Cuba Condemns U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela

Cuban Minister's of Foreign Affairs Statement on U.S. sanctions against on Venezuela's PDVSA

Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the Sanctions Imposed by the United States on the Company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA)

The government and people of Cuba express strong condemnation against this aggression against the people of Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution and the Bolivarian PDVSA.

The government of Cuba and all our people are in solidarity with President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan people, and give unconditionally support for the resolution of the National Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on this issue.

We share the statement of Commander Chavez, that the large reserves of Venezuela are not just of oil, but are its people; political reserves, moral reserves, Bolivarian reserves.

The United States is violating international law and applying unilateral laws extraterritorially.

We must condemn this aggression and we must ask whether the U.S. is mounting a new escalation against the Bolivarian Revolution. The key issue is not the economics of the measures against PDVSA, but the risk that this signifies the decision of the U.S. to provoke further conflicts in the region, new attempts to divide Latin America and the Caribbean, at a high point of its unity and independence.

When Venezuela is attacked, Cuba is attacked. Commander Chávez, the Venezuelan people, can count on our complete solidarity, with our full support. We will work in the international organizations, and work together for the restoration of international law, to prevent the United States from violating international law and assaulting our people in this way.

Cuba shares fully the statement of ALBA on this issue and is ready to act in international forums and events, with a strong formal complaint and for the adoption of international action against this new and brutal aggression against Venezuela and against Our America.

Havana, May 28, 2011

Venezuela Condemns U.S. "Imperialist" Sanctions

Dear Friends,

The U.S. State Department sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA is an attack on Venezuelan sovereignty, and it should be sharply protested.

Washington is trying to assert control over companies outside the U.S. that are not subject to U.S. law. This is the outrageous policy that has been applied for years through U.S. sanctions against Canadian companies that trade with Cuba.

For a comprehensive report on the U.S. Sanctions on PDVSA and other similar attacks, read:
Venezuela Condemns U.S. "Imperialist" Sanctions
By Rachael Boothroyd

Coro, May 25th 2011- The Venezuelan government criticised the Obama administration's move to impose sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA, calling the sanctions an "imperialist attack" against Venezuela.

The U.S. State Department enforced the sanctions in an attempt to put further pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear programme by penalizing companies which continue to trade with the Islamic Republic. U.S. Vice Secretary of State James Steinberg, who made the announcement to journalists on Tuesday, said that in approving the sanctions the U.S. wanted t send a "clear message" to companies which continue to "irresponsibly support Iran" -- "they will suffer serious consequences," he said.

Between December 2010 and March 2011 Venezuela, which has friendly bilateral relations with Iran, exported $50 million worth of a fuel additive to Iran. The U.S. government deemed the trade relations to be in breach of the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act.

"The U.S. needs to move quickly to cut off Chavez's source of revenue, and bring an end to both his influence in Latin America and his dangerous relationship with the terrorist-supporting Iranian regime before it's too late," said U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Connie Mack.

The measures will also affect other smaller companies in Jersey, Monaco, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Singapore.

Although PDVA will continue to sell oil on the U.S. market, the sanctions -- which will last two years -- prevent the company from entering into contracts with the U.S. government, as well as barring it from import-export finance programmes and obtaining licenses for U.S. oil processing technology. None of the company's subsidiaries will be affected.

Venezuelan Government: "Sovereign Nation"
In a press conference on Tuesday, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Relations Nicolas Maduro said: "We are not afraid of these sanctions, nor are we going to debate the reasons that the North American government may have, but Venezuela is sovereign in making its decisions."

An official document rejecting the sanctions was drafted and signed by pro-Chavez Venezuelan ministers, but opposition politicians refused to sign it. "This shows once again that these politicians are representatives of North American imperialism," said Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez.

Ramirez also stated: "The imperialist powers are hoping to dictate the rules to us. They will have to go without, because we are going to keep advancing towards creating unity between oil-producing countries."

PDVSA Workers Stage Day of Action

In the early hours of this morning PDVSA workers initiated a day of action in defence of the company, taking part in demonstrations, take-overs of oil refineries, cultural activities and convoking a popular assembly in order to manifest their support for the government's foreign policy.

Workers have been engaged in activities in Anzoategui, Carabobo, Monagas and other states throughout the day.

A female worker in Monagas, Chiquin Yanez, said that the workers "will not accept Yankee imperialist interference in the sovereignty of Venezuela. The new Pdvsa is an independent company and the workers of this national company do not obey Yankee imperialism".

