Some 125 people took part in the teach-in Lessons from Bolivia: Building a Global Movement for Climate Justice in Toronto on Saturday November 13. The meeting was sponsored by nearly 40 organizations, including unions, solidarity campaigns and environmental groups. Continue reading
Statement adopted by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, at an ALBA ministers’ meeting in Bolivia, November 3-5 Continue reading
By Ron Ridenour
“Nobel War Prize winner walked in and out of a secret door, and that is the way capitalism and the United States Empire will end up leaving the planet, through a secret back door.” So spoke Venezuela President Hugo Chavez from the plenary podium on the last afternoon, December 18, of the 12-day long Copenhagen climate conference (COP15). Continue reading
The following statement was issued by the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) late on December 18 in response to the results of the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit. Continue reading
by Melanie Newton
In 2004 two events sent shock waves across the Caribbean Sea, presenting us with two radically different blueprints for future hemispheric relations. Continue reading
by Carlos Torchia
A presentation to the Sept. 26 Toronto teach-in on the mass resistance in Honduras to the June 28 military coup. Continue reading
By Felipe Stuart Cournoyer. The people of Honduras have now suffered more than 40 days of military rule. The generals’ June 28 coup, crudely packaged in constitutional guise, ousted the country’s elected government and unleashed severe, targeted, and relentless repression. Continue reading
By Felipe Stuart Cournoyer. Three weeks after the June 28 military coup that expelled Honduran President Mel Zelaya and claimed to overthrow his government, the country remains shaken by a profound and dynamic popular upsurge demanding Zelaya’s return and the restoration of democracy. Continue reading
Introduction. The following statement was issued on April 17 by six of the seven governments of the ALBA economic and social alliance in Latin America. (The seventh member, Ecuador, was unable to attend the meeting.) Speaking in Australia, Luis Bilbao, editor of the monthly magazine América XXI (published in Venezuela, Argentina and Uruguay), described the statement as “profound” and “historic.” Continue reading
By Derrick O’Keefe
This December, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is widely expected to win a convincing re-election, with his approval rating soaring and the Bolivarian Revolution bringing material gains to the country’s poor majority. Nevertheless, the opposition is preparing a major campaign against Chavez, aiming to heap scorn on the Revolution’s internationalism.
In August, opposition candidates announced that they would forgo scheduled primaries to unite behind Manuel Rosales, the governor of the state of Zulia. Rosales, the candidate of Venezuela’s oligarchy, has put a nationalist, populist spin on his criticism of Chavez. Unveiling the campaign slogan ¡Ni el imperio, ni el barbudo! (Neither the [U.S.] Empire, nor the [Cuban] bearded one!), Rosales stated, “No more dollars to any foreign country as long as there are slums in Venezuela, as long as there is unemployment and hunger.” 
With an opposition discredited by their ties to the ancien regime of neo-liberal austerity and by successive failed counter-revolutions – the April 2002 coup, the “oil strike” in the winter of 2002-2003 and the August 2004 referendum – those campaigning against Chavez appear set to focus much of their criticism on the Revolution’s foreign policy. Unable to openly criticize the redistributive measures taken by the Chavez government too harshly, Rosales’ strategy will be to demonize the Cuban government with which Venezuela has close relations, and to stoke chauvinism by attacking Venezuela’s foreign aid. This strategy’s prospects are difficult to predict, and Chavez’s popularity has not yet suffered for his alliance with Cuba. In fact, poor Venezuelans have benefited greatly from the Cuban foreign aid programs that Caracas has now joined and supplemented.
An examination of the foreign policy of Venezuela and its regional allies is an important part of understanding the dynamics of the December elections and the larger social struggles taking place regionally. It also helps to counter to steady stream of disinformation coming out of Washington and the corporate media in North America about Venezuela’s foreign policy, their alliance with Cuba, and their aid to movements throughout Latin America.
ALBA’s Challenge to the Empire So-called “free trade” agreements like NAFTA and the FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas) have always been in reality agreements to maximize the power of capital over labour across borders, designed to minimize restrictions on corporate power. The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, whose Spanish acronym “ALBA” means “dawn,” formally signed in December 2004 by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela, is a comprehensive challenge to agreements like the FTAA. ALBA proposes a framework for Latin American regional integration that encourages economies of social solidarity, genuinely fair trade, and cooperation on a number of levels. A joint declaration issued at an April 2005 conference for the implementation of ALBA stated this perspective:
We fully agree that the ALBA will not become a reality with mercantilist ideas or the selfish interests of business profitability or national benefit to the detriment of other peoples. 
The ALBA signatories’ vision for a future Latin America was given an important boost with the December 2005 election of Evo Morales in Bolivia. At the end of April 2006, Morales traveled to Havana to sign Bolivia into ALBA. Concrete measures now being taken to implement ALBA’s goals include, among others: elimination of tariffs between the three countries, cooperation on literacy and health care programs including HIV treatment and optometry programs, and energy technology and resource sharing.
The ALBA agreements can be viewed as the codification of a revolutionary vision for Latin America in confrontation with U.S. imperialism. For Rosales and Venezuela’s elites, this foreign policy is not just a “wedge issue” where they believe they can score some electoral points against Chavez; it is also a serious threat to their long-term interests. What is less easy to understand, however, is why the activities being undertaken to implement ALBA are coming under criticism from some socialist forces internationally.
Left Critics of ALBA The leading role of Cuba in ALBA is the target of criticism in a recent article by Chris Harman, a leading member of the British Socialist Workers Party. He describes Cuba’s international solidarity as a mechanism to curry favour with capitalist governments and to quell revolutionary movements:
The Cuban government itself has long seen mass movements in other countries as little more than a means of putting pressure on established capitalist governments to establish friendlier relations with Cuba…
Dressing up the commercial exchange of Cuban doctors for Venezuelan oil as an act of “socialist solidarity” is then used to attempt to derail revolutionary possibilities today just as the exchange of Cuban sugar for Russian oil was 46 years ago. 
Harman does not mention ALBA explicitly, but Cuba’s socialist solidarity in Latin America is a concretization of the ALBA vision shared with Venezuela.
The sugar analogy here is faulty, to say the least. Cuban teachers and doctors are surely commodities of a qualitatively different sort than sugar. To take only the most obvious and salient difference: Socially conscious doctors and teachers willing to serve the poor and marginalized for little or no financial reward are exceedingly difficult to produce at the early stages of a process of social transformation. Cuba’s infusion of these health and education workers has made possible huge strides forward for the revolutionary process in Venezuela, and now in Bolivia as well. In a recent interview, Bolivian President Evo Morales described the aid received since his inauguration eight months ago:
Fidel helps us a great deal. He has donated seven eye clinics and 20 basic hospitals. Cuban doctors have already performed 30,000 free cataract operations for Bolivians. Five thousand Bolivians from poor backgrounds are studying medicine at no charge in Cuba. 
The scope of the human capital deployed by Cuba is indeed staggering. Le Monde Diplomatique recently profiled the medical internationalism of Cuba, explaining how the island’s human resources are now being supplemented by Venezuelan technology and financing:
There are currently some 14,000 Cuban doctors working in poor areas of Venezuela. The two governments have also set up Operation Milagro (miracle) which, during the first 10 months of 2005, gave free treatment to restore the eyesight of almost 80,000 Venezuelans, transferring those suffering from cataracts and glaucoma to Cuba for operations. More widely, the project offers help to anyone in Latin America or the Caribbean affected by blindness or other eye problems. Venezuela provides the funding; Cuba supplies the specialists, the surgical equipment and the infrastructure to care for patients during their treatment in Cuba. 
One would have to be suffering from a certain schematic blindness to describe this cooperation as part of an effort to “derail” Venezuela’s transformative social process. Venezuela’s foreign policy is now thoroughly integrated with Cuba’s internationalism, and this has extremely positive implications for the entire region’s prospects. ALBA is part of a conscious and coordinated effort to promote economic integration and cooperation in Latin America, not a to prop up capitalist power but to build unity and strength against the imperial centre in North America.
Axis of Evil or of Hope? Chavez, for his part, has never attempted to conceal his admiration for the Cuban Revolution; in recent weeks, for instance, he has made two highly publicized visits to the bedside of Fidel Castro, who has been recovering from an emergency intestinal surgery. It is perhaps the fear of the combination of Venezuela’s oil power with Cuba’s human resources that prompted the far right-wing National Review to run a recent hysterical cover story about the “real Axis of Evil.” 
Venezuela’s potential to become something of an “anti-Saudi Arabia” – a regional power spreading oil wealth to bolster progressive causes and movements – extends even to the possibility of intervening to assist the poor within the United States of America. Over the past year, Chavez has signed agreements with U.S. state governments to provide preferential prices for heating oil to poor communities, including in places as unlikely as Maine. (Surely no critic on the Left would assert that this is an effort to prop up the capitalist regime in the United States?)
What is critical about the emerging ‘Axis of Hope’ (Cuba-Venezuela-Bolivia), as author Tariq Ali dubs it in a forthcoming book, is that it shows that a different foreign policy is possible. Given a revolutionary mass upsurge and a successful struggle for government, it is possible to wield the power of the state to the purpose of technology transfer, cooperation in health and education, and the larger process of integration and unity against the prevailing neo-liberal economic order. This example will certainly be spotlighted at this week’s Summit of the Non-Alignment Movement in Havana, Cuba.
The global outlook of the process, it should be noted, has developed together with the consciousness of its protagonists, the poor and working people of Venezuela. The internationalism of the Bolivarian Revolution is, then, much more than just a good idea of the leadership, although it tends to sometimes be understood that way, as seen in the growing popularity in recent weeks of Hugo Chavez across many Arab countries for his strident denunciation of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon.
This example from Latin America can allow us all to think about fighting for real social change and for foreign policies that seek genuine international cooperation among the world’s peoples to fight the scourges of poverty and Empire.
 “Heading for presidential elections.” ElUniversal.com, August 26, 2006.
 “An alternative to the FTAA begins its implementation.” Venezuelanalysis.com, September 7, 2006.
 “Cuba behind the myths,” by Chris Harman. International Socialist Review, Issue 111, 2006.
 “Capitalism has only hurt Latin America: Evo Morales interviewed by Spiegel.” Znet, September 4, 2006.
 “Cuba exports health,” by Hernando Calvo Ospina. Le Monde Diplomatique, August, 2006.
 “Latin America’s terrible two: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez constitute an axis of evil,” by Otto J. Reich. National Review, April 11, 2005.
By Sabrina Johnson
Editor’s Note: July 26, 1953 is the date of the attack by young Cuban revolutionaries on the Moncada military barracks in Santiago, Cuba. This act was the opening salvo of the Cuban revolution, which triumphed six years later, in 1959. As we approach the anniversary of the Moncada attack, Cuba is strengthening its alliance with peoples in struggle across Latin America and around the world. Sabrina Johnson, a Toronto activist in solidarity with Cuba, discusses the meaning of Cuba’s extraordinary commitment to international assistance.
Is free health care a crime? So you might think, considering the Bolivian capitalist establishment’s panicked reaction to the activity of Cuban doctors in that country.
Seven hundred Cuban medical personnel are providing care to thousands of Bolivians who have never been able to afford it, saving hundreds of lives in the process. Officials of Bolivian medical associations have threatened to quit their government posts in protest, while the Bush administration cites Cuba’s medical aid as evidence of a dangerous “erosion of democracy” in Bolivia. Bolivia’s government is defiant: “As long as I am president, not one Cuban will leave Bolivia,” declares President Evo Morales.
The U.S. administration has good reason for alarm. After all, it does not assure the human right of medical care even to its own citizens. Its allocation of foreign “aid” consists mainly of military and police equipment and training. U.S.-style “development” promotes trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that has caused hunger and desperation throughout Mexico and has driven 7.2 million Mexicans to seek a better life in the United States, and risk their lives doing so. U.S. “democracy” is imposed by overthrowing popularly elected governments — as in Haiti, with the noteworthy cooperation of Canada.
Cuba’s actions and policies are the exact opposite. According to Bolivian government records, the 700 Cuban doctors in the country have assisted more than 450,000 patients in three months and saved the lives of 810 of them. Cuban ophthalmologic centers in the Bolivian cities of Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, and La Paz have restored the vision of 7,300 patients; another 1,700 have been treated in Havana. In addition, Cuba will train 7,000 young Bolivians as doctors and it has committed to helping Bolivia train 5,000 more.
Bolivia pays nothing for the Cuban doctors. They are paid by Cuba — the same salary as they would receive on the island. They live and work in impoverished and remote communities, far from home and family. As Cuban president Fidel Castro has said, Cuban doctors’ basic training consists of teaching not only medicine, but also solidarity and humanism.
