Group of Rio Summit opens in Mexico

08:27, February 23, 2010      

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Mexico's President Felipe Calderon Monday formally opened the 24-nation Group of Rio Summit in Playa del Carmen, a resort town on Mexico's Caribbean coast, with presidents from most of Latin American in attendance.

In his opening speech, Calderon emphasized plans to create a new united organization for the region, saying that hopes of unity across the Americas was a dream in the early 19th century, when the regions leaders began to fight for their independence from European colonial powers.


Mexican President Felipe Calderon (C Front) speaks at the summit meeting of the Group of Rio and Caribbean Community (Caricom) in Playa del Carmen, a resort town on Mexico's Caribbean coast, on Feb. 22, 2010. Calderon Monday formally opened the 24-nation Group of Rio Summit in Playa del Carmen, which was also joined by Caricom leaders. Participants will discuss about how to help Haiti rebuild after the January 12 earthquake that killed an estimate of 300,000 people. (Xinhua/Cesar Perez)


"The dream of unity is part of the independence we are celebrating," Calderon said, referring to the celebration Mexico is hosting to mark 200 years of its independence. "And this summit represents an important increase in our integration."

Heads of state from the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) are participating for the first time in a Group of Rio event, and Monday's opening session was attended by 26 leaders, from a total of 32 invited.

Among Rio leaders, those absent are Honduras, which has not been invited to any Group of Rio events since a June 28 military coup, and Peru, which will be represented by its foreign minister. Six Caricom members are also Rio states.

Calderon said in his speech that the summit would debate the forming of a new expanded organization to that would include all those present.

"Today we will be examining the first step, the jumping off point for a new future," Calderon said. "Today we have the opportunity to create a common space for all the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean."

His speech also described Haiti, which suffered a deadly quake on Jan. 12, as the "cause of all Latin America and the Caribbean," and thanked Rene Preval, president of Haiti, which is a Rio and Caricom member, for taking time to come to the conference when there are so many urgent needs in his nation.

Mexico hosted a summit with Caricom leaders on Sunday. In his speech to the opening session of that conference, Preval said that the quake death toll may reach 300,000 and that with rains on the way, shelter for the nation's 1.5 million homeless was Haiti's highest priority.

Mexico has called the whole suite of events that began with a foreign ministers meeting on Saturday the Unity Summit.

Source: Xinhua
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