With the objective to advance political, economic, social and cultural integration, Mexico hosted the VI Summit of the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean States (CELAC) on 18th of September. CELAC is an intergovernmental mechanism for political dialogue that includes thirty-three countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. CELAC launched in December of 2011, and since then, it has hosted regional dialogues on issues such as social development, education, nuclear disarmament, family farming, culture, finance, energy, and the environment. In the group’s latest meeting, Mexican diplomats encouraged CELAC members to seek solutions for the protection of Latin American countries amidst the pandemic.
In his welcome message to the summit, Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed a vision for increasing cooperation among Latin American nations and their neighbors to the north:
“In these times, CELAC can become the main instrument to consolidate relations between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and achieve the ideal of economic integration with the United States and Canada within a framework of respect for our national sovereignties. That is, to build in the Western Hemisphere something similar to what was the economic community that gave rise to the current European Union.
It is our feeling that this ideal can become a reality if we think and reach agreements on three basic premises:
Non-intervention and the peoples’ right to self-determination, cooperation for development, and mutual aid to combat inequality and discrimination.
In the political arena, a commitment to respect the internal decisions of each nation and that no government should arrogate to itself the power to subjugate another country for any reason, cause or pretext, or to do so through the use of money, propaganda, economic and diplomatic sanctions, or the use of force.
That disputes over democracy and human rights be settled at the request of the parties involved in truly neutral bodies, created by the countries of the Americas, and that the specialized agencies of the United Nations have the last word.
With regard to economic and commercial questions, I propose that together with the United States and Canada, we reach an agreement and sign a treaty to strengthen the internal market in our hemisphere, which is currently in the red in relation to Europe and, especially, with regard to Asia,” said Lopez Obrador.
Lopez Obrador highlighted the importance of reactivating the economies “to build what we consume in America…We are a continent rich in natural resources, with wide cultural diversity. The distances between countries allow savings in freight costs and there is sufficient demand for our merchandise,” he said.
However, he added that joint planning and the cooperation of organizations such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) would be beneficial to the economic development of the region.
Representatives of 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries with varied political and ideological differences contributed their perspectives during the CELAC meeting which was held in Mexico City. With Mexico as the host, leaders discussed vital topics including climate change, strategies to combat the virus, and how to address the regional financial crisis. Juan Carlos Baker, an academic from the School of Government and Economics of the Panamerican University (UP), stressed the timeliness of the event and highlighted the leadership that Mexico holds in the region,
“It is an important meeting, it seems to me that the fact that so many people come is a sign of the leadership that Mexico still has in the region. The agenda has many topics, vaccines are fundamental, what can be proposed or coordinated in terms of promoting economic recovery will be good,” Baker said.
The attendance of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was unexpected. His surprise appearance at the CELAC Summit motivated President of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benitez to clarify that Maduro’s participation in the Summit did not mean Paraguay’s support of Maduro’s government.
“My presence at this summit in no sense or circumstance represents recognition of the Government of Nicolás Maduro. There is no change in the position of my government and I think it is a gentleman’s thing to do, to say this up front,” he said.
With similar sentiments, the Prime Minister of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou emphasized that his participation in the Summit did not mean his acceptance of governments such as those of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
”We are worried and look gravely at what’s happening in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela,” said Lacalle.
The leaders discussed the region’s response to the pandemic and the development of a fund that acknowledges the detrimental effects of climate change. The representatives of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) approved a plan for self-sufficiency in health matters in Latin America and the Caribbean proposed by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The strategic document outlines a path to strengthen capacities to produce and distribute vaccines and medicines in the region.
It also assigned the United Nations’ regional commission a mandate for its successful execution. The President of Mexico called on the international community to democratize and expand vaccine production. Following Lopez Obrador’s welcoming speech, each President spoke in Alphabetical order.
Bolivian President, Luis Arce, was the first to speak. Arce condemned the Organization of American States (OAS) in favor of an organization that “works with democratic practices and that responds to reality by supporting the sovereignty of the countries and without interference. The OAS is useless,” said Arce. The Bolivian president also praised Mexico’s work and the role of CELAC as an organization that defends the idea that “financial interest cannot be above social interest,” explained Arce.
Mexico’s Prime Minister concurrently mentioned the approval of the lines of action and proposals for a plan of self-sufficiency in health matters in Latin America and the Caribbean:
“We still lag very far behind other regions of the world. This must not happen again in our region and that is the value of this approved document. The 31 countries represented here today are adopting a common path so that Latin America and the Caribbean will never lag behind again as we have in 2020 and 2021. The lesson has been learned and the path adopted,” Mexico’s Foreign Minister Ebrard stated.
