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CELAC: The Beginning of One Voice for Latin America?

Caracas last week welcomed all leaders from across Latin America in order to establish CELAC, a new regional organisation that seeks to create an OAS without a United States (or Canada!) and create a forum for one voice for Latin America. CELAC, while attended by all Latin American countries, is hosted and promoted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Despite differing perspectives between countries in the region, CELAC aims to take advantage of Latin America’s recent economic successes and deepening influence in global affairs, and do so without the influence of the United States in developing regional affairs internally and abroad.

CELAC might assist leftists in Latin America to pull the region away from the United States and assist independent nations in Latin America to develop relations apart from US economic policy and trade. The problem with CELAC is that the overlap with the OAS and the differing interests of countries in the region might turn CELAC into another forum that loses its influence over a decade. The history of regional cooperation in Latin America always peaks at the main issue that not all states in the region agree with each other, and some are currently in a cold peace at best. Considering the cold peace between Colombia and Venezuela, Colombian President Santos attended the CELAC meeting, but maintains his popularity due to his policy to challenge FARC and Chavez’s support for militants within Colombia. Considering the current growth between Argentina and Brazil with China, President Kirchner and President Rousseff left on the second day of the conference as ties with China and the US are key components of growth for both economies and takes priority over regional cooperation on many issues. It should be noted that China did congratulate CELAC on its establishment, as they are aware that its trading partners are a part of a forum that would send trade from the US towards China. Mexico also supported the creation of CELAC, but maintains extremely strong ties with the United States with millions of its citizens living abroad still being part of the dialogue of Latin American culture and economics in the Americas. CELAC, while erasing the US from its forum, did go further to include Cuba in the CELAC forum. There could positive developments beyond a victory for leftists in the region, as by allowing an opening Cuba to develop in a forum that involves the entire region enables all of Latin America to smooth Cuba’s opening and include rights for its citizens in future discussions. While Cuba may not develop as Syria has done, the effect of a Latin America Arab League in CELAC might produce positive results.

CELAC is not the first regional forum to occur in Latin America, but may be the next one to fail as the majority of regional agreements tend to meet their end within a decade. The latest agreements to fail have been the FTAA from 2001 and it can be argued that MERCOSUR, while not defunct, has little potential for expansion and lacks attention from its members since Argentina’s economic problems in 2001. Beyond those two agreements, there are lists from past decades of regional agreements and treaties that have never met their objectives, and CELAC as an Americanless OAS might displace the OAS or disappear from the scene. Two elements come into play as well, as individual countries like Brazil can make a large impact on their own within the region and globally without a CELAC or OAS. As well, the lack of a United States that has done little to present itself in Latin America in almost a decade has little effect in the region with or without the OAS. The OAS would do well to include Cuba and include offices in Brazil in order to displace CELAC, but for individual countries it makes little difference but to create further forums for discussion between very individualistic nations. Despite this, it never hurts to speak face to face on more occasions and CELAC might be of interest over the next few years.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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