CELAC summit in Cuba reflects region’s altered power dynamics

The II Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) opened in Cuba on January 28, 2014, birthday of Cuban national hero and Latin American integrationist Jose Marti. The 33 heads of states on hand represented all Western Hemisphere nations south of the Rio Grande River, the region Marti called "Our America."

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, attended as guests. The OAS, loyal to U.S. dictates, ejected revolutionary Cuba from its membership in 1963. By serving as CELAC president pro tem during 2013 and hosting this summit, Cuba made clear its return to the community of nations.

Cuban President Raul Castro opened the Summit and indirectly took note of OAS' altered status in the region: "Step by step we are creating a [CELAC] that is currently recognized in the world as the legitimate representative of the interests of Latin America and the Caribbean." CELAC has a "heritage of 2000 years of struggle for independence." Its "ultimate goal" is "development of a spirit of greater unity amid diversity."

Castro called for "creation of a common political space ... where we can exploit our resources in a sovereign way and for our common well being and utilize our scientific and technical knowledge in the interest of the progress of our peoples; where we can assert undeniable principles such as self-determination, sovereignty and sovereign equality of states."

Observing that Latin America and the Caribbean is the "is the most unequal region in the planet," he lamented that an overall 28.2 percent poverty rate co-exists with the "10 per cent richest in Latin American receiving 32 per cent of the total income." He detailed children's lack of schooling and health care. Castro highlighted the region's abundance of natural resources, fertile land, and water, pointing out that "all that wealth should become the driving force to eradicate inequalities."

Castro had asked for a minute of silence in honor of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who convened the founding CELAC congress in Caracas in 2011. Chile hosted the first summit in early 2013 after a term as president pro tem. Costa Rica becomes CELAC president following this summit. Responsibility for ongoing CELAC affairs rests with a committee comprising the past, current, and upcoming CELAC presidents and a Caribbean-area president. Foreign ministers and their staffs perform administration.

At its conclusion on January 29, the CELAC Summit declared the region a "zone of peace" subject to international law and principles of the United Nations Charter. Member states vowed to "banish forever the use of force and to seek a peaceful solution to controversies," also "to respect the inalienable right of each state to choose its economic, political, social and cultural system." Interference in the internal affairs of another country is off limits, as are nuclear weapons.

The Summit issued a far-reaching, 83-point "Declaration of Havana." The document reviews purposes and precedents and ratifies measures supporting the sovereignty of states, food sovereignty, sustainable and coordinated regional development, and protection of civil society and private institutions. It calls for solutions to climate change, poverty and hunger, drug addiction, and flawed United Nations governance. CELAC backs Haiti reconstruction, Puerto Rican independence, streamlined foreign investment systems, and Great Britain's return of the Malvinas Islands to Argentina, The organization seeks rights for indigenous people and migrants and demands that the U. S. economic blockade of Cuba stop.

The U.S. government, on the outside, was not entirely silent. Diplomat Conrad Tribble tweeted from the U. S. Interests section in Havana asking, "Is any journalist here for CelacCuba going to look for independent voices on Cuba's reality? It would be worth the trouble."

The Continental Forum for Promotion of Democracy, a "counter summit," took place at Florida International University on January 25. Cuban exiles in the United States and opposition politicians and publicists from Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua attended. Journalist Jean-Guy Allard claims the group organizing the event, the Buenos Aires - based Center for Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL), has CIA ties and is financed by the International Republican Institute. CADAL staged a summit-related forum in Havana on January 28 joined by leaders of domestic opposition groups.

Editorializing, Mexico's La Jornada news service judged that "CELAC's success in pulling off its summit shows, essentially, a political - diplomatic turnover in the continent...But governments have to work to consolidate this new deliberative political body for Latin America and the Caribbean and strengthen and maintain it, despite natural disagreements cropping up between governments and predictable attempts by U. S. diplomacy to distort this forum."

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  • Following in the footsteps of Communists, including many non-Communists of progressive humanity, like the famed Lucius Walker, the Christian giant and opponent of anti-communism and anti-Cuban activity, there is much education and social/political work to do.
    So much credit is due writers and activists like W.T. Whitney Jr., and commenters like Richard Grassl.
    Indeed, organizers have to become active in inter-faith
    and other organizations to continue Rev. Walker's calling.
    The great Marti saw the need for unity of peoples both north and south of the Rio Grande.
    There is a reason why the mightiest force of Jesus, along with all of good will, have started this unity in the south.
    Unity of Jesus's poor and His promise of abundance of life, for all people, has to be supported by all on the planet for our planet and life on it, to survive and thrive.
    This includes rich and poor. The rich do not have a choice-neither the poor. It is peace, progress, economic and social justice, or death to all human life, and its supporting life forms, on land, sea, and in the air.
    Communities, in their organizations have to fight for and achieve this unity of purpose, or die.
    Individuals, also, have to support this effort, or die.
    They have no choice.
    We have none.
    The time is now.
    CELAC has convened and adjourned to call for peace and mutual international progress in this meet.
    We must respond in every possible peaceful, human way, without use of force, as M L K demanded in his 1964 Nobel speech, for, "I still believe that we shall overcome.
    This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born."
    CELAC's new world and civilization shall be born.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 02/10/2014 6:09pm (2 years ago)

  • Thanks to W.T. Whitney for providing details about recent developments at the CELAC summit.
    On June 15-18, 1998, Cuban State Security supplied an FBI delegation with extensive documentation, memos, transcripts of telephone calls etc. about violent activity directed against Cuban territory. Instead of a measured response, US government officials arrested 5 Cubans who were framed for exposing terrorist groups in Florida. Sadly, Cuban overtures concerning cooperation and diplomacy with the US were derailed once again.
    Does it not seem a more sensible political course for the US Department of State to remove Cuba from a spurious list of nations that support terrorism and reverse decades of intervention and interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign, independent country that has never been a threat to the US?

    Posted by Richard Grassl, 02/08/2014 7:50pm (2 years ago)

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