37,000 specialists in Third World countries
Cuba has limited financial means and supplies to offer to other countries but is rich in human resources. Bolivia is one of 108 countries benefiting from Cuban assistance of 37,000 health, educational, and sports specialists.
- After the devastating October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, more than 2,000 members of Cuba’s Henry Reeve Internationalist Contingent cared for 1.74 million people in the mountains of Pakistan.
- Cuban doctors answer emergency calls in the middle of the night in countries where they are posted — from poor communities in Venezuela to poor neighborhoods in Haiti and Indonesia, places where many residents have never before seen a doctor.
- Seniors and other adults are learning to read in Cuban-assisted programs in Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand and in many other countries.
- Students from Latin America, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and even the United States live and study in Cuba at no cost as recipients of Cuban scholarships.
- Under the ALBA agreement between Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, the three countries plan to train 200,000 Latin American and Caribbean doctors over the next ten years.
- Cuba’s assistance in the defense of Angola’s independence throughout the 1970s and 1980s against invasion by the white racist South African government contributed to the independence of other African countries and, eventually, to the demise of South African apartheid.
Cubans view their international commitment as the realization of the principle proclaimed by José Martí, the leader of Cuba’s war of independence in the 1890s: “Homeland is humanity, ” and of the moral attitude evoked by Che Guevara: “Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, of the most sacred causes, and make it one and indivisible.”
Cuba’s revolutionary leadership understands that the Cuban revolution will best survive and develop in partnership with other peoples in struggle for their freedom. They argue (as does Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez) that the only viable and enduring solution to the problems of imperialist oppression and capitalist pillage is socialism, and that socialism can only develop through collaboration and interchange between governments of workers, farmers, and indigenous peoples of many countries. Today, the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and the indigenous victory in Bolivia open the way towards such a process in Latin America.
The role of ALBA
In December 2004, Cuba and Venezuela signed the historic ALBA agreement (ALBA means “dawn” and it is the Spanish acronym for the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). It represents a threat of a different kind for the U.S. imperialist agenda.
Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s national assembly, has called ALBA the best guarantee for the consolidation of an anti-imperialist front. Addressing an international forum in Caracas January 25, Alarcón asked, why waste time in looking for answers “in the air,” since ALBA “is the answer.” (See Paul Kellogg, “The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas,” in Socialist Voice #83)
The Cuba-Venezuela partnership encompasses health care, education, energy planning, the treatment of HIV, and a variety of other important social and economic programs. It offers a road of human solidarity to defend Latin America’s peoples against imperialist pillaging and robbery. On April 29, 2006, Bolivia became the third country to join ALBA, and its principles have also been applied in agreements with many other Latin American countries.
ALBA is unique in enabling the three countries to cooperate and trade in solidarity, independently of the world capitalist market. The relationship is a fraternal partnership, utilizing trade in kind rather than market transactions, thereby seeking to meet the urgent needs of the people.
The strength achieved by consolidating the efforts of people from various countries who are struggling to change their common situation is a powerful example that can also inspire working people in the industrialized world.
Alarm in Washington
The upsurge in Latin America, of which ALBA is the most advanced expression, is causing increasing alarm in the U.S., as its grip on countries in its backyard slips away. The inspirational flame has even reached the large Latino population inside the U.S., as shown by the demonstrations of millions for immigrants’ rights this year.
Washington has passed laws to prevent its citizens from visiting and learning about Cuba. It has branded Cuba as a repressive dictatorship and campaigned–with little success–for international condemnation of Cuba for so-called human rights violations. For more than four decades, the U.S. government has relentlessly enforced a blockade against Cuba that costs the island billions of dollars. The U.S. also enforces the blockade outside its borders, in blatant violation of other countries’ sovereignty and laws. Canada is a prominent target of such measures–with no protests from the Canadian government.
The Cuban people have been the target of numerous U.S.-sponsored terrorist attacks which have resulted in 3,478 deaths and 2,099 injuries. These attacks include the blasting of a Cuban civil airplane in 1976, resulting in 73 deaths. The masterminds responsible for this attack are Orlando Bosch, who was pardoned by President George H. Bush, and Luis Posada Carriles, an ex-CIA agent with a long history of criminal activity throughout Latin America on behalf of the U.S. government.
The U.S. authorities were recently forced to detain Carriles when he held a press conference in Miami and his presence in the U.S. thus became undeniable and an embarrassment to them. But Washington has ignored Venezuela’s request for his extradition to stand trial for the plane bombing and refuses to address the charges of terrorism against him. It has instead opted to charge him with illegally entering the U.S. (His entry was aided by an undercover FBI agent.)
The anti-Cuba terrorism campaign has included hotel bombings, numerous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, smuggling of terrorists and military equipment into Cuba for the purpose of staging a fictional uprising against the revolution, sabotage against the agricultural and tourism sectors — not to mention a full-scale invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
Meanwhile, five Cubans patriots who infiltrated U.S.-based terrorist organizations in order to foil further attacks have been unjustly imprisoned in the United States since September 1998. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that their trial was illegal and a three-judge panel at the Atlanta Court of Appeals unanimously revoked the trial in Miami and ordered a new trial. The Cuban Five, who themselves participated in internationalist missions, are heroes in their country and supporters of Cuba are waging a determined campaign for their release. See www.freethefive.org, www.antiterroristas.cu.
Despite all of these attacks, the Cuban revolution has survived and is expanding its influence — a tribute to the conviction and tenacity of Cuba’s people and their continued participation in its defense; and to international solidarity, especially now from other peoples in the Americas.
Cuba’s example demonstrates how a country’s capabilities can be considerably enhanced and human potential developed once freedom from the private profit system is achieved. Cuba shows how the power of mutual and collective cooperation among revolutionaries throughout the world can bring each oppressed country a step closer to achieving a fair distribution of resources and opportunities for everyone. Its example has, in fact, encouraged the peoples of other countries to join the struggle for human rights.
Cuba proves that another world is truly possible and the Cuban people and government deserve an aggressive and unflinching defense by all supporters of freedom, self-determination and human rights, internationally.
by Paul Kellogg
Editors’ Note: The following is an excerpt from the Introduction of a paper on ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, by Paul Kellogg, editor of Socialist Worker and a leading member of the International Socialists. It was first presented to the June 1-3, 2006 conference of the Canadian Political Science Association, at York University in Toronto.
The full paper considerably longer than a normal issue of Socialist Voice, so we have posted it separately HERE.
Copyright © Paul Kellogg 2006. Requests to reproduce should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In December 2004, Fidel Castro Ruz, president of the Council of State and Ministers of Cuba, and Hugo Chávez Frías, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, signed an historic agreement, which outlined a framework for trade relations between their two countries on principles not just different from those motivating the FTAA, but principles which were formulated in such a way as to explicitly challenge the FTAA. ALBA has become synonymous with the radical reforms underway in Venezuela, and a symbol of the hopes for radical transformation which have emerged with the move left in Latin America as a whole.
ALBA — the Spanish acronym for the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas — means “dawn” in Spanish. And there is a real feeling that what we are witnessing is what Chávez has called “the dawn of a new era” in Latin America — an alternative at last to the long night of neoliberalism, neocolonialism and imperialism.
But ALBA is not the only player in the field of alternatives to the FTAA — nor is it necessarily, in economic terms, the most important. Just before the ALBA declaration, President Chávez participated in another summit of Latin American heads of states, this one without the presence of Castro, where agreement was reached, in principle, to accelerate progress towards a South American Community of Nations (CSN).
Most analysts conflate these two processes, treating them as identical. And at one level, they are. And both do represent a huge alteration of the power relations in the hemisphere. Both represent the attempt to wrench economic development out of the control of the Great Powers — in particular the United States — and assert the sovereignty of the economies in the region. But if both are, in this sense, anti-imperialist, only ALBA is explicitly anti-neoliberal and at times anti-capitalist. The CSN, by contrast, is evolving in a very traditional manner — state capital in cooperation with multinational capital. The ALBA project is being driven by Venezuela — led by a president who has situated himself openly against neoliberalism. But at the heart of the CSN project is the Brazilian state, and its much bigger economy — led by a president who began his term in office with an open retreat towards neoliberal policies.
This article will ask the question, to what extent are the two projects compatible?
By Paul Kellogg
June 7, 2006
Copyright © Paul Kellogg 2006. Requests to reproduce should be addressed to email@example.com.
- Introduction: the impasse of the FTAA
- The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
- A direct challenge to neoliberalism, a partial challenge to capitalism
- ALBA – Expanding the Scope
- ALBA – Stretching the Definition
- The South American Community of Nations
- Modeled on the EU, building on MERCOSUR
- Brazil in the drivers’ seat
- Neoliberalism in Brazil: from Cardoso to Lula
- Brazil: a sub-imperialist power
- Pipeline politics
- Conclusion: ALBA from below
Introduction: the impasse of the FTAA
At the turn of the century, we were confronted with an apparently unstoppable steam-roller – the onward march of “trade deals”, marking the institutionalization of the hegemony of free-market capitalism in its neoliberal form. The two-country Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) had prepared the ground for the three-country North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which in turn was bulldozing an area to accommodate the hemispheric Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). There were many schools of thought about these trade deals, but many saw the planting of the banners of ever-more comprehensive trade arrangements as indicators of the onward march of neoliberalism.
At the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, 80,000 demonstrators braved tear gas and pepper spray expressing outrage against the most comprehensive of these, the FTAA. Only Venezuela, inside the Summit, and Cuba outside (because not invited), opposed the deal. The date we were all focusing on was 2005. “In December 1994, at the first Summit of the Americas, the 34 democratically elected Heads of State of the Western Hemisphere agreed to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005.”  Momentum towards the FTAA seemed unstoppable, and 2005 loomed as an immovable deadline. But 2005 has come and gone, and the FTAA project is in tatters. At the 2005 Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata Argentina, George Bush attempted one last time to revive the FTAA, but the whole thing “ended in a fiasco” with the FTAA project in tatters.
The inability of the US to impose its will on Latin America, and push through the FTAA, is hugely significant. In broad strokes, it seems to have three roots. First, the long-term decline of the economic reach of the United States, relative to its leading rivals. Second, the conjunctural impasse of the United States in Iraq and Central Asia, reducing, for the moment, its capacity to assert its authority elsewhere, including in what used to be considered its “backyard” – Latin America. Third, the re-emergence of powerful mass movements throughout Latin America, that have propelled to office various left-wing and populist governments, usually on an explicitly anti-neoliberal basis.
However, the purpose of this article is not to embark on an explanation of this extraordinary conjuncture – that is a much bigger project. What this article will attempt to do is outline the contours of the trade deals which are emerging in the wake of the decline of the FTAA. First, it will examine a radically different form of regional integration, ALBA, or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.  In December 2004, Fidel Castro Ruz, president of the Council of State and Ministers of Cuba, and Hugo Chávez Frías, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, signed an historic agreement, which outlined a framework for trade relations between their two countries on principles not just different from those motivating the FTAA, but principles which were formulated in such a way as to explicitly challenge the FTAA. ALBA has become synonymous with the radical reforms underway in Venezuela, and a symbol of the hopes for radical transformation which have emerged with the move left in Latin America as a whole.
ALBA – the Spanish acronym for the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas – means “dawn” in Spanish. And there is a real feeling that what we are witnessing is what Chávez has called “the dawn of a new era” in Latin America – an alternative at last to the long night of neoliberalism, neocolonialism and imperialism.
But ALBA is not the only player in the field of alternatives to the FTAA – nor is it necessarily, in economic terms, the most important. Just before the ALBA declaration, President Chávez participated in another summit of Latin American heads of states, this one without the presence of Castro, where agreement was reached, in principle, to accelerate progress towards a South American Community of Nations (CSN).
Most analysts conflate these two processes, treating them as identical. And at one level, they are. And both do represent a huge alteration of the power relations in the hemisphere. Both represent the attempt to wrench economic development out of the control of the Great Powers – in particular the United States – and assert the sovereignty of the economies in the region. But if both are, in this sense, anti-imperialist, only ALBA is explicitly anti-neoliberal and at times anti-capitalist. The CSN, by contrast, is evolving in a very traditional manner – state capital in cooperation with multinational capital. The ALBA project is being driven by Venezuela – led by a president who has situated himself openly against neoliberalism. But at the heart of the CSN project is the Brazilian state, and its much bigger economy – led by a president who began his term in office with an open retreat towards neoliberal policies.