Expressing a similar sentiment, Domingo Franco, who works in PDVSA, reiterated the workers' rejection of North American interventionism, stating: "We reject this latest North American interference in Venezuelan matters. The workers are at the ready to defend our oil industry. Our call is to defend the Orinoco [Oil] Belt. The imperial powers want our natural riches and we will defend our resources even with our life".

Women's and peasant organisations, alternative media, and community councils also organised a march in Caracas in response to the sanctions. Socialist women's activist Anais Arismendi said the popular movement condemned "the unilateral decisions taken by a criminal state such as the U.S.A, which don't respect international conventions," adding that the U.S. was trying to "organise another right-wing offensive against the processes and countries which are currently liberating their own people".

Iran Reaction
Although Iranian President Ahmadinejad maintains that the programme is purely for supplying energy to civilians, the U.S. claims that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad has previously accused "nuclear nations" of "monopolising" science and technology in order to protect their own interests and also of prohibiting other countries from the "peaceful use of nuclear energy".

In a speech following the inauguration of an oil production project in the city of Abadan on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad accused the U.S. government of supporting dictators in the region. However, he did not comment on the newly imposed sanctions.

"Anywhere there is a dictator he is supported by you...he is your stooge..." he said in direct reference to Washington.

Sanctions against Iran have formed an integral part of U.S. foreign policy since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, with broader sanctions coming into effect during the Clinton administration in the 1990s and from 2005 under President Bush -- who also launched banking sanctions. Prior to 1979 Washington and Europe supported and provided assistance for the development of a nuclear plan under the Shah.

In an official statement the Venezuelan government said it would undertake a "general assessment of the situation to determine how these sanctions affect the operational capacity of our oil industry and, therefore, the supply of 1.2 million barrels of oil per day to the U.S."

Discussion on "Freedom for Joaquin Perez Becerra"

Dear Friends,

Below is an important discussion article by Dieter Misgeld, answering John Riddell's "Freedom for Joaquin Perez Becerra" (, circulated earlier to this list.

These two contributions reflect some of the many views among solidarity activists not only on Becerra's defense but also on the changing relationship between Venezuela, Colombia, and the North American imperialist powers.
By Dieter Misgeld
May 19, 2011

I am very much in agreement with the vast majority of the arguments developed by John in this article, as well as those which he relies on as stated by Luis Bilbao and Socialist Alliance.

Obviously it is very important to take a strong position in defense of Joaquin Perez Becerra's rights and those of all the political prisoners treated cruelly by the Colombian regime and its allies.

I very much value John's drawing attention to the Canadian government's active acquiescence in these practices and its misguided and servile listing of the armed Colombian insurgencies( FARC and ELN) as "terrorist" organizations , giving their "Anti Americanism " as a reason.

Nevertheless I have doubts regarding the integrity and astuteness of the actions engaged in by the Venezuelan government in the Perez B. case.

They are these:

1. Even if handing Perez Becerra over to Colombian intelligence and police was meant to avoid a trap, to avoid jeopardizing the initial negotiations for setting up CELAC, the new Latin American organisation, this does NOT justify, under any circumstance, breaking international agreements, spreading malicious and thoughtless comments , treating Mr. Perez B. rudely and forcing his abduction with violence, not permitting the representative of the Swedish government to speak with his/her citizen, and to repress and slander criticism of these actions within Venezuela and from among members of the Bolivarian movement.. Consider the following:

2. Chavez assumes personal responsibility for this action, and suggests, in one statement, that as he delivered a terrorist to Cuba( the one responsible for blowing up a Cuban plane many years ago, killing 80 or more persons in the plane) , so he now handed another over to Colombia. He avoided referring to P. Becerra as a terrorist, but left implied that this is what he meant (see article in Spanish by Heinz Dieterich, in . As we know, Chavez does not always weigh his words, unfortunately.3. Many capable people have resigned from Telesur or other government connected news outlets in Venezuela. A prominent broadcaster just was forced to resign or she was fired, exactly because she criticized Chavez in the matter of Perez.

4. The Colombian insurgency cannot give up its arms and look for a political solution, as long as the Colombian government, army, paramilitary organizations, and the US government and military work toward total defeat and destruction of it- which is what they are doing and what Santos says he is doing.

