Brazil & Neighbors Welcome Cuba and Brag About Independence from US

Latin American summit in Brazil Leaders from Latin America received in Brazil by Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, welcomed Cuba and touted their independence from the United States during a two-day summit in the Brazilian Northeast, which began on Tuesday.

Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, commenting on Cuba's integration into the Rio Group noted that that country's presence at the encounter send a strong signal that Latin America no longer answers to the United States.

Representatives from 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries are gathered at the Costa do Sauí­pe resort in Bahia state. The summit, which excludes the United States and Canada, is aimed at deepening economic and political ties in the region.

The chiefs of state are also working to bolster integration and development as they look at ways to survive the global economic crisis, which many blamed on the rich nations, in particular the US.

Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, whose country recently defaulted on a foreign debt payment, called for a stronger regional development bank to deal with the credit crunch.

The presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay gathered separately Monday, December 15, for the Mercosur regional trade bloc meeting, which Cuban President Raul Castro attended as a special guest.

The trade bloc was not able to agree on a reform to eliminate dual tariffs on imported goods. Meanwhile, Castro discussed his willingness to hold talks with incoming US president-elect Barack Obama over the decades-old trade embargo against Cuba.

Unasur's Secretary

The Union of South American Nations, Unasur, agreed on a new timetable for the ratification of the organization's multilateral treaty and for reaching a consensus on the nomination of a standing secretary general, which has soured relations between Uruguay and Argentina.

The announcement was made Tuesday during the Latinamerican and Caribbean leaders meeting hosted by Brazil in the northeast of the country and which actually has four different motives: Mercosur, the Rio Group, Unasur and an extraordinary meeting of all 33 countries to discuss how to address regionally the global recession.

"There's an only great agreement which expresses the willingness of all presidents and that is that we want a permanent secretary general which is the result of a great accord between all countries", said Chilean president Michelle Bachelet who added the definitive date for such a nomination is next April, when Chile's pro-tempore chair period comes to an end.

Ms. Bachelet said April 30 was proposed by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

"Then we will have to decide definitively on the secretary general", said Bachelet, following Uruguay's non acceptance of the majority formula amendment, instead of the consensus as marked by the Unasur charter.

Apparently much time was spent on discussing the issue of the nomination mechanism for which Argentina's former president Nestor Kirchner allegedly has a majority support, but not consensus. Uruguay objects his name because of ongoing diplomatic differences with the Kirchner administrations, including pickets blocking bilateral bridges and Buenos Aires reluctance to dredge River Plate access channels.

Although not much is known of the closed doors deliberations in Brazil, according to the local press, Ecuador urged a "majority solution" for the controversy while a "task force" was named to try to reach an understanding. Argentina and Uruguay virtually did not participate in the debate.

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