Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hosted Friday in Caracas a summit that was to create the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), dpa reported.
The new organization is set to bring together 33 countries with a total population of 550 million. CELAC is to hold the same nations as the Organization of American States (OAS), except for the United States and Canada. Several political analysts have noted that it seeks to replace the Washington-based Organisation of American States (OAS), which was created in 1948.
As he opened the summit, Mexican President Felipe Calderon spoke of the ideal of regional integration that inspired many Latin American independence heroes.
"Today, two centuries later, the ideal still holds and is common to all Latin Americans and Caribbeans. Political, economic, social and cultural integration is a life aspiration, one that is fundamental to our peoples," Calderon said.
"This is not just about bringing together people, but about rallying Latin Americans and Caribbeans around justice, democracy and civil rights," he said.
Chavez recalled that the summit had originally been planned for early July, but had to be postponed after he was diagnosed with cancer.
"I give infinite thanks to my god for allowing me to stand here, whole," Chavez said at the Teresa Carreno theatre in Caracas.
The left-wing populist Venezuelan described the OAS as "something old, a space that was manipulated, dominated by the United States."
Other countries in the region, however, rather saw CELAC as "complementary" with the OAS, in the words of Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa.
As he arrived in Caracas earlier Friday, Cuban President Raul Castro said that the creation of CELAC could be the most important event for the region in 200 years.
"For the first time in history we are going to have an organization that is ours," Castro said at Caracas airport.
"If it works, if it is successful - it's not just the fact of creating it and giving it a name - we can regard this as the biggest event in the 200 years of semi-independence we have had so far," he added.
CELAC is bringing together Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.