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CELAC summit strengthens regional integration

News from Nicaragua | Tuesday, 3 February 2015 | Click here for original article

The third CELAC summit in Costa Rica concluded on 29 January with commitments to maintain unity and promote integration, statements of support for Venezuela and Cuba, and a plan to eradicate poverty, hunger and inequality in the region.

CELAC – the  Community of Latin American and Caribbean States - was formed in 2011 and comprises 33 countries of the region but excludes the US and Canada.

Regional leaders praised the Summit as an important step in the consolidation of an independent Latin America and Caribbean.

During his opening statement Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Latin America is living in a “new historic era” marked by unity and great opportunity.  He went on to predict that the 21st century will “mark the end of imperialism.”

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega echoed the sentiments of the Summit by accusing the US government of launching a calculated economic war that seeks to undermine Venezuela’s political stability, comparing the situation to Washington’s role in the overthrow of former Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973.

In reference to the recent openings in relations between the US and Cuba, President Raul Castro commented: "The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalising bilateral relations ….. "but this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don't give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base."

The Summit approved the Political Declaration of Belen which includes 94 points covering multilateralism, dialogue between countries, peaceful solutions to conflicts, and unconditional support for the UN Charter and international law.

Key points of the declaration are as follows:

● Commitment to eradicating hunger by 2025

In the second quarter of 2015, Venezuela will host a meeting to follow up a plan submitted to CELAC by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

● Call for an end to US meddling in the internal affairs of member countries.

The Summit firmly rejected sanctions against Venezuela calling them a violation of international law and a threat to peace in the region.

The Summit also reiterated a 2014 summit agreement declaring Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace.  To this end CELAC called on the international community to “respect this proclamation in its relations with the member states of CELAC, including the commitment to non-intervention, direct or indirect, in the internal affairs of any other state and to respect the principles of national sovereignty, equal rights, and the self-determination of peoples.”

● Call for an end to the US blockade on Cuba

CELAC backed the decision by the US and Cuba to restore diplomatic relations and called on the US to end the blockade on Cuba.

The Summit also called for the independence of Puerto Rica and a commitment to include representation from the island in future CELAC meetings.

● Other key points of the declaration included a call to erect a permanent monument to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade; backing for Argentina's claim to the Malvinas;  and support for the peace process in Colombia.

Special declarations also called for a new international financial structure, financing for development projects, and demanded action on climate change.

The presidency of CELAC was passed from Costa Rica to Ecuador. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa outlined policies the bloc will pursue in the coming year, focusing on eradicating poverty and inequality.