It is dishonest and self-serving on Chavez' part to lecture the insurgency and tell them that they must look for a political solution. Yes, if he were to assume responsibility for mediating in the conflict- rather than wanting to be on the winning side, i.e. the Colombian government's and the US, in the end. For, "objectively', that is what his position comes to.

5. Clarity about the ethics involved is important: one does not willingly surrender an

avowed critic of a malicious counterinsurgency regime, of which one does not approve, in order to further apparently larger political projects. Betrayal is never justified , no matter how lofty the purpose. And that is what many people now fear in Latin America, especially people of the Left: that Chavez and the Bolivarian project in Venezuela can no longer be trusted.

6. Honduras: I am not ready yet to regard this as a victory for Venezuelan diplomacy. If it is or becomes one, it may very well turn out to be Pyrrhic. And the poor and dispossessed will once again be abandoned to their terrible fate, for the sake of some sort of political/diplomatic arrangement. For the return of Zelaya does not guarantee major social change, as has been noted by the section of the resistance which is not primarily concerned with his return and the face-saving restitution of constitutional government. Should the latter be the result then Santos' Diplomacy could claim victory, as it likely will. But that remains to be seen.

7. Finally, We should be vigilant critics of the Bolivarian government and Chavez, They need criticism from and by the Left. Especially as they do not like it and fear it. They must be taught to learn to live with it and take it seriously.

I value John Riddell's determination to turn the criticism in the direction where most of it belongs, the Colombian government.

Nevertheless, we may not let Chavez and his government off the hook. It is not good for them nor for us, to become preoccupied with strategy and tactics , rather than to remain utterly clear about fundamental ethical principles. For as this clarity is lost, socialist projects deteriorate and are contaminated by the "Machiavellian" reasoning which has always accompanied politics.
Dear Friends,

There is a wide range of viewpoints among friends of Colombia and Venezuela on this question.

Below is the only one we have received from Canada.
Freedom for Joaquin Perez Becerra!

by John Riddell on May 17, 2011

The Colombian government must 'immediately release independent media activist Joaquin Perez Becerra,' says the Socialist Alliance of Australia, in astatement published May 15 in the weekly newspaper, Green Left Weekly. Perez Becerra, a political refugee from Colombia and a Swedish citizen, was deported to Colombia on April 25 by the Venezuelan government. Socialist Alliance called on the Swedish and Venezuelan governments to do all possible to defend Perez Becerra's human rights.

Forced to leave Colombia in 1993 to escape a state-sponsored terror campaign that claimed the lives of his wife and more than 4,000 other leftist activists, Perez Becerra became the director of the New Colombia News Agency (ANNCOL), Colombia's fourth most widely read website. ANNCOL published attacks on human rights violations in Colombia, including information sourced from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which the Colombian government accuses of being a "terrorist" organization "For this work," says the Socialist Alliance, "the Colombian government has accused Perez Becerra of being the 'FARC's ambassador in Europe' and 'conspiring in and helping finance terrorism,'" accusations that he vehemently denies. The Colombian government is notorious for repression and death-squad assassinations of political and union activists, of whom more than 7,500 are now in jail.

The Canadian connection
Despite its long terror campaign against its people, the Bogota regime has enjoyed strong support from the Canadian government. Ottawa lists the FARC as an organization associated with terrorism, which makes it a crime in Canadian law to "contribute to, directly or indirectly, any activity" of a listed group. The Canadian government charges the FARC with conducting an insurgency that seeks to replace the current government in Colombia with "a leftist, anti-American regime that would force all United States interests out of Colombia and Latin America."

The ban against the FARC, backed up by an apparatus of secret court proceedings hearing secret evidence, has been utilized by Ottawa to intimidate and harass Colombian political refugees in this country. Canada's complicity in Colombian government repression underscores the urgent need for human rights advocates here to demand freedom for Perez Becerra and other Colombian political prisoners, as well as an end to "anti-terrorist" harassment of dissidents in this country.

Establishing context
Venezuela's role in extraditing Perez Becerra into the hands of his Colombian jailers has come in for a great deal of criticism and condemnation on the left. In this discussion, the comments of Luis Bilbao, director of the Venezuelan-based journal America XXI, stand out in establishing the political context of the incident.
"I'd defend this man even if he were … a leader of the FARC," Bilbao says. "He should not be deported to his country of birth. Not because he's a Swedish citizen … but because he's an enemy of the Colombian oligarchy -- the crudest and most brutal on the continent -- he should be protected." (SeeSpanish and an English text.)

