The Falklands: Latin America’s newest club picks an old fight

Bombastic resolutions and histrionic communications aside, the Falklands will always remain British territory; divisive attempts at unity by figures such as Hugo Chavez will make sure there is never even a threat

Hugo Chavez in his element at CELAC
Joel D. Hirst
On 16 December 2011 10:33

Latin American politicians love summits. The pomp and circumstance are an opportunity for them to revel in the presidential imperialism with which they view their administrations. 

Latin American politicians also love integration mechanisms. Not a decade goes by without another regional leader with delusions of grandeur proposing another scheme by which they purport to integrate the continent once and for all and earn their place in history beside San Martin and Simon Bolivar.

As luck would have it, these two drives are often complementary: which leads us to Latin America’s newest club, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC for is acronym in Spanish).

CELAC arises as a merger of the Latin American Summit on Integration and Development (CALC) and the Summit of the Group of Rio. But for President Chavez, playing host to the launching of this new initiative, it is much more.

“The 21stcentury will be the century of Latin America and the CELAC,” the bombastic leader was quoted as saying. Chavez sees the CELAC as the stepping stone to the fulfilment of Simon Bolivar’s dream of a Latin American Confederation; a dream which was dashed at the failure of the Congress of Panama (Latin America’s first summit) in 1826. 

The CELAC meeting, held on December 2nd and 3rd, had all the hallmarks of success. All thirty-three members of this new club were present, with more than ten heads of state. Caracas was beautified for the event and special contingents of National Guard and police were sent to lock down the dangerous city.

For good measure, the summit was held at Fuerte Tiuna, Venezuela’s most important (if not the largest) military base and dignitaries were shuttled back and forth between the base and their hotels in well-guarded convoys.

For the leaders and organizers of this event – namely Venezuela and Cuba – it was an act of political rebellion. Presidents Chavez, Morales, Correa, Castro and Ortega made inflammatory statements against the United States and their own internal oppositions. They called for the destruction of the Organization of American States (OAS), one of the oldest multi-lateral organizations in the world (it pre-dates the United Nations), and an organization to which Cuba does not belong due to its democratic deficiencies.

They also discussed special communications. Highlighted among these was the “Special Communication on the Falkland Islands.” In this declaration, clearly pandering to Argentina’s recently re-elected President Christina Kirchner, CELAC “reiterated its firm support to the legitimate rights of Argentina over the Falkland Islands.”

After two days, many meetings, and photo-ops, the dignitaries returned home – another successful summit under their belt. The rotating presidency now falls to Chile, but President Chavez forced through a final resolution requiring all decisions to be taken by a group of three – Chile, Cuba and Venezuela. Evidently, centre-right leaning President Sebastian Pinera is not to be trusted as the guardian of the fledgling organization.

It remains to be seen what becomes of this union; clearly peripheral to the foreign policy of important countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Chile and even Argentina.

There are nevertheless real questions emerging from this event. First, why do moderate countries such as Panama, Belize, Chile, and Colombia allow themselves to sign inflammatory resolutions which are clearly not in line with their policies?

For Costa Rica it’s even more baffling; how does a progressive resort country that abolished its own military generations ago allow itself to participate in an organization founded on a Venezuelan military base that vows to destroy the OAS – a group whose Inter-American Human Rights Court Costa Rica hosts?

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