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OUR CARIBBEAN: CELAC Summit making history in Cuba

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: CELAC Summit  making history  in Cuba

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IT WOULD be interesting to learn what Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government have to report to their respective country on their participation at the Second Summit of the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States (CELAC) which concluded in Havana two days ago.
Inaugurated in Caraças in December 2011 with then President Hugo Chavez as host and one of the prime initiators, CELAC is defined as a “counterpart” to the Washington-based Organisation of American States (OAS) with the distinguishing difference that neither the United States nor Canada is among the 33 member states of the Caribbean/Latin American region.
Promoting closest possible cooperation with the strengthening of economic and cultural integration as major objectives, CELAC’s commitment to peaceful development was underscored by its end-of-summit draft proclamation recognising the region as a “zone of peace”.
 With Cuba as host and now holding the rotating chairmanship, the CELAC summit further highlighted the dismal failure of more than half a century of strategies and tactics by the United States – including clandestine activities launched from some nations of the hemisphere – to isolate Cuba which this month marks 55 years of the Fidel Castro-led revolution.
 As if to dramatise the impact of CELAC and the diminishing influence of the OAS, both the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and the secretary general of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza, were in attendance at the summit  – the latter with observer status.
It was the first time, since 1962, when under enormous “cold war” pressure from the United States, that a serving OAS secretary general arrived in Cuba to participate in a public event of hemispheric significance.
And as if to further underscore the continuing significant changes – political, social, economic and cultural – away from the traditional domineering influence of the United States – Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, took the opportunity of the CELAC Summit to formally inaugurate the first phase of Cuba’s modernized deepwater seaport at Mariel, funded by her country at a cost of US$957 million.
To say that was a practical manifestation of solidarity as Cuba struggles against half a century of the American economic blockade, may be an understatement. But the UN Secretary General was ready with a very encouraging message of his own:  “It is especially meaningful,” he told the summit, “on the anniversary of the birth of the great Jose Marti. He was an inspiration not only for this country’s independence, but for shaping the Latin American identity . . .”
Declaring that the region continues to face some serious challenges, the secretary general was, however, pleased to note that he sees a region “determined to tackle its obstacles together . . .  This summit is proof of just that. Pledge the support of the United Nations in all aspects of our shared agenda.”
 The hosting of CELAC’s summit in Cuba was indeed a history-making event in various ways.
•? Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.