Nonetheless, the circumstances of his deportation are curious, Bilbao notes. Perez Becerra was detained at the Caracas international airport on April 23 on the basis of a "Code Red" alert from Interpol. However, "it seems -- there isn't any precise information -- the classification was changed abruptly during the flight [to Caracas]," Bilbao says. The Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos then called Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez -- during the flight -- and demanded Perez Becerra's extradition. Santos even knew Perez Becerra's seat number, passed on by two Colombian government agents travelling with Perez on the flight.

"The day that Joaquin Perez Becerra arrived in Caracas," Bilbao comments, "the foreign ministers of all of Latin America and the Caribbean started to arrive as well, for a preparatory meeting of the CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean states). On 5 July this organization will be launched in Caracas, and for the first time, there will be a regional organization without the presence of the United States [and Canada, we might add]. In other words, it's the death certificate of the sinister OAS [Organization of American States]. An unprecedented victory against U.S. imperialism."

Bilbao asks who had the greatest interest in attempting to sabotage CELAC's formation. "Wasn't it an obvious aim of the CIA to portray Venezuela as a FARC sanctuary, in order to abort the [CELAC] founding conference? Didn't Perez Becerra's presence in Caracas at that time fit imperialist provocation like a glove?"

This is a plausible explanation for Chavez's comment on the incident, made at a May Day march in Caracas: "They set a trap for him [Perez Becerra] in order to get at me." The Venezuelan government was caught in a lose-lose situation.

A pattern of provocation
The trap was sprung in the context of Venezuelan-Colombian relations that in recent years "reached the point of extreme tension and potential armed conflict," Socialist Alliance notes. The Colombian government has "repeatedly accused Chavez of supporting the FARC" and of "harbouring FARC bases inside its territory." WikiLeaks revelations demonstrate Bogota's willingness to send its troops into Venezuelan territory. Meanwhile, the U.S. has moved to escalate its war-making power in seven military bases within Colombia.

More recently, however, the Colombian government has taken steps to loosen its diplomatic alignment with Washington and strengthen ties with other countries of Latin America. When Juan Manuel Santos assumed the presidency on August 7, 2010, notes Andre Maltais of Quebec's L'aut'journal, "his initial speeches stressed national reconciliation, human rights, the struggle against corruption and protection of trade-union rights."

Such fine words were not followed by moves to halt the government's systematic repression of its population, which Santos, previously minister of defense, had maintained and justified. Nonetheless, when the neighbouring Ecuadorian government was shaken on September 30, 2010, by a rightist-supported coup attempt, Santos was quick to join with Chavez and other South American presidents in giving strong backing to the legitimate government of President Rafael Correa.

Joint mediation in Honduras
At the beginning of April, Santos took part in brokering an initiative to resolve the political crisis in Honduras created by a U.S.-encouraged military coup on June 28, 2009. Sustained mass resistance to the illegitimate coup regime and its "president" Porfirio Lobo Sosa, compounded by diplomatic isolation and economic crisis, led Lobo to approach Santos, seeking an accommodation with the mass opposition movement, FNRP (National Front for People's Resistance). Lobo then met with Santos and Chavez, after which Chavez contacted the ousted legitimate president, Manuel Zelaya, now exiled but still serving as a delegate of his country to the Central American parliament. Zelaya, general coordinator of the FNRP, consulted the Front.

The FNRP set four conditions:

• Safe return of all exiles, including Zelaya.
• An end to political repression and punishment of those responsible for violations of human rights.

• Initiation of a process to convene a national constituent assembly on a participative, inclusive, and democratic basis.

• Recognition of the FNRP as a militant political and social movement.

"The mediation is fragile," the FNRP stated May 9, but "positive so far"; the fact that Lobo approached Santos seeking a deal with the resistance "reveals the de facto [Lobo] government's impotence." Insisting on full implementation of the four conditions, the FNRP called for continued mass pressure and international solidarity. Lobo has not yet either accepted or rejected the four conditions.

The CELAC initiative reflects the same pattern of Colombia's integration into its region. CELAC will include 33 states of Latin America and the Caribbean, 29 of which were present at the April 2010 Caracas meeting, reports Rachael Boothroyd in Venezuelanalysis. Notably excluded are the United States and Canada. Structurally, CELAC is thus an alternative to the Organization of American States, which has served for decades as a pliant tool of U.S. hemispheric domination. Significantly, it is co-chaired by the governments of Venezuela and Chile, which are positioned at the left-wing and right-wing poles of continental politics. Colombia's participation is indispensable to its success.

