600 million vs. USA
In December, the leaders of 33 American countries situated southward of US borders gathered in Venezuela's capital, Caracas. The leaders signed the agreement about the establishment of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Therefore, Rio Group and the Latin American and Caribbean Summit will not gather any longer. The new organization, which represents the countries with the total population of 600 million, has the largest oil, gas and water reserves in the world. The CELAC may eventually play the role of one of the centers of the multipolar world.
The new organization will deal with developing economic integration and reaching consensus on all regional and world issues. As for the ideology, the organization takes an independent stand. It sees no ties with the Anglo-Saxon "North" and eyes the cooperation with the "South" - China, first and foremost. China supported the establishment of the CELAC.
Interestingly enough, the community of 33 appeared almost immediately after considerable progress in the realization of the idea of the Eurasian Union. It is obvious that the idea of integration still occupies the minds of politicians despite the shattering grounds of the European Union.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff supported the idea of her Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez to create a strong association of various political forces. The goal of the association would be to reduce poverty and stratification of the society with the help of large state-run social programs. The state in this popular Latin American model will play the role of a trade union between business and workers.
The idea for 33 countries to unite appeared a long time ago. It could not be realized at first, because the leaders of Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Chile, Peru and several Caribbean states followed the instructions from Uncle Sam. However, the crisis of neoliberalism made many turn towards the dynamically developing Brazil.
During the first summit, the CELAC members discussed whether the Community was going to cooperate with the Organization of American States, which has the US and Canada as its members. OAS Secretary General Jose Manuel Insulza diplomatically said that he did not have anything against the CELAC. "I think we will complement each other," the official said. Nearly all leaders of the new organization supported his opinion. Cuban leader Raul Castro stated that the CELAC did not have the goal to either challenge or replace the OAS. Even Hugo Chavez urged the organizations to maintain friendly relations.
A group of Republican Congressmen addressed to the US Congress with a suggestion to stop paying the quota to the OAS, because the organization began to turn into a non-democratic and destabilizing structure, as they said. It does not mean that the United States is going to leave its backyard to the mercy of fate. The US has bigger priorities in the Middle East, of course. However, the US decided to reestablish its Fourth Fleet as soon as the Unasur (Union of South American Nations) created the Defense Council to defend its open oil fields in the eastern shelf.
The OAS was established by the United States. The organization appeared to defend US interests. Cuba used to be a member of the organization as well. The country was used to support South American dictatorships and military coups in Venezuela, Panama and Honduras. Nowadays, the geopolitical situation in the world is completely different. All of those and other countries of the region are ruled by democratically elected governments. Central American island states received independence too.
Colombia and Venezuela established a dialogue; the commodity circulation between the countries began to grow. The sitting Colombian president proved that he was capable of solving problems without the help from the "master." The OAS will no longer be approving the decisions which the United States needs.
Some specialists believe that the CELAC is another "abbreviation soup" which has appeared on the "menu" consisting of various regional associations Caricom, lAEC, Sica, CAN, Otca, Mercosur, Unasur and so on. However, all of those organizations unite America's subregions to the south of the United States. It is only the CELAC that unites all countries, including the English-speaking ones (Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, etc), the French-speaking Haiti and the Dutch-speaking Surinam.
The Unasur, for example, currently conducts 510 integration projects in the amount of $67 billion dollars. Brazil actively invests in the infrastructure of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela and other countries. It builds the largest port in Cuba and hydro-electric plants in Haiti and Nicaragua. As for Haiti, the country will receive the plant free of charge, taking into consideration the disastrous state of affairs in the country. There is also an agreement between Brazil, Cuba and Haiti to build medical institutions in Haiti. The investments in the projects are evaluated at $80 million.
Integration has made life easier in the Amazonian region. The hydro-electric power plant in the south of Venezuela provides electricity for Roraima - a remote and least populated Brazilian state. Amazonia's capital - Manaus - can now use broadband Internet connection via Venezuela's CANTV company. Many giggled when Chavez put forward the idea to build a gas pipeline across South America. Nowadays, the project is being realized; Russia's Gazprom takes an active part in it.
Brazil and Argentina increase the volume of settlements in the national currency. Cuba prepares highly qualified medical personnel for the region.
For the time being, the CELAC will operate as a forum for dialogues and consultations. In a year, the participants will have to discuss whether their decisions are going to be made via the consensus or the majority, which may split the organization.
The views and interests in the region are diverse. The economic conditions and the living standards in various countries are also different. Bolivia does not have access to the sea, Costa Rico and Nicaragua have territorial claims to each other, the government of Honduras is not recognized by the majority of states, and so on and so forth.
However, many agree with Hugo Chavez, who stated that the establishment of the CELAC became the most important event, which took place in America during the last 100 years. Similarly to the EU, the CELAC will be governed by three leaders - the presidents of Chile, Cuba and Venezuela. The next summits of the organization will take place in these countries in 2012, 2013 and 2014.