Monday, January 28, 2013

CELAC Summit Ends With Ambitious 'Santiago Declaration'

The bi-regional summit between the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union came to a close on Sunday in Santiago, Chile with leaders from both regions making ambitious calls for increased cooperation. The two-day summit resulted in the heads of states and representatives from all 60 Latin American, Caribbean and European countries in attendance signing the Santiago Declaration, a 48-point document addressing a wide array of economic, social and environmental issues.

The full text of the declaration is available via El Heraldo, while the AFP offers a brief overview of its main points. Among these are agreements to strengthen cooperation on drug policy between CELAC and the EU, develop a “strategic partnership” to promote sustainable development, defend human rights and increase bi-regional trade and investment. On this last front, the declaration included a promise to “avoid protectionism in all its forms,” which as Bloomberg notes, is surprising considering that some of Latin America’s trade giants (namely Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela) have increased trade barriers of late.

The declaration also included an explicit critique of the United States embargo against Cuba, as well as a wider condemnation of “all unilateral coercive measures with extraterritorial effects.” The timing of the criticism is appropriate, as Cuban President Raul Castro becomes CELAC’s new president pro tempore today, the most high-profile international leadership role that Cuba has held in decades.

Despite the ambitious tone in the declaration, which is not legally binding, some of the CELAC-EU summit participants expressed dissatisfaction with the meeting. As Telesur reports, both Bolivian President Evo Morales and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said that the summit was marked by a lack of transparency and dialogue among member states.

News Briefs
  • Perhaps the most surprising part of the close of the CELAC summit was the warm praise that Chilean President Sebastian Piñera voiced for Hugo Chavez on Sunday. According to the AP, the conservative Chilean leader credited Chavez’s "vision, tenacity and strength" for the creation of CELAC, and expressed hope that he would recover his health soon.
  • The head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, has said that he plans to make yet another trip to Cuba this week to meet with Chavez, who has entered into a “new phase” of treatment, according to officials.
  • Argentina and Iran have signed an agreement to create an independent truth commission charged with investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 84 people, which was widely believed to have been carried out by Hezbollah. As Pagina 12 and the BBC report, if the agreement is ratified by both countries’ legislatures, this is the first time that investigators will be allowed to interview suspects of the bombing in Iran.
  • In addition to presenting a proposal for land reform last week to the Colombian government, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) proposed that officials consider legalizing coca cultivation for traditional uses in the country. La Silla Vacia offers six reasons why the suggestion should be taken seriously by the government.              
  • After more than 60 people died in a prison riot in Venezuela on Friday, Venezuelan Prisons Minister Iris Varela announced the closure of the facility, although El Universal notes that the relatives of the inmates have not been told where they have been relocated to. According to the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, more than 300 inmates were killed in Venezuelan prisons in the first half of 2012 alone.
  • Violence broke out at a Sunday meeting of the Dominican Republic’s main opposition party, the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), resulting in six people being treated for gunshot wounds.  Video of the incident, obtained by the BBC, shows party members throwing chairs and exchanging blows with each other, ostensibly over the rejection of former PRD leader Hipolito Mejia.
  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cut short her stay in Santiago over the weekend after a fire broke out in a crowded nightclub in the city of Porto Alegre broke out early Sunday morning, killing at least 231, The New York Times and the AP report
  • A leader of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), Cicero Guedes was killed on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro state, near a sugar plantation where he led an MST-backed occupation. Citing statistics by the Brazilian Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), EFE reports that the number of land conflicts in the country is on the rise, and that the number of threats against activists rose from 125 to 347 between 2010 and 2011.
  • The Washington Post profiles Brazil’s struggle against drug trafficking and the rise of cocaine smuggling networks along the country’s porous borders with Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. While a border security plan is costing Brazil millions of dollars, the government says it sees this as a necessary security investment ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
  • The first major mining conflict of the year in Peru broke out last week in the northern state of Lambayeque, where demonstrators clashed with police in an attempt to occupy the site of a Canadian-owned copper mine.  El Comercio reports that the protestors have set up roadblocks on the road leading to the site, effectively preventing any access to the mine.

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