This article will ask the question, to what extent are the two projects compatible? These issues have now become acutely important. April 30, newly-elected president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, met with Chávez and Castro in Havana, to formerly bring Bolivia into the ALBA pact. May 1, hard on the heels of the ALBA deal, Morales sent in the troops to take control of “53 energy installations – including gas fields, pipelines and refineries.” “The pillage of our natural resources by foreign companies is over,” declared Morales as his troops went in. Morales was instantly in a confrontation with some of the world’s biggest energy concerns – including the Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF, British Gas, British Petroleum, France’s Total and US-based Exxon Mobil … and Brazil’s Petrobras.
First, the principles of ALBA will be sketched out. Second, the key components and dynamics of the much bigger CSN drive for Latin American regional integration will be examined. Finally, the paper will ask the question whether these two initiatives can co-exist. Something very big is taking place in Latin America, and one part of the picture is the emergence of new, regionally-based alternatives to the FTAA. Regardless of how we evaluate these processes, it is clear that the long-time hegemonic control over the region, enjoyed by the United States, is now being challenged. In that sense at least, what we are seeing is the “dawn” of a new era in the region.
The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
First, what is the “Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas”? According to the (almost) always anonymous writers in The Economist, ALBA “consists mainly of cheap oil and a rhetorical declaration against poverty”  But is the opprobrium from The Economist motivated by the merits (or perceived demerits) of ALBA or because of the ideology which it represents? According to Chávez , ALBA is “a flexible model for the integration of Latin America that places social concerns in the forefront.”  The text of the agreement signed between Venezuela and Cuba, December 14, 2004, shows clearly that – at least as it is worded – Chávez is completely right, and it is an agreement that, by speaking in explicitly anti-neoliberal terms, would of course raise the ire of The Economist.
The document uses language not usually associated with bilateral trade deals. Cooperation between the two countries will be based “not only on solidarity principles … but also … on the exchange of goods and services that are most beneficial for the economic and social needs of both countries.”  This “trade” document puts front and centre important social issues. The two countries agree to work together to eliminate illiteracy. Cuba offers, as part of the trade deal, “2,000 university scholarships a year to Venezuelan young students”. In addition, “Cuba puts at the disposal of the Bolivarian University … more than 15,000 medical professionals.” The two countries agree to “collaborate in health care programs for third countries.” And where traditional trade deals use language like “comparative advantage”, ALBA instead argues that “the political, social, economic and legal asymmetries of both countries have been taken into account.” And in what is perhaps, economically at least, the document’s most innovative position, “both governments accept the possibility of compensated trade” – opening the door to an exchange of goods bypassing the financial markets. 
Just over four months later, at the first Cuba-Venezuela meeting for the application of the ALBA, a series of stunning decisions were announced. The meeting was held under the rubric of Article 3 from the original ALBA agreement, which states:
Both countries will draft a strategic plan to guarantee the most beneficial productive complementation based on rationality, the existing advantages on both sides, economy of resources, increase of useful labor, access to markets, and other considerations based on a true solidarity that would promote the strength of both parties. 
Among the many initiatives, it was agreed to:
- in the healthcare sector – establish in Venezuela more than 1,000 healthcare centres of various sorts that would offer services free of charge; train in Venezuela 40,000 doctors and 5,000 health technology specialists; train in Cuba, 10,000 Venezuelans in medicine and nursing; continue the work of 30,000 Cuban doctors and other healthcare workers located in Venezuela; and offer free eye surgery in Cuba to 100,000 Venezuelans:
- in the education sector – continue Cuban-Venezuelan collaboration to eliminate illiteracy in Venezuela (a project involving teaching 1.46 million Venezuelans to read and write); work with 1.262 million Venezuelans to upgrade their studies to the sixth-grade level; and work with high school students to help give them access to university:
- in the economy – “the two delegations also identified 11 projects for the establishment of joint ventures and other methods of economic complementation in Cuba and Venezuela which will be progressively formalized once studies underway confirm their economic viability” including initiatives in iron and steel, railway infrastructure; maritime transport (including enlargement of the supertanker base in Matanzas, Cuba), nickel and cobalt mining, and the repair and construction of sea vessels.
The concluding words of the document are worth quoting in full.
[B]oth delegations formally pledge to spare no effort until the dream of Bolívar and Martí of a Latin united and integrated America and Caribbean is attained. As the Joint Declaration expresses: “…we fully agree that the ALBA will not become a reality with mercantilist ideas or the selfish interests of business profitability or national benefit to the detriment of other peoples. Only a broad Latin Americanist vision, which acknowledges the impossibility of our countries’ developing and being truly independent in an isolated manner, will be capable of achieving what Bolívar called “…to see the formation in the Americas of the greatest nation in the world, not so much for its size and riches as for its freedom and glory,” and that Martí conceived of as “Our America,” to differentiate it from the other America, the expansionist one with imperialist appetites.
The whole ALBA process, then, does not just implicitly challenge neoliberalism and the FTAA. That challenge is explicit, and embedded in the very founding documents of the ALBA process.
A more formal articulation of the ALBA philosophy was prepared in February, 2005, by the Venezuelan Bank of External Commerce (Bancoex). This document argues that “ALBA places the emphasis on the fight against the poverty [sic] and against social exclusion”. Bancoex situates ALBA as an international trade extension of the philosophy and politics of the Bolivarian state.
The Bolivarian Government of Venezuela is against the processes of liberalization, deregulation and privatization that limit the capacity of the State and the Government to design and to execute policies in defense of the right of our people to have access to essential services of good quality and at good prices … For the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, the public services [sic] are for satisfying the needs of people, not for commerce and economic profit. Therefore, its benefit cannot be governed by the criteria of profit but by social interest.
The document argues that recognizing and “correcting asymmetries” between participating countries has to be at the centre of the development and application of ALBA. “The idea is to help the weakest countries to overcome the disadvantage that separates them from the most powerful countries of the hemisphere.” To this end, Bancoex argues for the creation of “Compensatory Funds of Structural Convergence”. Teresa Arreaza calls this the “corner stone in the design of ALBA”, a mechanism to ensure that trade relations don’t become the institutionalization of a hierarchy of nations, but a mechanism for the leveling of that hierarchy, in the interests of the poorest and smallest economies. In a certain sense, this would be like the system of Equalization payments that are at the heart of Canadian federalism – only on a hemispheric basis, and imbued with a distrust of traditional trade deals – Equalization on anti-neoliberal steroids.
A direct challenge to neoliberalism, a partial challenge to capitalism
Neoliberalism is an orientation towards capitalist rule that developed in the late 20th century, with implications for both the Global North and the Global South. This paper is only going to deal with its implications for the Global South, and those implications are profound. They represent a continuation of the terrible impact of imperialism on development prospects for the poorest two-thirds of the world economy. Eduardo Galeano in his classic Open Veins of Latin America captures the impact of imperialism on Latin America very well. “The division of labour among nations is that some specialize in winning and others in losing.” A 1999 cartoon published in Sierra Magazine, shows a woman with a cup of coffee, signaling to the waiter: “Excuse me waiter, there’s the blood and misery of a thousand small farmers in my coffee.” It is in this context that the modern set of policies called neoliberalism, must be situated. Mark Engler has provided a good short, working definition of neoliberalism (as it effects the Global South) – “a specific set of market driven economic policies that have been imposed on the developing world. These include tight monetary policy, privatization of public industries, lowering safeguards for workers, opening markets to foreign investment and competition, and ending government protections for local industry.” The Campaign for Labor Rights, among others, has highlighted the way in which all of this involves a threat not just to workers, but to peasants as well. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), they argue:
… would, in a short period of time, remove all tariff barriers on imported agricultural products. This would allow cheaply grown and heavily subsidized U.S. corn and other basic grains to flood local markets in Central America. Millions of small farmers there would face the extinction of their livelihoods. They would be forced to migrate to large urban areas to work in the informal sector or maquilas.
And on the eve of the 2001 FTAA summit in Quebec City, Karen Hansen-Kuhn succinctly outlined the way in which a trade deal like the FTAA would institutionalize neoliberalism. Plans for the FTAA developed by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office (USTR) included:
… the controversial ‘investor-state’ provision … which grants corporations legal status formerly reserved for nations … When this sweeping procedural right to challenge governmental regulatory actions is coupled with the broad and vaguely worded investor protections in Chapter 11 of NAFTA, virtually all government regulation becomes a potential target. … In an outline of its objectives leaked last year, the FTAA services negotiating group stated its goal to liberalize all services in all sectors – i.e. commercial services such as tourism, data processing, and financial transactions, as well as public services at all levels of government. … This approach could lead to the privatization of such public services as health and education – particularly if a government has opened the door to commercialization of the services by allowing some aspects to be subcontracted to private service providers. The USTR proposal calls for the inclusion of energy services, something excluded from NAFTA, and it fails to address the possible environmental consequences of such a move. 
The ALBA initiatives taken to date challenge every aspect of this neoliberalism. As such, they represent the beginning of a challenge to imperialism itself. The role of the state is asserted rather than the role of the corporation. The primacy of using the state to extend and deepen social services is asserted, rather than opening up these services to the uncertain mercies of the world market. Energy security is seen as being in the purview of the state, and not something, again, left to the “logic” of the market. Not only are local industries and small peasants not abandoned, the protection of each is asserted in the ALBA initiatives taken so far. And while workers’ rights have not yet been explicitly dealt with, these rights are enshrined in an unprecedented way in the new constitution of Venezuela, and ALBA is in a very real way an extension of the reforms undertaken to date in Venezuela.
Susan George has argued that prior to the advent of neoliberalism:
The idea that the market should be allowed to make major social and political decisions; the idea that the State should voluntarily reduce its role in the economy, or that corporations should be given total freedom, that trade unions should be curbed and citizens given much less rather than more social protection – such ideas were utterly foreign.
George is probably exaggerating to make a point. But it is certainly true that the extreme extension of market rule – giving corporations rights while stripping them from workers, peasants and governments – has been far more marked in the modern, neoliberal era, than in the earlier one that we can perhaps call Keynesian.
At the very least, ALBA represents an attempt to return to that earlier, Keynesian, era, where governments imposed limits on corporate rule, and workers, peasants and the poor had some scope to legitimately organize in defence of their own rights. This does not in itself go beyond the bounds of capitalism. Keynesianism and the “welfare-state” era, did, after all, come to fruition during the most powerful economic boom ever experienced by the capitalist system.
But one aspect of ALBA goes even further than this and does amount to a challenge to the logic of capitalism itself. Institutionalizing the possibility of “trade in kind” between countries is a direct assault on the money-based trading networks that have dominated the world since the emergence of capitalism. Cuban ambassador to the U.N., Orlando Requeijo said in 2005 that “ALBA is based on the integrative, complementary use of resources. Some of the things we are trying to do are to end customs tariffs between the two countries, develop industries both in Cuba and Venezuela and we trade in kind or in other currencies. We do not have to rely on the U.S. dollar for anything.” This puts trade and economic relationships between countries on a completely different footing from that imposed by capitalism. Instead of being at the mercy of price movements, countries can openly identify areas of economic need, openly discuss what economic strengths they possess to “trade” for goods and services that they need, and directly exchange those goods and services without recourse to money. In such an arrangement, there is no room for banks, currency speculators or private-capitalists. Capital accumulation retreats into the background and the articulated needs of each country’s peoples moves to the foreground – at least in theory. It is an extraordinary and very bold assertion, of the possibility that a better world is in fact possible.
ALBA – Expanding the Scope
“Why waste time … in looking for answers ‘in the air’, since ALBA … ‘is the answer?’” This was the advice from Ricardo Alarcón, president of the Cuban National Assembly, speaking January 25 on the opening panel of the 2006 World Social Forum in Caracas. Alarcón was capturing, without question, the massive enthusiasm with which ALBA has been received by the social movements. And there are some signs that this enthusiasm is justified. From its base in Venezuela and Cuba, ALBA-type relations have begun to spread.
In late 2005, Chávez proposed a joint energy initiative – Petrocaribe – focused on the Caribbean countries. It quickly met with “an enthusiastic response” and as of November, 2005 “a dozen countries have signed on”. The key to the deal is easy credit and low-interest rates for Caribbean states buying Venezuelan oil. As oil prices rise, countries will be eligible to borrow a greater and greater portion of the total cost – from 5 per cent if oil falls below $20 a barrel, to a maximum of 50 per cent if oil prices top US$100 a barrel. In addition, loans can be repaid over a 17 to 25 year period at an interest rate frozen at 1 per cent. Critics call this a “buy now, pay later” deal, saying that this will increase the debts of the already indebted, and very poor, countries in the Caribbean. This criticism falls down on several counts, one of them being simple arithmetic. Given that there are many, many investments where returns far greater than 1 per cent are possible, the enthusiasm of the Caribbean states is understandable. In effect, money borrowed from Venezuela at 1 per cent can be invested elsewhere for a greater return – the type of activity that is normally reserved for the biggest trans-national banks. What the critics also ignore is that – instead of building up debt – Caribbean countries have the option of paying for the oil with “goods like sugar or bananas, or services.”