The need to defend the CELAC initiative may not excuse Perez Becerra's deportation -- Bilbao believes it does not -- but CELAC reflects Venezuela's continuing role in spearheading progress toward Latin American and Caribbean unity and sovereignty in the face of imperialist domination.

Venezuelan policy
The Perez Becerra expulsion must also be measured against Venezuela's overall policy on the FARC.

"Venezuela has clearly stated that it believes Colombia's guerrilla forces, which Chavez has characterized as 'belligerent' forces, are not terrorists," notes the Socialist Alliance. "Chavez has called on these organizations to lay down their arms and seek a political resolution to the more than 40-year-old civil war.

"Chavez has rightly pointed out that any active support for the FARC on the part of Venezuela 'is the perfect excuse for imperialism to attack the people of Venezuela.'

"Chavez has also clarified that he has never accused Perez Becerra of being a terrorist and that he hopes 'the Colombian government respects his human rights and his right to a defense.'"

Despite Colombia's participation in some useful recent initiatives, Perez Becerra's incarceration is testimony that the human rights crisis in Colombia continues unabated. Our efforts to defend Latin American and Caribbean sovereignty must include active defense of Perez Becerra and all Colombian political prisoners.
Article published at:

Doors Open to Significant Changes in Central America

Agreement Signed for Democratic Rights in Honduras

By Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and John Riddell, May 24, 2011

On May 22, Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa and former president Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales signed an agreement 'For National Reconciliation and the Consolidation of the Democratic System in the Republic of Honduras.'

Lobo was elected in November 2009 in a rigged vote organized by the regime installed through the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew Zelaya. The majority of Latin American and Caribbean nations refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Lobo government, despite the strong support it received from the United States and Canada.

The present agreement, finalized in Cartagena, Colombia, also bears the signatures of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro (on behalf of President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias) as witnesses.

This agreement opens the door to significant changes in the Central American political landscape and to the re-entry of Honduras into the Organization of American States (OAS) and SICA (Central American Integration System).
An earlier article on this website, "Freedom for Joaquin Perez Becerra!" discussed the context that led Colombia and Venezuelan presidents to join in sponsoring that initiative.

The Resistance welcomes the agreement

In a May 23 statement, the Political Committee of the National Front for People's Resistance (FNRP), the main organization coordinating popular resistance to the coup inside Honduras, noted that "this agreement for international mediation enables us to put an end to our exile [and] reinforce our process for the refoundation of Honduras." It issued a "call to all members of the resistance inside and outside Honduras to unite in a great mobilization to greet and welcome our leader and the General Coordinator of the FNRP, Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, at 11 a.m., May 28, 2011, at the International Airport." The statement noted that the agreement complied with the four conditions set by the FNRP.

The FNRP also expressed "thanks for the process of international mediation" carried out by the Venezuelan and Colombian presidents.

By the terms of the Cartagena agreement, the signatories commit themselves to:
* Guarantee the return to Honduras in security and liberty of Zelaya and all others exiled as a result of the crisis. (Over 200 other exiled leaders of the resistance are also now able to return under the terms of the agreement.)
* Assure conditions in which the FNRP can gain recognition as a legal political party.
* Reaffirm the constitutional right to initiate plebiscites, particularly with respect to the FNRP project of convening a National Constituent Assembly. (It was President Zelaya's move to hold a non-binding plebiscite on calling a Constituent Assembly that the organizers of the 2009 coup cited to justify their action.)
* Create a Secretariat of Justice and Human Rights to secure human rights in Honduras and invite the UN Human Rights Commission to establish an office in Honduras.
* Constitute a Monitoring (Verification) Commission, consisting initially of the Colombian and Venezuelan presidencies, to help assure the successful implementation of the agreement.

U.S. disruption attempt

Notably absent from discussions leading to the Cartagena Agreement was the United States, which has long been the arbiter of Honduran politics. Washington kept silent on the Cartagena mediation process, while in fact attempting to torpedo it.

