CELAC Summit gathers region
Jan. 20, 2023
Latin American leaders will meet in Buenos Aires next week for the CELAC Summit. The meeting comes amid calls from Latin American leaders to strengthen regional integration, reports AS/COA.
Founded in 2011, CELAC was intended to be an alternative multilateral forum for Latin American countries, but lost steam in recent years as many countries in the region elected right-wing governments who criticized the organization, particularly the participation of “leftist” authoritarian governments: Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
CELAC and UNASUR are regional institutions initially “fueled with Venezuelan oil money and Hugo Chávez’s force of personality,” that “never fully lost that flavor,” writes Greg Weeks in Global Americans.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro heralded “new winds of integration” and announced plans to travel to Buenos Aires — Maduro returned to the international stage last year, after years of isolation. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel will also attend. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega will not attend, but will be represented by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada. (La Nación, Ámbito)
The summit will mark the return of Colombia and Brazil to the regional organization. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Colombian President Gustavo Petro will attend, following a hiatus under the two countries’ previous administrations. Both have been advocates of engagement with Venezuela, and the summit will be an opportunity to further their efforts. Lula plans to hold bilateral meetings with Maduro, reports Reuters.
Lula championed CELAC and UNASUR during his first presidencies, but any chance at revitalization “should center on shedding the ideological baggage that helped drag them down. Similarly, the Biden administration should accept opportunities to engage with them,” argues Weeks.
Argentine President Alberto Fernández invited the U.S. and China to attend, though neither is a CELAC member. Washington will send a delegation that includes U.S. Special Presidential Advisor for the Americas Chris Dodd. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to give a video address. Fernández did not invite OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. (Ámbito, Buenos Aires Times, AS/COA, Clarín)
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