CELAC: A Washington-Controlled OAS Alternative – by Stephen Lendman
On February 23, 2010, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States was established at the Rio Group-Caribbean Community Unity Summit in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
CELAC comprises 33 regional countries. America and Canada are excluded. In July 2010, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Chile’s Sebastian Pinera were chosen co-chairs to help draft organizational statutes.
CELAC calls itself “a nonprofit institution, established for critical analysis, design and management of the structural, political, cultural, economic and social factors that affect the various Latin American countries and Caribbean, as well as to their impact on the respective national societies, as in the hemispheric or universal joint.”
“Its focus is on finding the best solution in the framework of respect for human rights, the democratic exercise, the overall progress, peace and peaceful coexistence and international levels.”
To what degree fulfillment matches promises remains to be seen. On December 2, Time magazine writer Tim Padgett headlined, “Latin America’s CELAC Summit: A Definitive Rejection of the US?” saying:
“….(I)n reality there’s little revolutionary about CELAC.” It’s more symbolic than real, he believes. Nonetheless, member states “talk about (it) supplanting the Organization of American States (OAS), a body which Latin America has long regarded as Washington’s lackey….”
Headquartered in Washington, the OAS was founded in April 1948. Its members include 35 countries. In deference to US interests, its history is long and shameful. Chartered to “promote democratic institutions,” it defiled them for decades.
Its leaders included father and son Duvalier in Haiti, fascist Rios Montt in Guatemala, Pinochet in Chile, an array of Mexican despots, Fujimori and others like him in Peru, Somoza in Nicaragua, Batista in Cuba, and other death squad rulers in Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Honduras, El Salvador and elsewhere in the region.
Calling “combat(ting) terrorism” one of its main missions, it practiced state terrorism instead. Repression characterized earlier decades and continues in some nations today. Washington played a dominant role influencing it, including through financial, military, and other material aid.
Writing in Granma Internacional in May 2009, Editor Oscar Sanchez Serra said:
Throughout its history, the OAS “made democracies ungovernable, turned them into dictatorships, and when they were no longer useful, reconverted them into even more diminished and servile democracies, because in the new, neoliberal era, with transnationalized oligarch(ic) capital, they were part of a much more sophisticated power structure, whose bases were not necessarily located in the presidential palaces or parliaments, but in continental corporations.”
OAS nations had decades of “involvement with death, genocide and lies for (it) to survive these times. It is a political corpse and should be buried as soon as possible….The reality is, without the OAS, the United States would lose one of its principle political/legal instruments of hegemonic control over the Western Hemisphere.”
After a decade under Bush and Obama, America’s influence weakened. Unlike earlier, it doesn’t exercise unchallenged regional hegemony. In his January 2011 article titled, “Networks of US Empire and Realignments of World Powers,” James Petras said:
“The weakening influence of imperial propaganda and the declining economic leverage of Washington, means that the US imperial networks built over the past half century are being eroded or at least subject to centrifugal forces.”
“The economic crises of the late 1990s led to major uprisings and electoral defeats of practically all US clients in Latin America, spelling the decline of US imperial domination.”
It hasn’t ended, but it’s heading that way, as well as in other parts of the world. Imperial excess has a shelf life. America’s hopefully will expire before humanity, suffering horrifically from its ruthlessness.
New regional networks excluding Washington hold promise. Petras calls ones America built post-WW II “in the process of decay, even as (its) military bases and treaties remain as a formidable ‘platform’ for new military interventions.”
What’s clear, he says, is that America’s imperial agenda isn’t sustainable. Nor is its economic dominance as emerging nations like China, Brazil, India, Russia and others rise.
Moreover, global militarism has a price. It includes making more enemies than friends and potential insolvency given how much America spends.
What can’t go on forever, won’t. Hopefully growing numbers of nations will disengage more from America. It’s to their advantage, including in Latin America at a time Washington is more focused elsewhere.
On December 2 in Caracas, 33 CELAC countries convened their founding summit for two days. Originally scheduled for July 5 to coincide with celebrations commemorating the 200th anniversary of Venezuela’s Declaration of Independence, it was postponed because of Chavez’s illness.
As host, he said:
“This is the achievement after 200 years of battle. The Monroe Doctrine was imposed here: America for Americans, the Yankees. They imposed their will during 200 years, but that’s enough.”
“As the years go by, CELAC is going to leave behind the old and worn-out OAS.”
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega called CELAC a “death sentence” for US interference in Latin America.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said five key topics would be discussed:
(1) CELAC’s political structure and decision-making process;
(2) energy independence;
(3) social development in areas of food, health and education;
(4) environmental issues and development; and
(5) global economic crisis conditions and consequences, as well as independence from the IMF, World Bank, and other predatory international lending organizations.
Culture Minister Pedro Calzadilla said “Caracas is going to become not just a celebration of Latin American union from the political point of view, but also from the cultural one.”
Free events will include films, dance performances, photo exhibits, art displays, poetry readings, Gustavo Dudamel conducting Venezuela’s Youth Symphonic Orchestra, other music, and a regional food festival.
Analyst Luis Quintana calls CELAC’s birth “the demise of the OAS….which will continuing existing but it won’t have the same political weight that it had before, because it hasn’t fulfilled its established goals.”
Instead of solving problems, it created and increased them. Quintana believes “people are about to witness the most important event in the history of Venezuela and Latin America….CELAC will attend to the historical needs of people.”
Hopefully the fullness of time will prove him right.
Any alternative improves on today’s US-caused destructive one. It spreads war, slaughter, destruction, exploitation, despotism and human misery everywhere it touches.
Imagine a possible new world without it. Imagine enough global pressure to accept nothing less.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.