Agence France-Presse & Timur Zolotoev / Global Research – 2014-01-31 02:18:15
(January 29, 2014) — Regional leaders declared a “zone of peace” in Latin America and the Caribbean Wednesday at a summit in Havana that also showcased Cuba’s emergence from international isolation.
“I solemnly proclaim Latin America and the Caribbean as a ‘zone of peace,'” Cuban President Raul Castro told representatives of 33 countries, not including the United States and Canada, which were not invited.
As part of the proclamation, the region’s leaders pledged not to resort to force for the resolution of conflicts among them. Although largely spared wars over the past century, border disputes abound in the region and many countries have suffered civil wars and bloody insurgencies fueled by Cold War rivalries.
Among the heads of state and government attending the summit were the presidents of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, and Peru’s Ollanta Humala, whose countries this week received a World Court ruling on a longstanding maritime boundary dispute.
They were expected to meet on the sidelines of the summit for the first time since the ruling in the Hague.
The two-day summit was to close Wednesday with a “declaration of Havana” affirming the region’s “unity within diversity.”
“The creation of a common political space is of primordial importance to advance our objective of peace and respect among nations, in order to overcome natural barriers and those imposed on us,” said Castro.
Cuba’s communist regime received numerous expressions of solidarity during the summit and the final communique was expected to condemn the more than 50-year-old US trade embargo on the island.
Among those in attendance were the secretary general of the Organization of American States, a Washington-based regional security group that expelled Cuba in 1962 but reinstated it in 2009. Also taking part was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Castro has taken strides to open Cuba’s Soviet-style state-controlled economy, but the regime brooks no political opposition.
Cuban rights groups reported more than 100 dissidents were taken in for questioning to prevent their meeting during the summit.
Unlike previous international gatherings in Havana, none of the presidents attending the summit sought to meet with dissidents, although the Costa Rican embassy received a visit from a delegation led by a prominent dissident, Elizardo Sanchez.
Ban on Tuesday said he raised the problem of “arbitrary arrests” with Castro.
Cuba also used the summit to pay homage to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who was a driving force behind the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States. Castro is to turn over the rotating presidency of the group to Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.
(December 4, 2011) — Thirty-three Latin American leaders have come together and formed a new regional bloc, pledging closer economic and political ties. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) pointedly excludes the US and Canada.
On the second day of a summit in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, all Latin American leaders, both right and left, officially signed into effect the formation of the CELAC bloc. The foundation of the bloc has been praised as the realization of the two-centuries-old idea of Latin American “independence” envisioned by Simon Bolivar.
Analysts view CELAC as an alternative to the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) and as an attempt by Latin American countries to reduce US influence in the region.
“As the years go by, CELAC is going to leave behind the old and worn-out OAS,” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said at the inauguration of the bloc on Friday.
“It’s the death sentence for the Monroe Doctrine,” said Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega said.
However Washington does not see CELAC as a replacement to OAS. US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said the US will continue “to work through the OAS as the pre-eminent multilateral organization, speaking for the hemisphere.”
Political analyst Omar Jose Hassan Farinas told RT’s Spanish channel the US views CELAC as a potential threat to its hegemony in the region.
Chavez also read out statement opposing the US trade embargo on Cuba. Havana, which is not a member of the OAS, has joined the new regional bloc.
“No more interference. Enough is enough! We have to take shape as a center of the world power and demand respect for all of us as community and for each one of our countries,” Venezuelan leader said.
The 33 leaders pledged to withstand the financial crisis that has struck Europe and other developed countries.
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff stressed that the Latin American countries would need to rely more on their neighbors amid the global economic turmoil.
“The economic, financial crisis should be at the center of our concerns,” Rousseff said Friday night. She said Latin America should “realize that to guarantee its current cycle of development despite the international economic turbulence, it means that every politician must be aware that each one needs the others.”
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who assumed the initial rotating presidency at CELAC, expressed hopes that the bloc would help build regional cooperation despite the differences between some of the 33 member states.
The leaders also discussed cooperation in the field of drug trafficking and climate change.
CELAC should be a “political union to build a large power center of the 21st century,” the Venezuelan president said, stressing strong regional growth as many countries in the region develop closer ties with Asia or Europe and reduce their traditional reliance on the US.
The formation of CELAC was warmly welcomed by rising global power, China. Chavez read aloud a letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao congratulating the leaders on forming the new bloc.
Hu pledged to deepen cooperation with the CELAC and underlined that in the 21st century the relations between China and Latin America have seen all-round and fast development with expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation, according to Xinhua news agency.
The countries of CELAC have a combined population of nearly 600 million people, and a combined GDP of about $6 trillion — about a third of the combined output of the US and Canada.
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