Blinken travels to Costa Rica for immigration talks in first visit to Latin America

Addressing 'root causes' of the migration crisis is at heart of the Biden strategy

Antony Blinken arrives at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, to board his flight to Costa Rica. AFP
Antony Blinken arrives at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, to board his flight to Costa Rica. AFP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Costa Rica on Tuesday for his first visit to Latin America, where he will meet Central American nations to discuss the increase in migrants on the southern border of the US.

The visit comes as President Joe Biden's administration grapples with increased migration to the US, as hundreds of thousands of people flee violence, corruption and economic woes in Central America and elsewhere.

The issue has presented Mr Biden with his biggest domestic crisis since taking office, and Republican critics have hammered him on the issue.

Whereas his predecessor Donald Trump pushed a border wall and other get-tough policies, Mr Biden has stressed the need to address migration's "root causes" and proposed an aid package of $4 billion for the countries of the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador).

Mr Blinken said he wanted to see a more "democratic, prosperous and secure hemisphere".

Vice President Kamala Harris has been appointed to lead diplomatic talks with the governments of Mexico and the Northern Triangle nations to try to address migration but relations with those countries remain strained, with US officials pointing to corruption and the lack of democratic leadership as the main drivers of the issue.

Ms Harris will travel to Mexico in a fortnight to continue these talks.

Last week, she said that 12 major corporations, including Microsoft, MasterCard and Nespresso, have agreed to invest in Central America.

The State Department hailed Washington’s relations with Costa Rica and stressed the importance of issues such as immigration and democratic government in Central America.

"Together, they will advance a collaborative approach to addressing the root causes of migration, including improving democratic governance, security and economic opportunity for the people of Central America," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

In San Jose, Mr Blinken will take part in a ministerial meeting for the Central American Integration System (Sica), which will include officials from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize and the Dominican Republic.

In his two-day-trip, the State Department said Mr Blinken will also tackle issues of reform, climate adaptation, education and public health access.

Mr Blinken is also expected to hold a series of bilateral meetings with Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Minister of Foreign Affairs Rodolfo Solano Quiros and officials from Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

The US faces another challenge in China's growing economic influence over Latin America. Beijing has been making inroads in expanding investments as well as offering vaccinations against Covid-19 in countries such as El Salvador.

Updated: June 1, 2021 08:36 PM

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