Hugo Chavez's apparently surprise announcement that Venezuela, Chile, and Cuba would lead CELAC left other Latin American and Caribbean nations nonplussed.
Among the key questions facing any international organization are:
1) Who leads and sets the agenda?
2) How are decisions made?
3) Are decisions binding among all member states?
3) Decisions at CELAC are voluntary and not binding. There are no penalties for countries that go against the resolutions or choose not to participate. This makes CELAC resolutions mostly symbolic for now and dependent on the willingness of every country to participate.
2) How decisions are made was a big debate behind the scenes this week and the Latin American and Caribbean countries could not come to an agreement. A group of countries wanted a majority or two-thirds vote to pass resolutions while others insisted on a consensus model (all countries must agree). Being that the countries could not agree on these rules, decision-making appears to remain consensus-based. All countries must agree on everything. Any country should be able to object and prevent a resolution from happening.
1) On Friday night, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared that CELAC will be led by a Troika of countries: the current president pro tem (summit host) plus the previous and next hosts. Today, that means the Troika is led by Chile (President Sebastián Piñera is now president pro tem and the summit will be in Santiago in 2012) along with Venezuela, the most recent summit host, and Cuba, where the summit will be held in 2013.