CANCUN, Mexico - REGIONAL leaders agreed to the formal creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, a hemispheric body serving as an alternative to the Organisation of the American States (OAS).
The decision was taken by the 32 Heads of State and Foreign Ministers, including Kittitian-Nevisian Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, attending the two-day Rio Group summit in Mexico (Feb. 22 to 23).
Delegates signed off on a Declaration of the Summit of Unity outlining the foundation of the organisation set to replace the existing Rio Group, a primarily Latin American grouping that was constituted in Brazil almost 24 years ago.
The new bloc is aimed at reducing US influence on the region, and membership will not be extended to the United States and Canada. Many details are still to be finalised, but the 33 member states did agree to meet in Venezuela next year to assess progress of the development of a charter.
Both the Rio Group and CARICOM will continue their normal operations until the community is officially established. It is still unknown whether member countries will maintain their OAS membership once the new body is launched.
The summit also focused on the creation of a long-term Haitian earthquake recovery plan and the resolution of the conflict between Argentina and Great Britain over oil drilling offshore from the Falkland Islands. Regional cooperation in trade and development, transport, tourism and security were additional discussion items.
The Associated Press reported Mexican President Felipe Calderon as saying that the community would “globally project the region based on the respect for international law, equality of states, and respect for human rights and cooperation”.
Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez, the Presidents of Bolivia and Venezuela, respectively, also praised the new initiative. Caribbean leaders in Mexico for the summit included PM Douglas, Dominican PM Roosevelt Skerrit, and Antiguan and Grenadian leader Tillman Thomas.
According to a release by Press Secretary Erasmus Williams, Douglas was accompanied by Housing Minister Dr. Hon. Earl Asim Martin, His Excellency Ambassador Errol Maynard and Assistant Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Crios Freeman.
St. Kitts-Nevis has grown closer with its Latin American neighbours in recent years, joining the PetroCaribe initiative in 2005 and even hosting the sixth PetroCaribe Summit in June 2009.
PM Douglas also told reporters last year that his government was considering becoming a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA).