PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO, Feb 23 (NNN-AGENCIES) – Over 30 Latin American and Caribbean leaders currently meeting at the Maya Riviera resort country for the Summit of the Group of Rio or the Summit of Unity have expressed their support to strengthen Latin American and Caribbean integration.
“The peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean are trying to retake the path of our own republics and we are taking the path taken by Simon Bolivar,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The Venezuelan president expressed his support for a new regional organisation where the US and Canada are not included and announced that this new organisation would have judicial authority in the next summit in Caracas, Venezuela.
The leaders and officials present in the two-day summit will debate a wide agenda but the priority is for a greater unity. Top on the agenda is the forming of a new expanded organisation that would include all those present.
“This summit, with the participation of the countries of the region in terms of equality, represents an important progress in the integration process, said Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the opening ceremony.
Calderon said the ideas of Latin leader Simon Bolivar for a united Latin America and the Caribbean,is now stronger than ever.
“As Bolivar said, if we are together, we are stronger, we are free, more democratic,” said Calderon.
The idea of creating a new regional organisation arose in Dec 2008 in Costa de Sauipe, Brazil, where the 1st Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development of the Group of Rio took place.
The intense exchange was closed with an act of historical justice welcoming Cuba as a new member of the Group of Rio.
Calderon also recalled that when regional countries have remained united they have been able to overcome adversities, while in frequent confrontations these countries have lagged behind other parts of the world.
At least 32 of the 33-member Rio Group are represented in the close door summit (Honduras was not invited), 26 of them by their presidents or prime ministers.
Heads of state from the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) are also participating for the first time in a Group of Rio event and yesterday’s opening session was attended by 26 leaders.
Presidents of Peru, Bahamas, Guayana, Saint Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago have skipped the meeting, but are represented by senior cabinet members.
A Mexican Foreign Ministry official told Prensa Latina that the presidents of some Caribbean nations were unable to attend because it clashed with their national holidays.
More than twenty representatives of international bodies are also taking part as observers and Mexican Congress members have also been invited, including several governors led by host Felix Rodriguez Canto, from Quintana Roo.
Sources said the Summit in it first day of deliberation have supported the Argentine claim over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and rejected the oil exploitation by Britain in the islands of the South Atlantic.
“I thank you for the support of this meeting to our claims,” said Argentinean president Cristina Fernandez, when speaking before the plenary of the summit.
Several speakers in the first session expressed their solidarity with the South American country against the British decision of engaging in oil prospecting in the area.
“That is one of the clearest demonstrations of neocolonialism,” said Chavez, while his counterpart from Bolivia, Evo Morales also gave his support.
President Calderon, host to the meeting announced that the summit will approve two documents supporting the legitimate right of Argentina on the Islands Sandwich and Georgias of the South taken by force from the South American country’s sovereignty in 1833.
Participants will also discuss about how to help Haiti rebuild after the Jan 12 earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and with heavy rains prevailing providing more shelter for the nation’s 1.5 million homeless is Haiti’s highest priority. — NNN-AGENCIES