ALBA is the new Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Initiated by President Chávez, it is a model for integration aimed at solving poverty, unemployment and debt. It is the re-initiation of Simon Bolivar’s idea of a union of republics, presented at the Congress of Panama in 1826. It is based on economic complimentarity, co-operation, solidarity and respect for sovereignty. It is a social and political project, not a commercial one.

This ‘titanic task’, the construction of an anti-imperialist project, has already seen solidarity in a new oil agreement ‘Petrocaribe’. Venezuela sells oil to 14 countries at 40% discount, paid over 25 years at 1% interest, with three years’ grace, and paid in goods and services to assist the weaker states. Co-operation has seen Brazil and Venezuela sign a new oil agreement, alongside very many agreements in place between Cuba and Venezuela, the founding nations of ALBA. Additionally, a new Latin American TV station, Telesur, has been created to combat Yankee propaganda. Outside of ALBA, but consistent with it, Venezuela has prompted the formation of the South American Community of Nations (2004), an initiative to integrate South American countries.

At the fourth ‘Summit of the Americas’ in November, President Bush pushed Mexican President Fox to call 29 of the 34 countries present, whose ruling classes have sold out to the US, to go ahead with the treaty for the Free Trade Area of the America’s (ALCA in Spanish). This would leave Venezuela and Mercosur (the Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay trade bloc), to one side, including the three most significant South American economic powers.

At the same time and also at Mar del Plata in Argentina, President Chávez addressed the third summit of the Peoples of America, declaring that the task of those assembled was to end US imperialism, promoted by Thomas Jefferson 200 years before to ‘swallow’ one by one the ex-Spanish colonies. Asked about US threats against Venezuela, Chávez replied that this would start a 100 years’ war, the present situation was, as Noam Chomsky has said, a question of ‘survival or US hegemony’. He stressed that a series of battles faces the Latin American peoples; quoting Rosa Luxemburg, he repeated that we face ‘socialism or barbarism’ – in fact, ‘socialism or death’. He referred to capitalism’s destruction of the environment and the destructive orgy of privatisation, but he stressed that without the people of north America the battle could not be completed. In all his speeches he retrieves the history of the people’s struggle against oppression. The ALBA is a project to be built from below, from the masses, not from the ‘elites’. In this speech Chávez proposed a ten-year alliance against hunger funded by US$10 billion. He foresees a future South Atlantic Treaty Organisation, with a united self-defence strategy. As President Chávez has said, ‘If we had applied... (this)... approach during the Falkland Islands war, for example, the British never would have retaken those Argentine islands’.
Alvaro Michaels

FRFI 188 December 2005 / January 2006


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