The first Cumbre de Latinoamerica y el Caribe will take place this week outside of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, with a focus on regional cooperation and integration. The event will be attended by representatives from the region’s 33 countries and will mark the first time that the leaders of the entire region have come together of their own accord rather than at the initiation of the United States or the European Union.

The central topic of the summit will be the integration and coordination of the existing regional cooperation bodies, particularly in light of the current economic crisis, and is expected to also be attended by the leaders of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur); the Association for Latin American Integration (ALADI), the Andean Community (CAN), the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).

The summit, and the rhetoric surrounding its occurrence, underscores efforts in the region to increase regional cooperation and interdependence and decrease individual nations’ dependence upon trading partners from outside the region.