|From January 28-29, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) held its second summit in Havana, Cuba, with several days of meetings which preceded it, including discussions to sum up the work and aspirations of CELAC member countries in the Havana Declaration ratified at the conclusion of the summit. The summit coincided with celebrations in Cuba of the 161st anniversary of the birth of Jose Marti, a hero to the peoples of Latin America for his contributions to their national liberation struggles. The summit was attended by 29 presidents, the president-elect of Chile and other national representatives. Also in attendance were UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon and Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza. During two days, the sessions addressed a large array of issues relevant to the problems facing the region, particularly the fight against hunger, poverty and inequalities. Going into the summit, Cuba occupied the pro tempore presidency of CELAC. This role was handed over to Costa Rica at the conclusion of the summit.
CELAC comprises 33 countries -- all the countries in the Americas with the exception of Canada and the U.S. The first summit was held December 2-3, 2011 in Caracas Venezuela. The founding of CELAC in 2010 was a historic advance by the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean to throw off the yoke of U.S. imperialism and its regional instrument the OAS. Thus, it is no accident that the U.S. and Canada, which advance an agenda of imperialism and private monopoly right against the people's interests throughout the Americas, have been decisively excluded from CELAC.
Cuban President Raúl Castro gave the opening speech for the summit. He began by noting the absence of the late President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez, who played an important role in the founding of CELAC and whose presence is sorely missed. He affirmed the importance of CELAC's work, saying, "Step by step, we are creating a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that is currently recognized in the world as the legitimate representative of the interests of Latin America and the Caribbean.
"Likewise, we have been reconciling our views and, despite the inevitable differences, a spirit of greater unity within diversity is being developed, and that should be our ultimate goal.
"As I said in Santiago de Chile, 'We know that, among us, distinct ideas and even differences exist, but CELAC has been built upon a legacy of two hundred years of struggle for independence and is based on a profound commonality of goals. Therefore, CELAC is not a succession of mere meetings or pragmatic agreements, but a common vision of a Greater Latin American and Caribbean Homeland which solely has a duty to its peoples.'
"One of our priorities should be the creation of a common political space in which we can move forward toward the achievement of peace and respect among our nations; in which we are able to overcome the objective obstacles and those deliberately imposed upon us; in which we can utilize our resources in a sovereign way and for our common well-being and place our scientific and technical knowledge in the service of progress for our peoples; in which we can assert undeniable principles such as self-determination, sovereignty and the sovereign equality of States.
"Only in this way can we ensure that the assertion describing Latin America and the Caribbean as the most unequal region in the planet no longer be a reality.
"Cuba's pro tempore presidency of CELAC has focused precisely on the achievement of this goal. That is why the central theme of this summit is the struggle against poverty, hunger and inequality."
President Castro provided the facts and figures compiled by the United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) showing the challenges that face the region in this regard, saying that "the poverty rate in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2012 reached, as a minimum, 28.2 per cent of the population; that is to say, 164 million people. And the abject or extreme poverty rate was 11.3 per cent, equivalent to 66 million inhabitants in the region. The most distressing concern, however, is child poverty, which affects 70.5 million boys, girls and adolescents; 23.3 million of whom live below the poverty line.
"The richest 10 per cent in Latin American receive 32 per cent of the total income, while the poorest 40 per cent receive only 15 per cent."
He stated that proper use of the natural resources of the region are key to eradicating poverty, improving health, living conditions and the standard of living in the region:
"[I]t is precisely all this wealth which should become the driving force in eradicating inequalities. The imperative and challenge we face is being capable of transforming this natural capital into human capital, into economic infrastructure and diversification of production and exports, in a way that decisively contributes to a true development process.
"One of the problems we face in Latin America and the Caribbean is the inability to translate the periods of high prices of the natural resources we export into long-term economic development processes, in such a way that they could truly contribute to the reduction of poverty and increase the per capita income of our populations. To do so we should fully exercise sovereignty over our natural resources and design appropriate policies to guide our relations with foreign investors and transnational companies operating in CELAC member countries."
