As the leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States get together in Chile for their first summit, Cuba takes the chair of the organization and the father of this endeavor—Venezuela President Hugo Chavez—recuperates from surgery on that Caribbean island.
The organization—known as CELAC for its initials in Spanish—was created in 2011, thanks in part to efforts from Chavez. Now, Cuban President Raul Castro assumes its presidency. According to a report from the Associated Press, Castro said that his taking the presidency of CELAC “is a show of regional unity against U.S. efforts to isolate the communist government through a 50-year-old economic embargo.”
Castro was eagerly welcomed in Chile, particularly by Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who is CELAC’s outgoing president. Pinera spoke about how Chavez is facing the toughest moment of his life, and wished him well.
Chavez is not the only leader absent from the summit—Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff had to return to Brazil after news broke about the tragic fire at a club there. Ecuador’s Rafael Correa is campaigning ahead of the election coming in a month. In addition, Paraguay President Federico Franco is at home dealing with the aftermath of having Paraguay “suspended from Mercosur and Unasur following the congressional impeachment and removal of Fernando Lugo,” writes MercoPress. CELAC has 33 members.
Chavez may have been absent, but his government made sure they could deliver a handwritten note from him regardless—his vice president, Nicolas Maduro, was set to deliver it to CELAC leaders on Monday.
Many are anxiously wondering what will happen as Cuba becomes a leader among the member states. There has been much talk of finally being able to deal with other nations without the shadow of the United States. A typewritten letter from Chavez that Maduro read before the summit emphasized this.
“After 30 years of resisting this criminal imperial blockade, Latin America and the Caribbean is using a single voice to tell the United States: All your attempts to isolate Cuba are failing,” the letter read.