The two-day summit is expected to take up issues such as Colombian
peace talks, lingering poverty in Haiti and human rights.
Thirty-three countries from the region will participate, notably
without the United States and Canada, which are not invited.
While the visiting heads of state and government are likely to
express solidarity with Cuba and perhaps seek an audience with
former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Cuban dissidents who advocate
greater human rights on the communist-ruled island will also try to
capture attention with so many leaders and journalists present.
At previous international events hosted by Cuba, dissidents
attempted to highlight human rights violations and a lack of
democracy in the Western Hemisphere's only one-party state.
Government opponents reported over the weekend they were warned by
police against attending a "Forum on Democracy" in Havana on Tuesday
and that a number of activists had been temporarily detained.
Among those arrested was Jose Ferrer, leader of the Santiago de
Cuba-based Patriotic Union of Cuba, one of the most active
opposition groups. Police detained Ferrer on Friday in Havana and
released him on Sunday, his group said.
CELAC IS BORN
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) held
its first summit in Chile last year, having been established as a
rival to U.S.-dominated forums such as the Organization of American
States (OAS) and the Summit of the Americas, both of which meet
At the last Summit of the Americas, in Colombia in 2012, leaders
criticized U.S. President Barack Obama for the U.S. economic embargo
of Cuba and said there was little point in holding another such
summit without Cuba present.
Countries that once acquiesced to the United States in expelling
Cuba from the OAS in 1962 reversed course in 2009, voting to
reinstate Cuba, which nonetheless has refused to participate in that
"Cuba's national position remains unchanged. We will not return (to
the OAS)," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told reporters on
Friday, calling the organization "an instrument of U.S. domination."
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Even so, as a diplomatic courtesy Cuba invited OAS Secretary General
Jose Miguel Insulza, who has said he will attend as he did the first
CELAC summit last year.
Before the summit officially begins on Tuesday, Cuba and Brazil on
Monday will inaugurate a $900 million port project largely funded by
the Brazilian development bank BNDES and built by Brazilian
construction company Odebrecht.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Cuban President Raul Castro
will participate in the ceremony for the project, the Mariel
container terminal, which will include a rail and highway support
system and replace Havana as Cuba's most important port.
Once the official summit is under way, Venezuelan President Nicolas
Maduro has said he will propose the creation of commission to study
decolonization in support of independence for Puerto Rico, a U.S.
Maduro, who succeeded Venezuela's late, anti-U.S. President Hugo
Chavez, also supports making Puerto Rico the 34th member of the
community, known as CELAC.
The presidents of Peru and Chile may skip the summit because the
International Court of Justice in the Hague was due to rule on a
decades-old maritime dispute between the two countries.
(Additional reporting by Marc Frank, Nelson Acosta, Mitra Taj,
Alexandra Valencia, Anthony Boadle, Andrew Cawthorne, Brian
Ellsworth, Miguel Gutierrez, Diego Ore, Luis Jaime Acosta, Rosalba
O'Brien, Marco Aquino, Alejandro Lifschitz, Malena Castaldi and
Mariel Cristaldo; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Eric Walsh)
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