Addressing the issue of education, Castro explained that, "While access to primary education has improved in the region, information gathered by ECLAC and UNESCO establishes very clearly that access to education, and the quality of training which students receive, are very much linked to income levels.
"The situation is far more serious in secondary education, not only because 50 per cent of youth between the ages of 20 and 24 dropped out, but because only 21.7 per cent of youth from the poorest sector in that age group were able to finish school. In contrast, 78.3 per cent of their peers in the richest sector managed to complete this level of education. That is to say, a 56.6 percentage point gap separated the two groups in 2010.
"In the case of university education, the situation is even more complex. According to some estimates issued by ECLAC, in the year 2010 enrollment at this level accounted for one third of youth between the ages of 18 and 24."
Castro emphasized that the problems facing the region in terms of education are not only fully solvable but must be resolved if the aspirations of CELAC member countries are to be realized. He urged all countries to collectively take responsibility for the well-being of the region, paying attention to the particular needs and capabilities of each country.
The issue of threats to peace in the region from outside forces was also addressed by Castro, who said, "We can not forget the long history of interference in the internal affairs of states, military invasions and bloody coups d'état. The so called 'centres of power' have not resigned themselves to losing control of this rich region, nor will they ever renounce the attempts to change the course of history in our countries, to recover the influence they have lost and benefit from our resources.
"In 1999, when the socialist block ceased to exist, NATO modified its strategy for offensive actions against alleged global threats outside the territory of the member States of the Alliance in an area it called the 'Euro-Atlantic periphery.' At the European Union-Latin American and Caribbean Summit that was held in Rio de Janeiro later on in June, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, asked if our region had been included in that 'periphery' and if it was subject to that ever-more aggressive and dangerous doctrine. Such questions remain unanswered until today, fifteen years later."
As concerns threats from cyber warfare, President Castro pointed out the need for cooperation on this front as well, to prevent cyber warfare from being used for military purposes or developing into open military conflict.
Elaborating on issues of war and peace, President Castro stated, "As an expression of its firm commitment to nuclear disarmament and peace, Latin America was the first region in the world to establish, through the Treaty of Tlatelolco, a Nuclear Free Zone. But we should go further. Peace and development are interdependent and inextricably linked. There can be no peace without development.
"Nor will there be development without peace. That is why we are determined to declare our region a Zone of Peace to eradicate -- once and for all -- war, the use or threat of force; a Zone in which any dispute between our countries can be resolved amongst ourselves, through peaceful means and negotiation, in accordance with the principles of international law."
He concluded his speech expressing support for some of the important issues facing the region, such as Argentina's fight to exercise sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and adjacent seas. He also highlighted the fight for Puerto Rican independence, saying, "I reiterate that our Community will be incomplete as long as the seat of Puerto Rico, a genuinely Latin American and Caribbean sister nation faced with colonial status, remains vacant." Regarding the threats of the monopolies to the region, he added, "We express our solidarity with the people and the government of Ecuador, threatened by the lawsuits filed by transnationals before courts which are prejudiced by greed and a neo-colonial political vision."
Declaration of Havana
The Declaration of Havana, adopted by the Havana Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on January 29, reaffirms the role of the bloc as a regional space for dialogue and political coordination.
The document stresses the determination to jointly work for the well-being of the people of the region and expresses the need to advance regional integration.
The 83-paragraph document also includes the main tasks being undertaken by CELAC and the problems facing the region in all areas.
The declaration reiterates the CELAC member states' position that unity and integration must progressively be achieved, with flexibility and in respect of diversity and the right of each state to choose its own political and economic system.
Comprehensive and inclusive development is a priority expressed in the document, in order to guarantee sustainable and productive progress, in harmony with the environment.