With the election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia, a third country has entered the ALBA mix. From looking north to the Caribbean, ALBA has now spread south to Bolivia, with Bolivia’s formal adherence to ALBA, April 30, 2006. Prior to that, in January 24, 2006, Venezuela and Bolivia signed eight agreements, in their specifics and in their totality, reminiscent of the ALBA-inspired Venezuela-Cuba deals outlined above.
The most important of the deals is for an exchange of Bolivian foodstuffs for Venezuelan oil. Chávez agreed to send as much as 200,000 barrels of diesel a month to Bolivia. The Venezuelan Energy Minister, Rafael Ramirez, said this oil can be paid for by agricultural products. On top of this, Venezuela said it will use money to buy 200,000 tons of soy and 20,000 tons of chicken more a year than it currently does.
Bolivia has also accepted Venezuelan assistance with energy development. Chávez said that PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company will be available to advise Bolivia on energy policy. 
ALBA – Stretching the Definition
This is a remarkable story – Venezuela, Cuba, some Caribbean island economies and now Bolivia, all engaging in trade relations on the basis of explicitly anti-neoliberal policies – or more accurately, on the basis of policies which explicitly challenge the “trickle-down” free-market logic of neoliberalism.
But there are many commentators who go further than this. The ALBA-led re-organization of the southern section of the Americas is often extended far beyond the examples listed here. I will quote these at some length, because the point is important – ALBA is often (perhaps usually) seen in far broader terms than has been painted here in this paper.
The Economist equates Petrosur, Petrocaribe, and “Petroamérica (in Central America and Mexico)” seeing all as “part of a broader plan to form ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) as a response to the US-initiated attempt to create a Free-Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).”
Pedro Monreal, writing in NACLA Report on the Americas, outlines the ALBA-inspired agreements between Venezuela and Cuba, but then goes on to argue that “the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is conceived as a much larger process of alternative integration for Latin America and the Caribbean … To this end, the ALBA has taken notable strides … through the PetroCaribe and PetroSur energy agreements.”
Walden Bello and Marylou Malig quote Chávez without comment when, at the World Social Forum, he (Chávez ) equated Petrocarib and Petrosur. “In his Petrocarib initiative, 13 countries in the Caribbean importing Venezuelan oil get a 40% discount off the international market price of oil. In the Petrosur project, Bolivia exchanges soybeans and Argentina trades cattle for Venezuelan oil. This [sic] kind of exchanges, he underlined, go ‘beyond the logic of capitalism.’”
Peter Hakim, writing in Foreign Affairs, lists – as ALBA inspired initiatives – not just Petrocaribe but also Venezuela’s entry into full partnership in MERCOSUR “South America’s most important free-trade zone, which also includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, as well as the proposed “creation of Petrosur, which would be a confederation of the region’s state-owned petroleum companies.”
Stephen Lendman also links ALBA and MERCOSUR. “Venezuela has recently joined with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay in the MERCOSUR trading alliance that should strengthen ALBA.” Sheila D. Collins, in the New Political Science, takes the analogy beyond MERCOSUR. Accurately describing ALBA as a trade agreement which is “based on social solidarity and justice”, she goes on to state:
While Cuba is thus far the only nation to have fully accepted the ALBA, other countries in the region have been moving toward it in their own way. In a Latin American summit held in December 2005, 12 countries signed an accord to merge the region’s two trading blocs, the Andean Community of Nations and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) into a single South American Community of Nations (CSN).
Néstor Sánchez makes the same point, saying that “Petrosur will also be part of other regional initiatives such as MERCOSUR, the South American Community of Nations and ALBA, which is an alternative to the FTAA.
These are very large claims. ALBA is to be seen not simply as a series of bilateral deals between Venezuela and some of the smaller states in the region, but it is to be seen in conjunction with the much more ambitious region-wide initiatives such Petrosur, pre-existing institutions like MERCOSUR, and proposed extremely ambitious institutions like the South American Community of Nations. To see if this approach is justified, we need to turn and examine the essence of these much larger regional integration initiatives.
The South American Community of Nations
At the centre of this investigation is the South American Community of Nations. December 9, 2004, “the leaders of every South American country except the three Guyanas were gathering today in Ayacucho, Peru [and the nearby Cuzco] to sign the preamble to the Foundation Act of the South American Union.” This new entity, tentatively titled, the South American Community of Nations (CSN), would be a huge new fact in the world economy, if it ever came to fruition. It would incorporate a land area more than four times the size of the European Union, and only marginally smaller than that comprised in the three-country cartel called NAFTA. With 370 million people, it would trail the EU by 90 million, and NAFTA by 60 million. Its GDP of just under $3 trillion reveals the big weakness of the new bloc, however, being less than 25 per cent of either NAFTA or the EU, despite being comparable in area and population.
But is the CSN compatible with ALBA? One representative report said that the summit of South American leaders “will pledge to merge the continent’s two largest trading blocs over the next 10 to 15 years, with the eventual goal of creating a Latin American version of the European Union” The CSN incorporates the two existing trade blocs in the region, MERCOSUR and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). It is significant that Cuba “does not participate in regional integration schemes that function within the neoliberal capitalist matrix” including MERCOSUR, because the push for MERCOSUR and other such projects “surged or regained momentum at the height of the so-called ‘Washington Consensus,’ which prescribed a diminished role for the state in social and economic affairs, privatization, deregulation, labor flexibilization and other drastic policies.”
It is not only Cuba which shares an unease about MERCOSUR. December 9, 2005, Venezuela was admitted into MERCOSUR at its summit in Uruguay. In May of 2006, Chávez defended this move saying that this was a “mechanism for integration among the nations” a step in creating “a bloc necessary to turn South America into a power.” This has not been met with unanimous praise from Chavez supporters. Julio Turra, member of the National Executive Committee of the United Workers Federation (CUT) of Brazil argued, in an open letter to Chávez, that the move was being questioned by activists in the workers’ movement in his country. The very name of MERCOSUR, he argues, “Common Market of the South:”
… indicates that it is a capitalist economic integration … privatization has been the hallmark of MERCOSUR since the 1990s. In various regions of Brazil, small agriculture and milk production have been liquidated due to the penetration of the multinationals, which take advantage of “free trade.”
Having lived under MERCOSUR, Brazilian trade unionists know something of its neoliberal nature. And if MERCOSUR is at the heart of the CSN project, that concern is likely also to be most acutely felt by activists in Brazil. Prime mover for the CSN was not Venezuela’s anti-neoliberal Chávez, but Brazil’s very neoliberal Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who initiated the process leading towards the CSN while president of Brazil. The torch for the CSN – along with its neoliberal policies – was picked up by the president who replaced him, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Both of these presidents have been the subject of widespread unrest because of their neoliberal policies.
And the scope of the CSN completely dwarfs that of ALBA. At its heart is a continent-wide energy policy that will involve the construction of one of the biggest pipeline networks in world history. The construction of those pipelines has already raised enormous fears amongst environmentalists, who are well aware of the havoc which can be created by thousands of kilometres of gas and oil pipelines snaking their way through some of the most ecologically sensitive land in the world. And there is, at the very least, a deep unease among indigenous peoples in the region, through whose land much of these pipelines will travel. Finally, this massive energy investment will not clearly be controlled by the people of the region. Side by side with the big nationalized oil companies – PDVSA in Venezuela and PetroBras in Brazil – will be some of the world’s biggest and most notorious multinational energy corporations, including Chevron-Texaco and Occidental Petroleum.
Modeled on the EU, building on MERCOSUR
At the historic, 2004 summit in Cuzco one quote captured the sentiment very clearly. “Our mirror will be the European Union, with all its institutions,” said Eduardo Duhalde, “a former president of Argentina who is now the political face of MERCOSUR.” The invoking of the EU as a model for South American regionalism, raises the important question of the nature of the EU. Like NAFTA and the FTAA, it involves a notion of the necessity of creating a regional bloc, a supra-national institution, to facilitate both regional economic development and competitiveness on a world scale. Unlike NAFTA and the FTAA, the EU has taken on a much more political role, through the creation of a European-wide parliament, shared passports, and the (attempt) at forging a European-wide constitution.
But the debate over that constitution has posed questions about the very nature of the EU process itself – particularly since the launching of the EURO as a region-wide currency, supplanting the existing national currencies. The advent of the EURO – and the parallel institutionalization of a European Central Bank at arms length from the political processes at a national level – have heightened concerns that the EU process, like NAFTA and the FTAA, has become yet another means for driving forward neoliberal restructuring. This problem has not been lost on activists in Latin America.
What are the results of the policies of the European Union for the peoples of the old continent? All the state monopolies (electricity, gas, transport, etc.) are being liquidated for the benefit of the multinational corporations … Social protection and pensions are on the chopping bloc in all the countries of the European Union. It was not by chance that the draft “Constitution” of the European Union was rejected by a massive “No” vote in France and Holland.
The problem is, that if these critiques of MERCOSUR and the EU are correct, they have profound implications for an evaluation of the CSN project. Central to the vision of the CSN, is that it will develop not in opposition to MERCOSUR, but by building on it, the Cuzco participants envisaging a “convergence of the two large commercial blocs: the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN)”. But in 1995, a joint EU-MERCOSUR declaration stated that the goal of both was to conform to World Trade Organization (WTO) norms, the same WTO which has been the principal target in the mass anti-neoliberal movement, at least since the Seattle protests of 1999. Adherence to WTO norms has real consequences. Collaboration between the EU and MERCOSUR was greatly enhanced from mid-1994 on “with Brazil launching a significant privatization process.” . If this is central to the origins of the CSN, how can it be made compatible with the very anti-neoliberal ALBA project?
Brazil in the drivers’ seat
In this, the role of Brazil is absolutely central. “The idea” of regional integration “resurfaced late last century … with Brazil the leading proponent.”  The 2004 meeting which proclaimed the CSN, was the third in a series of South American presidential summits which had addressed the idea. The first was convened in 2000 by Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The 59-point Brasilia Declaration resulting from this first summit, had at its heart the goal of a South American union. But what was behind this turn to regional integration on the part of the Brazilian leadership?
Neoliberalism in Brazil: from Cardoso to Lula
Cardoso – convenor of the summit and prime mover of the Brasilia Declaration with its vision of regional integration – has been the symbol of neoliberalism in Latin America. The privatization campaign launched by Brazil in 1994, a campaign which was central to the “maturing” of MERCOSUR as a neoliberal institution, was initiated by Cardoso, then Brazil’s finance minister. First in this role, and then, beginning later the same year as president of Brazil, Cardoso became the leading representative of neoliberal orthodoxy on the entire continent. He, more than any other figure, was associated with Washington Consensus policies. Emir Sader has succinctly captured their essence.
[D]evelopment would be led by foreign capital, attracted by the privatization of industry and natural resources, import liberalization, high interest rates, fiscal austerity and, in many cases, pegged currencies.
Cardoso was replaced as president in 2002 by the Workers’ Party’s Lula. But as Sader and others have clearly shown, Cardoso might have departed, but his neoliberal policies remained. Lula opened his rule with a promise to “keep all the previous government’s financial commitments” which in effect meant prioritizing relations with Western financial institutions over social services and workers’ living standards. The predictable consequence was an attack on both.
[I]n its first year the Lula government gave priority to two reforms in the style of World Bank ‘packages’ on social security and tax. The first had a clear privatizing slant. A new tax was levied on the retired – who had already been paying all their lives – to reduce the social security deficit; and public-sector workers’ pensions were capped, forcing them to turn to private pension funds.
Sader’s conclusion on the basis of his quite detailed analysis, is that “In power, the PT has not fulfilled any of its historic aspirations, and cannot even be described as a government of the left”. This is extremely relevant to an analysis of the link between ALBA and the CSN. “The government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been one of the driving forces behind the creation of the South American community of nations”, and Cardoso – the pre-eminent voice of neoliberalism – initiated the current round of negotiations pointing towards the South American Community of Nations. “The original concept” says Gwynne Dyer “came from Brazil’s last president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who invited the other South American presidents to Brasilia in 2000 for a first-ever continental summit, but the idea has been vigorously backed by his successor, President Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva”. Dyer adds that the other enthusiast for the project is Chávez , but confuses the matter when he says “both men, unsurprisingly, are on the left”. But the very point of the matter is – are they? Is the Brazilian drive for the CSN compatible with Chávez’ drive for ALBA?
