Op-Ed: CELAC and the United States

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By David Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor

CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, is the newest addition to the alphabet soup of Caribbean multi-national organizations.

The organization, formed in 2010, has 33 member states, including 16 from the greater Caribbean region, a new regional bloc of independent modern states in the western hemisphere who are all subject to North American influence.

Crucially, this new regional bloc of  States deliberately left Canada and the United States on the sidelines.

CELAC is the brainchild of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and is conceived as  the regional alternative to the Organization of American States, which omits Cuba in its membership.

But is a Latin American and Caribbean alliance that omits the North American power brokers viable?

While Raul Castro who is CELAC’s newest rotating president is criticized for Cuba’s apparent lack of ideological flexibility, he has not abandoned the leftist philosophy  associated with his brother Fidel Castro.

CELAC recently held a major summit in Santiago, Chile, focusing on CELAC’s genuinely regional membership and the difference  between Canada and the United States and the members of CELAC.

Cuba’s role as the second pro tempore president of CELAC (following Chile last year) could greatly enhance Cuba’s international influence in the region, with some seeing the election of Cuba as an acknowledgement of the intense struggle waged by the Cuban people  in defense of their revolution.

But even though CELAC members are unlikely to follow Cuba’s domestic policies, they appear to be impressed with the rejection of American capitalism embraced by the island nation.

The CELAC Summit stressed regional collaboration  and it put into contact brothers and sisters of the region who sometimes do not speak with one another.

The question is, is CELAC a study in impracticality or a unique way to persuade Washington to drop its embargo on Cuba?

If so,  it has not achieved its objective yet. Indeed, It appears that the OAS cannot be effectively replaced, and almost all of the CELAC countries, with the exception of Cuba, receive direct financial assistance  from the United States or Canada. In most circumstances,  from both.

Ultimately, the test for the regional bloc will be whether CELAC is just a method to diplomatically poke the United States, or if it will have serious, lasting value to Latin America and the Caribbean. Only time will tell.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Jamaica and Florida and a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.