BAVARO, Dominican Republic (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration policies dominated talk on Wednesday at a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders who vowed to defend the rights of migrant communities.
The leaders veered off script after Trump signed executive actions calling for construction of a border wall and stripping support for so-called sanctuary cities. Many of the leaders also warily anticipated his support for protectionist measures.
"It's worrisome that his intentions put our commercial, employment, migration and environmental interests at risk," said Cuban President Raul Castro, whose country is continuing to normalize relations with the United States.
He was among several leaders attending a summit in the Dominican Republic organized by the 33-nation grouping of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that took place days after Trump took office. The group's new leader, El Salvador President Salvador Sanchez, said his country would take action to confront changes that were occurring on a global scale.
Leaders pledged to reject the criminalization of immigration and defend the rights of migrants. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa called upon everyone to "assume a clear position in defense of migrants, not only from Latin America and the Caribbean, but the entire world."
Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said that during the group's first meeting, which was held behind closed doors, an attitude opposing protectionism and closed borders prevailed.
"Latin America and the Caribbean have taken a stand in favor of the integration, in favor of the opening, in favor of the preservation of the advances that have been made in the matter of free trade," he said.
Munoz, however, said that there would be no discussion of Trump's withdrawal on Monday from the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it only affects three countries in the region: Chile, Peru and Mexico.
The presidents of Chile, Mexico and Colombia announced at the last minute that they would not be attending the summit, which only drew 10 presidents and two prime ministers.