By excluding U.S. and Canadian participation, a bloc of Latin American and Caribbean nations maintain autonomy in their decision-making processes toward finding solutions to issues plaguing the continent — particularly U.S. intervention.
The presidents take part in the working session at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in San Antonio de Belen, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015.
BELEN, Costa Rica — The 3rd summit of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) was characterized by a sharp message to the United States: Stop attempting to infiltrate in the region.
Held in Jan. 28 and 29 in Belen, Costa Rica, the 33 member states forming CELAC approved the “Political Declaration of Belen” which, among other things, rejects U.S. intervention in the continent, the Cuban embargo and recent sanctions imposed upon Venezuela.
According to Venezuelan Analysis, the “Political Declaration of Belen” states, “We reiterate our most profound rejection of the implementation of all coercive and unilateral measures and once more call on the U.S. to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade which it has imposed on its sister nation for over five decades.”
The declaration affirms CELAC’s responsibilities in areas such as sustainable development and equality, global development, climate change and global warming, as well as making contributions to peace in order to boost sustainable development, strengthening ties with other organizations, and cooperating to achieve the outlined aims.
CELAC host and President of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solís insisted upon expanding the organization by establishing ties with other countries and entities, such as China, the African Union, the European Union and BRICS – the bloc made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa that is challenging established policies at a regional and international level by providing an alternative to existing institutions, as outlined in the BRICS Declaration.
Unlike the Organization of American States (OAS), which was founded in 1948, CELAC has Cuba as a full member and does not invite U.S. or Canadian participation. By reserving the group’s decision-making to Latin America and the Caribbean, the organization retains its autonomy from imperialist dictates. Yet its effectiveness will be impacted by allegiances to the U.S. among several countries, such as Colombia — a country Colin Powell once described as in line with the American notion of human rights.
The regional bloc was created upon an initiative of the late Hugo Chavez. It emphasizes the importance of regional integration, particularly to counter U.S. influence in the region. In the opening ceremony on Dec. 2, 2011, Chavez emphasized the exclusion of the U.S., describing it as a tribute to his idol, Simón Bolívar. Echoing Chavez, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega stated, “We are sentencing the Monroe Doctrine to death.”
Standing beside Cuba
The timing of the latest CELAC summit is of particular importance, as the U.S. is pursuing the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba following the negotiated prisoner swap in December. In his remarks at the summit, Cuban President Raúl Castro insisted that a failure to lift the Cuban embargo would not improve relations between the two countries.
“The fundamental problem has not been resolved. The economic, commercial and financial blockade must end in order to truly restore diplomatic relations,” Castro said.
This point was reiterated by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who insisted that the “coercive measure, unjustified under international law” is detrimental to the Cuban people and Cuban development. In his comments, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced the embargo as “a criminal persecution against Cuba.”
Castro also denounced the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, stating that they constituted “external intervention in the domestic affairs of Venezuela.”
The concept of U.S. intervention was highlighted by Maduro, who addressed the summit by combining a historical and current approach to resisting imperialism in the region. Unity in the region was discussed through the lens of the revolutionary ideals of Simón Bolívar – a concept which, according to Maduro, should transcend political and ideological differences.
“Beyond ideological borders and the politics that separate us, there is a diverse America…(the strength of CELAC) is to have achieved unity in diversity, based on respect, solidarity and helping each other in the joint construction of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Maduro.
He also asserted that the consolidation of CELAC marks “a new time and a new geopolitical scenario of the history of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Meanwhile, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa spoke about the importance of decolonization and CELAC’s role in resolving conflicts or issues that could affect the region.
Decolonization is also mentioned in the Declaration of Belen, which takes into account the British colonial occupation of the Falkland Islands — a struggle which Argentina has dealt with since 1833, when the islands came under British administration. Following the Falklands War in 1982, the islands have been a source of dispute between Britain and Argentina.
More broadly, however, the decolonization struggle is an issue that practically every country in Latin America has faced, either through direct or indirect U.S. intervention, since the early 19th century. A look at Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and Argentina’s Juan de Dios Videla — all supported by the U.S. — massacred and disappeared their opponents while providing the U.S. with the necessary space through which to navigate further intervention. While U.S. intervention in the region is most often discussed through the backing of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, other recent attempts that constitute ongoing violence are the attempted coup against late Venezuelan President Chavez in 2002, which has now been reflected in efforts to oust his successor, Maduro.
Also significant in Correa’s address was the highlighting of similarities between Chile and Venezuela with regard to U.S. economic sabotage. The 1973 military coup which destroyed Salvador Allende’s socialist presidency was preceded by various tactics that caused the Chilean economy to suffer setbacks — a tactic used to provoke discontent among citizens. And this tactic is visible again now in Venezuela.
On Tuesday, Maduro proposed a joint initiative between the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and CELAC that would combat imperialist attacks against Venezuela and the region. Again, the similarities with Pinochet’s Chile were evoked. Maduro reiterated his December assertions that the U.S. is conspiring to bring down Venezuela’s socialist government through destabilization, both within the country and internationally. Maduro recently visited the Middle East, China, Iran and Russia in an attempt to convince OPEC to cut oil production in order to stabilize oil prices.
U.S. intervention against Venezuela, in particular the passage of the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, is another exercise in eliminating accountability for the violence, sabotage and destruction committed by the Venezuelan opposition in the country. Signed by President Obama on Dec. 18, it quotes Human Rights Watch in an an attempt to justify the external oppression. According to HRW, both Chavez and Maduro manipulated their accumulation of power to “intimidate, censor and prosecute its critics.”
Ecuadorean media has reported that foreign ministers from the CELAC bloc will reunite in two months’ time with the aim of implementing mechanisms and programs relating to issues such as education, technology, as well as the reduction of poverty and inequality – topics proposed by Ecuador and Costa Rica.