Guillermo Lasso, the president of Ecuador, and Joe Biden met on Monday at the White House to discuss security and economic cooperation between Washington and Quito, which is advocating cost-sharing in the war on drugs.
Combating the cartels that have conducted open battle in Ecuador’s streets and jails was high on Lasso’s priority list, which he brought with him when he arrived in the South American nation.
The government of Lasso has declared a state of emergency in some areas of the nation, which is wedged between Colombia and Peru, the world’s two major producers of cocaine, as a result of the turmoil that has claimed hundreds of lives.
Just before taking out for Washington on Sunday, Lasso told reporters in Ecuador, «I think it’s fair to split the bill.»
The fight is being waged here, he said. However, «the beneficiaries (of US assistance) are not just youth and children in Ecuador, but also youth and children in the United States.»
Ecuador believes it needs $5 billion to win this conflict, and the White House said last week that it will look into ways to improve security cooperation in order to combat gang and cartel violence.
In the Oval Office on Monday, before meetings behind closed doors, Biden told Lasso, «Today we’re going to keep building on the gains we’ve achieved.»
«We’ve accomplished a great deal on migration together. We’ll also talk about ways to strengthen our current economic and security alliance even further this afternoon.»
As part of this collaboration, according to Biden, the court system, the marine security, as well as «our new collaborative investment projects that address security needs for Ecuador’s jail system» would be included.
The face-to-face encounter, according to Lasso, the first conservative president of Ecuador in 14 years, was a chance to «reaffirm the democratic freedom and human rights ideals that we share» with Americans.
The leaders were scheduled to address regional economic efforts including the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, which aims to mobilize investment, promote sustainable energy, and develop supply chains, as well as trade, which is also a topic of discussion.
The signing of a free trade agreement, according to Lasso, would «prevent migrant flows by creating jobs» in Ecuador, noting that it was one of the few American countries without one.
Ecuador, like other nations in Latin America, wants to avoid the competition between China and the United States by maintaining strong relations with Washington and taking advantage of Beijing’s generous financial policies.
After over ten months of discussions, Lasso hopes to reach a free-trade agreement with China.
Biden places a high focus on halting widespread migration. Since October 2021, officials have stopped more nearly two million migrants at the US-Mexico border, according to official US statistics.
Only a small portion of the migrants are Ecuadorians. However, according to government figures, their numbers increased significantly this year from 600 in January to 5,000 in September.