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Posted on on July 13th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was established December 2011 in Caracas, as all three pre-existing organizations of Latin America prove to be behind the times – this mainly because of the US push to keep still Cuba outside the international system.

The Organization of American States does not include Cuba and similar problems are facing the Caribbean CARICOM and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

With China becoming more important in the Western Hemisphere – now CELAC – that includes all States except the US and Canada – becomes a more appropriate conversation partner to China – replacing ECLAC which is viewed as a tol of the US.

We have here a series of articles from THE GUYANA TIMES that show this evolution in changing inter-Western Hemisphere States around the time of the RIO+20 meeting, June 2012.

Chile is the linchpin to this Latin American reorganization – hosting both ECLAC and CELAC. The latter brought along also the members of CARICOM. How long will it take to the US to realize that its economic relations in the region are at stake?

Chinese premier proposes high-level cooperation forum with Latin America, Caribbean

July 4, 2012, THE GUYANA TIMES.
ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao enter the ECLAC building in Santiago, Chile

In order to deepen strategic relations with the region, today the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao proposed the creation of a China-Latin America cooperation forum and the establishment of a regular dialogue mechanism with the troika of foreign ministers from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – with a first meeting due to be held during 2012.
The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, welcomed Wen Jiabao on behalf of the commission.  From ECLAC, he then sent out a message to the Latin American and Caribbean region on the occasion of his official visit to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.
In his ECLAC speech, the Chinese Premier put forward concrete proposals for cooperation in areas such as food security, innovation, science and technology and sustainable development.
Wen Jiabao announced the creation of a cooperation fund for the region with an initial input of US$5.0 billion to promote, inter alia, the development of the manufacturing industry, as well as a credit line of US$10 billion dollars to boost infrastructure cooperation through the Bank of China. He proposed creating various forms of intergovernmental consultation mechanisms, broadening contacts among legislative institutions, political parties and territorial governments and strengthening the exchange of experiences in terms of state governance and the handling of administrative matters. He also suggested the creation of a forum for agriculture ministers and another forum for Scientific and Technological Innovation.
He mentioned that his country will give active consideration to ECLAC’s proposal to hold periodic meetings with the region’s heads of state and government. In the context of the visit by Wen Jiabao, today ECLAC launched the document The People’s Republic of China and Latin America and the Caribbean: Dialogue and cooperation for the new challenges of the global economy, which examines recent trade and investment trends.
According to the report, trade between China and the region is strikingly interindustrial, which means that China exports manufactured goods to the region, while Latin America and the Caribbean exports mainly raw materials. The document states that this reduces the potential for possible Chinese-Latin American business partnerships, and hampers a more effective integration of the region’s countries into the production chains of Asia-Pacific. Only four of the region’s countries (all in South America) posted surpluses in their trade with China in 2011: Brazil, Chile, Venezuela and Peru. In all cases, this was due to sales of a smaller number of commodities.
At the other extreme there is Mexico’s trade deficit with China: while less than two per cent of Mexican exports in 2011 went to China, 15 per cent of Mexico’s imports that year came from China. With this in mind, Wen Jiabao stated that China does not seek to have a trade surplus, but rather that it wishes to have balanced trade with the region by increasing future imports of products with greater added value from Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the country’s premier, China expects the volume of trade with the region to be worth more than US$400 billion in the next five years.
According to Bárcena, “Latin America and the Caribbean’s growing economic and trade ties with China raise opportunities and concerns”, and it was therefore essential to set up an agenda for dialogue and cooperation between the two parties. The opportunities of the relationship with China mentioned by Bárcena included improved terms of trade, higher growth rates and additional resources to invest in education, infrastructure and innovation. The concerns related to the reprimarisation of exports, deindustrialisation, Dutch disease, land access and immigration.
Wen Jiabao proposed deepening the friendship between the peoples of China and Latin America, while promoting mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. He said that, although China had experienced dramatic changes, it was still a developing country and its cooperation policy and feelings of solidarity with Latin American and Caribbean countries remained unchanged. China will definitely continue its path of peaceful development.  Quoting a Chilean saying, he stated that “friends are like stars: they are far away but you know they are there”.

Final Declaration of Caracas unanimously approved by CELAC.

December 5, 2011, THE GUYANA TIMES.

