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SANTIAGO - Venezuela's Vice-President Nicolas Maduro Monday read a letter from ailing President Hugo Chavez to leaders attending the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit held in Chile's capital Santiago.
The letter from Chavez, who remains hospitalized in Cuba following cancer surgery, praised CELAC's role in supporting Cuba in its struggle against the 50-year US-led trade embargo and Argentina in its dispute with Britain over the Malvinas Islands, known to the British as the Falklands.
"Today we ratify the denunciation and condemnation of the shameless imperial blockade against revolutionary Cuba and the continued colonization and now progressive militarization of the Malvinas Islands," Chavez said in the letter.
"Both acts violate all the resolutions emitted by the United Nations to safeguard the rights of the Cuban and Argentinean peoples," he added.
"Without a doubt, it is part of this multinational organization to make (those denunciations) valid. Justice is unquestionably on the side of Cuba and Argentina. If we are a nation of republics, our sovereignty belongs to all (Latin America) and we must demand respect for it," he said.
"Since December 2011, when we founded CELAC in Caracas, world events have only confirmed the extraordinary importance of our decision, the great step forward that we took," he said.
Chavez highlighted the fact that participants at the CELAC summit discussed creating a nuclear-free zone in the region, saying "when the beating of the war drums can be heard around the world, how valuable it is that Latin American and Caribbean States are creating a non-agression zone, where international law is respected and political solutions to conflicts are asserted."
Chavez stressed the need to fulfill two fundamental pledges endorsed by the CELAC Action Plan agreed to in Caracas: eradicating hunger and spreading literacy.
He contrasted Latin America's development strategy with current US and European policies, saying "the only answer that the First World has found to the crisis is to cut social and public spending. "
"Through CELAC, we can achieve economic growth through significant investment in social spending ... acknowledging the universal right of our citizens to free healthcare and education," Chavez said.
The Venezuelan president also stressed the need to promote an energy agenda, due to global needs and the region's large reserves.
On a personal note explaining his absence, Chavez said at the beginning of his letter, "as you all know, since December 2012, I have been fighting again for my health in the revolutionary and sister nation of Cuba".
In the letter, Chavez also expressed his support for Cuban leader Raul Castro and his succession to CELAC's rotating presidency.
"Latin America and the Caribbean are telling the US, with a single voice, that all the attempts to isolate Cuba have failed and will fail," he said.
A hemispheric organization, CELAC was founded as a counterweight to the US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS).