Jill Biden on Monday wrapped her goodwill tour of Latin America ahead of her husband’s troubled Summit of the Americas with an event tied to the administration’s message: ‘Planting the Seeds of Security.’
The first lady insisted she is worried about a boycott of the event in Los Angeles later this month and the nations she visited assured her they will attend.
‘All of the countries I’ve visited said that they would be there. I’m looking forward to it,’ she told DailyMail.com before boarding her flight from Costa Rica back to Washington D.C.
She added that was was not worried about the boycott threat and said ‘I think that they’ll come’.
On her last day in Costa Rica, first lady visited a community center, supported by funding from the U.S. State Department, that provides a safe space for Costa Rican youth.
She was treated to a ballet performance and a Tae Kwon Do demonstration, watched a soccer game and musical performance and then observed a painting workshop.
It’s been a part of Jill Biden’s soft sell of diplomacy on a trip that took her to three countries where she visited local churches; announced a new State Department grant; met with leaders in Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica; and spread the message of democray’s value in a region where it has not always been cherished.
‘When we work together, we can make our nations and our world stronger,’ she said in a speech in Ecuador.
Jill Biden on Monday wrapped her goodwill tour of Latin America ahead of her husband’s troubled Summit of the Americas with an event tied to the administration’s message: ‘Planting the Seeds of Security’
The first lady insisted she is worried about a boycott of the event in Los Angeles later this month and the nations she visited assured her they will attend. She made the comments after she visited a community center, supported by funding from the U.S. State Department, that provides a safe space for Costa Rican youth
‘We are connected, especially in the Americas. If one nation is vulnerable to authorit- — authoritarianism or a health crisis or poverty, it won’t be long before those same problems reach us all. But when nations here in South America embrace democracy, you become the living proof that governments can deliver for the people that they represent, inspiring others to follow your lead,’ she reminded the region.
Her trip and its message of stronger together came as several Latin American and South American countries are weighing a boycott of President Joe Biden’s Summit of the America’s next month – a move that would greatly embarrass the administration.
Invites have gone out, the State Department has said, but has not revealed to whom.
Biden is pushing the summit as Latin American nations have felt neglected by his administration. The Biden team is also trying to counter growing Chinese influence in the region – Beijing is a major funder of infrastructure projects in the area – and trying to quell the growing tide of migrations.
Jill Biden personally touted the summit during her Ecuador speech.
‘In June, Joe and I are excited to invite leaders and their spouses to Los Angeles, California, for the Summit of the Americas. At the summit, our leaders have an ambitious agenda to come together on things like achieving an equitable and sustainable future, building health and pandemic resilience, and strengthening democratic government,’ she said.
The summit begins on June 6 in Los Angeles. The United States is hosting the summit for the first time since its start in 1994, when Bill Clinton hosted the very first summit in Miami.
The State Department said the first wave of invites were sent but there are more to come.
‘We are confident that there will be robust participation,’ State Department spokesman Ned Price said Friday.
Biden is considering inviting a Cuban representative, the Associated Press reported.
She was treated to a ballet performance and a Tae Kwon Do demonstration, watched a soccer game and musical performance and then observed a painting workshop
The first lady speaks to Costa Rican children on a soccer field in San Jose on the last day of her six-day trip through Latin America, trying to smooth relations
Jill Biden, meanwhile, did her part, spending six days in Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica to spread the message of the Biden administration’s support and friendship.
Ecuador rolled out the red carpet for her on Thursday as she met with the country’s president and first lady at the Carondelet Palace.
President Guillermo Lasso and First Lady María de Lourdes Alcívar de Lasso put out the bells and whistles – a military band played, soldiers in ceremonial blue and white uniforms guarded the doors, and roses – which are a major export of Ecuador – decorated the courtyard.
Biden struck up a fast friendship with her Ecuadorian counterpart, Alcivar de Lasso.
‘We are friends already,’ she said after coffee with her on Thursday.
‘We talked about everything. We talked about education, the pandemic, people, families, how important it is to support the families of our country. And so we’re friends already,’ she told reporters afterward.
Later she and her Ecuadorian counterpart headed to the Centro De Desarrollo Infantil San Francisco de Quito, a child development center. There the two first ladies will talk childhood nutrition, a priority of the First Lady of Ecuador.
On Friday, the two women toured a few historic churches in Ecuador.
Jill claps her hands as members of a dance troupe perform at the State Department-funded community center
Jill Biden emphasized the connection the Americas share and President Joe Biden’s committment to the region in a speech in Ecuador
First lady Jill Biden said she and Maria de Lourdes Alcivar de Lasso are friends already
First Lady Jill Biden and First Lady of Ecuador Maria de Lourdes Alcivar de Lasso play a game with the kids
First lady Jill Biden and the first lady of Ecuador Maria de Lourdes Alcivar de Lasso light candles at the Church of the Society of Jesus in Quito
Biden and Alcivar de Lasso each lit a candle by the alter although the first lady smiled and declined to answer when later asked who she lit her candle for.
And that friendship was on display their final day when the first lady of Ecuador showed up at the airport to hug and kiss Biden goodbye. Biden also received roses and a gift bag from Alcivar de Lasso.
They are an unlikely duo – Biden teaches English at a community college and her husband is a longtime Democrat.
