U.S. pledges support for drug fight and humanitarian aid following Lasso – Biden meeting
U.S. President Joe Biden told President Guillermo Lasso that the U.S. will “step up” its assistance to Ecuador during Monday’s meeting between the two leaders. “Ecuador is a good friend facing serious security challenges from organized drug cartels,” Biden said. “In today’s meeting, I pledged that the United States would provide increased support in this fight as well as provide assistance in other areas of critical need.”
Biden’s office announced that the U.S. is immediately releasing more than $70 million to Ecuador to combat the cartels and for humanitarian purposes, including support for the estimated 400,000 Venezuelan refugees in Ecuador.
Lasso arrived in Washington with a list of priorities, including the need for help combating drug crime in Ecuador’s port cities. “Because the U.S. is a chief destination for much of the illegal drugs passing through our country, we look at our requests as a cost-sharing proposition,” Lasso said. “Only a small amount of the drugs transported through Ecuador are for local use. The vast majority are destined for the U.S. and Europe.”
He added: “The violence on the streets of Ecuador and in our prisons affects our people and the future of our children but it also affects the U.S. President Biden agrees and we are beginning talks to find solutions.”
In addition to fighting drug trafficking, Lasso agreed to maintain efforts to control illegal migration to the U.S. “The flow of Ecuadorians to the U.S. has reduced by 70% over the past 18 months and we expect it to reduce further in 2023,” he said. “Our biggest challenge, and one we seek partnerships with the U.S. to confront, is to provide more opportunity to our people, especially our youth. This is why I am meeting with U.S. business leaders following my talk today with President Biden.”
Lasso said he and Biden affirmed support for democratic values and respect for human rights. “We have talked about migration and migration as a consequence of the economic problems in Latin America. We have ratified Ecuador’s commitment to continue supporting those involved in the migration phenomenon, especially people from Venezuela and Colombia,” he said.
The two presidents also discussed the pending trade agreement between the two nations. Biden said he wants to “speed up” the pace of negotiations.
On Tuesday, Biden and members of his staff met with officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and two other business organizations. He also met privately with representatives of several corporation who expressed interest in investing in Ecuador.