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Blinken to highlight democracy on Latin America trip

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Colombia and Ecuador next week as he seeks to showcase democracy in Latin America, the State Department said Friday.

Colombia earlier announced Blinken’s visit taking place next Wednesday and Thursday, which comes despite recent reports at the US embassy in Bogota of the mysterious “Havana Syndrome” that has caused headaches and occasionally brain damage at US posts around the world.

The State Department said that Blinken will begin the trip on October 19 in Quito where he will meet President Guillermo Lasso and deliver a speech on “the challenges facing democracies in the region.”

Blinken plans to discuss democratic governance both with Lasso and Colombian President Ivan Duque as well as trade and counternarcotics cooperation, a State Department statement said.

Colombia is a longstanding US ally, while Lasso won a surprise victory this year as Ecuador’s first right-wing president in 14 years.

The push to highlight democracy comes as Ecuador’s legislature investigates Lasso over the Pandora Papers investigation which found that he used to control 14 offshore companies.

The former banker closed them under a law prohibiting presidential candidates from keeping companies in tax havens and has defended his investments as legitimate business ventures.

President Joe Biden has vowed to align himself with democratic leaders after his predecessor Donald Trump’s courting of autocrats.

Biden also highlighted democracy Thursday when he welcomed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta — another leader named in the Pandora Papers probe.

It will be Blinken’s third visit to Latin America since the Biden administration took office in January after stops in Mexico and Costa Rica.

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