European Union-style bloc pitched for Latin America, Caribbean

Mexico City, Sept. 18 (Reuters) – Latin American and Caribbean nations should seek a bloc like the European Union, Mexico’s president and other leaders said at a summit on Saturday to host the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS ).

Some of the region’s left-wing flag-bearers who attended the CELAC Assembly of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States have viewed the OAS as too close to the United States for years, and were particularly angry about the exclusion of Cuba from its member states.

Saturday’s summit host, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said at the opening ceremony in front of more than a dozen presidents and prime ministers that such a reshaped diplomatic body would better strengthen the region’s inequality-stricken economy and deal with health and other crises could.

“In these times, CELAC can become the main tool to cement relations between our Latin American and Caribbean nations,” he said in a cave-like ballroom in Mexico’s ornate national palace, where leaders took turns and some sparks jumped between ideological opponents.

“We should build something similar on the American continent to the economic community that stood at the beginning of today’s European Union,” said the leftist Lopez Obrador. He emphasized the need to respect national sovereignty and to adhere to a non-interventionist and development-friendly policy.

The leaders gathered at the invitation of Lopez Obrador with the declared aim of weakening the OAS. The start of the summit drew attention to the region’s center-left leaders, including Peru’s new President Pedro Castillo, Cuban Miguel Diaz-Canel and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.

Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro withdrew from CELAC last year and criticized it for uprising undemocratic countries. The Argentine Alberto Fernandez canceled at the last minute because of a sudden cabinet reshuffle in his country.

SPARKS FLY

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks ahead of the traditional military parade on the occasion of the 200 February 16, 2021. REUTERS / Gustavo Graf

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Some cracks appeared among the executives. Uruguay’s center-right President Luis Lacalle said his participation should not be interpreted as an embrace of some of the region’s more authoritarian regimes or a rejection of the OAS.

“We are concerned and are seriously looking at what is happening in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela,” he said, ticking what he described as repressive actions, including imprisoning political opponents.

Cuba’s Diaz-Canel hit back by attacking neoliberal policies that he said had delayed social progress. He also criticized the leadership of Lacalle and referred to the great response to a recent petition by his domestic opposition.

The Uruguayan responded by criticizing the Cuban communist government, noting that it does not tolerate opposition or allow its people to choose their own leaders.

Bolivian President Luis Arce called for a global debt relief agreement for poor countries, while Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez called for a regional body to fight climate change.

A new CELAC Natural Disaster Response Fund has also been announced.

Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez helped found CELAC in 2011, and his contested successor Maduro arrived in the Mexican capital late Friday as a surprise addition. Continue reading .

In his remarks on Friday evening, Maduro suggested setting up a new CELAC headquarters in the Mexican capital. Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard politely accepted this proposal on Saturday when asked by reporters and described the idea as premature.

Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Noe Torres; Editing by Andrea Ricci and David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc hits historic low in voter ballot

BERLIN, GERMANY – APRIL 23: Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) sits at the Bundestag on April 23, 2020 in Berlin. Germany is still at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and will have to live with it for a long time, said the Chancellor.

Maja hitij

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative alliance has hit an all-time low, deepening an obvious shift in electoral trends in Germany.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, recorded a drop in popularity to 23% in the latest voter poll conducted by Kantar for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The poll of 1,910 Germans found that support for Merkel’s CDU-CSU bloc had fallen again, from 24% the week before, to hit the lowest level in the history of the weekly poll.

In the meantime, the Green Party remained in the lead with 26% of the vote, although its rating was also down 1 percentage point from the previous week. In third place in the survey was the Social Democratic Party, the current junior coalition partner of the CDU-CSU, with 16%.

The center-left SPD announced on Sunday that the current finance minister, Olaf Scholz, would lead his election campaign. In the vote in September against Annalena Baerbock from the Greens and the candidate of the center-right CDU-CSU, Armin Laschet, he will stand to replace Merkel.

Honeymoon of the Greens?

To show how much voter trends are changing, the Green Party has moved from a fringe movement to a contender for governance. If current polls are confirmed in the elections, the German government will do so, very likely with one or two coalition partners.

The economists at Deutsche Bank, led by Stefan Schneider, stated that with coalition options “(at least arithmetically) nothing is impossible”.

“Annalena Baerbock and Armin Laschet’s nominations as candidates for chancellor clearly helped the Greens to gain ground. Not only could they be the kingmaker for the next government, but they could now even appoint the next female chancellor for a whole range of coalition options,” said economists in a note on Friday.

The economists at Deutsche Bank stated that they still consider a black-green government (a coalition with the Greens led by the CDU-CSU) to be slightly more likely than a Green-led traffic light coalition with the SPD and the Liberals (the FDP -Political party). Only the right-wing AfD was excluded from everyone else as a partner.

“It remains to be seen whether the honeymoon for Ms. Baerbock and the German voters will last until election day in September, as the green candidate for chancellor will now have to explain to the voters how exactly she intends to implement her political proposals,” they added.

Covid crisis

Merkel’s departure after four terms heralds a change in German politics. However, the coronavirus crisis could also have resulted in the CDU-CSU bloc falling out of favor for dealing with the pandemic – a challenge for any government.

While Germany’s initial handling of the public health crisis has been praised – it managed to keep the initial spread relatively under control with a robust track and trace system and modern hospital infrastructure that kept deaths low – it is as the third wave of infections in Europe stalled earlier this year.

In addition, the country’s vaccination campaign was sluggish. Only 9.7% of Germany’s adult population have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, 34.3% have reportedly received at least one dose of a shot from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. France, Spain and Italy have given higher numbers of people two doses, ECDC data shows.

As of Sunday, Germany has eased restrictions on people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from a recent Covid-19 disease, which means that the rules for social contact, quarantine after travel and a nightly curfew for these people no longer apply.

To date, according to the Johns Hopkins University, Germany has recorded over 3.5 million infections and 84,844 deaths.