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Cuba hosts LatAm leaders against crisis backdrop

Leaders from across Latin America put aside domestic financial stability concerns Monday to converge on Cuba for the summit of a major group set up to counter US influence. The CELAC bloc of 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations was founded by Venezuela’s late anti-western leader Hugo Chavez, and specifically excludes the United States and Canada. Its second summit was hosted by Chavez’s closest ally, communist Cuba, a major diplomatic coup for a country Washington has tried to isolate through a five-decade-old trade embargo. “We’re building on the harsh reality, laboriously, the ideal of a diverse but unified Latin America and the Caribbean,” Cuba’s President Raul Castro, 82, said ahead of the meeting.