HAVANA, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Cuban leader Raul Castro on Tuesday opened the 2nd Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), welcoming regional heads of state to the two-day event in Havana.
Castro, whose country holds the temporary presidency of CELAC, led the others in observing a minute of silence in honor of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who spearheaded the regional bloc to promote greater unity among Latin American countries and counter U.S. influence.
In his address, Castro called for a new paradigm of regional and international cooperation, and touched upon several issues of special interest to the region, such as recent revelations of U.S. spying on leaders and individuals around the world, including the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, which are considered U.S. allies.
"The existence of the U.S. government's global communications spying system, which indiscriminately targeted regional heads of state and government, international organizations, political parties, companies and citizens, in flagrant violation of international law and the sovereignty of states, was revealed last year," said Castro, adding it was a cause for "great concern due to its potential to provoke international conflicts."
To that end, said Castro, "we welcome the initiative of the Brazilian government to hold ... in April 2014 the Global Multi- sectorial Meeting on Internet Governance."
Currently, Argentina is caught in disputes with Britain over the Malvinas Islands (known in English as the Falklands), while Ecuador is fighting with Exxon over environmental damage. Castro expressed the bloc's support for these regional countries wrangling with Western powers or corporations.
"We reiterate our full solidarity with Argentina in its claim to the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands in its adjacent seas," said Castro, calling on Britain "to accept dialogue and negotiation."
Similarly, Castro conveyed CELAC's solidarity with Ecuador, saying it was "threatened by transnational companies with suits at courts influenced by avarice and a neo-colonial political outlook. "
CELAC promotes a spirit of unity that transcends the ideological differences that exist between the bloc's 33 member countries, said Castro, referring to the fact that some countries are ruled by leftist governments, and others by conservative governments.
Summit leaders are expected to discuss and endorse a series of documents during the two-day event, including the Declaration of Havana and a 2014 Plan of Action.
Among the points up for discussion are declaring the region a nuclear-free zone, or "zone of peace."