Brazil: a sub-imperialist power
Brazil is today associated with the PT and Lula. It is a very short while ago, however, that Brazil was seen as a sub-imperial power. In part, this analysis situated Brazil as a local policeman for US interests in the region. But it also served to capture the aspiration of the Brazilian ruling class to be a regional hegemon, looking to assert its influence, on a capitalist basis, throughout the southern half of the Americas. As early as 1965, the Brazilian sociologist Ruy Mauro Marini was documenting the emergence of Brazil as a regional power in its own right. In part he saw Brazil’s role in Latin America as an extension of the dominant role of North American imperialism. But he insisted that even then, more than 40 years ago, it was insufficient to see this as a completely dependent relationship – Brazil acting as a surrogate for the United States.
In its internal and foreign policy, the Brazilian military government has taken hardly any steps to accelerate the integration of the Brazilian into the North American economy; rather, it has expressed the intention of becoming the center from which imperialist expansion in Latin America will radiate … It is not a question of passively accepting North American power (although the active correlation of forces often leads to that result), but rather of collaborating actively with imperialist expansion, assuming in this expansion the position of a key nation.
In 1994, Daniel Zirker re-examined Marini’s concept of sub-imperialism, as it applied to Brazil, and concluded that “more than two decades after he first proposed it, Marini’s theory of subimperialism continued to offer systematic insights into Brazilian foreign policy and domestic socioeconomic development.”
Is this any less relevant as a framework from which to examine Brazil’s actions in the Cardoso and Lula years? One important study argues that Brazil “has demonstrated a clear intention of wanting to expand the roles that it plays and the responsibilities that it assumes … Recent indications of this include its initiative towards the creation of a South American community.” Sean W. Burges puts it more bluntly. He calls the CSN “a largely Brazilian-led venture” which “may herald a future of dependence on an emergent regional Brazilian hegemony.”
The projection of Brazilian influence throughout the region is not simply taking the form of trade policies. The democratically-elected government of Haiti was overthrown in 2004, in a coup largely engineered by some of the traditional big imperialist powers of the west – the United States, France and Canada. But since the coup, Brazil has taken the lead in the occupation of Haiti, “sanctioning the controversial foreign intervention in which former Haitian President Jean-Bernard Aristide was removed from power. This sets a delicate precedent for the region, since many neighboring countries could potentially be considered candidates for intervention, due to serious institutional crises. Venezuela and Bolivia are just two examples” Finally, Brazil’s projection of its power regionally is underpinned by economic expansion. This is something well-known by the poor in Bolivia, who have engaged in “sustained mass protests … against Brazilian exploitation of gas reserves, including the bombing of Petrobras’ Santa Cruz office” in 2005.
Phil Davison says that “Mr. Cardoso’s successor, President Luis Inacio “Lula” da Siliva, has been the driving force” behind moves towards regional integration “with Hugo Chávez , Venezuela’s President, in the front passenger seat.” But when the driver and the passenger disagree as to the direction of the car – it is the driver who usually wins.
Chávez and the Bolivarian process in Venezuela have transformed the political landscape of Latin America. But it is oil and gas which are transforming the region’s economic landscape. When the entire picture is sketched out, it is fairly clear that the political logic behind the push for regional integration is underpinned by a powerful economic logic represented by pipelines.
An examination of the smallest of these pipeline initiatives provides important insights into the dynamics in the region. Venezuela and Cuba are seen by the right-wing in the United States as its principal enemies in Latin America. “The emerging axis of subversion forming between Cuba and Venezuela must be confronted before it can undermine democracy in Colombia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, or another vulnerable neighbor,” is a typical summary of the position taken by supporters of Bush and US imperialism. And if Cuba and Venezuela are the “axis of subversion”, then, the key to US foreign policy is “one of the most democratic and successful leaders in the region, President Alvaro Uribe” of Colombia, at least in the mind of former senior Bush advisor, Otto Reich.
The Colombian department of Arauco, is “the heartland of that country’s oil industry … It lies just across the Rio Arauca, an Orinoco tributary, from Venezuela’s own Orinoco Basin oil heartland of Apure-Barinas states.” Entrenched alongside Colombia’s state-run Ecopetrol is California-based Occidental Petroleum. And bunking next to them, are hundreds of US military advisors. Oscar Canas Fajardo, advisor to Colombia’s Central workers Union (CUT), said of the main oil field in Arauco: “There is a military build-up going on in Cano-Limon with the excuse of protecting the oil pipelines … They are transforming the Cano-Limon facilities into a small military fort … Who is to guarantee that all this [is] not being used against Venezuela?”
But in spite of this, November 24, 2005, Chávez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed a major agreement for a joint natural gas pipeline project. The 215 kilometre pipeline is designed to first, take natural gas from Colombia to Venezuela’s Paraguana Refinery Complex. After seven years, Colombia’s natural gas resources will be depleted, at which point the flow of gas will be reversed, and Venezuelan natural gas will flow to Colombia. Gas is just the start of the matter. Venezuela has easy access only to the Atlantic, but Colombia borders both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. The gas pipeline agreement is designed to be part of “a larger project that will bring crude oil from Venezuela to the Pacific Ocean, where it will then be transported to Asia.”
The opening to Asia is absolutely critical. The United States is the biggest customer for Venezuela’s vast oil exports. But the United States is also that country’s most implacable enemy. If Venezuela can create an alternate market for its oil in the rapidly growing economies of Asia – particularly China and India – it hopes to free itself from dependence on US oil consumption. This possibility has not been lost on the US, for whom the prospect of losing Venezuelan oil is taken seriously indeed.
But this pipeline project is just the appetizer. January 21, 2006, the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela jointly announced plans for a massive, 8,000 kilometre natural gas pipeline, that would snake through the Amazon and the environmentally-sensitive rain forests of South America’s interior, to pipe Venezuelan natural gas to markets, principally in Argentina and Brazil, but also linking Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. The project, if it goes ahead, would cost at least $20-billion US, and possibly more, and take seven years to complete.
Part of the pipeline plan is to, by making available vast quantities of natural gas, encourage the conversion of automobiles from gasoline (petrol) to natural gas in the two big economies – Argentina and Brazil. Argentina already has the world’s largest fleet of natural gas cars, Brazil the second-largest. “According to Chávez , that shift alone would allow for a massive increase in gasoline exports by both Venezuela and Brazil, generating as much as $15 billion in annual revenue.”
So Venezuela’s side of the deal is clear – sell vast quantities of natural gas to new markets in Argentina and Brazil, and simultaneously begin the process of facilitating increased exports of oil to China, accessing the Pacific shipping routes by a deal with Colombia. Brazil is not at the moment an oil exporter, so – at first glance it seems that for this country, the deal is only contingent on security of gas supply. And analysts have pointed out that this is a very expensive way of securing that supply.
But Brazil’s big state-owned oil company, Petrobras, has embarked on a vast oil exploration program, and “is adding about 13 barrels of reserves for each one it extracts” which will “make Brazil a net exporter of oil for the first time” in 2006, according to Petrobras CEO Jose Sergio Gabrielli. All of this is being fuelled by the China-led world economic expansion, driving oil prices through the roof, a situation which is leading to massive profits for oil producers. Petrobras, for instance, “recently announced the largest profits in Latin American business history, at $11.2 billion.” So flooding Brazil with natural gas from Venezuela, converting automobiles from gasoline to natural gas, and thus freeing up oil for export – this is a plan that has dollar signs written all over it.
This extraordinary pipeline development project is the driving force behind the big energy alliances – Petrosur and Petroamérica. May 11, 2005, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela “signed the base document for the creation of Petrosur” which “will be in charge of coordinating mutual energy policies”. Petrosur will be one of the key institutional players in the pipeline project, along with “the Initiative for South American Regional Infrastructure Integration (IIRSA), created by the nascent South American Community of Nations.” According to Dr. Alí Rodríguez Araque, president of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA from 2002 to 2004 (and from March of 2004 on, Minister of Foreign Affairs), all of this is based on a perspective of “hemispheric energy integration” which envisions the creation of Petroamérica, an umbrella institution uniting Petrosur, Petroandina and Petrocaribe.
Conclusion: ALBA from below
The scope of the projects outlined here is breathtaking – and very bold. If oil prices stay high – that is, if China can sustain its incredible growth, a growth which is fueling an upward spiral in demand for and price of oil – then this pipeline development strategy may just work. And if the pipeline strategy works, then it is absolutely conceivable that the South American Community of Nations could emerge as an independent actor on the stage of the world economy.
A real sense of urgency is driving these energy projects. Héctor Ciavaldini was “one of the first truly Chavista presidents of PDVSA” according to Christian Parenti. Says Ciavaldini, “if we do not get this right, we are doomed. I don’t just mean the revolution, or Venezuela. I mean all of Latin America. If we fail, it means another century of misery, violence and hunger.”
The assertion of sovereignty against US-led imperialist hegemony is a step of enormous importance for Latin America, whether that step takes the form of the CSN or ALBA. Whatever form that assertion of sovereignty takes, it will be met with hostility from the US, whose role as hegemon in the region is being openly challenged, perhaps to the greatest extent in its long history of regional dominance. This looming confrontation between the US and Latin American attempts at regional integration is the defining aspect of the whole picture.
But it is nonetheless necessary to ask the question whether the CSN project is compatible with ALBA? “Another World Is Possible” has been the unifying slogan of the anti-neoliberal movement which is the necessary background to all of these events – a massive upheaval, particularly in Latin America, against the inroads of neoliberal capitalism. So it is right to ask, what is the new world being promised by the CSN?
It is, for starters, not clearly anti-capitalist. PDVSA – a corporation at the heart of the CSN project – might be a nationalized company, but that does not make it necessarily anti-capitalist. As Araque points out, the oil industry in Venezuela “rests on three pillars: state capital, national private capital and international private capital. Currently, over 50 international companies develop business in the hydrocarbon sector in Venezuelan territory.” The Venezuela-Colombia pipeline will be built in conjunction with Chevron/Texaco. Not all relations are smooth. On the weekend of April 1 and 2, 2006, Venezuela took control of the offices of Total S.A. “when the French company refused to sign an agreement to turn the site [at Jusepin] over to a state-run joint venture.” This clearly represents in part a re-assertion of the state over the free-rein of the multinationals. But we know from the long experience of the twentieth-century, that state-ownership in itself is completely compatible with the logic of the capitalist market.
And there is a growing unease among indigenous peoples’ whose land is in the path of these pipelines. Carlos Tautz from the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analyses (IBASE), stated: “We challenge the logic of this integration project: once again, it is an export-oriented trade integration. The projects affect sensitive social areas, which are seen as spaces for increasing the agricultural production for export purposes, which has a low commercial value and a high social and environmental impact.”
Indigenous peoples’ concerns about the regional development projects are not confined to Brazil. January 27, 2006 towards the end of the World Social Forum, 2,000 demonstrators gathered in downtown Caracas. Some 150 indigenous protesters were joined by 2,000 WSF participants, including “activists from Brazil, Canada and Colombia.” They were protesting plans by the Venezuelan state-run company Carbozulia to begin mining coal along the Socuy River. One of the protest organizers, environmentalist Lusbi Portillo, said “we know the mine will degrade the environment … in the area where indigenous communities live off the land.”
“What we want is for President (Hugo) Chávez to simply state that no concessions will be granted, and that the land that belongs to indigenous people will be formally awarded to them,” said Avelino Korombara, a member of the Bari community from an area near the Venezuelan-Colombia border.
Chávez says that the pipeline agreement with Argentina and Brazil represents “the end of the Washington consensus … It is the beginning of the South American consensus.” Chávez is quite possibly right. Replacing neoliberalism with state-led economic development, attached to improvements in social welfare, is in complete contradiction to the neoliberalism represented by the Washington consensus – but it is well short of the “21st century socialism” that the promise of ALBA seems to embody. And we know, from bitter experience, that state-capitalism and social welfare reforms can lead to improved conditions for workers and the poor while the world economy booms – but can unravel in a terrible fashion when that boom falters.
Venezuela, Brazil and the other countries in the region are only asserting their sovereignty when they build a regional bloc independent of the FTAA. They have the right to do so, with or without the say so of George Bush. This might become a centrally important issue, should the US decide to intervene militarily to try and re-assert its authority in the region. But to recognize this assertion of sovereignty and self-determination, is not the same as confusing the innovative ALBA initiatives with the much more traditional trade bloc emerging under the rubric variously of MERCOSUR, the South American Community of Nations and Petrosur or Petroamérica.
