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ALBA: A fight for justice and for the survival of the species

raul-albaraul-albaThe 8th Summit of ALBA-TCP, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Trade Treaty of the Peoples (formally the Bolivarian Alternative), was held in mid-December in Havana, Cuba. It marked five years since ALBA was set up between Venezuela and Cuba in 2004. From Havana, Sam Mcgill reports for Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

ALBA brings a political, economic and social alliance to defend the sovereignty, self-determination, identity and unity between Latin America and the Caribbean people, practicing the principles of cooperation, solidarity, mutual assistance, social justice and complementary economic planning for sustained integration and development. There are already over 100 ALBA projects spanning health provision, telecommunication, food and fuel distribution, scientific projects and initiatives for environmental protection. The Alliance includes Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Ecuador, St Vincent and Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and, until the coup in June 2009, Honduras. The recent election of Jose Pepe Mujica confirms the likelihood that Uruguay will join soon.

Paraphrasing the famous phrase of Marx and Engels, Granma, daily newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party quipped that ‘a spectre is haunting America…it is the spectre of ALBA’. Yet ALBA is more than a spectre, it is a concrete reality developing from strength to strength in the face of the global economic crisis. Indeed ALBA was first initiated to counter the now buried US neo-liberal Free Trade Area of the Americas, known in Spanish as ALCA. The mutually beneficial trade of oil and other primary materials between ALBA countries below world prices threatens the United States; as does the launch in January 2010 of the SUCRE (Unique System for Regional Compensation), a virtual currency to facilitate trade between ALBA countries without using the US dollar.

It is in this context that recent US military manoeuvres must be understood. The Democrat government treading water in these turbulent times of the global economic crisis is launching a new offensive in Latin America. Adorned with the Nobel Peace prize, Obama has sent another 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan and signed a pact to establish seven new military bases in Colombia, mainly along the Venezuelan border. US support for the coup regime in Honduras and the re-establishment of the US’s Fourth Fleet to patrol the Caribbean and South American waters, signifies US intentions in the region. An attack on Venezuela could seriously damage the development of ALBA as many initiatives are funded through the Bank of ALBA, 85% of which is funded by oil rich Venezuela.

However, such aggression will be met with fierce resistance. In response to these actions President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, called for a referendum to discuss action against the development of US military bases in the region and emphasized the need to be ‘prepared along with our people for any imperial aggression or invasion’. Morales declared that ‘If the US invades any of our countries they will face a second Vietnam!’

The 8th Summit of ALBA condemned the coup in Honduras and the US’s support for the illegal regime, and declared solidarity with the National Resistance Front fighting for democracy despite the repression, disappearance and massacres. The summit also affirmed Venezuela’s right to defend itself from US military aggression, condemned the US blockade of Cuba and expressed solidarity for the Cuban Five, incarcerated in the US goals for over ten years for preventing terrorism against their country.

In a special televised message to Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro recounted the ten years of cooperation between Cuba and Venezuela, a union at the heart of ALBA. Referring to the climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark Fidel pointed out ‘how Capitalism has damaged and stunted humanity; today there must be a desperate fight, not only for justice but for the survival of the species’. Reflecting these remarks, the ALBA summit reiterated commitments to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Representatives of the ALBA nations went on to attend the climate change summit, including Cuba’s Vice President of the Council of the State, Esteban Lazo Hernandez.

The ALBA summit concluded with a 25-points agreement including; commitments to assist people with disabilities in productive, economic, social and cultural sectors without discrimination; the continuation, consolidation and extension of public health and the development of an integral medical community; a continuation of campaigns to eradicate illiteracy, total coverage of primary education and further development of political education; the continuation of ALBA’s cultural and sports projects (awards of which were given out in a ceremony on the first night of the summit); the development of a network of science, technology and innovation sharing for key sectors; the facilitation of telecommunication services for ALBA populations (including ALBATEL, an enterprise currently building a submarine fibre optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela, and the Simon Bolivar Satellite); consolidation of regulations and norms for continental enterprises and projects; and the implementation of SUCRE. The next ALBA summit will take place on 17 and 18 April in Caracas, Venezuela.

Many ALBA initiatives depend on Cuba’s knowledge, capacity and human resources of Cuba and the oil reserves and wealth of Venezuela. In an interview with FRFI, Fiorre, from Cuba’s Union of Young Communists (UJC) pointed out that: ‘it is very early to gage the economic achievements of ALBA, particularly in the face of a global recession and increasing US aggression; ALBA is primarily a political force. In Cuba it is necessary to take the experience of our revolution forward and build on the Alliance to secure the future of socialism.’ With the Cuban and Bolivarian Revolutions at its heart, it is clear that ALBA is an anti-imperialist beacon of hope to millions facing global exploitation and oppression. As Raul Castro stated in the closing speech of the summit: ‘United, we will be in a better position to face the economic crisis…..a better world is possible.’

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