Enter CELAC or La Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños. Anglicized it's the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. UNASUR Plus, anyone? In terms of membership, it is essentially the Organization of American States less the (industrialized, largely non-Hispanic) United States of America and Canada:
Latin American and Caribbean countries signed the “declaration of Caracas” today in Venezuela to formalize the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, an economic and political bloc that excludes the U.S. and Canada. Leaders and officials from 33 countries approved the declaration that pledges to improve ties in the region.As I mentioned, one of the more interesting geopolitical aspects is China rapidly extending its congratulations to the Lat-Ams for (yes) breaking away from the erstwhile imperialists. While Washington has pointedly ignored CELAC's birth, Chinese Premier Hu Jintao has been among the very first to extend recognition:
The Celac, as it is known, which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says fulfills the dreams of Simon Bolivar and other liberators in the hemisphere, will seek to boost regional trade and integration and may create an international reserve fund to protect its members against the global economic crisis. “We’re laying the foundation stone for integration,” said Chavez, who postponed the same summit in Venezuela by five months after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. “Only unity will make us free.”
While leaders from countries critical of the U.S.’s foreign policy, including Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, have said they expect the Celac to replace the Washington-based Organization of American States, other members from Mexico to Chile see it as a complementary organization. “This is in our interest, not against the OAS or Iberoamerican Summit, this is integration between Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia. “I laud the meeting as a step in the right direction for Latin America...”
Chile will assume the presidency of the group during its first year and the next summit will be held in Santiago at the end of 2012.
While the U.S. refrained from commenting, Chinese President Hu Jintao sent Chavez a letter congratulating the region for the creation of the group. “I’d like to send my warmest congratulations,” the letter said, according to an e-mail from Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry. “China is always looking to approach its ties with Latin America and the Caribbean from a strategic perspective and is willing to deepen dialogue, exchanges and cooperation.”More from Xinhua, naturally. Chinese media are largely those first to this story [1, 2].
Then again, I am keener on knowing how involved the members other than Venezuela are on pursuing this arrangement than what Hugo Chavez says. While he may trumpet it for obvious reasons of portraying it as a USA-free regional foil, Venezuela's diplomatic abilities are, shall we say, suspect. Witness its current inability to join MERCOSUR at the hands of a reluctant Paraguayan legislature. How can a country that cannot even manage to join a longstanding customs union currently composed of four countries take the lead in promoting a PTA of, what, 33 states? It's up to the others--especially the likes of Brazil and Chile--to make it happen.
I'll bet you won't read about CELAC from the USA#1 cheerleaders for obvious reasons as the erstwhile imperialist gets dissed in its own backyard (with nearly full participation from everyone else, no less). Call it the reverse Monroe Doctrine.
UPDATE: The WSJ adds the obvious angle that the American-led OAS is feeling rather abandoned right about now:
The U.S. has indicated that it will continue to back the embattled OAS amid renewed criticism from Chavez-allied leaders who say it is a shill for U.S. interests...The OAS was founded more than 60 years ago as a kind of United Nations of the Western Hemisphere. And as a regional arbitrator the organization is regularly accused of ineffectiveness and bias by disputing members.Methinks the gringos have spent too much time mucking about in the Asia-Pacific when a mini-revolt was breaking out far closer to home.