Iconic Peruvian socialist and peasant leader, Hugo Blanco has a sense of this, and has put on the table an orientation which might emerge more prominently in the coming years. “In Venezuela people talk of ‘building ALBA from below.’” Now Blanco interpreted this in a particular way. When people in Venezuela talk about ALBA from below, “we understand from this that there will not only be dealings between governments, but that it will promote the sale of products directly by the workers themselves, as is the case with various agricultural products, with the output of the 120 factories in the hands of Argentine workers, and with our own cooperative.” The cooperative Blanco is referring to is a peasant-controlled tea-producing cooperative. But Blanco’s point can be extended even further. Worker to worker, or worker to peasant links are ways of conceiving ALBA from below. More generally, the point has to be made that it makes a crucial difference – for ALBA as for all reforms – whether those reforms are “given” to the poor from above by a state, or won through a process of self-mobilization which builds the self-confidence and self-organization of the masses of poor and oppressed.
States can give reforms and improve peoples’ lives. But they can also take them away. And when those reforms come under attack – whether from internal opposition from capitalism or from external intervention by imperialism, states have time and again shown themselves to be, at best, very poor defenders of gains won in the past. At worst, they join in the attack, aligning state-capitalism with the interests of the multinationals. It is only when reforms are based on the self-activity of the masses, that there is created a firm foundation to defend those reforms when they come under attack, and to lay the basis for a new society where real power rests in the hands of the direct producers.
Blanco’s peasant-controlled tea cooperative is, ironically, based in Cuzco, the same place where the 2004 meeting announced the formation of the South American Community of Nations. In the coming years, we will see a contest between these two Cuzco-based visions – ALBA from below, or state capitalism from above. Millions throughout the hemisphere have a tremendous stake in the outcome of that contest. We have seen state capitalism many times. While of course, Venezuela, Brazil and the other countries of the region have a right to embark on such a development project, it does not represent another world. A state-capitalist world is the same world of class exploitation, environmental degradation, oppression and alienation that we know all too well. But we have rarely seen anything like “ALBA from below”. On that basis, a movement for another world might just be possible.
 This paper was presented to the June 1-3 2006 conference of the Canadian Political Science Association, York University, Toronto. This version incorporates some changes resulting from discussions at that conference. Thanks to Suzanne Weiss, John Riddell, Richard Fidler, Nadine Bussman, Abbie Bakan and Ian Angus for sending my way many useful articles and comments, relevant to this topic.
 Office of NAFTA and Inter-American Affairs , “Free Trade Area of the Americas,” www.mac.doc.gov/ftaa2005
 “Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia to seal anti-US trade deal,” The Financial Express, Monday, May 1, 2006, www.financialexpress-bd.com
 Also referred to as the “Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean”
 Quoted in Luis Suárez Salazar, “Cuba’s Foreign Policy and the Promise of ALBA,” NACLA Report on the Americas, Volume 39, Issue 4, January 1, 2006
 “Presidents Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez to Arrive in Cuba Friday,” Granma, April 28, 2006
 “Bolivia gas under state control,” BBC News, May 2, 2006, www.news.bbc.co.uk
 Office of NAFTA and Inter-American Affairs
 Yuris Norido, Joel Garcia and Maria De Las Nieves Gala, “Chavez Calls to Quicken the Pace of Unification and Liberation,” politicalaffairs.net, January-February, 2006, www.politicalaffairs.net
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 “Agreement between the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the President of the Council of State of Cuba”
 “Agreement between the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the President of the Council of State of Cuba”
 Anti-Imperialist News Service, “Final Declaration from the First Cuba-Venezuela Meeting for the Application of the ALBA,” www.anti-imperialist.org/cuba-venezuela_5-7-05.htm
 Venezuelan Bank of External Commerce, Bancoex, “What is the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean?,” Venezuelaanalysis.com, February 5, 2004, www.venezuelanalysis.com
 Venezuelan Bank of External Commerce
 Teresa Arreaza, “ALBA: Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean,” ZNet, February 13, 2005, www.zmag.org
 Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America, cited in Marc Becker, “Eduardo Galeano,” Puentes (Center for Public Service, Gettysburg College), Winter 1999, p. 42
 Equal Exchange ad, Sierra Magazine, March-April, 1999, p. 6
 Mark Engler, “Is Neoliberalism Unravelling?,” DemocracyUprising.com, August 21, 2004, www.democracyuprising.com
 Campaign for Labor Rights, “Action: Call on the U.S. Congress to reject CAFTA!,” www.clrlabor.org
 Karen Hansen-Kuhn, “Free Trade Area of the Americas,” Foreign Policy In Focus, Vol. 6, No. 12, April 2001, p. 2, www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org
 Susan George, “A Short History of Neoliberalism,” Global Policy Forum, March 1999
 Rebeca Toledo, “Packed event builds stronger ties with Venezuela,” Workers World, February 23, 2005, www.workers.org/world/2005
 cited in Jim Cohen, “Under the Sign of Bolivar: The World Social Forum of Caracas (2006),” ZNet, February 9, 2006, www.zmag.org
 “Caribbean/Venezuela: Petrocaribe’s mixed blessings,” Economist Intelligence Unit, November 28, 2005
 “Caribbean/Venezuela: Petrocaribe’s mixed blessings”
 “Latin America: Region’s Squabbling Oil Powers Vie for Influence,” Economist Intelligence Unit, December 16, 2005
 Alessandro Parma, “Venezuela’s Chavez and Bolivia’s Morales Sign 8 Agreements,” Venezuelanlaysis.com, January 25, 2006, www.venezuelanalysis.com
 “Argentina/Venezuela: Brotherly love?” Economist Intelligence Unit, October 17, 2005
 Pedro Monreal, “Cuban Development in the Bolivarian Matrix, NACLA Report on the Americas, Volume 39, Issue 4
 Walden Bello and Marylou Malig, “Commentary: A shot in the arm for global civil society,” BusinessWorld, February 9, 2006
 Peter Hakim, “Is Washington Losing Latin America?” Foreign Affairs, Volume 85, Issue 1
 Stephen Lendman, “Venezuela’s Bolivarian Movement – Its Promise And Perils,” Countercurrents.org, February 18, 2006, www.countercurrents.org
 Sheila D. Collins, “Breaking the Mold? Venezuela’s Defiance of the Neoliberal Agenda” New Political Science, Volume 27, Number 3, September 2005, p. 393
 Néstor Sánchez, “Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela announce the birth of PetroSur,” VHeadline.com: Venezuela’s Electronic News, May 12, 2005, www.vheadline.com
 Gwynne Dyer, “S. America moves toward solidarity,” Winnipeg Free Press, December 9, 2004, p. a15
 Information taken from “South American Community of Nations,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, www.wikipedia.org
 Tyler Bridges, “South American leaders to set goal of EU-like union,” The Seattle Times, December 8, 2004, p. D3
 Luis Suárez Salazar, “Cuba’s Foreign Policy and the Promise of ALBA”
 Cited in “Chavez Calls MERCOSUR Entry Historic,” Prensa Latina, May 24, 2006.
 Julio Turra, “Letter to the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frias,” ILC International Newsletter No. 181, May 3, 2006
 “South American Community of Nations looks at the EU,” The Economist, December 13, 2004
 Turra, “Letter to the President”
 Eduardo Gudynas, “The Paths of the South American Community of Nations,” Hemispheric Watch, April 21, 2005
 Claudia Sanchez Bajo, “The European Union and MERCOSUR: a case of inter-regionalism,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 5, October 1999, p. 931
 Claudia Sanchez Bajo, “The European Union and MERCOSUR,” p. 934
 Phil Davison, “South America takes first step to a union of nations EU-style,” The Independent, December 4, 2004, p. 46
 Yana Marull, “Chavez plugs Latin American integration at presidential summit,” Agence France-Press, September 1, 2000
 Emir Sader, “Taking Lula’s Measure,” New Left Review 33, May/June 2005, p. 60
 Emir Sader, “Taking Lula’s Measure,” pp. 69 and 71
 Emir Sader, “Taking Lula’s Measure,” p. 76
 Mario Osava, “Latin America: Brazil’s Businessmen Cool to Hemisphere Trade Plan,” Inter Press Service, December 9, 2004
 Gwynne Dyer, “S. America moves toward solidarity,” Winnipeg Free Press, December 9, 2004, p. 115
 Ruy Mauro Marini, “Brazilian ‘interdependence’ and imperialist integration,” Monthly Review 17 (7), p. 21. Marini’s most influential article on the subject of subimperialism was Marini, “Brazilian subimperialism,” Monthly Review 23 (9): 14-24.
 Daniel Zirker, “Brazilian Foreign Policy and Subimperialism During the Political Transition of the 1980s: A Review and Reapplication of Marini’s Theory,” Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Winter, 1994), p. 128
 Maria Regina Soares de Lima and Mônica Hirst, “Brazil as an intermediate state and regional power: action, choice and responsibilities,” International Affairs 82, 1 (2006), p. 21
 Sean W. Burges, “Bounded by the Reality of Trade: Practical Limits to a South American Region,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Volume 18, Number 3, October 2005, p. 451
 Emir Sader, “What is Brazil Doing in Haiti?,” ZNet, July 6, 2004, www.zmag.org
 Sean W. Burges, p. 451
 Phil Davison, p. 46
 Otto J. Reich, “Latin America’s Terrible Two,” National Review, Apr. 11, 2005, Vo. 57, Iss. 6, p. 35
 Reich was Bush’s top advisor on Latin America during his first term in office, so his is an opinion to be taken seriously, even when it appears in an article where he claims that Fidel Castro projects his influence in the region through “local kidnappings, drug trafficking, bank robberies, and other criminal activities.” [Otto J. Reich, p. 32]. Apparently, Reich has Castro confused with the CIA.
 Otto J. Reich, “Latin America’s Terrible Two,” p. 33
 Bill Weinberg, “Colombia Vs. Venezuela: Big Oil’s Secret War?,” World War 4 Report: Deconstructing the War on Terrorism, April 10, 2005, www.ww4report.com
 Cited in Bill Weinberg, “Colombia Vs. Venezuela”
 Erich Marquardt, “Economic Brief: Venezuela’s Pipeline Deals,” World Prout Assembly, December 21, 2005, www.worldproutassembly.org
 “South American political pipeline opens for natural gas network, Associated Press, January 19, 2006
 See “Economic Brief: Venezuela’s Pipeline Deals” Power and Interest News Report, November 29, 2005, www.pinr.com
 “Petrobras’s Gabrielli Expects $60 Oil, Future Glut,” Bloomberg, March 9, 2006, www.bloomberg.com
 “Petrobras for Venezuela-Argentina pipeline,” Shark: Searching for News, February 22, 2006, www.shark.cc
 Néstor Sánchez, “Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela announce the birth of PetroSur,” VHeadline.com: Venezuela’s Electronic News, May 12, 2005, www.vheadline.com
 “South America: Mega-Pipeline bashed as Unsafe, Unneeded,” Inter Press Service, February 23, 2006
 A regional agreement between the state-owned energy companies of Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador
 Dr. Alí Rodríguez Araque, “Words by Dr. Alí Rodríguez Araque, president of PDVSA,” PDVSA, October 1, 2004, www.pdvsa.com
 Christian Parenti, “Venezuela’s Revolution and the Oil Company Inside,” NACLA Report on the Americas, Volume 39, Issue 4, January 1, 2006
 Dr. Alí Rodríguez Araque, “Words by Dr. Alí Rodriguez Araque
 Bill Weinberg, “Colombia Vs. Venezuela”
 Natialie Obiko Pearson, “Venezuela takes control of Total oil field,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 3, 2006
 “Plans to Integrate Brazil to South America don’t Take Indigenous Peoples Into Account,” Brazzil Magazine, January 1, 2006, www.brazzilmag.com
 Humberto Márquez, “World Social Forum: Indigenous Demonstrators Protest Coal Mining,” Inter Press Service News Agency, April 4, 2006, www.ipsnews.net
 “South American political pipeline opens for natural gas network, Associated Press, January 19, 2006
 Hugo Blanco, “Building the Democratic Power of the People,” Socialism and Democracy, Vol. 19, No. 3, November, 2005, p. 168
 Hugo Blanco, “Building the Democratic Power of the People,” p. 165
Presidents Hugo Chávez Frías, on behalf of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Evo Morales Ayma, on behalf of the Republic of Bolivia and Fidel Castro Ruz, on behalf of the Republic of Cuba, meeting in Havana on April 28 and 29, 2006, have decided to sign the present Agreement for the creation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Peoples’ Trade Agreements of our three countries.
