U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
September 16, 2020
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Thanks very much, [Moderator], and good afternoon, everybody. It’s a pleasure to be with you all today. I’ll preview the Secretary’s travel to the region September 17-20 and then take some questions.
This administration has prioritized our relations with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Secretary’s frequent travels to meet with his counterparts in the region are testament to that. During this visit, the Secretary will reinforce our hemispheric partnership to defend democracy, combat the COVID-19 pandemic, revitalize our economy in the pandemic’s wake – economies in the pandemic’s wake, and strengthen security against regional threats, especially the threat emanating from Maduro’s Venezuela.
The Secretary will begin his trip on September 17, tomorrow, meeting in Paramaribo with Surinamese President Santokhi and Foreign Minister Ramdin. The Secretary will congratulate them on Suriname’s recent elections and peaceful transition of power. Suriname has large offshore oil reserves. The Secretary will meet with local representatives of U.S. mining and oil companies that are part of this sector’s critical investment in Suriname’s prosperity and future growth. The Secretary will highlight through these meetings how U.S. companies throughout the hemisphere invest responsibly and transparently. This draws a stark contrast with China, whose predatory loans and vanity projects saddle countries in the Western Hemisphere (inaudible) with unsustainable debts and threats to national security and sovereignty. Suriname, like the rest of the region, faces security threats from transnational criminal organizations, and we will talk about ongoing cooperation in that area. According to the State Department’s Office of the Historian, this is the first visit of a secretary of state to Suriname since its independence. This highlights this new day in our relations with the Western Hemisphere.
Also on September 17, the Secretary will visit Georgetown to meet with Guyanese President Ali – President Ali, who was inaugurated in August after the results of the March 2020 elections were finally announced. Like his history-making visit to Suriname, this is the first visit of a secretary of state to Guyana since its independence. It underscores the important moment Guyana is traversing. The country’s newly elected leaders can build an all-inclusive – can build an inclusive democracy that consolidates rule of law, attracts transparent private-sector investment, and exploits natural resources for the benefit of all of its citizens.
On September 18 in Georgetown, the Secretary will meet with Foreign Minister Hugh Todd and with CARICOM Secretary-General LaRocque to discuss U.S.-Caribbean issues. He will thank CARICOM for its essential role in supporting Guyana’s democratic process as its electoral count dispute played out. The United States and Guyana will exchange diplomatic notes for joint maritime patrols to interdict narcotics. This step will help provide security for Guyanese and American people. The Secretary will also sign a Growth in the Americas memorandum of understanding. This will permit Guyana to improve its investment enabling environment so that the country can benefit from transparent infrastructure investment that respects Guyana’s sovereignty. The Secretary will also discuss with Guyana’s leaders the impact on their country of the crisis in Venezuela, which is the hemisphere’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis.
Later on, on September 18, the Secretary will move to Boa Vista, Brazil. There he will meet with representatives of Brazilian implementers that receive significant U.S. funding to support Venezuelan refugees and migrants in their time of need. He will also discuss U.S.-Brazil cooperation to address the threat from COVID-19, including the $13.8 million our government has committed in pandemic aid and the recently completed USAID donation of 1,000 ventilators. While in Boa Vista, the Secretary will also meet with Brazilian Foreign Minister Araujo. They will discuss U.S.-Brazilian cooperation in tackling shared threats to regional security, including the humanitarian disaster that the illegitimate Maduro regime has imposed on the region, and that regime’s illegal trafficking of arms, gold, and drugs.
On September 19, the Secretary will be in Bogota. He will meet with Colombian President Duque to discuss our strong and ongoing partnership, based on free and fair trade, rural development, defense of democracy, and human rights in this hemisphere of freedom. They will also address our joint efforts to confront the threats posed by narcotrafficking and terror groups, some of which enjoy safe haven and support in neighboring Venezuela under Maduro’s regime.
Finally, on September 20, the Secretary will visit Plano, Texas where he will participate in a religious ceremony led by Pastor Jack Graham and deliver remarks to the congregation.
I’m happy to take your questions now and to go into further detail about his visit to Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, and Colombia. Thank you.