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Did Hugo Chavez derail CELAC summit?

Hugo Chavez's apparently surprise announcement that Venezuela, Chile, and Cuba would lead CELAC left other Latin American and Caribbean nations nonplussed.

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Also, it seems hard to believe that Brazil and Mexico would have handed over influence to an organization in which they have no say for the next four years. After Mr. Chavez announced the Troika, the presidents of Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina left the summit and Brazil's foreign minister became uncharacteristically less enthusiastic about CELAC as a whole. The summit seemed to lose speed the second day and this Troika announcement appears to be part of the reason.

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So what powers does the Troika have? The president pro tem has significant unilateral agenda powers, but needs to consult with the other two members of the Troika on a number of issues. The Troika determines whether the region's foreign ministers must meet to discuss a breach in democracy. There are also indications that the Troika, if they agree, can release a statement that speaks for all of CELAC in an emergency with only 12 hours notice. Though CELAC resolutions are non-binding, the ability to release resolutions and call all foreign ministers shows some serious diplomatic power. Additionally, Chavez is already calling for a meeting of the three Troika nations to be held to determine next steps, even though this sort of meeting is not mentioned in the founding documents. You should be able to see why countries like Trinidad and Tobago are upset about being outside the Troika.

Chavez's response to the criticisms: The Troika will meet soon to discuss those proposals about changing itself. It's good to be on the right side of the status quo in an organization that requires unanimity to reform (see veto power and the UN Security Council reform debate for another example of that).

If the Troika remains as is, this time next year, it will change to Chile, Cuba, and Costa Rica (the host of the 2014) and then will shift to Cuba, Costa Rica and whatever country hosts in 2015.

If CELAC has no significant power or influence, then this Troika really doesn't matter much. It will just be another platform for presidential speeches. However, if the CELAC organization begins to show signs of life over the coming year (and it will be the leadership of Chilean President PiƱera that will largely determine that), you can bet that discussions over the 2015 host and Troika reform will become hot topics in the region.

--- James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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