By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Several of the region’s leftist leaders at the gathering of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) viewed the OAS as too close to the United States.
They resent, in particular, its exclusion of communist-ruled Cuba from its member states.
“In these times, CELAC can become the principal instrument to consolidate relations between our Latin American and Caribbean nations,” Lopez Obrador stressed.
Speaking in Mexico’s ornate national palace in Mexico City, he said the new EU-style grouping could better tackle economic inequality and health and social crisis impacting the region.
However, tensions remained between leftist leaders of autocratically ruled countries and conservative-leaning politicians.
Uruguay’s center-right President Luis Lacalle said his participation should not be interpreted as an embrace of some of the region’s more authoritarian regimes or rejection of the OAS.
“We are worried and look gravely at what’s happening in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela,” he said, referring to reported repressive actions, including the jailing of political opponents.
Cuba’s Diaz-Canel fired back by attacking neo-liberal policies that he claimed retarded social progress. He also criticized Lacalle’s leadership, noting the significant response from a recent petition drive by his domestic political opposition.
The Uruguayan responded by criticizing Cuba’s communist government, noting it does not tolerate opposition or allow its people to elect their leaders.
Yet amid the disagreements, attempts continued to set up a grouping outside the U.S., raising potential questions about American policies under President Joe Biden.
The U.S. chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and China’s rising political and military clout has added to concerns in headquarters around the world, including in Latin America, that nations are facing a new world order.
Amid the geopolitical changes, Bolivian President Luis Arce called for a global accord to forgive debts for poor countries while Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez called for a regional body to combat climate change.
Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez helped set up CELAC in 2011, but the current talks focus on extending its reach with the 27-nation EU mentioned as an example.
Chavez’s embattled successor Nicolas Maduro suggested setting up CELAC headquarters in Mexico City, though Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the idea “premature.”
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