Press TV, Ireland
Sun, 04 Mar 2007 10:32:10
The Rio Group meeting in Guyana debated Cuba's membership as the first day of the summit came to an end.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim stressed that there is no need to isolate Cuba as member states discussed the possibility of admitting Havana.
The Rio Group, comprising of 19 countries from the Americas, was attended by eight Latin American presidents as well as delegates from all the member states, AFP reported.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called for a more vigorous presence of the Rio Group in the region with a focus on energy, agriculture and climate change.
Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, whose country chairs the group for the next year, said strengthening the Rio Group would require its members to identify cooperation projects and "work together".
The heads of state from Chile, Brazil and Mexico also met privately to address issues of concern.
The main debates on Saturday centered on improving the group's performance and ensuring that developing countries have a greater say in international organizations like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The group also addressed the post-elections situation in Haiti, where troops and police of several Rio Group members make up a UN stabilization force.
The summit prioritized the discussion on combating poverty and improving health and education based on a UN study conducted by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
Executive Secretary of ECLAC Jose Luis Machinea said that the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean will grow less in 2007 than in 2006. The executive secretary called for a development agenda that responded to the challenges in the region. According to Machinea, the region experienced a 5 percent growth rate in 2006, but in 2007, that rate would drop to 4.5 percent.
Machinea cited lack of economic growth in the past four years as the main reason for the inability to reduce poverty. There are "213 million poor people in this part of the world and more than 80 million indigents," Machinea said.
The Rio Group was set up in December 1986 with the aim of creating a "permanent body for political consultation and coordination" so as to give an impetus to the process of Latin America integration.
Its members view the Rio Group as an alternative to the Organization of American States, which many nations felt was becoming increasingly dominated by the U.S.