Latin America: New regional body — without the US

Issue 

Leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean approved on February 23 a regional organisation that will unite their countries, but that will not involve either the United States or Canada.

The organisation, tentatively called Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, will unite members of the Rio Group, an annual summit which was formed in 1986 and includes most Latin American countries and some Caribbean countries, with members of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), a common market and cooperation organisation with 15 member countries.

The decision was approved at the Latin America and Caribbean Unity Rio Group Summit in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The organisation would function parallel to the Organisation of American States (OAS). The OAS includes all nations in the region except Cuba, which was suspended in 1962, and Honduras, suspended after the military coup last year.

The OAS has been criticised for being dominated by the US agenda.

At the summit, Cuban President Raul Castro said the decision to create a community of Latin American and Caribbean countries was "historic" and "Cuba believes that the conditions are ripe for rapidly advancing" towards such an organisation.

He said there was no reason why they shouldn't strengthen unity and cooperation among the countries, but also said that within unity there should be respect for the different cultures and political systems that each country has.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the organisation was a step forward in the fight for a union of all Latin American and Caribbean nations in one single political body.

"We have faith [in this] because we have amassed strength, because history is on our side and because the people are waking up", Chavez said.

He said that just a few years ago, the governments of Latin America were like an orchestra conducted by Washington, "a choir or an orchestra that sang to neoliberalism", but now the map was different.

However, Chavez said there could be obstacles: "Without doubt we'll have strong opponents to achieving unity ... [such as] the North American empire and its large capacity for open and hidden actions to generate ... friction."

The new organisation will be formally constituted on July 5, 2011, during the Caracas summit of the Rio Group. The date coincides with Venezuela's celebration of 200 years of independence.

[Abridged from .]

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