Matters of Importance in Latin America and the Caribbean

ALBA: 16 Years of Life

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples' Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP) held its XVIII ordinary Summit virtually this time on December 14, with the President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro as moderator. The meeting commemorated the organization's founding in Havana, exactly 16 years earlier, by the presidents of Cuba, Fidel Castro, and Venezuela, Hugo Chávez who conceived of it as an anti-neoliberal, supportive, non-competitive and popular alternative to the absolute predominance of profit and the market promoted by the United States through the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The FTAA was defeated the following year, in 2005, at the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, by the joint action of Presidents Chávez, Kirchner, Lula, Tabaré Vázquez and Duarte Frutos, backed by popular mobilization.

ALBA has benefited from important achievements such as Operation Miracle, which brought eye operations to improve the sight of more than 8 million low-income Latin Americans and Caribbean people; the eradication of illiteracy in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua and its appreciable decrease in other States of the Alliance, and the genetic-social clinical study of the population in six member countries. Of particular importance was the creation in Cuba of the Latin American School of Medicine and then a counterpart of it in Venezuela, which have contributed tens of thousands of doctors with humanistic training to remote places on four continents where they had never seen a doctor, including black communities in the United States.

Maduro said that the foreign ministries have been working together on a set of proposals and documents to greet the year 2021 with strength and dynamism. He put great importance on the relaunch of Petrocaribe and its economic area, which could not be done in 2020 due to the unyielding U.S. economic blockade under Trump that prevents Venezuela from exporting oil and the Caribbean states from importing it. The timing of the summit was a chiaroscuro, taking place under the ominous weight of the international health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, during which the rich countries of the West have shown unparalleled selfishness, procuring health services just for themselves at a time when solidarity and cooperation are most necessary. But, at the same time, when the rebellion of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean against neo-liberal governments is on the rise, as can be clearly seen in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala and Haiti.

At the same time, the Bolivian people have resumed their liberating path after their resounding victory in the October 18 elections, which brought Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca to the presidency and vice-presidency of the country. Together with the return of Evo Morales, it constitutes an important defeat for imperialism, the right-wing forces and the Áñez dictatorship. Less than two months later, the Venezuelan people spoke in their momentous elections of December 6, which renewed the National Assembly, granted a large majority in that body to the Great Patriotic Pole and dealt a sharp blow to the destabilization strategy of the United States and the international right against the Bolivarian Revolution. Equally important was the re-election of Ralph Gonsalves and Timothy Harris as Prime Ministers of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Kitts and Nevis, veteran ALBA member states in the Eastern Caribbean.

The summit was mainly dedicated to analyzing the regional political situation, coordinating efforts among its member states to strengthen the fight against the pandemic, and assessing the important reincorporation of Bolivia as a member. The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, offered to provide epidemiological advice to the sister governments of the organization, share experiences with them on tackling COVID-19 and put at their disposal Cuba's successful protocols for combatting the virus with biotechnological medicines. The governments of Cuba and Venezuela were put in charge of organizing a common bank of medications and, mainly, vaccines against the novel coronavirus. The summit condemned the redoubling of the blockades and economic harassment of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua by the United States.

In addition to those already mentioned, some of the main agreements reached related to the reactivation of the Economic Council of ALBA, and of the Sucre as the exchange currency, the activation of cryptocurrencies, the strengthening of Petrocaribe and the ALBA Bank, which offers assistance and financing to member states. The Summit also agreed to elect as the group's executive secretary the renowned Bolivian diplomat Sacha Llorenti, who was his country's representative to the UN.

(La Jornada, December 17, 2020. Translated from original Spanish and slightly edited for accuracy by TML. Photo: ALBA)

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 49 - December 19, 2020

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Matters of Importance in Latin America and the Caribbean: ALBA: 16 Years of Life >


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