Posts Tagged ‘CELAC’

Europe Was Too Slow in Bridging Cuba Ties

July 21, 2015


Cuba does not need Europe and does not see it as a priority, which the EU’s ‘Common Position’ on Cuba does not help, Spanish political expert Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

The European Union was too slow to bridge ties with Cuba because of its “Common Position” agreement on the country, Spanish government RTVE television journalist Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

According to Medem, Spanish businessmen are very worried because there are now new economic players in Cuba. Meanwhile, the European Union remains behind the US in repairing its relations with Cuba.

“The EU was too late again because it created a ‘Common Position’ on Cuba, following the US, and now, as Washington and Havana are again opening embassies, Brussels is still discussing whether this ‘Common Position’ should be abandoned,” Medem said.

According to Medem, Spain performed very poorly since the premiership of Jose Maria Asnara, who insisted on the “Common Position” in Brussels, thereby closing the doors for talks with Cuba. The situation only slightly improved under prime minister Jose Luis Sapatero.

Medem sees integration with other Latin American countries as the best option for the island’s development. According to him, Cuba does not see the EU as a priority.

“Today Cuba has a broader spectrum of diplomatic relations than ever before, and Europe presents neither political, nor economic, nor geostrategic interest,” Medem added.

Medem brought up the example of Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, who visited Cuba in November 2014, but was “humiliated” by not being received by Cuban President Raul Castro.

Obama, Cuba and Venezuela

June 6, 2015
Resistance to Normalization
Obama, Cuba and Venezuela

Last week, the U.S. government took the deeply ironic step of removing Cuba from its list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” Ironic because, between the U.S. and Cuba, state sponsorship of terrorism has come from the U.S. and has been directed at Cuba.  These incidents have spanned more than four decades, from the launching of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, to the numerous U.S.-organized assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, to the blowing up of a jetliner and other terrorist attacks from Cuban exiles operating out of the United States.

The latest move removes one obstacle from the normalization of relations with Cuba, but there are many more ahead, including the embargo; and the much-hated U.S. military base and prison of Guantanamo, which the Cubans have indicated is a deal breaker if it is not closed down. Another irony: the U.S. government lectures Cuba about human rights while it illegally imprisons and tortures people on the island.

Interestingly, the Cubans have raised an issue with Washington that could have more important implications for the region than removing the 53-year-old embargo that has been condemned by virtually the entire world for decades. It is now apparent, as I first suggested a month ago, that the Cubans made it clear to President Obama that normalization of relations with Cuba would be limited if Washington was unwilling to normalize relations with Venezuela. This is important because U.S. hostility toward Venezuela, and especially its support for “regime change” there, have since 2002 poisoned relations with Latin America even more than the embargo against Cuba.

President Obama seems to have gotten the message, meeting with President Maduro of Venezuela at the Summit of the Americas on April 11, backtracking from his executive order that declared Venezuela an “extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security, and sending a top State Department official – Tom Shannon – to Caracas twice since April 7 to make peace. Shannon, a career diplomat

who was Assistant Secretary of State for President George W. Bush, is considered in Washington circles to be “pragmatic.” In the context of Venezuela, this means someone who favors support for groups that want to get rid of the government mainly through electoral means, rather than through violence and a military coup.

This is not the first time that President Obama has moved toward normalizing relations with Venezuela. In 2010, the administration attempted to re-establish relations at the ambassadorial level. This was sabotaged by then Senator Richard Lugar’s office, probably in collaboration with like-minded people in the State Department. Last summer, the U.S. accepted a chargé d’affaires – the number two position after ambassador – at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington. A few weeks after that, U.S. federal prosecutors had a Venezuelan retired general, Hugo Carvajal, arrested in Aruba – despite his diplomatic passport.  Aruba, an island with a population of 100,000 that is 17 miles from Venezuela, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This arrest was close to destroying diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, as Aruba agreed – in apparent violation of the nearly-sacrosanct Vienna convention protecting diplomats – to extradite him to the United States. Fortunately, the government of the Netherlands intervened, and ordered him freed on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.

The pattern is clear and easily understandable – there are many people within the Obama administration and Congress who do not want to normalize relations with Venezuela. (As was noted in the press, the same is true to a lesser extent for normalizing relations with Cuba – hence Obama kept top State Department officials in the dark for more than a year of negotiations.) So it was not surprising to see a 2,500-word Wall Street Journal article on May 18 with a far-fetched allegation that the head of Venezuela’s national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, was the chief of an alleged “drug cartel.”