Alexander Main, an analyst for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, noted on May 19 that when, as part of the mediation process, Honduran courts dropped charges against Zelaya, the U.S. State Department issued an "exuberant statement" the following day calling for the suspension of Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS) to be "immediately lifted" -- a move that would have cut short the Cartagena mediation process. This suspension, enacted in protest against the coup, was one of the factors driving the illegitimate Honduran regime to seek mediation. (See "What Now for a Post-Coup Honduras")

"For good measure," Main says, "the [U.S.] statement noted that 'since his inauguration, President Lobo has moved swiftly to pursue national reconciliation, strengthen governance, stabilize the economy, and improve human rights conditions.'"

In fact, according to the Committee of Family Members of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), politically motivated killings have taken the lives of 34 members of the resistance and 10 journalists since Lobo took office. No killers have been prosecuted either for these crimes or for the 300 killings by state security forces since the coup.

Showdown at the OAS

The U.S. canvassed energetically among Central and South American countries subject to its influence for support for immediate reinstatement of Honduras -- prior to the conclusion of the mediation process. "In mid-May these divisions came to a head when a diplomatic tussle took place at the OAS," Main reports.

In Main's opinion, "the U.S. is not prepared to accept a political mediation in Honduras in which it doesn't play a leading role. The U.S. has traditionally been deeply involved in the internal affairs of Honduras," and "the country continues to be of great strategic importance to the U.S."

The OAS Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, called a meeting of the OAS Permanent Council that was to consider readmitting the de facto Honduran regime. According to a reliable source at the OAS, Main reports, several Latin American countries, apparently including Colombia, demanded cancellation of the meeting on the grounds that it was "premature." Within hours, the meeting was cancelled.

The failure of this U.S.-inspired maneuver opened the road for the signing of the Cartagena agreement nine days later.

The Cartagena agreement, and the process that facilitated it, marks an important victory for the Honduran resistance. More broadly, it reinforces the process of Indo-Latin American and Caribbean efforts to shape their own national and regional policies free from imperialist domination. (See "Honduras se reintegra al CA-4.") It developed outside the OAS framework, and will help to strengthen and consolidate the new Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that will meet this coming July in Caracas, Venezuela, under the joint chairmanship of that country and Chile.

Regional sovereignty

The Cartagena accord's impact in Central America was immediate and far reaching. Lobo and Zelaya flew from Cartagena to Managua the same day of the signing ceremony for a special meeting of the SICA (Central American Integration System) at which Honduras was welcomed back by three other Central American presidents -- Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Mauricio Funes (El Salvador), and Alvaro Colom (Guatemala). At the meeting Ortega announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Nicaragua and Honduras.

In a joint statement, the four presidents called on the OAS to re-admit Honduras, and new agreements were also announced regarding a Customs Union of the four countries. These measures mark a defeat for those forces in Central America inimical to the regional integration process, including the Costa Rican government and its hostile campaign to isolate Sandinista Nicaragua diplomatically and economically.

Need for continued solidarity
Whether the Honduran government will fully carry out the Cartagena agreement remains to be seen. In particular, the coup has produced an entrenched pattern of systematic repression and unrestrained operation of death squads in Honduras. Experiences in other countries, including Colombia, show that such right-wing repression can run rampant, with under-the-table support from security forces, despite formal statements of government disapproval.

The establishment of the Colombia-Venezuela monitoring commission will be vital to keeping the pressure on the Lobo government. Friends of Honduran democracy in North America will need to do some monitoring as well, as an expression of continued solidarity with the Honduran people.

Further reading:

Toni Solo, "Varieties of Imperial Decline: Another Setback for the U.S. in Latin America," May 23, 2011
Ida Garberi, "El regreso de Mel Zelaya es un deber, el retorno de Honduras en la OEA es indigno," May 24, 2011

Community of Latin American and Caribbean States

Another Step for Latin American and Caribbean Sovereignty
By Rachel Boothroyd

Coro, April 28th 2011 - On Tuesday at the Melia Caracas Hotel, 29 representatives from Latin American and Caribbean states attended a meeting to organise the preliminary agenda and structure of CELAC – The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, an organisation that hopes to counter the influence of the U.S in the region.

The meeting was convened in order to establish the foundations for the first summit of the recently formed organisation - due to be held on the 5th of July in Caracas. In a meeting that lasted several hours, the 29 delegates out of CELAC’s 33 member states deliberated on the principal issues that will constitute the main points of discussion at the July conference. The delegates also paid specific attention to CELAC´s constitution.

