CELAC criticizes United States and Britain
The Americas Post - The new club is open but the US and Canada are not invited.
A newly formed Latin American and Caribbean organization has issued statements in support of Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the British-ruled Falkland Islands and against U.S. sanctions on Cuba at the end of its first two-day summit.
However, the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, declined to engage in stronger anti-Western rhetoric as some had feared at a meeting hosted by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Instead, its 22 final declarations spoke in general terms of the need to combat global ills like price speculation, drugs, terrorism, nuclear arms and cruelty to migrants.
“I don’t think we’re exaggerating if we call it a historic day,” said Chavez, 57. “United in our differences, we must demand respect,” he told the assembly. “No more interference; we’ve had enough.”
For Chavez the summit achieved two goals: setting up a regional body without the United States, and allowing him to showcase his recovery from cancer treatment. He and other left-wing leaders like Raul Castro of Cuba, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador say the hemisphere-wide Organization of American States (OAS) is a tool of Washington.
Conservative-led nations like Colombia, Chile and Mexico were able to keep CELAC from appearing overly radical however, with relatively mild final declarations and next year’s meeting set for Santiago, Chile. And the communiques over the Falklands – or Malvinas islands as they are known in Argentina – and the U.S. embargo on Cuba were already standard positions within the region.
The final declaration backed Argentina’s “legitimate rights” and urged Britain to resume negotiations.
“The Argentine government has shown a permanently constructive attitude and willingness to reach, via negotiations, a peaceful and definitive solution to this anachronistic, colonial situation on American soil”, it stated.
On Cuba, CELAC, whose countries total almost 600 million in population and about $6 trillion in GDP, urged Washington to respect U.N. votes and lift trade sanctions in place for decades against the communist government.
Chavez, who survived cancer surgery in June, presided over lengthy sessions and speeches, frequently intervening to add his own anecdotes and opinions.
He plans to run for re-election in 2012, and his opponents used the summit to mount some protests in an attempt to embarrass him in front of his Latin American counterparts. Activists beat pots and pans around the city on Saturday night in a traditional “cacerolazo” demonstration. Some banners were also briefly unfurled over roads saying “Welcome to Crime City” – before police removed them.