The same federal prosecutors’ offices involved in the Carvajal case—cited anonymously, of course—were the main sources for the WSJ article. They were backed up by other, mostly far-right sources, and of course by convicted drug dealers who often get reduced sentences for pointing the finger at the appropriate villain.

It’s a dubious piece of work, with only one side of the story presented. (The WSJ, like much of the U.S. media, appears to “suspend the rules” of basic journalism, including fact-checking, when reporting on Venezuela.) The authors did include one tweet from a Venezuelan general, which succinctly summarized the ease with which these prosecutors can gather “evidence”:  “We all know that whoever wants his green card and live in the US to visit Disney can just pick his leader and accuse him of being a narco. DEA tours will attend to them.”

But the article gets the message across: As in the Carvajal case, these federal prosecutors’ offices will have sealed indictments ready to go if one of their targets should step outside of Venezuela, and a diplomatic crisis will be created. That would be the end of Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Venezuela, for the remainder of his term. And unfortunately, Miami and New York federal prosecutors are not the only U.S. government officials who want to prevent normal relations with Venezuela.

Now back to the Cubans and their negotiations with President Obama. They have some bargaining power here: It seems clear that Obama wants, for his legacy, to be the president that opened up relations with Cuba. Will they hold him blameless if right-wing elements within the U.S. government try to blow up U.S.-Venezuelan relations? Or will they remind him what Harry Truman said: “The buck stops here”?

Obama has proved himself to be quite tough when we wants something: he has faced down formidable opposition, including from one of America’s most powerful lobby groups, the Israel lobby, in order to pursue a nuclear deal with Iran. He can do the same for Latin America, if he so chooses.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the forthcoming book Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

This Counterpunch-article originally appeared on Al Jazeera.

CELAC Rejects Inclusion of Cuba on List of States that Promote Terrorism

May 27, 2014


The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States ( CELAC) rejected on Wednesday the U.S. government ‘s decision to include Cuba again, in an arbitrary and unilateral way, on the list of States that are promoters of International Terrorism.

In a communique, the CELAC expresses its concern about the stance of the U.S. State Department on April 30 to include Cuba, for the 32nd time, on this list, despite the condemnation caused by this measure in the United States and internationally.

The CELAC reiterated its total opposition to the making of unilateral lists accusing States of allegedly supporting and co-sponsoring terrorism and urged the U.S. government to end this practice.

The regional bloc expressed its position in paragraph 41 of the Declaration of Havana and in the Special Declaration of Support for the Struggle against Terrorism in all its Forms and Expressions, both adopted by the Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean at the Second Summit of CELAC, held in January.

The rejection of unilateral lists affecting Latin American and Caribbean nations
The article specifies the rejection of unilateral lists and certifications created by the developed countries particularly those related to terrorism, human and drug trafficking which affect nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, .

In addition, the paragraph confirms the Special Communique approved by the CELAC which rejects the inclusion of Cuba in the U.S. list of States sponsoring terrorism. CELAC sees this as manipulation of a sensitive topic like international terrorism to turn it into an instrument of politics against the island.


Havana hosts important regional summit

January 27, 2014


By Helen Yaffe*
On 28-29th January 2014, Havana hosts the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC in Spanish), with the participation of the heads of states, chancellors and other representatives of all 33 independent nations in the region. The Summit rounds off Cuba’s one-year presidency of CELAC, which focussed on combating regional poverty, hunger and inequality. Cuba is part of CELAC’s three member troika, along with Chile, which held the presidency in 2012 and Costa Rica which takes over in 2014. Over 30 documents are being drawn up for discussion and analysis, including a Plan of Action, and standards and principles which will govern cooperation. The Summit was preceded by two days of discussions by national experts on 25-26 January and a meeting of chancellors on 27 January. The Summit is expected to emit specific statements, for example, demanding that Britain return Las Islas Malvinas (the Falkland Islands) to Argentina and that the US blockade of Cuba be lifted.

CELAC was launched with the Declaration of Caracas in December 2011. It is the first organisation in 200-years, since Latin America’s formal independence, to integrate the sovereign nations of the region without either being convened (or attended) by the United States, or other foreign powers, and without excluding Cuba. Indeed, the insistence on Cuba’s inclusion is a principal motive for CELAC’s foundation. CELAC stands as a rejection of, and alternative to, the Organisation of American States (OAS), set up in 1948 with its headquarters in Washington. In 1962 Cuba was expelled from the OAS because Cuba’s revolutionary government, it stated, had ‘officially identified itself as a Marxist-Leninist government, [which is] incompatible with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system.’ As Cuban academic Luis Suarez Sálazar pointed out to BBC Mundo: ‘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.’

