Cuba’s Role in Latin American Integration

Elio Delgado Legon

Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — The second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) concluded in Havana. Chair of the Community in 2013, Cuba was a member of the three-State board of directors in 2012 and will retain this position in 2014.

This would have been unthinkable only decades ago, when Cuba was removed from the OAS and all Latin American governments, with the commendable exception of Mexico, broke ties with the country on instructions from the United States.

Bringing together the 33 countries that make up Latin America and the Caribbean under a single community was the step needed to bring about Bolivar’s dream, later rekindled by Jose Marti and invoked time and time again by Fidel Castro, of finding strength in the unity of this continent, which Marti called “our America.”

Created in 2011 in Caracas thanks to the efforts and will of all its member countries and, particularly, the impetus afforded by the political charisma of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, CELAC was chaired by Chile in 2012.

The summit held in Havana from January 28 to 29, fruit of the arduous work of Cuban high officials who sought unity in diversity (the founding principle of the community), demonstrated the enormous rallying power of the island’s leadership, which secured the participation of nearly all the region’s heads of State or government (those who were unable to attend apologized and explained the reason and sent high-ranking officials to represent them).

All of the leaders who spoke at the gathering underscored Cuba’s efficiency as chair of the organization in the course of 2013 and congratulated the Cuban government for the extraordinary organization that characterized the summit’s activities.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other high representatives of different UN agencies were among the personalities invited to attend. While answering questions put to him by the accredited press at the Summit, Ban Ki-moon declared he is convinced of CELAC’s importance, the role it can play in conjunction with the UN and that the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean are well in their way towards overcoming their challenges. He also commended countries in the region for “building bridges that facilitate economic trade among themselves and with other regions.”

The UN Secretary General also mentioned Cuba’s importance as chair of CELAC and the significance of the documents drawn up and approved by the Summit.

One of the most noteworthy documents signed is the Havana Declaration. Though published by Havana Times, I would like to quote one of its paragraphs for, in my view, it eloquently summarizes the chief objectives of the organization.

“We ratify, today, our unshakable will to strengthen this space for effective political dialogue. We have been, are and will continue to be different, and it is on the basis of this diversity that we must identify our common challenges and objectives and the common ground that will allow us to make headway in the process of integration undertaken in our region. Let us strengthen our democracies and all human rights for all, give our peoples greater opportunities, construct more inclusive societies, bolster our productivity, broaden our trade, improve our infrastructure and connectivity and the networks needed to bring our peoples closer together, work for sustainable development, to overcome inequalities and to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth, so that everyone feels that democracy gives meaning to their lives. This is CELAC’s mission, it is the task we have been called on to fulfill and it is the political responsibility we have ahead of us, the one we must answer to before our peoples.”

Another highly important document is the one that declares Latin America and the Caribbean as a “Peace Zone.” Additional thirty or so special declarations on the most diverse issues of concern in the region were also issued.

Cuba played a decisive role in the preparation of these documents and its importance in CELAC’s future work was underscored by many chiefs of State. This demonstrates the changes that have been taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean since Cuba was expelled from the OAS.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

13 thoughts on “Cuba’s Role in Latin American Integration

  • April 18, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    the US is excluding itself from Latin America as Cuba forges strong ties with these countries. the embargo is having a boomerang effect. Cuba in and US out.

  • February 17, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Where are the fotos?

  • February 8, 2014 at 9:07 am

    The Castro regime arrested over 70 democracy activists from the Cuban Patriotic Union (“UNPACU”), a leading opposition group in the eastern provinces.
    The arrests took place as shock troops raided various UNPACUmeeting points in Santiago. Dissidents were beaten with batons and bike-chains.
    Meanwhile, in Palma Soriano, the authorities cracked down on dissidents who had peacefully gathered at a park to protest against the Castro regime’s repression.

    As soon as the CELAC charade is over, once again we see the true face of the despotic Castro regime. We should expect nothing more from them, but shame upon the various South American and Caribbean leaders who participated in the summit in Havana. Is this the sort of democracy and human rights they endorsed in the resolution?

  • February 7, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I have seen no evidence that Cuba is liberalizing anything. They still rank near the bottom of the list in economic freedom, freedom of the press and respect for human rights. Raul Castro has stated emphatically there will be no political reforms.

    With the recent increase in the number of Americans travelling to Cuba, has there been any corresponding improvement in the human rights situation on the island? No improvement.

    Has the regime reduced or increased the arrests, harassment and repression of dissidents? They increased the repression.

    Therefore, it is more likely that lifting the embargo will only strengthen the regime and maintain the repression of the Cuban people.

  • February 7, 2014 at 10:04 am

    You simply can’t justify the human rights abuses in Cuba by claiming that there are worse abuses elsewhere around the world. It’s like the wife-beater who says “everybody else does it”. The lack of strip clubs in Cuba are no excuse for the beatings and detentions of the Ladies in White. The biblical reference likewise falls short. If you believe that the only criticism of Cuba worth entertaining is that criticism from perfect people who live in perfect countries, then Cuba is in the clear. The fact that the US maintains cordial relations with ‘bad actors’ yet imposes an embargo on Cuba is not hypocritical. China, Saudi Arabia, and others on the ‘list’ have other attributes that make engagement with the US in our best interests. There is NOTHING we want let alone need from Cuba. A recent CNN poll names Fidel Castro as the most hated dictator for Americans. It is not only the declining Miami exile community that drives the US anti-Castro policy. Finally, while Cuba’s tepid recent economic changes should be recognized, it is the needed POLITICAL reforms that should trigger changes in US policy.

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