Venezuela, Chile to head new Latin American bloc

The new bloc will include all countries in the Americas except Canada and US.

Caracas: Venezuela and Chile will head a new regional bloc that will include all countries in the Americas except Canada and the United States to be inaugurated in July 2011, Venezuela`s Foreign Ministry has said.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC, its Spanish-language acronym), will have among its goals tightening trade and institutional cooperation in the region, in step with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez`s so-called "Plan Caracas”.

Twenty foreign ministers from the 32 CELAC members met yesterday in Caracas and agreed tasking Venezuela and Chile with drafting the new bloc`s statutes and co-chairing the group and hosting its summits in 2011 and 2012, the ministry said on its website.

CELAC`s creation was agreed to in February at the Summit of Latin American and Caribbean Unity in Mexico.

Besides setting up CELAC, yesterday`s meeting also discussed Plan Caracas, which Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said aimed at "consolidating (regional) integration" to eliminate poverty and boost technological cooperation.

Plan Caracas also calls for "building a just, multilateral trade system... increasing cooperation among regional organisations" such as trade bloc Mercosur, political bloc Unasur and Petrocaribe, he added.

The foreign ministers also agreed to holding their next meeting on September 06 again in Caracas, to prepare for CELAC`s first summit of heads of state and government in July next year.


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