“The Joint Declaration is a call to consolidate our voice, our weight to do positive things, to cooperate, and to make our way in the unjust world we live in today,” Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard, emphasized.
Ebrard further explained that the constitution of the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency is a historic moment and an accomplishment in the path to improve the region’s scientific development:
“If anything has brought us together, it has been the pandemic. The region has more COVID-19 related deaths than any other region in the world,” Ebrard said, calling for unity in face of this common challenge.
The second President that spoke was Cuban President, Miguel Diaz-Canel. For his part, Diaz-Canel accused the U.S. of running an “opportunistic campaign of US interests against Cuba,” noting that the US embargo has worsened the suffering of the Cuban people caused by the pandemic. “The interventionism of the United States is a flagrant violation of international rights,” said Diaz-Canel.
President of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle, disagreed with Diaz-Canel’s assessment and blamed Cuba’s suffering on Cuba’s repression of its citizens. Diaz-Canel defended Cuba’s stance against U.S. interventionism and accused Lacalle of lack of knowledge of the Cuban fight:
“President Lacalle’s mention of Cuba denotes his ignorance of our reality, the courage and freedom of the Cuban people which has been demonstrated for six decades in the face of the United States blockade, a fundamental obstacle to the advancement of our development, which President Lacalle did not mention,” Diaz-Canel stressed at the end of the forum.
For its part, Mexico restated the country’s support for the controversial Cuban President and condemned the economic blockade. The Latin American leaders of Uruguay, Ecuador and Paraguay, denounced the human rights violations under the governments of Maduro, Ortega and Díaz-Canel, demanded free elections and openly differentiated themselves from the regimes.
Nicolas Maduro proposed the development of a General Secretariat, while the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez stated that “we are integrationists by vocation and we know that strength is in unity. Latin Americans must transcend for the benefit of our peoples.” He also condemned the “inhumane hoarding of vaccines because viruses know no borders.”
The Honduran leader stressed the significance and gravity of the damage caused by climate change on his country, which suffered the impact of two hurricanes last year leading to a 1.8 million USD loss. The Honduran president also highlighted the urgency to stop drug trafficking in Honduras along with the homicide rates resulting from the constant fights against criminal groups.
Unity has the power to create beneficial and positive change. Peruvian President, Pedro Castillo, called on the Latin American and Caribbean countries to “the unity and integration of our peoples” and emphasized that “the pandemic is not just a health problem, but a historical one,” said Castillo. Castillo proposed that CELAC carry out initiatives “so that our peoples can count on international financing to reactivate the hard hit economies.”
The President of Ecuador agreed with Castillo’s unity statement, “I think that integration is honorable,” he said. However, he noted that it is “citizens who strengthen the ties of benefits and mutual respect.”
Lasso pointed to the first European Union as an example, “The Union’s integration was first social and then economic.” He also concluded that the world will only pay attention to the region if “they have common markets.” President of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei agreed with Lasso stating that the path to recovery from the pandemic will be long and costly if “we do not achieve full integration” in the region.
The CELAC meeting lasted four hours and was described as a valuable experience by the participants. Lopez Obrador concluded that the fundamental issues, like health and cooperation were successfully met and a plan was outlined to avoid shortages of vaccines within the region. The meeting also led to conversations on the development of a fund that will support countries when they are affected by disasters.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador affirmed that despite the differences, the CELAC meeting had positive outcomes: “The balance of perspectives in CELAC was very positive. Many presidents, ministers, diplomats, from Latin America and the Caribbean region participated. There was a good exchange of perspectives despite the differences. A meeting like this had not been held for a long time because there were no coincidences among the countries; there was confrontation. While disagreements in perspective and ideology were expressed in the CELAC meeting, these are reflective of diversity and of democratic plurality. Political confrontation is part of democracy, we cannot all think in the same way, the important thing is to reach agreements within diversity, and this was achieved,” assured the president.
Vanessa Campa is a Senior student at Florida International University majoring in English and minoring in Psychology. Vanessa grew up with a huge Latinx community in Miami, Fl where the majority of the population is Hispanic, and was raised by two amazing immigrant parents. She has a passion for art, photography, humanitarian issues, human rights issues, and telling stories that have an impact on shifting perspectives and educating audiences. She hopes to get into the journalism field to continue her love of storytelling. In her time with the Latina Republic, Vanessa wants to contribute to change the stereotypical narrative of her people and tell inspiring unrecognized stories that need to be brought to light.