The heads of state also expressed in the declaration their determination to jointly work in order to face the challenges posed by the current world situation and to boost economic growth that favour social inclusion and equality.
Emphasis is put on the need to work for food security, literacy, education the development of agriculture and the achievement of universal public health services.
The Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico (a de facto U.S. colony) was reiterated in the document as well as the commitment to realize Latin America and the Caribbean as a territory free of colonialism.
The document rejects the practice of unilaterally designating certain states as being involved with terrorism, drug trafficking and other unfounded accusations, including the U.S. blacklisting of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The text also backs the Argentinean claim over the Malvinas Islands and rejects the more than 50-year U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba.
Proclamation of Latin America and Caribbean
as a Zone of Peace
The following proclamation was issued by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) at the Havana summit.
The Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) gathered in Havana, Cuba on January 28 and 29, 2014 at the Second Summit, on behalf of their peoples and faithfully interpreting their hopes and aspirations,
Reaffirming the commitment of member countries with the Purposes and Principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and International Law, and aware of the fact that prosperity and stability in the region contribute to international peace and security,
Mindful that peace is a supreme asset and a legitimate aspiration of all peoples and that preserving peace is a substantial element of Latin America and Caribbean integration and a principle and common value of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC),
Reaffirming that integration consolidates the vision of a fair International order based on the right to peace and a culture of peace, which excludes the use of force and non-legitimate means of defense, such as weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons in particular,
Highlighting the relevance of the Tlatelolco Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean establishing the first nuclear weapon free zone in a densely populated area, this being a contribution to peace and to regional and international security,
Reiterating the urgent need of General and Complete Nuclear Disarmament, as well as the commitment with the Strategic Agenda of the Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), adopted by the 33 Member States of the Organization in the General Conference held in Buenos Aires in August, 2013.
Recalling the principles of peace, democracy, development and freedom underlying the actions of countries members of SICA [Central American Integration System],
Recalling the decision of UNASUR [Union of South American Nations] Heads of State of consolidating South America as a Zone of Peace and Cooperation,
Recalling the establishment, in 1986, of the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic,
Recalling also our commitment, agreed in the Declaration of the Summit of Unity of Latin America and the Caribbean, on 23 February 2010, to promote the implementation of our own mechanisms for peaceful conflict resolution,
Reiterating our commitment to consolidate Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, in which differences between nations are peacefully settled through dialogue and negotiations or other means, fully consistent with International Law,
Cognizant also of the catastrophic global and long-term humanitarian impact of the use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and the ongoing discussions on this issue,
1. Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace based on respect for the principles and rules of International Law, including the international instruments to which Member States are a party to, the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations Charter;
2. Our permanent commitment to solve disputes through peaceful means with the aim of uprooting forever [the] threat or use of force in our region;
3. The commitment of the States of the region with their strict obligation not to intervene, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any other State and observe the principles of national sovereignty, equal rights and self-determination of peoples;
4. The commitment of the peoples of Latin American and Caribbean to foster cooperation and friendly relations among themselves and with other nations irrespective of differences in their political, economic, and social systems or development levels; to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors;
5. The commitment of the Latin American and Caribbean States to fully respect for the inalienable right of every State to choose its political, economic, social, and cultural system, as an essential condition to ensure peaceful coexistence among nations;
6. The promotion in the region of a culture of peace based, inter alia, on the principles of the United Nations Declaration on a Culture of Peace;
7. The commitment of the States in the region to guide themselves by this Declaration in their International behavior;
8. The commitment of the States of the region to continue promoting nuclear disarmament as a priority objective and to contribute with general and complete disarmament, to foster the strengthening of confidence among nations;
We urge all Member States of the International Community to fully respect this Declaration in their relations with CELAC Member States.
In witness of the undersigned having duly signed this Proclamation in Havana, on the 29th day of the month of January of 2014, in a copy written in the Spanish, English, French and Portuguese languages.