“Welcome to a better world”. This is how Chile’s president welcomed the EU delegates to the first joint summit with CELAC, as protesters clashed with police in the streets of Santiago and declared an alternative “people’s summit”, calling for free education and environmental protection.
Sixty nations are involved in the meeting; all the Caribbean and American nations, bar America and Canada, and it is the Europeans, especially former colonial master Spain, who are keen to see investment come their way.
After years of buying up latin and south American assets Europeans are now hoping money will start to flow in the opposite direction as the region has resisted the economic crisis and is posting healthy growth rates, unlike Europe.
CELAC was set up in December 2011, largely on President Hugo Chavez’s initiative, to ensure South America could at last speak with one voice on equal terms with its economic partners.
The rotating presidency is now Cuba’s, and President Raul Castro arrived to drive forward the meeting, which aims to produce a joint statement on Sunday.