Cuban president denounces US interference at Celac Summit | Prensa Latina, 01.24.23
The 7th Summit Meeting of the Community of Latin and America States (CELAC) took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina on January 23. In their Declaration, representatives of 33 member nations, including 14 presidents, paid homage to integration, unity, and “political economic, social, and cultural diversity among member states.” They agreed “by consensus” to an all-embracing set of proposals and statements, 100 in all, and to 11 “special statements” on the situations of particular countries.
As is usual, host-country president Alberto Fernández made arrangements and set the agenda. The one-day meeting included closed- door discussions and brief presentations by representatives of the various country.
Participants at CELAC’s founding meeting in Caracas in 2013 declared the region to be a “zone of peace.” CELAC, it was hoped, would be promoting regional cooperation on social and economic development, agreement on common political goals, and progress toward integration and unity.
Preparations had begun in 2010 after U.S. interventions in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, and other countries had intensified. CELAC would differ from Organization of American States (OAS), the regional organization serving U.S. interests since 1948. The United States and Canada are not members of CELAC.
A gap separated the fifth CELAC Summit in 2017, in the Dominican Republic, from the sixth one, on September 16-18, 2021 in Mexico City. Instability in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil was a likely factor. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), presiding over CELAC VI, spoke of CELAC as the regional equivalent of the European Union. There was speculation about CELAC replacing the OAS.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” Da Silva’s arrival at CELAC VII generated excitement. Brazil had rejoined CELEC after being removed by Former President Jair Bolsonaro in 2020. Lula supports closer ties of both CELAC and the Mercosur economic organization with the European Union.
In Buenos Aires, rightwing demonstrators from Argentina and elsewhere were noisily protesting against CELAC. They objected to the presence of leftist countries like Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. To avoid confrontation, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua stayed away. AMLO also did not attend, claiming he was busy.
Crisis in Peru provoked divisions. The Declaration was silent on the coup there and on repression of popular resistance. Colombian president Gustavo Petro, President Xiomara Castro of Honduras, and AMLO, in a video presentation, called for deposed President Pedro Castillo’s release from prison. Presidents Fernández of Argentina and Boric of Chile said nothing on that score.
CELAC did not respond to Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s requests for member states to “participate in a specialized multinational force requested by Haiti” to deal with gang warfare.
President Fernández, surprisingly, had invited U.S. President Biden, who sent former Senator Chris Dodd in his stead. Dodd spoke at the plenary session, as did European Council President Charles Michel. President Droupadi Murmu of India participated virtually. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message of solidarity.
The Summit Declaration says little about implementing proposals and realization of earlier plans. It refers to expected actions by United Nations agencies and by regional organizations with special experience and expertise.
The only CELAC actions mentioned are recent meetings of ministers of CELAC countries with international agencies dealing with healthcare and food-supply issues. The only CELAC initiatives underway soon are meetings of CELAC representatives with officials of the European Union, China, the African Union, and the ASEAN nations.
The website celacinternational.org mentions far-reaching plans as of 2013 for transportation, healthcare, and hunger-alleviation projects. A subsequent lack of follow-up information and references to other projects suggests flawed implementation.
Speaking at the Summit, Colombian President Gustavo Petro called for “building integration through concrete projects” and for action on the climate crisis, revitalizing the Amazonian forests particularly. He denounced “U.S. deficiencies in moving toward a carbon-free economy.”
President Miguel Díaz-Canel of Cuba reminded his listeners of U.S. “efforts to divide us, stigmatize us and subordinate us to its interests.” The United States is isolated, he suggested, in its “strategy of hegemony and domination.” And Cuba’s inclusion on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism greatly impedes “our aspirations for development.
On video, President Maduro of Venezuela called upon CELAC to demand that the United States no longer intervene in the affairs of “free and sovereign nations” and “No more coup-plotting, no more sanctions against sovereign nations.”
Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle, dissenting, charged that, “there are clearly countries here … that do not respect institutions, democracy or human rights.” He has drawn criticism for his push for a regional free trade zone and a Uruguayan -Chinese trade agreement.
Speaking for El Salvador, Vice President Félix Ulloa urged CELAC to take on an executive secretary to preserve the alliance’s “institutional memory.”
A CELAC “social summit” took place in Buenos Aires on the day prior to CELAC VII. Present were Argentinian trade unionists and leftist political parties and political leaders and activists from many countries. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales headed a panel of speakers.
Participants demonstrated outside the actual Summit against the rightwing protesters and “in support of our anti-imperialist presidents.” Returning later, they demanded support for Peruvians’ resistance and called for non-recognition of the coup government.
U.S. imperialism remained the perennial CELAC theme. Asked about U.S. designs on the region’s natural resources, Bolivian President Luis Arce was forthright: “[T]hese are our natural resources … We are not going to accept any imposition by anybody nor let anyone regard our natural resources as if it were theirs.”
General Laura Richardson’s remarks before the Atlantic Council on January 19 had prompted the question. She is head of the U.S. Southern Command.
The next CELAC summit meeting will occur in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, population 104,000 and the first Anglophone site for a CELAC meeting. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves will be presiding.
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.