In 2011, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez organized the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011 specifically to serve as a regional body that excludes the U.S. and Canada—one that might someday supplant the Organization of American States (OAS).
News that the next Latin leader to assume CELAC’s rotating presidency is Cuba’s dictator, General Raul Castro, does not come as a surprise, then. After all, Raul’s older brother Fidel was organizing students to protest against the “imperialist” U.S.–sponsored OAS when it was established in Bogota in 1948.
The EU should not have been surprised, either, when at the end of last weekend’s second biannual 60-nation EU–CELAC Business Summit in Chile, the Chavistas in charge of Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela blocked EU attempts to shore up rule of law and protection for EU national investments in Latin America.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso had pleaded for language in the EU–CELAC communiqué to bind Latin American countries and create the “legal certainty” necessary to make long-term investments by the EU less risky.
The scores of Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela have fallen precipitously in the annual rankings of The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom in recent years. Expropriations, as well as the nationalization of private property and investments owned by companies from Spain, France, or other EU states are big reasons why.
The EU effort was for naught, however. Bolivia’s Evo Morales rejected it (while also going out of his way to inflame an old territorial dispute with his Chilean hosts). Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner tweeted about it negatively, and Venezuela refused to sign it—so the EU “legal certainty” language in the final summit declaration was removed.
This is an issue upon which the EU and the U.S. should agree. President Obama should work with the EU to present a united front to the renegade Chavistas, in the interest not only of U.S. and EU investors but also on behalf of the citizens in Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela who are being short-changed by their governments’ policies.