While openly conceding the differences in their ideological, economic and geopolitical views, on Jan 29, 2013, the leaders of the 33 member countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) committed themselves to integration at their first ever summit in Santiago, Chile.
CELAC “definitely” empowers the region’s voice in the world, said the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, at the conclusion of the summit in Santiago on Monday.
“I am convinced that this new mechanism is a strong signal, first of all, that Latin America and the Caribbean are no longer what they used to be,” and have experienced “very significant changes”, she said.
Rightwing Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said it is “an inclusive (process), because it reaffirms convergence in the same common space, while it has projected itself strongly abroad.”
Sebastián Piñera's words echoed those written by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, his complete ideological opposite, in a letter that was read at the summit. Chávez is convalescing in Havana from his fourth cancer operation, which took place on Dec. 11.
The summit was marked by an air of expectancy about the contents of the letter, read out by Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro. CELAC “is the most important project of political, economic, cultural and social unity in our contemporary history,” Chávez said.