Elio Delgado Legon
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.