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Colombia’s Santos and Venezuela’s Chavez Meet in Havana, Sign Accords

Mérida, 8th March 2012 ( – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez sustained a meeting in Havana yesterday, where the two leaders signed six new commercial accords. Santos also mentioned that Chavez is likely to return to Venezuela early next week.

The two leaders met in the Centre of Surgical – Medical Research in the Cuban capital, where Chavez is recovering from undergoing surgery on Monday last week to remove a two centimetre cancerous lesion from his pelvic region.

The leaders discussed the commercial relationship between the two countries, with the six new agreements intended to boost commerce and integration.

On commerce between the two neighbours, Santos commented that “last year it reached two billion [US dollars], and this year it points towards easily reaching three billion…we will continue working on the plan of complementing our economies, which is already advancing”.

Cuban president Raul Castro also participated toward the end of the meeting in order to discuss wider economic cooperation and integration in Latin America.

The three countries currently form the CELAC (Organisation of Caribbean and Latin American States) Triumvirate and are responsible for developing the priority areas that were decided by the organisation in January, including energy, science and technology and finance and social development. The group includes every country in the Western hemisphere apart from the US and Canada.

In yesterday’s encounter the Colombian president further reported his “happiness” to see Chavez “so strong and healthy just days after such a complex operation”. The Colombian mandate also informed the press that Chavez is interested in attending the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia on 14-15 April, if his health allows.

Cuba Excluded from the Summit of the Americas

President Juan Manuel Santos also conveyed that Cuba would not be invited to the Sixth Annual Summit of the Americas meeting, which brings together 34 heads of state from the Western Hemisphere, including the United States and Canada.

Santos cited a “lack of consensus” between other member states attending the summit over Cuba´s participation, and thanked Raul Castro for his understanding and for “not creating a problem for the Summit nor for Colombia” over the issue.

Today Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez announced that the Political Council of the Bolivarian Peoples of Our America (ALBA) alliance, which counts Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua among its members, will continue debating the exclusion of Cuba from the summit.

Rodriguez named the US as the member state which favours Cuba’s absence, stating that nevertheless “the presence of Cuba in the Summit of the Americas, from a distance, will be un-concealable”.

The minister stated that Cuba supported the proposals of ALBA members states to continue working towards Cuba’s inclusion, while declaring that “if that exclusion serves to deepen the conscience of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples for the firm and concerted action of Our America and to advance more resolutely towards our complete and definitive independence, it is welcome”.

Published on Mar 8th 2012 at 10.32pm