Bávaro, the Dominican Republic.- Latin America and the Caribbean are facing enormous challenges. Prioritizing unity within the region as the greatest safeguard of our peoples and implementing concrete measures to that end, are some of our most pressing challenges.
This was exactly the idea expressed by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of Cuba's Councils of State and Ministers, during his speech delivered on January 25, at the plenary session of the 5th Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CEALC).
Raúl reiterated that “Unity and the political, economic, social and cultural integration of Latin America and the Caribbean constitute (...) a requirement for the region to successfully confront the challenges before us,” just as he did in 2011 during CELAC's founding summit.
The objectives laid out at that time continue to call countries of the region together, continue to mark out the route of the joint work between our peoples. In this sense, the Cuban President noted that "strict adherence to the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by Heads of State and Government in Havana in January 2014, is required," which also represents a framework to consolidate regional integration.
An integrationist vision therefore, must naturally include respect for the sovereignty of all countries. Hence, Cuba offers its full "support to the Venezuelan people and government in the defense of their sovereignty and self-determination," noted the Army General.
He also emphasized the island's willingness to continue negotiating pending bilateral issues with the United States, "but it should not be expected that to do so Cuba will make concessions inherent to its sovereignty and independence."
Raúl went on to denounce the continued existence of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against the island, a sentiment routinely expressed by various speakers during such events, with this occasion being no different.
CELAC didn’t fail to recognize Fidel, one of its most avid founders. At the request of the President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, the leader of the Cuban Revolution was honored with a minute of silence during the Summit's inaugural session. Raúl thanked Medina and all those participating for gesture, as well as the messages of condolences following the Comandante en Jefe's passing.
Prior to the conclusion of the high-level segment, CELAC Heads of State and Government approved the Punta Cana Political Declaration, 20 special declarations, which include issues of common interest for the region, as well as the bloc's 2017 Action Plan.
CELAC's Pro Tempore Presidency was assumed by El Salvador, who will now be responsible for leading the bloc in efforts to consolidate integration and search for Latin American and Caribbean solutions to Latin American and Caribbean problems.
THINKING ABOUT UNITY
Reaching a consensus has never been easy; nor has thinking about what unites us, while respecting our differences. Given this reality, participants to the Summit recognized the urgent need to strengthen the principle of unity within diversity.
On arrival to the Barceló Bávaro Convention Center, January 25, Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, highlighted the importance of consolidating CELAC, "which has already spent several years searching for, and consolidating our own path; with a common doctrine of respect for diversity."
Maduro noted that the Community is being consolidated and must remain united, now more than ever, in the face of current threats.
"We came here to bring Venezuela's truth in a changing world, the voice of dignity and new independence and Latin American unity," stated the Venezuelan leader.
Speaking to the Cuban press, Rodrigo Riofrío, Ecuadoran Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, noted that now "Is when we are most interested in integration; it is the moment when we must work in blocs; it’s the only way to become stronger.
"This is the spirit of President Rafael Correa who is a great integrationist and has been a promoter of this mechanism of political consensus together with Comandante Fidel and President Chávez. We must support diversity and respect it, look for common areas within which we must grow," he added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, Hugo Rivera Fernández, stated that "CELAC has taken important steps as an organization based on dialogue among the entire region. There exists great diversity, but within these differences we are united by the same aspirations of prosperity."
Strengthening CELAC, he noted, is of key importance; together we are a great force which must lead us to greater well-being for our peoples.
Regarding the state of bilateral relations between the Dominican Republic and Cuba, Rivera Fernández stated that "They are in one of their best historic moments and work is underway in different areas of interest for our countries."
Cuba has made great achievements in the spheres of science, medicine and security; we have made good progress in the area of tourism, thus cooperation can be mutually beneficial, he noted.