Article 1: The governments of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Republic of Bolivia and the Republic of Cuba have decided to take concrete steps toward implementing the process of integration, based on the principles contained in the Joint Declaration, signed on the December 14, 2004, between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Cuba, which are hereby accepted and embraced by the Government of Bolivia.
Article 2: The countries shall elaborate a strategic plan in order to guarantee complementary products that can be mutually beneficial based on the rational exploitation of the countries’ existing assets, the preservation of resources, the expansion of employment, market access and other aspects inspired in the true solidarity fostered by our peoples.
Article 3: The countries shall exchange comprehensive technology packages developed in their respective nations by the parties, in areas of common interest, which shall be provided for their use and implementation, based on the principles of mutual benefit.
Article 4: The countries shall work together, in coordination with other Latin American countries, to eradicate illiteracy in these nations, using efficient, tried and tested methods of mass application, which have been successfully used in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Article 5: The countries agree to make investments of mutual interest which could take the form of public, binational, mixed or cooperative companies, joint management projects or any other form of association that they decide to establish. Priority shall be given to the initiatives which strengthen the capacity for social inclusion, resource industrialization and food security, in a framework of respect and preservation of the environment.
Article 6: In the case of strategic binational or trinational companies, the parties shall do everything possible, the nature and cost of the investment permitting, to ensure that the host country hold at least 51% of the shares.
Article 7: The countries may agree to the opening of branches of state banks of one country in the national territory of another.
Article 8: In order to facilitate the payments and charges relating to the commercial and financial transactions between the countries, Reciprocal Credit Agreements shall be arranged between the banking institutions appointed by the governments to this effect.
Article 9: The governments may use commercial compensation mechanisms of goods and services, if and when this is mutually convenient for the extension and reinforcement of the commercial exchange.
Article 10: The governments shall promote the development of joint cultural projects which take into account the particular characteristics of the different regions and the cultural identity of the peoples.
Article 11: The governments shall reinforce cooperation in the field of communication, by taking any action necessary to strengthen their infrastructure capacities in respect of transmission, distribution, telecommunications, etc; and in respect of their informative, cultural and educational contents production capacities. In this regard, the governments shall continue to support the space devoted to integrationist communication created by Telesur, by increasing its distribution in our countries, as well as its contents production capacities.
Article 12: The governments of Venezuela and Cuba acknowledge the special needs of Bolivia as a country whose natural resources were exploited and plundered during the centuries of colonial and neo-colonial rule.
Article 13: The Parties shall exchange scientific and technical know-how with the aim of aiding the economic and social development of the three countries.
Article 14: Taking into account all of the above, the Government of the Republic of Cuba, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Government of the Republic of Bolivia, have agreed upon the following actions:
Actions to be implemented by Cuba as part of its relations with Bolivia in the framework of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America and the Peoples’ Trade Agreements
First: To create a non-profit Cuban-Bolivian entity which will provide free high quality ophthalmologic surgeries to all Bolivian citizens lacking the financial resources needed to cover the high cost of this service, thus preventing tens of thousands of poor Bolivians from loosing their sight or serious and often crippling limitations to their sight each year.
Second: Cuba shall supply the most advanced technology equipment and the ophthalmologic specialists required in the initial stage who, with the support of young Bolivian doctors trained in the Latin American School of Medical Sciences (ELAM), working as doctors in residence, or other doctors and residents from Bolivia or other countries, shall offer attentive care to the Bolivian patients.
Third: Cuba shall pay the wages of the Cuban ophthalmologic specialists working in the framework of this action program.
Fourth: Bolivia shall provide the facilities necessary to render this service, be they buildings already used to provide healthcare or others adapted to this purpose. Cuba shall increase the number of ophthalmologic centres donated from three, the number initially offered in the Bilateral Agreement signed on December 30 of last year, to six.
Fifth: The six centres shall be located in La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Sucre, Potosí and the town of Copacabana in the La Paz region. Together they shall have the capacity to operate on at least 100 thousand people each year. This capacity may be increased should the need arise.
Sixth: Cuba hereby reaffirms its offer to provide Bolivia with 5 thousand scholarships to train doctors and specialists in General Integral Medicine or other areas of Medical Science: 2 000 in the first quarter of 2006, who are now receiving basic training here in Cuba; 2 000 in the second semester of this year, and 1 000 in the first quarter of 2007. Over the subsequent years the established quota shall be replenished with new students. Included in these new scholarships are some of the 500 young Bolivians who are already studying Medicine in Schools of medical Science al over Cuba.
Seventh: Cuba shall prolong the stay of the 600 medical specialists who travelled to Bolivia as a result of the serious natural disaster which occurred in January of this year, affecting all the regions of the country, for as long as this sister nation deems necessary. Furthermore, it will donate 20 field hospitals equipped with surgical facilities, intensive care units, emergency services for patients suffering of cardiovascular accidents, laboratories and other medical resources, to be sent to the areas hardest hit by this disaster.
Eighth: Cuba shall continue to provide Bolivia with the experience, didactic material and technical resources necessary to implement the literacy program in four languages: Spanish, Aymara, Quechua and Guaraní, to be made available to all sectors of the population in need.
Ninth: With regards to the education sector, the exchange and collaboration plan shall be extended to offer help in the methods, programs and techniques of the educational process of interest to the Bolivian party.
Tenth: Cuba will share its energy-saving experiences with Bolivia and shall cooperate with this country on an energy-saving program that could yield significant convertible currency resources.
Eleventh: During the investment recovery period, any state investment, investments made by Bolivian mixed companies or even those made with Bolivian private capital in Cuba will be tax-exempt.
Twelfth: Cuba shall grant Bolivian airlines the same facilities provided to their Cuban counterparts, with regard to passenger transportation, freight to and from Cuba and the use of airport services or any other facilities, as well as the internal transportation of passengers and freight within Cuba.
Thirteen: The exportation of goods and services from Cuba may be paid for with Bolivian products, in the national currency of Bolivia or in other currencies mutually agreed upon.
Actions to be implemented by Venezuela as part of its relations with Bolivia in the framework of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America and the Trade Agreements between the Peoples
First: Venezuela shall encourage extensive collaboration in the energy and mining sector, including: the institutional consolidation of the Ministry of Hydrocarbon and Energy and of the Ministry of Mining and Metallurgy of Bolivia, by way of technical and legal assistance; the increase in the supply of crude oil, refined products, LPG and asphalt, envisaged in the Energy Cooperation Agreement of Caracas, by the amount needed to satisfy the internal demand of Bolivia. Compensation mechanisms shall be established with Bolivian products so as to completely cancel all debts created by these services. Technical assistance for the Bolivian Fiscal Oilfields (YPFB) and COMIBOL shall also be established, as shall the development of projects to adapt and extend infrastructures as well as petrochemical, iron and steel and chemical and industrial projects, and any other form of cooperation agreed upon by the parties.
Second: During the investment recovery period, any state investment or investments made by Bolivian mixed companies in Venezuela shall be tax-exempt.
Third: Venezuela hereby reaffirms its offer to provide Bolivia with 5 000 scholarships in the different areas of interest for the productive and social development of the Republic of Bolivia.
Fourth: Venezuela shall create a special fund of up to 100 million dollars for Bolivia to use to finance productive and associated infrastructure projects.
Fifth: Venezuela will donate thirty million dollars to look after the social and productive necessities of the Bolivian people as decided by their Government.
Sixth: Venezuela will donate asphalt and an asphalt mixing plant to contribute to road construction and maintenance.
Seventh: Venezuela will notably increase the imports of Bolivian products, especially those that contribute to the increase of its strategic foods reserves.
Eighth: Venezuela will provide fiscal incentives in her territory to projects of strategic interest to Bolivia.
Ninth: Venezuela will provide preferential facilities to Bolivian aircraft on Venezuelan territory within the permissible limits of her legislation.
Tenth: Venezuela will place at Bolivia’s disposition the infrastructure and equipment for air and sea transportation in a preferential manner in order to support the economic and social development plans of the Republic of Bolivia.
Eleventh: Venezuela will provide facilities for Bolivian public or joint companies to establish themselves for the transformation of raw materials, down river.
Twelfth: Venezuela will collaborate with Bolivia in research projects on biodiversity.
Thirteenth: Venezuela will support Bolivia’s participation in the promotion of endogenous development nuclei, using the experience of Mision Vuelvan Caras.
Fourteenth: Venezuela will develop agreements with Bolivia in the field of telecommunications, which may include the use of satellites.
Actions to be developed by Bolivia in its relations with Cuba and Venezuela within the framework of ALBA and TCP
First: Bolivia will contribute the export of her mining, agricultural, agro-industrial, livestock and industrial products as required by Cuba or Venezuela.
Second: Bolivia will contribute to the energy security of our nations with its available surplus production of hydrocarbons.
Third: Bolivia will not charge utility taxes on any state or mixed venture investments formed between Bolivia and the Venezuelan and Cuban States.
Fourth: Bolivia will contribute its expertise in the study of native peoples, both in theory and in research methodology.
Fifth: Bolivia will participate together with the governments of Venezuela and Cuba in the exchange of experiences in the study and recovery of ancestral knowledge in the field of natural medicine.
Sixth: The government of Bolivia will actively participate in the exchange of experiences in the scientific research on natural resources and genetic agricultural and livestock patterns.
Actions to be jointly developed by Cuba and Venezuela in their relationship with Bolivia within the framework of ALBA and TCP
First: The governments of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Cuba will immediately proceed to remove tariffs and other non-tariff barriers that apply to all imports within the tariff universe of Cuba and Venezuela whenever the apply to products originating in the Republic of Bolivia.
Second: The governments of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Cuba will guarantee the purchase of amounts of oil-based products and other agricultural and industrial products exported by Bolivia, that may not have a market as a result of the application of a Free Trade Treaty or Treaties initiated by the government of the United States or by European governments.
Third: The governments of Venezuela and Cuba offer financial, technical and human resource collaboration to Bolivia so that a genuine national Bolivian State airline may be established.
Fourth: The governments of Venezuela and Cuba offer Bolivia their collaboration in the development of sports, including facilities for the organization and participation in sports competitions, and training centres in both nations. Cuba offers the use of her facilities and equipment for the control of anti-doping in the same conditions that are offered to Cuban athletes.
Fifth: The governments of Cuba and Venezuela, in coordination with Bolivia, will promote actions needed to support the just Bolivian demand for the unconditional cancellation of her foreign debt, since it constitutes a serious obstacle to Bolivia’s struggle against poverty and inequality.
New economic and social measures may be added to this present Agreement by the three signing Parties.
Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba will struggle for the unity and integration of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba will struggle for peace and international cooperation.
Evo Morales Ayma
President of the Republic of Bolivia
Hugo Chávez Frías
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Fidel Castro Ruz
President of the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba
Havana, April 29, 2006.
Introduction: The events of the May Day weekend marked a dramatic shift in the world political situation.
- The Bolivian government moved decisively to nationalize and assert control over its oil and gas resources.
- Bolivia joined Cuba and Venezuela in a far-reaching accord for mutual assistance. (We have posted the text of that agreement on the Socialist Voice website.)
- In the U.S., upwards of a million working people joined in a country-wide strike and demonstration for immigrant rights, the most important action by the U.S. working class in the past sixty years.
The following article from the Cuban newspaper Granma reports on the dramatic events in Havana April 29, where Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez, and Fidel Castro met to formalize the alliance of their peoples on the basis of “a new integration model based on fairness and respect.”