The summit to establish the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) wound up on Saturday in Venezuela with the unanimous approval of the Final Declaration of Caracas, and the handing over of the chairmanship to Chile.
The presidents, prime ministers and heads of delegations of the 33 countries making up the new regional organisation expressed a common stance, while ratifying their agreement with the 18 documents discussed during the two-day historic meeting. Likewise, the plan of action of the CELAC was agreed, which, specified Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, should be honored by all member nations, particularly by the members of the so-called troika (Venezuela, Chile and Cuba: outgoing country, new pro tempore chairman, and the next venue, respectively).
Two communiqués can be found among the 22 documents signed, one on the need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade of the United States against Cuba, and another on the recognition of Argentina’s right over the Falklands.
In addition, participants approved a special declaration on the defense of democracy and constitutional order of the countries composing the CELAC. Political texts referred to commitment to social inclusion, food and nutritional safety, the situation of the human rights of immigrants, and the sustainable development of the Community of Caribbean States (CARICOM), were also agreed.
Other documents signed include texts supporting the Yasuni-ITT-CALC-CELAC ecological initiative in Ecuador; and the Central American emergency situation due to tropical depressions. Participants also agreed to declare 2013 as the international year of the quinoa (edible grain from Bolivia).
Also, documents reflecting support for Central American security strategy, and the total elimination of nuclear weapons were signed.  Support for the struggle against terrorism in all forms and expressions, and the struggle against the world problem of drugs and drug trafficking were also among resolutions agreed.

Ramotar reminds developed nations about climate change commitments

May 22, 2012, THE GUYANA TIMES.

President Donald Ramotar on Monday reiterated the need for developed countries to honour their commitment to support developing countries in their bid to improve their capacities for natural resources and environmental management.
The president made this call at the 11th Caricom- Mexico Summit held in Barbados.  In sharing the views of the Caricom bloc on the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20, President Ramotar said it is imperative that the issues surrounding small islands and low lying coastal states be reflected within the CELAC agenda so as to be mirrored in the Rio+20 Outcome Document.
He said too that issues of  non-communicable diseases; ecosystem services – especially pertaining to REDD+, marine ecosystem services and emerging blue carbon frameworks,  food and energy insecurity –should be addressed at the Rio+20 Conference.
“We are concerned that the negotiations over the Zero Draft document reveal a high level of disagreement on issues which are at the core of the objectives of the conference.” According to the president, it was recognised from the Rio meeting of 1992 that developing countries needed a great deal of assistance financially, materially, and through human resources in order to progress.
“The developed countries did make clear commitments to provide a significant level of assistance and to create a more equitable global environment for the developing countries. In the 20 years since then, developing countries have been able to significantly improve their capacities for natural resources and environmental management. Despite the fact that they have been helped through programmes and projects financed through the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Rio Conventions and bilateral arrangements with some developed countries, the sum total of assistance received is just a small part of what was promised in Rio in 1992,” President Ramotar said.

Unfulfilled promises
He added that as a result of unfulfilled promises, “developing countries are still badly in need of the promised support to meet the ever-increasing challenges” facing them. Ramotar said small island and low-lying coastal developing states, in particular, continue to face increasing pressures from more frequent and more intense attacks from natural disasters and need to develop appropriate and effective response mechanisms.
The president stated too that the preparation of the Zero Document should now focus on ensuring that the main hurdles to the implementation of Agenda 21 and related action plans are “honestly identified and appropriate measures be considered for a renewed effort to remove these hurdles and fulfil the expectations generated 20 years ago”.
Ramotar said there are several priority issues that should be addressed with Caricom in mind within the context of negotiation of the Outcome Document. He pointed specifically to tourism, health, oceans, climate change and energy. The president said too that Caricom is supportive of the call by other developing countries for there to be additional negotiation sessions to ensure a successful and mutually satisfactory outcome for Rio+20.
He said there are “two critical themes” that must be focused on during the upcoming conference in Brazil: the green economy in the context of sustainable development, and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development.
Under the first theme, President Ramotar said the concept of a “green economy framework” has a critical role to play in rehabilitating the economies of Caricom member states that are continually affected by the 2008-2009 global and financial economic crises.
“Caricom is committed to the green economy approach.  Member states have been and are interpreting the green economy concept according to their national sustainable development priorities and national economic and social conditions.  In fact, several of our member states have developed, or are in the process of developing, sectoral policies, sustainable development strategies, strategic and medium-term planning programmes, and natural resource management frameworks that serve as the basis for a greener, low-carbon economic transition and, at the same time, address the issue of poverty eradication and the broader goal of sustainable development,” he stated.

