Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez will host what is billed as the founding conference of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) December 2–3 on the grounds of Venezuela’s largest military base. The ailing Chavez, whose very public battle with an undisclosed form of cancer has given rise to a mountain of speculation about his survival and whose reelection in October 2012 remains in doubt, hopes to demonstrate he will dominate the Latin American scene for months and years to come.
In the run-up to the gathering, Chavez is billing it as Latin America’s political event of the century. Eager boosters proclaim the meeting is destined to “change the history of the continent.” Another equated the birth of CELAC with a rupture with the U.S. and “ the demise of the Organization of American States (OAS).” For Chavez, it is payback time for the U.S. and Canada, who were not invited to attend. Boasted Chavez, “for centuries, they’ve imposed on us whatever the North [U.S.] felt like imposing on us! The time of the South has arrived.”
So what will the new community look like? Talk shop, effective forum, or bully pulpit for Chavez? If Chavez has his way, CELAC becomes the latter. It will be a permanent platform for anti-Americanism. Iran, Syria, and other tyrannies will be more welcome than the U.S. [Iran already has observer status in Chavez’s pet creation, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA).]
Communist Cuba will occupy the same moral ground as free, democratic Costa Rica. The teachings of Vladimir Lenin will guide the eventual elimination of bourgeois capitalism. CELAC will embrace anti-constitutional extensions in office such as those recently perpetrated in Nicaragua by Daniel Ortega and keep silent about encroachments on freedom of the press in nations like Ecuador. Chavez’s populist “socialism of the 21st century” will win preference over responsible, pragmatic, and market-based economies in countries like Chile or Colombia.
And Chavez and company will finally succeed in putting a dagger through the heart of the OAS. In short, notes one pro-democracy editorialist, it is “probably safe to assume that, on December 2, the anti-OAS will be founded, an organization that will start up without an Inter-American Democratic Charter and without an Inter-American Court of Human Rights.”