Leaders at Ibero-American summit discuss Haiti, vow cooperation on environment

Honduras President Xiomara Castro attends at the XXVIII Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, March 25, 2023. Dominican Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via REUTERS

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) -Leaders attending the Ibero-American Summit meeting in the Dominican Republic on Saturday discussed the need to address Haiti's deepening humanitarian crisis while vowing to cooperate on environmental issues.

"From what various presidents have said, the issue of Haiti has become an extraordinarily important issue for the Ibero-American community," summit leader Andres Allamand told reporters.

The Caribbean state faces a worsening crisis driven by gangs that rights groups say now control most of the country.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro said he was considering going to Haiti to assess the most "constructive" role for Colombia there.

The leaders also pledged to address issues like the loss of biodiversity, pollution, soil degradation, and scarcity of water resources. They also said they would fortify regional cooperation on information security.

The meeting of presidents and representatives from 22 countries comes as the region is grappling with stubbornly high inflation and global concerns about the financial sector after the failure of U.S. regional banks Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank this month.

"At this point in time, with so much (of the financial sector) concentrated, with so much speculative play, we should already understand that the current financial system doesn't need anymore help. We must drastically change it," said Argentina President Alberto Fernandez.

Leaders also called for regional collaboration on migration as thousands of people flee Latin American countries for the U.S. border due to economic hardship, rising violence and other challenges.

"Today migration management constitutes one of the great regional challenges," said Chilean President Gabriel Boric. "There is no infallible recipe and any solution requires working together with countries of origin, transit and destination."

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro did not attend after testing positive for COVID-19, though he has since tested negative twice, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said.

The summit would have marked Maduro's first foreign trip this year.

(Reporting by Paul Mathiasen and Jesus Frias in Santo Domingo and Marco Aquino in Lima; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Deepa Babington and Edwina Gibbs)

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