Roundup: Rio Group to recruit new members,focus on Haiti

11:03, February 24, 2010      

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The Group of Rio on Tuesday agreed during a two-day summit to expand its membership by nine to 33, and put special emphasis on Haiti.


Chilian President Michelle Bachelet (C) speaks at the closing session of 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. 23, 2010. Mexico's President Felipe Calderon handed over the two-year presidency of the expanded Group of Rio to Chile at the end of the organization's two-day summit on Tuesday in Playa del Carmen. Earlier on Tuesday, the group had agreed to expand to include the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom). (Xinhua/Joaquin Morelli)

The two-day summit in Playa del Carmen, a resort city on Mexico's Caribbean coast, also inaugurated Chile as its new pro-tem president state, and agreed to change the body's name.

The new members are from the Caribbean Community (Caricom), a 15-member group mostly made up of English-speaking Caribbean island states. Six of them were already members of the Group of Rio.

The provisional name for the body is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELC), although Mexico's President Felipe Calderon said the name may be changed as the body is formalized in future meetings.

In her acceptance speech, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet told those assembled that Chile was taking on the task at a time that marks a watershed in world history.

"The international community has abandoned the idea of laissez faire, the idea that the market can completely regulate itself," Bachelet said. "In the words of Mexican poet Octavio Paz, the market has no mercy and no conscience."

Bachelet called for a multilateral response to reorganize the region and the world.

"Let's work together to integrate our region. Let's be more inclusive and productive. Let's boost trade so that we don't live back to back," she said.


Mexican President Felipe Calderon (L) talks with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva (C) and Chilian Presidentt Michelle Bachelet at the closing session of 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. 23, 2010. Mexico's President Felipe Calderon handed over the two-year presidency of the expanded Group of Rio to Chile at the end of the organization's two-day summit on Tuesday in Playa del Carmen. Earlier on Tuesday, the group had agreed to expand to include the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom). (Xinhua/Joaquin Morelli)

The region was badly hit by an economic crisis that began in the U.S. home loan market and spread to the rest of that nation's economy and then to the rest of the world. Close economic links to the United States and deregulation meant that the contagion spread rapidly through nations with open markets.

Bachelet also placed special emphasis on Haiti, a member nation where a 7.3-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12 has left at least 1 million homeless and may have killed as many as 300,000 people.

"We are all working to face the difficult situation that is taking place in one of our member nations, Haiti," she said. Bachelet added that the body would ensure that the nation can be rebuilt better than before "as all Haitians deserve."

Calderon and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez each said the grouping had committed new funds to Haiti. Calderon said that Haiti would get 25 million from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Andean Development Corporation, while Chavez said that the island nation would receive 30 million directly from members.

Cuba's President Raul Castro called for all cooperation to be directly with Haiti's government and for the United Nations to be the only other actor in the state, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

"What is needed objectively and with full respect for Haitian government sovereignty is long-term help via the United Nations and only the presence of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah)," Castro said.

Many nations have criticized a large U.S. military presence in Haiti.

Another key issue for the conference was the Falkland Islands. Argentina forcefully restated its claim to the island group, which Latin Americans call the Malvinas, a day after a British oil company began drilling for oil there in defiance of international treaties.

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said the nation "will persist in its democratic vocation until it has exhausted its legal framework and until it regains sovereignty."

Her claim was supported by Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba and the conference as a whole.

The next meeting of the organization will be in Venezuela next year. The normal functions of the Group of Rio, Caricom and the Latin American and Caribbean Congress will continue until the new organization's institutions are completely formed.

Mexico has been hosting the event, billed as the Unity Summit, since Saturday. The first event was a foreign ministers' meeting covering both Rio and Caricom nations on Saturday, the second was a Mexico-Caricom heads of state summit on Sunday. The Group of Rio Summit began on Monday.

Barbados will host the next Mexico-Caricom Summit in 2012.

Source: Xinhua
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