In 1994, following the collapse of the soviet bloc when neo-liberalism went on its triumphant offensive, the OAS held its first Summit of the Americas. It was a political forum for the US to pursue its economic agenda: the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a neo-liberal treaty that would undermine national sovereignty and facilitate the pillaging and looting of resources by US and international capital. The Spanish acronym for the FTAA was ALCA. Direct opposition to this led then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to propose an alternative ALBA (which means dawn in Spanish); the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (see While the 2005 deadline for the implementation of the FTAA came and went, US imperialism witnessed rebellion in its ‘back-yard’. At the last Summit of the Americas in Colombia in 2012, the final declaration draft demanded an end to the US blockade of Cuba and Cuba’s expulsion from the hemispheric events. This was vetoed by US and Canada so no agreement was reached.

CELAC’s other distinguishing characteristics are that it binds the Caribbean with Latin America, realising the vision of independence heroes such as Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti for ‘Our America’, and that it is not constituted as an narrowly economic mechanism for establishing free trade between member states. The general function of CELAC is to promote sustainable development, social and environmental investments, and create a ‘zone of peace’ where differences are resolved through dialogue and diplomacy. Securing the latter would not only benefit the regions nearly 600 million inhabitants, it would also undermine the ability of imperialist powers to provoke confrontations in their own interests. In the last few years, tensions between the governments of Colombia, a strong, right-wing ally of the US, and the Bolivarian socialist government of Venezuela have almost led to military confrontation.

Tensions between left, centre and right governments within CELAC are evident and are constantly aggravated by US machinations, for example the recent push to create the Alliance of the Pacific, so far formed of Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru; right-wing governments allied to the US. However, CELAC aims to undermine divisive manipulation through open democratic discussion in which each participant’s views have equal weight. Cuban Foreign Minister, Burno Rodriguez Parrilla told a press conference on 24 January that during the Summit in Havana: ‘Decisions will be taken on the basis of full, participative and democratic process of debate and negotiation, which has been happening over many months and will conclude the in the next few days.’

Rodriguez also said that deliberations at the Summit would focus on strategies and policies to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger and provide access to free health and education.’ In this, Cuba is the regional leader par excellence. Its achievements are not just domestic. In Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine thousands of students from the region study for free. Millions of people have benefitted from its literacy programme, ‘Yes I can’. Through Cuba’s Operation Miracle, set up with Venezuela, between 2005 and 2011 two million people in Latin American and Caribbean had their eye-sight restored in 60 eye hospitals which Cuba had donated to 35 countries. Cuba therefore has the moral authority and practical experience to set the CELAC agenda.

The importance of the goals set out for the Summit cannot be underestimated. Despite recent progress, Latin America remains the most unequal region in the world. This reality, and the suffering which accompanies it, is especially brutal given the abundance of mineral, forestall, water and agricultural resources. Within CELAC are the world’s greatest supplies of mineral resources: copper (Chile), Iron (Brazil), Silver (Mexico) tin (Bolivia and Peru). Venezuela has the world’s greatest proven oil reserves, 18% of the total. And the Guarani Aquifer, located beneath the surface of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, is one of the world’s largest aquifer systems and sources of fresh water. Latin America and the Caribbean produce more food than required by their populations, and yet 8% of Latin Americans and 18% of Caribbeans suffer from malnutrition. The question is who controls the resources and in whose interests.

Luis Suarez Sálazar states that Cuba ‘was the first country in Latin America that included the goal of integration in its Constitution’. He sees CELAC as ‘the result of the existence of leftwing governments that seek to solve social problems and achieve more autonomy.’ There are multiple, overlapping and conflicting trade and cooperation agreements in Latin America and the Caribbean. ‘The great contribution of CELAC is that everyone could now converge in the same forum’, says Suarez. At CELAC’s invitation, the event will be attended by OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza. This will be the first visit to Havana by the holder of that office since before Cuba was expelled from the OAS.

*Dr Helen Yaffe, completed her doctorate in Cuban economic history at the London School of Economics. She is the author of Che Guevara: the economics of Revolution, first published by Palgrave MacMillan in English in 2009 with subsequent editions appearing in Spanish, Korean, Indonesian and Turkish. In 2009 she interviewed Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa about the procress of Latin American integration and the Citizens’ Revolution in Ecuador. In 2013 the Ministry of Communes in Venezuela invited her for consultations about the Communal Economic System and to give a series of lectures about Che Guevara and the transition to a socialist political economy.

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