The meeting ended with the signing of a structural document that defines the CELAC. This document will be considered over the next 30 days by the delegates and member heads of state for approval before the July summit.“This political event is the most important, and has more potential, than any others that have taken place in our America in a hundred years or more,” said Chavez at the beginning of the meeting.

Some of the key issues to be addressed in the July summit are the approval of a human rights charter and a fund to finance poverty eradication. Other topics on the agenda include; food security, health, education, technology and sports strategies. Chile and Venezuela, who are jointly presiding over the forum, will be in charge of drafting up any further documents in the interim.

The official inauguration of CELAC in July will coincide with the bicentenary of Venezuela’s independence and denotes a significant milestone in regional integration and autonomous organisation - independent of representatives from the U.S.A and Canada.

The Architects of an Alternative
CELAC was first initiated in February 2010 at a Latin American and Caribbean Unity Summit in Cancún, Mexico, just eight months after the coup which ousted democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

Citing a need for a forum which ‘consolidates and projects the Latin American and Caribbean identity’, the organisation is founded upon the following principles - which the organisation describes as the “common values” of Latin American and Caribbean culture.

Respect for International Law and the Charter of the United Nations: The sovereign equality of states
The non-use, nor the threat of use, of force, Democracy, Respect for Human Rights, Respect for the environment, taking into consideration the environmental, economic, and social pillars of sustainable development International cooperation for sustainable development. The unity and integration of Latin American and Caribbean countries. An ongoing dialogue that promotes peace and regional security. Similar to projects such as the ALBA (The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), CELAC is another organisation aimed at promoting regional cooperation and at offsetting Western dominance in the region, particularly that of the USA.

However, unlike the ALBA - an economic bloc based on mutually beneficial trade agreements and which rejects the economic paradigm of neo-liberalism – CELAC is a representative body that will include all Latin American and Caribbean nations and aims to become ”the region's most representative interlocutor vis-à-vis main international actors, other groups of countries and regional organizations” CELAC is specifically designed to represent and increase Latin America and the Caribbean’s presence and influence on the international stage – or to enhance the “Latin American and Caribbean agenda on global forums”. Theoretically, membership of CELAC should not depend on whether the right or left win at the ballot box as is the case with ALBA. However, although not of a strictly leftist agenda, CELAC clearly has progressive tendencies.

Different to the Organization of American States (OAS)?
Whilst the U.S. government has denied that CELAC is of any detriment to the regional influence of the OAS (Organisation of American States, which includes all of the CELAC countries as well as the U.S. and Canada), some observers have remarked that the organisation could eventually end up replacing the OAS; or, if not replacing it entirely, then certainly act as a counter-balancing agency. A brief comparison reveals important differences between the two organisations.

In contrast to the OAS, whose “four main pillars” are; democracy, human rights, security, and development, CELAC stresses its commitment “sovereignty”, “multilateralism”, “the right of any state to establish its own political system” and specifies its dedication to ”sustainable” development.

Furthermore, whereas the OAS does not make reference to economic factors, interestingly CELAC’s declaration hints at certain economic concepts that have come to be related to the development of the democratic left in recent years.

Although economic models are not mentioned explicitly, CELAC highlights that the organisation will strive for “social welfare”, “equality and the widest social justice” ”independent development”, whilst taking into account “the importance of ensuring favourable treatment for the small vulnerable economies and land-locked and island developing states” – clearly rejecting the neo-liberal consensus.

Finally, the inclusion of a democracy clause seeks to prevent any further coups, such as the recent coups in Honduras and Haiti and the attempted coups in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Changing Relations; Bolivar Unites America’s ‘Back Yard’
Perhaps one of the most striking aspects in the development of CELAC is not the rhetoric employed by some of the more radical currents in the region, but that used by centre or centre-right administrations. Although certainly not an admission of any socialist tendencies, quotes such as the following suggest at least a tentative commitment to regional unity.

“We are here constructing the basic regulatory architecture for the functioning of this new institution…We are constructing the dream of integration that the Liberator [Simon Bolivar] sought for all of Latin American and the Caribbean,” said Fernando Schmidt, Chile’s centre-right Vice-Chancellor.

Whether this is purely pragmatism; representing the right’s attempts to respond to changing power relationships in the region, the creation of CELAC may suggest that a real unison of Latin American and Caribbean nations is not only becoming a reality, but also that serious changes in the political dynamics of the region and hemisphere are taking place.