Green economy
He added that it is important that an enabling environment is created for entrepreneurship and innovation in the context of a green economy for Caricom as this is critical. “In the long term, the private sector should drive green growth in collaboration with government and using relevant technology as an enabler.”
He said a green economy should not be treated as the totality of the sustainable development agenda, as “it is one component among other vital aspects of that agenda”.
On that note, President Ramotar said the Rio+20 Conference must address fundamental sustainable development challenges crucial to achieving a green economy that should: ensure greater integration between the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development; be applied by each country based on its specific national circumstances and priorities; be consistent with Agenda 21 and the Rio principles; ensure greater equity and inclusion within and between countries; and provide greater opportunities and  benefits for all citizens and countries; provide appropriate policy space for developing countries; and involve all relevant stakeholders – big and small.
“Caricom is also of the view that developing countries will require significantly enhanced support from the international community, including new and additional finance, technology transfer, and capacity building, in order to develop a green economy,” the president reiterated.
Under the second theme, the institutional framework for sustainable development, Guyana’s president said new bodies for Caricom such as a sustainable development council should not be created without a clear understanding of how they will improve on the deficiencies of existing entities such as the Commission on Sustainable Development. He added that it is Caricom’s view that there must be clarity on their relationship with existing UN organs.
“Caricom does not support the creation of a World Environment Organisation or UNEP’s conversion into a new treaty body, due in part to the complexity implicit in this proposal. However, strengthening UNEP in some form might be desirable.”
President Ramotar added that Caricom is open to the proposal on sustainable development goals and considers that a “limited set of time-bound sustainable development goals might be useful in translating the international community’s vision into tangible objectives”.
He added that the sustainable development goals should not be seen as a competing agenda with the Millennium Development Goals.

Filed Under: NEWS

Progress and Poverty

May 17, 2012 THE GUYANA TIMES.

President Ramotar’s recent address to the Organisation of American States (OAS) Permanent Council was interesting for several reasons. The OAS, formed in the wake of the post WWII Cold War climate, has long been seen as a proxy for U.S. interests. Of recent, it has been challenged by newer regional groupings such as CELAC, which has all the members of the OAS with the notable exceptions of the U.S. and Canada. And as significantly, it includes, Cuba which is still barred from the OAS at the insistence of the U.S.
President Ramotar emphasised the importance of reducing poverty and inequality in the region and noted “the critical importance of development to democracy”. While the president did not expand too much on these themes, it is significant that they are at the base of the contending visions that are driving the newer groupings. The OAS has attempted to broaden its initial focus on regional security, but its equivocation on the coup in Honduras and the ouster of the democratically elected government of Aristide in Haiti, for instance, have fuelled accusations that nothing fundamentally has changed.
The movers and shakers in CELAC, notably Chavez of Venezuela have insisted that ‘democracy’ must go beyond issues surrounding the franchise. They emphasise the substantive concerns of economic and social justice, grounded in their socialist orientation and origins. The accusation that ‘bourgeoisie’ democracy of the ballot is hollow was the dominant message by both the PPP and the PNC up to the 1980’s. They insisted that the fulfilment of economic and social rights must take centre stage.
However, while the OAS still emphasises the importance of ‘representative democracy’ and spends much of its time ensuring that electoral systems are not subverted, it has found it difficult to effectively challenge the competing ‘development and participatory’ democratic model. The reason is that unlike the confrontation from the ‘left’ in the sixties, the present champions of the latter vision are willing to go to the poll. This might be for the simple reason that their mobilisation of the downtrodden, who benefit from their approach, consistently deliver overwhelming majorities to them.
Their ‘participatory and development’ democracy is therefore simultaneously ‘representative”. It is not too hard to find the reason of their success: President Ramotar pointed it out. He warned that there cannot be debate on democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean “outside the context of our intolerable levels of poverty, when 57 million people, or 11 per cent of our population live on less than one dollar a day, and 23 per cent exist daily on less than two dollars”.  Latin America has one of the starkest disparities in income disparity between their top and bottom strata.
It should be noted that the president did not ignore the traditional concerns of the OAS for ‘security’ issues, but he took a more expansive perspective on the concept. In addition to poverty and inequality, he emphasised the challenges posed by climate change, crime, drugs and violence. It is important that these issues – including the pertinent model of democracy for our country – be on the agenda of our politicians in our country.
Without a broad vision of the development path that is appropriate for our stage and level of development it is clear that there is a great danger of the contending politicians pulling so vigorously in opposite directions, the entire country might be brought to its knees. From this perspective we have to ask once again, as to what exactly are the opposition’s objections to the LCDS? One gets very contradictory and conflicting messages.
One other matter that needs urgent agreement is whether business is still ‘the engine of growth’ for the economy. If this is so, there should be a clear statement by the opposition as to whether they oppose the notion that businesses – appropriately regulated, of course – can only survive if they earn profits.

Filed Under: EDITORIAL
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