–Roger Annis and John Riddell
Latin America’s Time Is NowBolivia signs agreement to implement the Bolivarian Alternative for the peoples of Our America and the People’s Trade Agreement. On the 1st anniversary of the creation of the ALBA between Cuba and Venezuela, the figures speak for themselves regarding a new integration model based on fairness and respect. In the Plaza de la Revolucion, Fidel exposes the double standard of the United States in its supposed war against terrorism.By Nidia Díaz, Granma International staff writer
ONCE again, these April days have gone down in history. April 19 was the day, 45 years ago, that U.S. imperialism suffered its first military defeat in Latin America, on the Cuban sands of Playa Girón, in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion — and it has yet to recover. This April 29, 2006 in Havana, capital of the first socialist country in the hemisphere, the empire has suffered another defeat, and this time a more far-reaching one, because it is the defeat of its ideas and the imposition of its model of domination. This time, Cuba was not alone in the battle: Bolivarian Venezuela, under Hugo Chávez, and the Bolivia under indigenous leader Evo Morales were with us.On the first anniversary of the agreements to implement the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), signed by Cuba and Venezuela, a revolutionary triad has formed with the incorporation of Bolivia into this tool of integration, and the Bolivian president’s proposal, moreover, of a People’s Trade Agreement (TPC) as an alternative to the free trade agreements used by the U.S. government in its attempts to sink our people into greater exploitation and dependence.In the documents signed by the three leaders, which include a Joint Communiqué, positions are established on an integration process that, they agreed, must be “based on principles of mutual aid, solidarity and respect for self-determination” with the goal of “providing an appropriate response to raising up social justice, cultural diversity, equity and the right to development that the peoples deserve and demand.”With this step taken by Bolivia, the integrationist efforts taking place throughout the continent under new nationalist and popular governments are deepening, efforts that are already bearing fruit in the case of Cuba and Venezuela.Fidel, Chávez and Evo also agreed that only a new and genuine form of integration that goes in the opposite direction of the economic and political relations established by the Free Trade Area of the Americas and other free trade agreements can guarantee sustainable and sovereign development for our peoples.
The Start of a Great Day
It was at the International Conference Center in Havana where the meeting was held of – as Evo Morales said – those who represent three generations of revolutionaries: Fidel, Hugo Chávez and the indigenous leader himself, all of whom signed the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) Implementation Agreement and the People’s Trade Agreement (TPC).
Right at 2 p.m., Marta Lomas, Cuba’s minister of foreign investment and economic cooperation, explained, demonstrating the ALBA’s justice and viability, how far Cuban-Venezuelan relations have progressed since October 30, 2000 when the two countries’ president signed the Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement that served as a basis for the December 14, 2004 signing of the Joint Declaration and the ALBA Implementation Agreement.
Consequently, Lomas noted, Cuban and Venezuelan delegations met on April 28 and 29, 2005 in what was the first meeting for the ALBA’s implementation, and where the first Strategic Plan was approved to set it into motion.
The outcome has been extremely eloquent and encouraging, and is an expression of what the peoples can achieve with agreements in which honor, solidarity and love for the people are the main objective.
It was pointed to as the most outstanding achievement of the period when, this past October 28, UNESCO declared Venezuela to be Illiteracy-Free Territory, something accomplished in less than two years of hard-fought struggle against that disgrace. Likewise, it was announced this past March 20 that Bolivia will begin a literacy campaign with the participation of 20 Venezuelan literacy educators, Bolivian experts and 48 Cuban consultants.
- In 2001, trade between Cuba and Venezuela was $973 million. In 2005, that figure went up to $2.4 billion, representing growth of 255% in non-oil Venezuelan exports to Cuba compared to 2004.
- In 2001, Cuban medical cooperation did not yet exist in Venezuela. Today, 23,601 Cuban health professionals are lending their services, providing care for more than 17 million Venezuelans, with a historic record of 175 million medical consultations.
- Currently, 3,328 Venezuelans are studying General Comprehensive Medicine in Cuba, and 12,940 are doing so in Venezuela under the Comprehensive Community Program, under the guidance of 6,525 Cuban experts who part of the Mission Barrio Adentro (Into the Barrio) Program.
- As of April 28, under the Operation Miracle program, 220,571 vision restoration operations had been performed, with 188,389 of them on Venezuelans. In 2001, Operation Miracle did not yet exist; today, patients from 17 Latin America and Caribbean nations are benefiting, and others are joining in.
- In 2001, there were more than one million illiterate people in Venezuela; today, that country is an Illiteracy-Free Territory. With Cuba’s advisement and the “Yes, I Can!” teaching method, 1,482,543 people learned how to read and write, 76,369 of them from indigenous groups.
- In 2001, Venezuela and Cuba began down the road of ALBA, and now Bolivia has joined, and others will join.
After the documents were signed, Fidel was asked by a Telesur network reporter how he felt, 45 years after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, about sharing his central revolutionary role with other presidents. The Cuban president was precise in his answer: “I feel like the happiest man in the world.” He reiterated this idea at the massively attended event in the Plaza de la Revolucion this Saturday, April 29, topping off a day of solidarity, integration and revolution.
Culmination of a Special and Historic Day
In the Plaza de la Revolucion, where – as Chávez said – we were accompanied by Bolivarian winds, the winds of ALBA and the winds of Che Guevara who is with us again, Fidel exposed the double standard of the anti-terror campaign carried out by the United States; Chávez warned that the 21st century will be the end of the empire; and Evo noted that the time to reclaim the Americas had come, constituting a historic night of unity and hope for the hemisphere.
At 6:10 p.m., with more than 25,000 guests in place, the 29th came to an end, a day in which – as Chávez said – “one’s emotions are stirred” because it is one of those groundbreaking days that take root in the collective memory and become revolutionary commitment.
Participants in the event included official visiting delegations, along with leaders of Venezuela’s Bolivarian secondary schools and Bolivian social organizations; students from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM); the International School of Sports; the new Latin American Doctors Training Program; and members of the Francisco de Miranda Venezuelan Social Fighters Front.
In addition, participants included doctors and technicians from the Henry Reeve International Contingent; Operation Miracle; engineers and technicians preparing to lend their services in Venezuela’s Comprehensive Health Centers and young people involved in various programs of the Cuban Revolution.
Evo gave the first speech, and after thanking the Cuban and Venezuelan peoples and their top leaders, Fidel and Chávez, said that the time had come for unity, “a unity that is for life and for independence, and that is over and above any sectorial or regional interest.”
After recounting anecdotes from his early days as a revolutionary and as a person committed to the peoples and the Cuban Revolution, he affirmed that three generations of revolutionaries had come together in Havana and three revolutions: “the Cuban one, the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela and the Bolivian Revolution to liberate all of Latin America and the world.”
Evo noted that only by rescuing their natural resources will the peoples be liberated, and in that sense, he referred to the call he made for a Constituent Assembly for the refoundation of Bolivia, a Bolivia that “must stop being a beggar, even though oligarchic sectors are attempting to put up resistance.”
Moreover, the Bolivian president said that his country intends to nationalize not just its hydrocarbon resources, but all of its natural riches, to benefit the people.
“Our government will never abandon the struggle to return to the Bolivian people the resources that belong to them,” he emphasized. In that sense, he stated that he has a mandate to guarantee a democratic and social revolution in Bolivia to do away with the neoliberal model and de-colonize the nation’s riches. “I am sure that with the unity of the Bolivian people, we will defeat the exploiting oligarchy,” he affirmed.
He added that he is convinced that his people are not alone, just as Cuba is not alone either; it is accompanied by Venezuela and Bolivia, he said.
Regarding the agreements that were signed, he said that only the ALBA can confront and defeat the FTAA, and it is the only way to overcome colonialism and neoliberalism.
Thanks to Operation Miracle, which is the fruit of ALBA, more than 7,000 Bolivians have had their vision restored, and many Cuban doctors are already lending their services in his country’s provinces, he noted.
Finally, he used the opportunity to congratulate Fidel, in the name of the Bolivian people, for his upcoming 80th birthday, and – ahead of everybody else – presented him with three gifts, framed images using coca leaves of José Martí, Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, and Fidel himself.
Bolivia Is a Commmitment
President Hugo Chávez spoke next, and with his usual colloquial and impassioned tones, gave us a masterly class on Latin American history.
He wanted to begin by talking about Bolivia, which is, he said, “a commitment, a challenge, a unbridled love of freedom, of equality.” It is, he reiterated, “the heart of America and utopia made feasible.”
He noted that that nation was born as a project, as a dream, 180 years ago. The Bolivarian Revolution, which has declared itself to be anti-imperialist and socialist, he said, reaffirms its determination and decision to support Bolivia and its government in all of its goals.
Chávez had words of praise for the Andean country’s incorporation into the ALBA just 24 hours after Evo’s first 100 days in power.
With that incorporation, “we are moving onto another aspect of the ALBA, because it was he who proposed a new tactical piece: the People’s Trade Agreement (TCP),” the Venezuelan president added.
The ALBA will continue to open the road to that new model of integration against the FTAA, against capitalism and against imperialism, he said.
“It is up to you, the young people, to see with your eyes the collapse of the U.S. empire, because this is the century that will see its end, the century of the birth of our new homeland, where we will all be free with greater happiness,” Chávez concluded, not without announced that “our heroes have returned to the Americas.”
Fidel Harshly Criticizes the Bush Administration’s Double Standard
The event’s closing remarks were given by Cuban President Fidel Castro who explained, with that brilliant didactic manner that characterizes him, what the ALBA means in terms of developing the human capital of our peoples.
“This agreement that we have signed today is the most ethical that has ever been signed. It is not for two or three who want to divide up their riches. We have the enormous power of just ideas,” Fidel affirmed.
He referred to the new type of health professionals who are being trained, the generosity that characterizes them; to how it is no longer just Cuba that is training doctors, but Venezuela as well, and with unbeatable quality, and that in about 10 years, they will number tens of thousands.
Again, he reiterated the need for Chávez and now Evo to be careful, because “the enemy will not desist until it has taken your lives, because they know very well how to carry out silent assassination.” Later, in referring to the continent’s new reality, he predicted that “there is no way to prevent the emergence of new leaders.”
He noted that the empire craved for power from early on, and noted how in 1929, they invaded Nicaragua and assassinated revolutionary leader Augusto César Sandino in order to impose Somoza, just as they did with Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and with dozens of other bloody, coup-plotting dictators throughout the years.
Likewise, he noted, they carried out the massacre of the indigenous people, beginning with the conquest and colonization, and it was the nascent empire that finished them off.
In that sense, he explained the validity of recalling those events on this day, April 29, in which the foundations of the ALBA are extended with Bolivia. It is an agreement that constitutes a check against the FTAA, which is nothing more than “a refined instrument of domination and that represents the tactics of the U.S. government for subjugating our peoples,” he said.
He also referred to the other element that comes with the FTAA, and that is the military projection of the U.S. government, with its maneuvers in the Caribbean region, the establishment of military bases, the expansion of the imperial intelligence networks, and other prerogatives.
During another part of his speech, the Cuban president reiterated that Cuban doctors will be in Bolivia for as long as necessary and that Cuba will support the Bolivian Revolution in everything that it needs.
Finally, Fidel noted the double standard and two-faced morality with which the Republican administration of George W. Bush carries out its supposed anti-terrorism campaign.
With respect to that, he referred to the latest report by the U.S. State Department, which impudently accuses the Hugo Chávez government of being linked to terrorist Colombian organizations and, in Cuba’s case, the document defines it as being a sponsor of that activity, along with Iran and North Korea.
The revolutionary leader harshly criticized the empire’s hypocrisy on this issue, given that while attempting to portray Cuba and Venezuela as terrorist, the U.S. government negotiated for and obtained from former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso a pardon for the terrorist and criminal Luis Posada Carriles and his henchmen, only to later allow him to illegally enter the United States, where it not only hid him but also never responded to Cuba’s repeated public calls to say how and where he entered and who participated in that repugnant operation.
“It is impossible to pretend that Mr. Negroponte and his publicized intelligence agency with more than 30 offices, and the high-ranking officials of that government, didn’t know where Posada was, one of the bloodiest terrorists of this hemisphere, the torturer and assassin of many Venezuelan revolutionaries, and one of the main individuals responsible for the blowing-up of a Cuban airliner in Barbados in October 1976,” he said.
“Now, they don’t know what they are gong to do with Posada Carriles and while they look for a way to protect him, they are launching these ridiculous accusations against Venezuela and Cuba, while at the same time carrying out military maneuvers in the Caribbean to try to fill us with fear, something they will never achieve, because both of our peoples are determined to defend their freedom at any price,” he affirmed.
The Cuban president clearly said he felt proud to be a friend of North Korea, the country of Kim Il Sung, and expressed the honor it represented to be friends with Iran and its heroic people.
Fidel noted that Cuba has been denouncing the preparations underway by U.S. administration to carry out aggression against Iran, and emphasized that in face of such arrogance and lack of common sense, it is worth asking in whose heads the destiny of the humanity lies, and the magnitude of danger to the human species itself.
With the support of those present, Fidel affirmed that “the yankees with their maneuvers in the Caribbean are not going to frighten anyone, because the children of Bolívar are courageous in any situation. I know about your human quality and your revolutionary spirit,” he said.
Miguel Bonasso, Argentine parliamentary deputy, and former Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Sandinista candidate for the upcoming presidential elections in that Central American nation, were present during the entire day of continental revolutionary reaffirmation.