dodd.

"Three years ago, the vice president issued a call to action for Northern Central America to companies and philanthropies to mobilize investment in support of the U.S. Root Causes Strategy. We achieved more than anyone expected, and we are now at $5.2 billion in commitments, with more than 50 companies now in this partnership, representing financial services, textiles, agriculture, and technology," stated Lissner.

"I think the new phase of partnership between the United States and Latin America—a win-win for both—is microeconomic. It's to do partnerships in specific sectors," said Salazar-Xirinachs

Segal then interviewed the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia Luis Gilberto Murillo on his country's evolving global position.

"Colombia is the only country in South America in which the United States is the main economic partner. We need to maintain that position, but we need more investment from the United States to Colombia in new areas," stated Minister Murillo.

Bloomberg News’ Jackie Davalos moderated a panel on digital transformation, featuring the Peruvian Government’s Special Advisor on Digital Transformation Marushka Chocobar, Vice President of Technology at Amazon Web Services Dominic Demolino, CEO of Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue Michelle S. Giuda, and the Vice President for the Latin America and the Caribbean region at The World Bank Carlos Felipe Jaramillo.

The panelists discussed where Latin America stands on the digital transformation and how the region can benefit from the artificial intelligence boom.

"It is important to look at Latin America as a region that promises to be one of the most advanced regions in digital transformation for the next years,” said Chocobar.

Giuda stated that "to seize the opportunity and advance the business case in Latin America, the key is not technology; the key is trusted technology. And when I talk about trust, I mean the principles that are going to enable partnership, whether it's diplomatic partnership, economic partnership, or technological partnership."

"I'm hoping that through digital technologies, we can find a way to do what we haven't been able to do for decades: address deep inequality," said Jaramillo.

In a keynote virtual interview, Gluski spoke with Venezuela's opposition leader María Corina Machado and Venezuela's Opposition Presidential Candidate Edmundo González Urrutia about their fight for democracy.

"This goes beyond another electoral process. This has turned into an existential fight—even a spiritual one—and that's why we're seeing people willing to do things they never thought they were capable of," said Machado.

"The importance of the international community's presence here in Venezuela during this campaign is vital to have a free and fair process," said González.

In a third keynote panel, COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth moderated a discussion about trade with U.S. Representatives Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL). “As a globally connected society, this is an unprecedented time facing the Western Hemisphere and how we move forward today will impact communities throughout the region for generations to come,” stated Congressman Espaillat.

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