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Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Panamanian Foreign Minister Janaina Tewaney Before Their Meeting
December 21, 2022



SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good morning, everyone.  It’s a real pleasure to have Foreign Minister Tewaney here in Washington.  Panama is a highly valued partner of the United States.  We’ve been doing a lot of work together these past couple of years, really working to advance the common goals that we have for our people and more broadly for the region.  We’ve been working together to improve regional security, to strengthen democratic institutions, to advance inclusive economic growth.  And I’m looking forward to discussing with the minister all of those issues.

Of course, Panama is also a critical partner for us and many other countries in the region in addressing the challenges of irregular migration.  We are facing together what is truly an historic challenge: there are more people on the move around the world – more than 100 million – than at any time in recorded history.  And of course, in the hemisphere that we share, we know that as well and we see that as well – whether it is from Mexico, from Haiti, from Cuba, from Guatemala, from Honduras, from El Salvador, from Nicaragua, from Venezuela, and more – Ecuador.  People are on the move and there is increasingly a shared sense of responsibility that we all have for managing, in a humane and orderly way, migration in our hemisphere.  So I look forward to that discussion as well.

But welcome.  It’s very good to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER TEWANEY:  On behalf of the President Cortizo and Vice President Carrizo, I want to convey a very warm regards, and also from the people of Panama.  As you said, there are many values also, common values we share, democratic values, human rights, and the rule of law.  So that’s, I think, the core base of our strong relation.  I think we have met before when I was minister of government very briefly, and now it’s my honor to officially meet you as my counterpart, my homologue.  As you met – the team is going to be here providing some extra information you find useful for the meeting.

But I would like to start again with the most important part, our strong relation.  We share, as I said, strong values, and we are aligned on some of the most important issues of our time.  And I want to convey the message from the president and vice president that we are committed to the rules-based world order and also on the well-being of the international community and the region.

As many countries in the world have also experienced decreased levels of trust in their democratic institutions, Panama has been leading efforts to build citizens’ trust in their government.  And even during the most difficult times – recently, in January and July – we proved that only through dialogue and peaceful resolution we could solve our own issues.  In fact, I myself was part of the delegation that was negotiating in Panama peace and stability, and through that negotiation, we can now say that we are stable and strong again and, as allies, we stand together as brothers and sisters.

We understand the challenges with regard to migration that the U.S. is facing but we are facing too.  And we’re here again to help each other.  There are many scopes and actions that we can take in order to address the migration issue, and we are here also to convey the message that we already working with the team to find out some ways.

As you know, the Darien Jungle is a geographically very dense jungle, and we want to – I mean, we have spoken in the region, and we have tried to make efforts and to convey the message that the jungle of Darien is not a safe route.  And it should never be used as a route because it’s a jungle that we have the duty to protect, too.  We are committed to the climate change.  We’re committed to the environmental values also.  We cherish that, and I’m sure the U.S. too.  So we want to keep it that way.

We are also committed to human rights, as I told you.  We have been taking care of migrants, and we have given and provided the due services that they request when they’re coming out from it.  And we thank the U.S. for all the support that has been given.  We are also trying to encourage the south and international – the regional community to understand that this solution can only – we can only reach a solution through multilateralism and regional responsibility.  And again, we share the same thoughts about this.  So as you can see, Panama is a very important ally for the U.S. in that sense, and we feel the U.S. is a very important ally for us in that sense too.

So also with regards to ADD, we have an honor in that Wilsonian sense of brotherhood, sharing moral and values.  We have led the ADD also with the purpose to create an infrastructure in which we can cherish those values too – not only talking about this, but we feel the need to create an infrastructure in which we can spread those democratic and human right values throughout the region.  We have started definitely with the ADD.  It has been very successful because we live – we also believe in development, freedom, democracy.

And very recently, we hope we can do the same and spread that rule in Latin America also.  So we intend to continue with those efforts.  Panama has always been seen and it has been respected for that role of creating, and convening, and making – composing peace in the region.  And we want to remain as such.

So with those words, I would like to – I don’t know if you have other points in the agenda, or we can continue the discussion.