CELAC: Latin American and Caribbean leaders reaffirm commitment to regional integration

January 27, 2023
Miguel Diaz Canel and Lula Da Silva at CELAC 2023
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Brazilian President Luiz Inacia 'Lula' Da Silva at the CELAC Summit. Photo: @DiazCanelB/Twitter

Latin American and Caribbean leaders reaffirmed their commitment to advance in regional integration and unity at the 7th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The summit was held in Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, on January 24.

During the summit, the leaders discussed common issues and how to overcome them through joint regional strategies such as consolidation of peace and democracy in the region, reduction of hunger and poverty, improvement of public health and education systems, advancement of sustainable development in the face of climate change and the strengthening of human rights, among others.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández, who held the pro tempore presidency of the regional bloc and inaugurated the summit, called for strengthening “institutionality and democracy in the face of a recalcitrant and fascist right”.

Fernández also called for the unity of CELAC to raise its voice against the criminal and inhumane US blockades on Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. “The blockades are a very perverse method of sanctioning, not the governments, but the peoples; we cannot continue allowing it. Cuba has been under a blockade for six decades and Nivaragua and Venezuela suffer the same,” he said.

He urged the representatives of the nations present to deepen commercial and political relations to make integration a reality.

Bolivian President Luis Arce called for strengthening of the multilateral system to save the earth. “Today we are facing a multiple and systematic capitalist crisis that increasingly puts the lives of humanity and our Mother Earth at risk, a food, water, energy, climate, health, economic, commercial and social crisis,” Arce said in his address. “CELAC must return to the principles of multilateralism, but not to preserve the unfair international order that overwhelms States and peoples, but rather to move towards a better world,” he added.

Arce also called for CELAC to be a tool for the construction of an emancipatory integration and should serve as a way to open a relationship with the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). “CELAC should be the space and the tool for the construction of a new type of emancipatory, multidimensional and non-subordinate integration between our states and peoples. CELAC should begin to open a relationship with the countries that make up the BRICS so that Latin America and the Caribbean become an active part of the construction of a multipolar world,” he said.

Arce also expressed his concern over the political and social situation in the neighboring country Peru. He said that Bolivia is respectful, like all CELAC States, of “International Law and non-interference in the internal affairs of states”, but added that “we cannot simply ignore a situation such as the serious political and social crisis that our brotherly people are experiencing”. Arce urged that the institutions of the Peruvian State work together with its people to take the path of understanding to recover social and political peace in the country.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also highlighted the importance of the integration of the region for a “peaceful world order”, “strengthening of multilateralism” and “construction of multipolarity”.

Lula, in his address, said that “the world is experiencing a moment of multiple crises: pandemic, climate change, natural disasters, geopolitical tensions, pressures on food and energy security and threats to representative democracy”. He said that “these challenges, as we know, are global in nature and require collective responses”, thus adding that “we do not want to import particular rivalries and problems into the region. On the contrary, we want to be part of the solutions to the challenges that belong to everyone”.

In this regard, he called on the countries in the region to lead projects for the preservation of the Amazon. “The cooperation that comes from outside our region is most welcome, but it is the countries that are part of these biomes that must lead, in a sovereign way, the initiatives to take care of the Amazon. Therefore, it is critical that we value our Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization — ACTO,” said Lula.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel welcomed Brazil and Lula’s return to the organization, reaffirming his support and solidarity in the face of the violent and anti-democratic acts that took place on January 8. In this regard, he rejected the interventionist policy of the United States and what he called its instrument, the Organization of American States (OAS), in the region.

Díaz-Canel criticized that the US “continues the effort to divide us, stigmatize us and subordinate us to their interests, almost 200 years after the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine”. Nevertheless, he highlighted, “our stubborn reality will always be stronger than any attempt to divide us, because we share challenges derived from an unjust, plundering and undemocratic international order”, recalling that the region is “still the most unequal region”.

He added that the Cuban government “does not recognize, nor will recognize any authority to the OAS, which is the organisation that is at the service of the United States. It supported and still supports military interventions, coups d’états and interference in Latin America and the Caribbean against popular and legitimate governments. The OAS is the organisation that did nothing against the murders, torture, forced disappearances and persecution of social, progressive and left-wing leaders in the region, who will remain forever in our memory”.

Likewise, Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro, who joined the summit through video conferencing mode, called on the member countries to join forces against US interventionism. “It is imperative that we raise a single voice, and Latin America and the Caribbean tell the United States of North America no more coups, enough sanctions against free and sovereign countries.” He said that there are several political steps to be taken to make Latin America and the Caribbean an independent territory and called to “join forces and efforts to reject all kinds of interventionism by forces or powers out of our region”.

Buenos Aires declaration

At the conclusion of the summit, the heads and representatives of the 33 member countries signed the Buenos Aires declaration, with the purpose of making “Latin America and the Caribbean fully aware of its horizon as a community of sovereign nations, capable of deepening consensus on issues of common interest and contribute to the well-being and development of the region, as well as to urgently overcome poverty and existing inequalities and inequities”.

The declaration affirms the full validity of the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace and free of nuclear weapons, stressing the country’s commitment to democracy, promotion, protection and respect for human rights. Leaders also committed themselves to promoting “international cooperation, the rule of law, multilateralism, respect for territorial integrity, non-intervention in the internal affairs of States, the defense of sovereignty, as well as the promotion of justice and the maintenance of international peace and security”.

The situation unfolding in Haiti was also mentioned in the declaration and they expressed “deep concern for the progressive deterioration of the public and humanitarian security situation in Haiti, calling on all Haitian political and social actors to reach the necessary consensus to address the serious humanitarian and security crisis that afflicts the country”.

The leaders of the region also called for “an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba” imposed by the US, pointing out that it, “in addition to being contrary to international law, causes serious damage to the well-being of the Cuban people”. Likewise, they rejected Cuba’s inclusion in the list of countries that allegedly sponsor international terrorism, and demanded its exclusion from the unilateral list.

The Latin American and Caribbean leaders pledged to advance the end of colonialism in the region, supporting the sovereignty of Argentina over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces, as well as the right to self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico.

They celebrated the reincorporation of Brazil in CELAC, applauded the work and effort carried out by Argentina during its pro tempore presidency, and greeted Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on assuming this responsibility after Argentina.

Notably, the pressing political and human rights crisis in Peru was left out of the declaration. The omission points to the lack of consensus regarding the situation despite the strong condemnations from Honduran President Xiomara Castro, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Bolivian President Luis Arce, and Colombian President Gustavo Petro who all demanded the immediate release of constitutional President Pedro Castillo and the immediate cessation of repressive violence against the people. Such statements have received sharp backlash from Peru’s far-right, who this week went so far as to threaten the military invasion of Bolivia over Arce and Evo Morales’ condemnations of violence.

[Reprinted from People's Dispatch.]

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