Alcivar de Lasso is a socialite turned politician’s wife. And her husband tilts more toward the conservative end of the political spectrum. Alcivar de Lasso caused a controversy in November when she told women they were only victims ‘if we allow ourselves to be.’
In Panama, Jill Biden and Yazmin Colon de Cortizo pose with school kids; Biden pulled one boy on her lap
U.S. first lady Jill Biden, alongside Panama’s first lady Yazmin Colon de Cortizo, puts eyeglasses on a student during their school visit
In Panama, Biden had coffee with Yazmín Colón de Cortizo, the first lady of Panama. The two also visited a school that de Cortizo supports, where helped kids try on eyeglasses and their new hearing aides.
De Coritzo took charge in showing Biden around the school, showing her where to go, directing her in the classrooms and translating what was happening into English.
She helped administer visiton tests, pointing to letters and numbers on the eye chart for the kids to read out as Biden watched.
And Biden visited a shelter for HIV-positive individuals, many of whom face discrimination in Panama, a heavily Catholic country.
Biden announced more State Department funding for PEPFAR, an AIDS program.
‘The state department is making an announcement for increased funding for PEPFAR,’ she said. ‘There is hope on the horizon.’
She added: ‘I see this great community. I see how hard you’re all working and, maybe with the additional funding that we will be announcing today, I’m hoping that it makes a difference for you.’
The U.S. announced $80.9 million in new PEPFAR funding for the region, which includes $12.2 million for Panama, according to East Wing spokesperson Michael LaRosa.
In Costa Rica on Saturday, Biden dined with the country’s new president Rodrigo Chaves.
Chaves was accused of sexually harassing two women when he worked at the World Bank ahead of his entry into politics. He denied the charges.
But a four-year investigation by the World Bank, released when Chaves was a candidate for president, found it failed to protect two young employees who filed sexual-harassment from him when he was a high-ranking bank official.
The probe found then-Bank President David Malpass and others didn’t adequately sanction Chaves, who was demoted but not fired over the allegations. The bank apologized to the two women.
Between 2009 and 2013, Chaves made unwelcome sexual advances and insinuations, according to the findings.
Chaves left the World Bank in 2019 to become Costa Rica’s minister of finance under then-President Carlos Alvarado Quesada.
He has been president of Costa Rica about 20 days, after winning a run off election to lead the country.
He and first lady Signe Zeicate, whom he married in 2015 after he and his first wife divorced in 1996, traveled to the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in San Jose to have dinner with Biden and U.S. Ambassador Cynthia Telles.
‘Madame First Lady. What a great pleasure and honor,’ he told Jill Biden upon meeting her.
He asked what he should call Biden and she said: ‘Jill.’
For the photo call, Chaves stood between his wife and Biden, in the doorway of the residence.
‘I’m a very lucky man,’ he said.
He told reporters that, at dinner, they would talk about the ‘more than 150 years of diplomatic relationships, how to bring our countries closer together. … And to welcome our very precious guest.’
Biden also held an event with women business leaders at the ambassador’s residence ahead of her dinner with Chaves.
Costa Rican first lady Signe Zeicate, left, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves Robles, center, and first lady Jill Biden pose for a photo at the U.S. Chief of Mission Residence
Jill Biden receives a brooch from one of the woman business owners
‘No country can defeat cancer alone. It takes all of us working tougher,’ Jill Biden said
U.S. first lady Jill Biden and Costa Rican first lady Signe Zeicate at the National Children’s Hospital
Costa Rican first lady Signe Zeicate and Jill Biden flank the new mural; Biden stands next to the artist who created it
On Sunday, Biden followed in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy and visited the National Children’s Hospital of Costa Rica, where she celebrated a new partnership to help defeat childhood cancer.
Kennedy was the first U.S. president to visit Costa Rica, which he did so in 1963, and wrote a personal check to purchase equipment for the hospital.
Biden was at the hospital to highlight the new U.S.-Costa Rican collaboration.
‘No country can defeat cancer alone. It takes all of us working tougher,’ she said.
‘President Kennedy once said children are our most valuable resource …. And he was right. We have an obligation to care for our children,’ she added.
She was celebrating a partnership between Costa Rica’s public health authority and the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which will help Costa Rican children access a lifesaving cancer treatment.
Cancer is a personal interest to Biden, whose son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015. After Joe and Jill Biden left the vice presidency, they established the Cancer Moonshot to help combat the disease.
The cause remains close to both of them.
Biden was joined on the visit by Costa Rican first lady Signe Zeicate and US Ambassador to Costa Rica Cynthia Telles, whose father was US Ambassador to Costa Rica during JFK’s visit.
‘It’s important to note that the first lady’s visit to Costa Rica was the catalyst for finalizing the agreement,’ said Ambassador Telles, who noted her mother helped raised money for the hospital when her dad was ambassador.
Telles noted both Bidens were ‘committed to finding a cure for cancer even before the launch of the Cancer Moonshot in 2016.’
Biden also unveiled a mural being donated to the hospital by the government of the United States to symbolize the relationship between the two countries.
‘There are many references to that relationship across it,’ Telles said.
‘Oh my goodness,’ Biden said when she saw it. ‘It’s so nice.’
It’s very colorful and shows people sharing food and drink along with animals – like toucans and sloths – that are native of Costa Rica.