Spanish, Force Speaks. English Not.
Last Monday, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (CELAC) met for its second summit in Santiago, Chile, one year after its founding meeting in Caracas, Venezuela in 2011. The Summit is the culmination of roughly a decade of efforts to create a viable mechanism for greater integration in the Americas, and particularly a year of planning by a “troika” of representatives from, believe it or not, Chile, Venezuela and Cuba. They were able to pull it off successfully, despite their obvious differences, and all 33 presidents or heads of state from the region attended, with the exception of Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, who sent a letter with his Vice-President Nicolás Maduro.
CELAC explicitly excludes the US and Canada, a historic first for a hemispheric organization with huge symbolic importance, because it answers a long-standing dream for unity of the subcontinent that harks back to Simón Bolívar and the struggles for independence from the European colonial powers. Beyond the symbolism, however, it is strategically crucial: It means that there is now a subcontinent bloc of developing nations that can speak with one voice,, and also serve as a counterweight to US political and economic hegemony.
In the days preceding the Summit, the group also held another summit, its first one with the European Union. Germany’s Angela Merkel, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy and more than two dozen other heads of state or foreign ministers from the Continent were present, along with top leaders of the European Commission. The meeting focused on collaboration in trade and mutual investment, which is no surprise. The EU is the biggest foreign investor in the area, and it is very interested in attracting investors from the region. This meeting with the EU is no fluke. According to the EU’s webpage: From now on, CELAC will be “the EU’s counterpart for the bi-regional partnership process, including at summit level.” This is no trivial bureaucratic change.
The independent character of CELAC is best illustrated through some of the otherwise routine details of the event. The rotating one-year presidency of the organization was passed from the conservative President of Chile Sebastián Piñera to the President of Cuba, Raúl Castro, who will hold the reins on behalf of the organization until the next summit in Havana next year, supported by a new “troika” that will include Chile, Costa Rica–the next president–as well as Haiti as a representative of Caricom, the regional organization of the Caribbean island nations! No wonder that, according to the AP, Argentine President Cristina Fernández remarked that “Cuba’s assumption of the presidency of the CELAC marks a change of times.” And if anyone doubts that CELAC confirms the successful reintegration of Cuba into hemispheric organizations, note that one of the few unanimous declarations from both summits was a call for an end to the US embargo against Cuba.
The organization also is born and gains strength, while, “most governments are not taking the OAS seriously,” and in a letter to the State Department last November, Senators Kerry, Menendez, Lugar and Rubio write that the OAS “is sliding into and administrative and financial paralysis,” that threatens to condemn it to “irrelevance.”
Havana, Jan 25 (Prensa Latina) President Raul Castro presides over the Cuban delegation to the First Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), to be held on January 27 and 28 in Santiago de Chile. At the meeting, Cuba will receive the rotating presidency of the organization for 2013. On Saturday, Jan. 26th, the first CELAC-European Union (EU) Summit will also begin in Santiago de Cuba. The Cuban delegation is comprised of Miguel Diaz-Canel, Vice President of the Council of Ministers, and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla.
Phi Beta Iota: The US Departments of State and Defense have been out of touch with reality for quite some time, using money and force to create their own reality, but sadly, absent intelligence with integrity, their own reality has caught up with them. Transaprency, truth, and trust — legitimacy, sustainability, and integrity — have a timeless value that the USA has lost in the eyes of most. The demise of the OAS (an excellent building at which to base the Open Source Agency (OSA), and the rise of CELAC, are an opportunity. The US should fund the OSA and through the OSA, jointly fund the regional information-sharing and sense-making networks — the objective should be to assure US access to all relevant information, while respecting the autonomy of regional decision-making.