On the Horizon – A United States of Latin America?

CELAC_Cuba_1_Amelia Pardo

by S. Wilkinson
(International Istitute for the study of Cuba)

It might be a little far-fetched to imagine that there will ever be a federation of the states of Latin America of a kind that Simón Bolívar dreamed, but the meeting in Havana at the end of this month of the CELAC, the recently established Community of the States of Latin America and the Caribbean, is nonetheless an historic event with portentous implications for the future.

For one thing, this meeting brings together the heads of governements of all the countries in the western hemisphere except the United States, Canada and those entitities that are still under colonial control by European powers. Thus, simply by its exclusive membership, the CELAC is a counter hegemonic grouping that challenges the historic domination of the region by the developed powers.

Secondly, it has been announced that the meeting will be attended by the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States, José Miguel Insulza, who will become the first holder of that office to visit Havana since Cuba was expelled from the OAS in 1962. Given that within CELAC there is a sub-group of the ALBAcountries (Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela being chief among them) who have vowed not to attend the next OAS summit if Cuba is not admitted, the symbolic significance of Insulza’s accepotance of the invitation should not go unnoticed.
Connected to this is the weird timing of his visit because it coincides almost exactly with the breaking off of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the rest of the region 50 years ago. The timing therefore is ironic and serves to focus on both the potential integrationist power of the CELAC and the significance of having Cuba involved in the centre of the process.

Speaking to BBC Mundo and translated by the Cuban blog The Havana Times a Cuban specialist on the CELAC, Luis Suarez, says: “It is highly symbolic for Cuba. No other organization in the history of the region has joined so many nations.”
“the restoration of relations with all nations of the region and the presence in this gathering of their Heads of State demonstrates clearly that the US failed in its policy of isolating us.” – See more at: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=101429#sthash.7EXb0b4h.dpuf

The restoration of relations with all nations of the region and the presence in this gathering of their Heads of State demonstrates clearly that the US failed in its policy of isolating us.”
Suarez points out that Cuba, “was the first country in Latin America that included the goal of integration in its Constitution. That vocation comes from the war for independence, when we had the support of citizens of several countries on the continent.”
Suarez says that “the worst external and internal enemies of the CELAC are those who do not want that we found a separate organization that allows us to reach the world with an agreed position. And the closest is the U.S. Pan-American policy.”
In this sense he believes that “the future of the regional organization will depend on political consultations that are achieved for concrete action to reach the ordinary citizen in the social field, in areas such as health or education, for example.”
In these and other subjects such as coping with natural disasters, Cuba could play a key role. “The country has a vast experience in these areas and also has the necessary human resources to support such initiatives.”
“We even have a Latin American School of Medicine, Operation Miracle that has restored sight to millions of people of the continent and we have created the “Yes I can” literacy mtehod that has taught more than three million illiterates to read and write,” explains Suarez .
The agenda in Havana falls squarely on social issues and aims to declare Latin America a “Zone of Peace,” an agreement that the Cuban specialist considers “extremely important because it implies that governments undertake to seek political and negotiated solutions, avoiding the use of force in the region.”
Furthermore, he says, it would “prevent others from using our conflicts to divide us, as they have done many times in the past.”
Suarez believes that to achieve greater practical effectiveness CELAC should “integrate regional institutions such as SELA , the Latin American Energy Organization , LAIA , dedicated to the integration , the Pan American Health Organization or ECLAC Latin American Economic System.”

A few years ago, even in the present century the US had ambitions to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas, a project that would have ensured its domination of the commerce of the continent to its own advantage. Not only has that ambition been thwarted but also in its place the CELAC has emerged. As recently as 2004, no one would have imagined that such a switch of power from North to South could have occurred. Even though the CELAC for the moment is a consensual body based upon dialogue and voluntary agreeement, when you take the speed at which geopolitical change has taken place, Bolívar’s dream of a United States of Latin America may not seem so far-fetched after all.

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