Cuba's Raul Castro to take over presidency of bloc of Latin American and Caribbean countries

Cuban President Raul Castro will take over the presidency of the CELAC Community of Latin American and Caribbean States from his Chilean counterpart.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez helped broker the creation of the 33-member CELAC in Dec. 2011.

Chavez missed this past weekend's CELAC meeting in Santiago. He is undergoing more medical treatment in Cuba after struggling with complications following cancer surgery.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro read a letter from Chavez Monday asking countries to remain unified and fight economic imperialism.

CELAC seeks to unify the region as a counterweight to their powerful hemispheric neighbor, the United States.

It provides a forum for regional nations to deal with world economic powerhouses on more equal terms. The bloc rejects the U.S embargo on Cuba and other efforts to isolate the communist government.