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.


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Latin America round-up

Chile: student uprising
In Chile, a series of strikes and occupations by students has become the first major crisis to be faced by President Michele Bachelet’s government. Student anger at inequalities in education had been simmering for years and protesters saw the opportunity to force Bachelet to implement the ‘social justice’ she promised during the elections last December. The protests began in Santiago in late April, sparked by the announcement of an increase in the fee students pay to sit university entrance exams. Sit-ins and demonstrations
spread across the country’s schools and universities, drawing students from public and private schools into a struggle to overhaul Chile’s unjust education system. Pupils from secondary schools also joined the strikes. Demands included free bus passes, free university entrance exams, a shortening of the school day, greater student representation in the education system and a guaranteed quality education for all.

The government initially condemned the demonstrations and refused to take the students’ demands seriously. Police brutality on their demonstrations did not deter the strikers and public support for them grew in the light of the security forces’ indiscriminate violence. After a national day of action supported by teachers’ unions and involving over 700,000 students on 30 May, Bachelet was forced to announce a series of reforms and an increase in funding. Student leaders rejected the proposals and a second day of action went ahead on 5 June. The national student assembly finally called off the protests on 9 June, agreeing to take part in the president’s newly-created advisory panel on education. Round One to the students.


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The fight for a United Socialist Party

President Chavez is determined to establish a new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), dissolving the current governing party, the Movement of the Fifth Republic (MVR). He has offered open discussions on the new party’s constitution with all members of other parties presently supporting the government. In March the first groups of ‘promoters’ of the new party were sworn in; then 16,000 more activists began their task of motivating and registering members. A target of 70,000 promoters was set for 26 May; they will constitute socialist battalions. Discussions about the new party will be organised across the country. The State National Electoral Council has been asked to supervise party registration. At the end of June PSUV members will elect representatives to a Founding Congress to design its political programme: a socialism for the 21st century.

The December announcement shocked the three bigger parties that have worked with the MVR. Patria Para Todos and the Venezuelan Communist Party which won 590,000 and 340,000 votes respectively in the last elections, subsequently agreed to join the discussions which anticipate their organisations’ dissolution. However, Podemos, a ‘moderate’ left party that gained 750,000 votes, has rejected the idea. Chavez makes clear distinctions between socialists and liberal democrats so he has called on the electorate to recall two Governors, of Sucre and Aragua, leaders of Podemos now opposing the embryonic socialist party.


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Peru paralysed

On 11-12 July a national agrarian strike took place involving more than five million agricultural workers, small producers and craftsmen throughout Peru, demanding the rejection of a free trade treaty with the US. Whilst the action arose out of protests by teachers against new educational legislation, Peru has been reduced to a standstill by continuous strikes and protests against recently-elected President Garcia’s economic and political programme of handing over water, mining, and forestry resources to multinationals. The activity is without any recent precedent. 70,000 workers and students marched in Lima on 11 July, and opposition leader Ollanta Humala proposed the creation of a popular constituent assembly to agree a programme to displace Garcia. On 16 July, in Andahuaylas, 4,000 protesters clashed with police, who killed one man and injured dozens. This followed a pitched battle in Lima when 1,000 workers captured and then released nine police officers. In Puno workers overran the airport and railway station. Imperialism is facing a renewed challenge.

Alvaro Michaels

FRFI 198 August / September 2007


Climate of fear surrounds presidential elections

On 4 November, presidential elections in Guatemala resulted in victory for Alvaro Colom, an ex-businessman and Mayan priest. His success in the second round came after he courted votes from the ruling coalition Gran Alianza Nacional as well as former militiamen of the paramilitary Patrullas de Autodefensas Civil. This enabled him to defeat Otto Perez Molina, ex-general and former head of military intelligence who had led in the first round of voting at the beginning of September.

Molina has been accused of atrocities during a hideous 36-year-long civil war which resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The indigenous Mayans were butchered in their tens of thousands in a campaign led by General Jose Efrain Rios Montt (who was also head of state in 1982-83) and his paramilitary allies. Thousands of socialists, workers, indigenous leaders and human rights supporters were slaughtered as US imperialism backed the local ruling class to the hilt, with Israel sending arms and advisers.


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Cuban doctors bring hope to Venezuela’s barrios

In recent months, Cuba has strengthened agreements made with the Venezuelan government, aimed at improving the living conditions of the Venezuelan working class through social projects ranging from free sports training to a massive literacy campaign. One of the most impressive contributions has been in health care, which the Chavez government aims to revolutionise by providing virtually free medical care via local clinics, with the help of thousands of Cuban specialists. Cubans are involved in similar campaigns from Honduras to Argentina; perhaps it is this solidarity that US Secretary of State Colin Powell was referring to in January when he hypocritically attacked Cuba for so-called attempts to ‘destabilise parts of the region’ and ‘create discontent’. JUANJO RIVAS reports on the Cuban internationalist mission in Venezuela.

In 1999 the Chavez government approved one of the world’s most progressive constitutions that challenges the problems of a country exhausted by poverty, foreign intervention, illiteracy, infant mortality and corruption. Fine words on paper have been backed by concrete programmes, including:


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Cuba and Haiti: socialism or poverty

FRFI 178 April / May 2004

Haiti is Cuba’s closest neighbour in the Caribbean. The two countries share a common history of sugar plantations, slavery and colonial exploitation. Both have had wars and revolutions to overthrow their colonial masters. The revolution in Haiti in 1804 against the French established the world’s first black republic. In Cuba the 19th century wars of liberation against the Spanish colonialists finally culminated in the revolution of 1959 that threw out the US imperialists and their puppets who had usurped the Spanish role. Yet the paths then taken by the two countries have been very different, as JIM CRAVEN reports.

In the late 1950s, conditions for the vast majority of both the Cuban and the Haitian people were appalling. Infant mortality in Haiti was 170 deaths per 1,000 live births and life expectancy was just 47 years. Cubans were marginally better off, with infant mortality at 60 and life expectancy 59 years. Only 3% of rural Cubans had running water; only 4% had meat to eat; health and education services were virtually non-existent.


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Cuba and Venezuela building a new movement in Latin America

FRFI 183 February / March 2005

On 14 December, Hugo Chavez, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and President Fidel Castro of Cuba signed a document to extend and modify the Integral Co-operation Agreement of 30 October 2000. Beyond the economics, this social programme sets the basis for continental action, mutual support against imperialism and cooperative trade between oppressed nations, within the framework of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). JUANJO RIVAS reports.

2005 is the deadline set by the United States for the implementation of the neo-liberal Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) – or its carbon copies on bilateral and regional levels. The FTAA aims to ‘denationalise’ the economies of Latin America, subordinating them to the dictates of foreign capital. By their example, Cuba and Venezuela have put themselves at the head of a hemispheric movement of resistance to imperialist interests, for the benefit of the poor and against the seemingly invincible might of market-based solutions.
The Integral Co-operation Agreement commits both countries to:


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