News Column

Chavez's Absence Overshadows Latin American, Caribbean Summit

Jan. 28, 2013

The absence due to illness of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez played a major role during the final day of a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Santiago on Monday.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro read out to leaders a long letter from Chavez, which Venezuelan officials had noted in advance was signed in red ink.

"We have always felt perfect unity in everything, but oligarchies barred the way," Chavez said in his letter.

The president underwent cancer surgery in Havana in December and has been recovering in the Cuban capital ever since, with Maduro standing in for him at home and abroad.

Chavez, an outspoken critic of the United States, slammed alleged interference by the United States in the region, as embodied in the so-called Monroe Doctrine, which articulated in the 19th century Washington's historic interest in the region. Such US influence, Chavez said, will disappear.

As he opened the session, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera remembered Chavez for his "visionary commitment to Latin American and Caribbean unity."

Chavez also spoke against the US embargo on communist Cuba, which has been in place for close to half a century and which CELAC countries reject.

"Latin America and the Caribbean are telling the United States with one voice that all attempts to isolate Cuba have failed and will fail," Chavez wrote.

Cuban President Raul Castro, who was in Santiago, was to take over the rotating presidency of CELAC.

The CELAC summit was being attended by many of the region's leaders, although there were conspicuous absences.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who had been scheduled to take part in the meeting, left on Sunday when she heard of a fire that killed more than 230 people at a nightclub in southern Brazil.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is currently on leave to campaign for re-election next month.

CELAC, created in 2011, brings together 600 million people and 33 countries in the Americas, all except the United States and Canada.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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