CELAC Summit Backs Venezuelan Dialogue, Maduro Calls for an End to US Intervention

Regional leaders also called for an end to the decades-long US blockade of Cuba.
Heads of State from Latin America and the Caribbean pose for the family photo during the VII CELAC Summit.

Mexico City, Mexico, January 25, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The VII Summit of Heads of State Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) concluded Tuesday with an affirmation of support for the dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the political opposition.

Citing security concerns, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro opted not to participate personally in the summit in Buenos Aires.

“Latin America and the Caribbean must be heard, in a single voice, and tell the United States of America: no more interventionism, no more coup plots, enough of sanctions against the free and sovereign countries of the continent,” said Maduro in a video message delivered during the gathering of the region’s heads of state.

The fate of the dialogue process in Venezuela is uncertain after the head of the Venezuelan government delegation accused the US-backed opposition of failing in its commitment to secure the release of US $3 billion in Venezuelan funds seized by Washington. A member of the opposition negotiating team claimed the release of the funds was “not easy”, while the White House has not commented on the delay.

In its statement, the region’s leaders explicitly called on the “international community” to support the implementation of the deal.

In a lengthy 111-point statement, known as the Buenos Aires Declaration, regional leaders went on to call for an end to the US blockade of Cuba, while also reaffirming support for a model of integration that prioritizes the needs of the peoples of the region and advancing a defense of sovereignty.

“We emphasize our commitment to democracy; the promotion, protection and respect for Human Rights; international cooperation; the rule of Law; multilateralism, respect for territorial integrity; non-intervention in the internal affairs of States, and the defense of sovereignty, as well as the promotion of justice and maintenance of international peace and security,” read part of the Declaration.

The VII CELAC Summit likewise saw the return of Brazil as a member of the regional integration body.

In the lead-up to the summit, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made an emphatic defense of Venezuelan sovereignty and reiterated his intention to reestablish formal diplomatic relations with Caracas, which were broken during his predecessor’s administration.

Lula also once again sharply criticized the decision by Washington and its allies to recognize opposition figure Juan Guaidó as so-called “interim president”, calling it “abominable for democracy”.

“Venezuela will once again be treated normally like all countries want to be treated,” said Lula in a joint press conference with Argentine President Alberto Fernández ahead of the CELAC Summit.

Despite the Venezuelan opposition declaring an end to Guaidó’s “interim presidency”, the US refuses to recognize the Maduro government on the basis of unsubstantiated claims that his 2018 re-election was fraudulent.

In contrast to the previous CELAC Summit where Venezuela took center stage, this year’s meeting focused on the political crisis in Peru, viewed by many leaders as an unconstitutional parliamentary coup.

Several presidents, including Chile’s Gabriel Boric, who has generally sided with Washington in geopolitical affairs, directly addressed the human rights crisis in Peru. Meanwhile Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Honduras’ Xiomara Castro called for Peru’s ousted leader, Pedro Castillo, to be released from jail.

Bolivian President Luis Arce, himself elected after a coup regime briefly ousted the MAS from power, condemned recent undemocratic regime change efforts in the region.

The Venezuelan delegation, led by Foreign Minister Yvan Gil, met with several of the region’s presidents and representatives on the sidelines of the main event.

The VII Summit is the second successful summit of the regional body since being resurrected after years of inactivity. CELAC was formally founded in 2011 under the leadership of then President Hugo Chávez but was pushed into irrelevance after the election of right-wing figures throughout the continent who worked to sabotage regional integration initiatives.

The return of CELAC as a regional body was made possible thanks to the leadership of Mexico and subsequently Argentina, who occupied the pro-tempore presidency of the organization. The presidency now passes onto St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

In his comments to the assembled leaders, the Venezuelan president called on CELAC to fortify its internal structure in order to increase the body’s capacity to act. The return of CELAC comes as leaders throughout the region question the utility of the Organization of American States (OAS), a rival body that has been accused of advancing the interests of Washington in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.