Latin America, Caribbean: Creating a bloc minus the U.S.
Representatives of 32 countries, including about two dozen presidents and prime ministers, are meeting in Cancun, Mexico, for a two-day summit. The goal: creation of a regional organization that excludes the United States and Canada.
"It is time for Latin Americans and Caribbeans to unite," Mexican President Felipe Calderon, the summit host, said Monday at the event.
The new bloc, he said, would promote better integration and shared economic development among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and give the region a stronger voice in international settings. It would serve as a counterbalance to the Organization of American States, which some Latin leaders, like leftist President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, say is dominated by the U.S. and Washington's agenda.
Calderon urged the leaders to put aside the political differences that cleave the region, where the left has made substantial inroads after a Cold War era of military governments and a U.S.-backed right.
"The challenge that faces our region is not a matter of left or right, it is not a question of ideologies or doctrines," Calderon said. "Rather, it is the alternative between the past and the future, a future where the values we believe in -- democracy, justice and freedom -- can flourish."
Among those in attendance were Cuban President Raul Castro and Haiti's Rene Preval, who used the summit to thank the world for helping his country after the Jan. 12 earthquake and to plea for continued assistance. Among those not invited was Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, whose government is still not recognized by some countries because of last year's coup.
--Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City
Photo: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez greets his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon. Credit: Associated Press