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Latin and Caribbean leaders forge new bloc

Latin and Caribbean leaders form a new bloc that excludes the U.S. and Canada. Some hope the CELAC will replace the Organization of American States.

BY JIM WYSS

jwyss@MiamiHerald.com

BOGOTA — The hemisphere formed a powerful new bloc of nations Saturday that stretches from Chile to Mexico, includes one out of every 10 people on the planet and is seeing surging growth and economic stability in a time of global turmoil.

The 33 members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, vowed to push regional integration, boost commerce and form a common front against everything from global warming to the drug trade.

After two days of meetings in Venezuela, leaders signed the Caracas Declaration, which breathes life into an organization that includes every country in the region except the United States and Canada. Chile will preside over the group in 2012, then Cuba in 2013.

The event brought together a disparate group of nations with sometimes competing visions for the CELAC. Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, among others, see the body as a tool to blunt U.S. influence in the region and rival the Organization of American States – which they accuse of being under U.S. sway.

Another faction, which includes Chile, Costa Rica and Colombia, expects the new body to work hand-in-hand with existing multilateral organizations.

“This integration can’t be against anyone,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. “It isn’t against the OAS…This integration is in favor of Latin America and the Caribbean. And if we play with a more proactive and positive attitude we will get much farther.”

Santos said the new organization should focus on creating roads and infrastructure that would boost regional commerce among nations that still, by and large, look to the United States as their largest trade partner.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñeda, the group leader in 2012, said the CELAC should promote education, innovation and investment. He said the bloc is being formed as the region is poised to see economic growth of 5 percent this year and is enjoying financial stability that’s the envy of U.S. and Europe.

“I am convinced that the 21st Century belongs to Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

The CELAC was first proposed in 2010 during a meeting of regional leaders in Cancun. Mexican President Felipe Calderón was the first speaker on Friday. He said the CELAC should tackle poverty, violence and organized crime.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/03/2530158/latin-and-caribbean-leaders-forge.html?story_link=email_msg#ixzz1fqiNByAL

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Latin and Caribbean leaders form a new bloc that excludes the U.S. and Canada. Some hope the CELAC will replace the Organization of American States.

BY JIM WYSS

jwyss@MiamiHerald.com

BOGOTA — The hemisphere formed a powerful new bloc of nations Saturday that stretches from Chile to Mexico, includes one out of every 10 people on the planet and is seeing surging growth and economic stability in a time of global turmoil.

The 33 members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, vowed to push regional integration, boost commerce and form a common front against everything from global warming to the drug trade.

After two days of meetings in Venezuela, leaders signed the Caracas Declaration, which breathes life into an organization that includes every country in the region except the United States and Canada. Chile will preside over the group in 2012, then Cuba in 2013.

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The event brought together a disparate group of nations with sometimes competing visions for the CELAC. Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, among others, see the body as a tool to blunt U.S. influence in the region and rival the Organization of American States – which they accuse of being under U.S. sway.

Another faction, which includes Chile, Costa Rica and Colombia, expects the new body to work hand-in-hand with existing multilateral organizations.

“This integration can’t be against anyone,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. “It isn’t against the OAS…This integration is in favor of Latin America and the Caribbean. And if we play with a more proactive and positive attitude we will get much farther.”

Santos said the new organization should focus on creating roads and infrastructure that would boost regional commerce among nations that still, by and large, look to the United States as their largest trade partner.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñeda, the group leader in 2012, said the CELAC should promote education, innovation and investment. He said the bloc is being formed as the region is poised to see economic growth of 5 percent this year and is enjoying financial stability that’s the envy of U.S. and Europe.

“I am convinced that the 21st Century belongs to Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

The CELAC was first proposed in 2010 during a meeting of regional leaders in Cancun. Mexican President Felipe Calderón was the first speaker on Friday. He said the CELAC should tackle poverty, violence and organized crime.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/03/2530158/latin-and-caribbean-leaders-forge.html?story_link=email_msg#ixzz1fqiNByAL