Carrying forward the legacy of a two century old independence struggle
The summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was held successfully in Havana at the end of January 2014, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of the great patriot José Martí.
CELAC is an organisation of American states whose membership is open to all states of the American continents except USA, Canada and areas which are still territories of European states in the Americas. It is the result of a decade-long effort towards closer integration of the anti imperialist forces within the Americas, and aims to challenge the influence of the United States on the politics and economics of Latin America. As the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales pointed out in 2010 before the organisation was founded, “A union of Latin American countries is the weapon against imperialism. It is necessary to create a regional body that excludes the United States and Canada”. Mexican President Felipe Calderón added, "We decided, for the first time, to form the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States as a regional space consisting of all states…we cannot remain disunited; we cannot successfully take on the future based on our differences; now it's up to us to unite … based on our similarities, which far outweigh our differences.”
The group was formally established in July 2011, at a summit in Caracas. Within a short time, CELAC has become a clear alternative to the Organisation of American States (OAS), the regional body which the USA founded in 1948 and attempted to use to intensify its influence in the region. CELAC presently has 33 countries as members with a total population of over 605 million, of which 18 are Spanish-speaking, 12 are English-speaking and one each have Portuguese, French and Dutch as their languages (Brazil, Haiti and Surinam respectively).
Speaking at the inaugural session of the summit at the end of January 2014, Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz pointed out that CELAC is currently recognised in the world as the legitimate representative of the interests of Latin America and the Caribbean. Among the challenges faced by CELAC were the continuing threats, coercive measures and international lawsuits that some sister nations have been subjected to, due to legitimate actions they have taken to defend their sovereignty. He stated that priority should be given to the "creation of a common political space in which we can move forward toward the achievement of peace and respect among our nations; in which we are able to overcome the objective obstacles and those deliberately imposed upon us; in which we can utilise our resources in a sovereign way and for our common wellbeing and in which we can assert indisputable principles such as self-determination, sovereignty and the sovereign equality of States".
The Declaration of Havana, issued at the conclusion of the CELAC Summit, emphasised the need to strengthen the unity of the member nations against the pressures of US imperialism. The leaders present expressed their deep sorrow for the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, one of the principal founders and driving forces behind CELAC. CELAC leaders gave the "highest priority” to strengthening food security, literacy development, free public education, quality and socially conscious technical, professional and higher education, land rights and other social rights. The desire to promote regional, sub-regional, bi-lateral and tri-lateral cooperative development programs was emphasised.
The declaration included a commitment to continue contributing to the reconstruction and development of Haiti, which has been destroyed by the imperialist marauders, with full respect for its authorities and sovereignty. It called for steps to ensure that Latin America and the Caribbean is a territory free of colonialism. It emphasized the aim of CELAC to establish a new model of regional and international cooperation free of imperialism. It called on CELAC member nations to exercise sovereignty over the vast and rich natural resources that their countries are endowed with, and to give their people access to education at all levels in order to ensure that the problems faced by them are tackled effectively. It announced the establishment of a CELAC-China Forum and a dialogue mechanism with the Russian Federation as well as the preparations for the 2nd European Union-CELAC Summit, scheduled for 2015, in Brussels.
The need for more equitable distribution of resources within the United Nations system was reasserted .The Havana Declaration firmly supported the legitimate rights of Argentina in its dispute with UK over sovereignty of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and reiterated that the conflict should be resolved through peaceful means and negotiation. The Declaration expressed serious concern about the situation in Syria and the grave threat being posed to the region and international peace. As Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz mentioned in his inaugural speech, the region has had a long history of interference by US and other imperialist powers in the internal affairs of its member states, military invasions and even bloody coups. He referred to the new threat posed by the global communications espionage system implemented by the United States which indiscriminately targets heads of state and government, international agencies, political parties, companies and individual citizens of the region, in flagrant violation of international law and the sovereignty of states. There is thus a need to jointly cooperate to act against these threats.
The establishment and consolidation of CELAC, as a means to combat the nefarious activities of the US and other imperialists and foster progress based on cooperation between nations and peoples, is a positive development not only for the Americas but for the whole world.