Jill Biden Heads to Latin America Before Hemispheric Summit

First lady Jill Biden attends a reception with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 16, 2022. The White House says Jill Biden will visit Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica this week as the United States finalizes plans for a hemisphere-wide summit to be held in Los Angeles in June. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Jill Biden will visit Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama this week to help lay the groundwork as the United States finalizes arrangements for a hemisphere-wide summit being held in Los Angeles in June, the White House announced Tuesday.

The first lady departs Wednesday on her second solo trip abroad this month.

She spent Mother’s Day weekend in Eastern Europe executing a high-profile show of U.S. support for Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children who fled to neighboring Romania and Slovakia to escape Russia’s war against their country. Biden also made an unannounced trip into western Ukraine for a surprise meeting with first lady Olena Zelenska.

Biden’s trip through Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama is meant to serve as a warmup of sorts for a gathering of leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean being held June 6-10 in Los Angeles. The weeklong Summit of the Americas is a key part of President Joe Biden’s outreach to a region that increasingly is being courted by U.S. adversaries, such as China and Russia.

Throughout the trip, Jill Biden will highlight U.S. support for programs that help children, women and young people across the countries on her itinerary, according to her schedule.

In Quito, Ecuador, on Thursday, the first lady will meet with President Guillermo Lasso and first lady María de Lourdes Alcívar de Lasso at the Carondelet Palace. The first ladies will visit a child development center to learn about government efforts to improve childhood nutrition.

Biden will also visit an elementary school that hosts a U.S.-backed accelerated learning program that helps Ecuadorian, Venezuelan and Colombian dropouts return to school.

In Panama City, Panama, on Friday, Biden will visit the Presidential Palace to sit down with first lady Yazmin Colón de Cortizo. They will also tour a school to learn about Cortizo’s “See and Hear to Learn” program, which offers students eye and hearing exams, and eyeglasses and hearing aids.

On Saturday, Biden and Cortizo will tour The Good Samaritan Home to visit with residents with HIV/AIDS. The people at the shelter benefit from HIV/AIDS relief programs funded through a U.S. program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the White House said.

Later Saturday, in San Jose, Costa Rica, Biden will address women who participated in U.S. State Department programs designed to help them become entrepreneurs. Her schedule Saturday also includes a meeting with President Rodrigo Chaves and first lady Signe Zeikate.

On Sunday, Biden will highlight joint work by the U.S. and Costa Rica to combat cancer when she tours the National Children’s Hospital of Costa Rica.

On Monday, Biden will visit a community center supported through the Sembremos Seguridad, or “Planting the Seeds of Security” program, which is led by the Costa Rican government with an assist from the U.S. State Department. Local governments, non-governmental organizations and law enforcement work to provide safe spaces and healthy outlets for Costa Rican youth.

She returns to Washington on Monday night.

President Biden was also leaving Washington on Thursday for his first official visit to Asia as president. He has scheduled stops in Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo through May 24.

– Darlene Superville, AP News

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