The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was created as a continental forum to discuss regional affairs. Unlike the Organization of American states, CELAC includes Cuba and does not include the United States or Canada.
The first CELAC meeting held a few days ago in Chile revealed the potential of this organization, as well as the differences between nations and the deep contradictions that exist with ideological declarations, above and beyond the organization’s established principles.
Cooperation among Latin American nations is always positive. The high-level contacts between CELAC and the European Union that were made in Chile show that the region can be a significant global trade bloc.
That is exactly Mexico’s idea, for the organization’s role to be a competitive one. For others like Peru and Cuba, the problem it should tackle is drug trafficking, while for Bolivia, this should be the forum to resolve the corridor out to sea that Chile never provided. The differences in agendas among disparate nations are a challenge that even calling on the Patria Grande or Common Motherland won’t solve.
Politically, the differences within CELAC became evident in the different levels of support that were recently given to Hugo Chávez. Twenty-two of the 33 countries backed the Caracas Declaration. The 11 countries that did not support it represent almost three-fourths of the region in terms of GDP, population and territory.
However, the worst damage that CELAC can self-inflict is to become obsessed with its anti-American opposition, to the point of ridicule, by putting Cuba at the head of an organization that promotes “our independent and sustainable development, on the basis of democracy.” And to list among its principles and common values democracy and human rights on a par with sovereignty and international respect.
In order to justify this outrage, it has been said that this is a “historical reparation,” an “act of justice,” something being done “because it has withstood the embargo” and recognition for the doctors that Cuba sends to other Latin American countries. In reality, Cuba, according to Human Rights Watch, “remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent” and in 2012, it continued to resort to “arbitrary arrests, beatings, public acts of repudiation, travel restrictions and forced exile.”
CELAC has a great future insofar as it is a logical, pragmatic regional organization instead of getting worn down in pointless declarations of ideology that detract from its seriousness.