Heads of state and government of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples’ Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP), meeting in Havana on December 14, reaffirmed the principles of solidarity, genuine cooperation and complementarity shared by the countries of the alliance.
Precisely 10 years ago, in 2004, also in Cuba, this mechanism for integration was founded on the initiative of the Commander-in-Chief of Cuba Fidel Castro Ruz and the President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez Frías. Their legacies, of great importance to present and future generations, were emphasized during the 13th Summit.
The first decision made at the Summit was to formalize the incorporation of Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis as members of the alliance. The alliance is comprised of the original members Cuba and Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua who joined in 2006 and 2007 respectively, Dominica in 2008, Antigua and Barbuda, Ecuador, St. Vincent and the Grenadines who followed in 2009, and St. Lucia in 2013. Suriname was admitted as a special guest member in 2012.
Leaders of delegations attending the Summit emphasized, in all of their remarks, the accomplishments achieved by the alliance during the 10 years of its existence. Cited were Operation Miracle, through which some three million Latin Americans and Caribbeans have recovered their sight; national genetic and psycho-social studies of the disabled; literacy campaigns which have allowed some five million citizens to learn to read and write; and the training of thousands of doctors. Also recalled was significant progress in the financial arena including the creation of the Unified System of Regional Compensation (SUCRE) and the ALBA Bank.
Participants agreed that while much has been accomplished, many challenges remain, which require the further perfecting of current collaborative programs in all areas.
During the discussion, strong support for Venezuela was reaffirmed, and sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic approved by the U.S. Congress were forcefully condemned. The 11 ALBA-TCP leaders agreed to “energetically condemn U.S. Congressional approval of sanctions on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” as stipulated in a declaration read by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
The bloc also expressed support for efforts being made by the Maduro government “to preserve the vast legacy of Commander Hugo Chávez,” to maintain peace and confront efforts to destabilize the country.
The final declaration also expressed solidarity with the just and historic demand from the Plurinational State of Bolivia of its right to sovereign access to the sea, and congratulated that South American country for its recent election as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council starting in 2015.
ALBA leaders once again demanded a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba; an immediate end to the blockade and subversive intervention; the removal of Cuba from the arbitrary and absurd list of state sponsors of international terrorism; and the release of the three Cuban anti-terrorists unjustly held in U.S. prisons. Some of these demands were subsequently achieved December 17 with the release of the three remaining Cuban Five and the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S.
Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz reiterated his comments of the previous week at the CARICOM-Cuba Summit, thanking the Panamanian government for inviting Cuba to the upcoming Summit of the Americas to be held April 2015. He expressed Cuba’s willingness to participate as an equal, without pre-conditions, reaffirming that this in no way implies a return to the Organization of American States.
The Cuban President described the discussion as productive, and commented that very interesting ideas had been presented, reflecting the concrete results of the gathering. He called for the continued strengthening of joint political work, unity and cooperation in all spheres among nations participating in ALBA-TCP, CELAC, CARICOM, UNASUR and MERCOSUR.
He said that work must be done to make the undeniable accomplishments of ALBA-TCP more visible, and disseminate the advantages of the integration model which the alliance proposes and defends. A concrete example of what can be done together, he said, was the agreement adopted at the Special Summit on Ebola and subsequent joint efforts.
The parties involved in the peace talks in Colombia were congratulated by the participants in the ALBA-TCP Summit, who repeated their support for a final agreement to end the conflict and build stable and lasting peace in the country.
Argentina and its struggle to defend its sovereignty over the Malvinas, Georgias and South Sandwich islands, and its national dignity, sovereignty and self determination free from attacks by the vulture funds were other issues supported by the 13th ALBA-TCP Summit.
The ALBA members committed to maintaining and deepening cooperation with Haiti, as well as supporting all efforts by the region and other countries of the world to rebuild Haiti’s economy and society.
Other agreements dealt with the Caribbean peoples’ right to receive fair and differentiated treatment and the climate crisis as one of the greatest challenges being faced by humankind.
ALBA will call a meeting of negotiators and foreign ministers from the member countries to coordinate the bloc’s stances prior to the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change scheduled for 2015 in Paris, France.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez read a message to the plenary from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who congratulated ALBA, and expressed his interest in “continuing to extend” ties with Latin America.
According to the final declaration, a meeting on Miracle Mission of the ALBA-TCP member countries on Miracle Mission will be held in Caracas in January 2015 to assess, plan and propose the extension of that program.
In addition, the ALBA-TCP Council of Economic Complementation will meet on February 23, 2015, in Havana to analyze proposals to boost actions in the economic sphere of the organization.
A political council of ALBA-TCP will be held on February 24, 2015, in Havana, in the framework of celebrations on the 120th anniversary of the resumption of the wars for independence in Cuba.
(With files from: Granma International, Prensa Latina. Photos: Granma, Venezuela Analysis )
10 Achievements of the ALBA Alliance in 10 Years
The Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas (ALBA), was born 10 years ago as an alternative to neoliberal free trade agreements.
1. ALBA has produced tens of thousands of doctors
Through the Latin American School of Medicine campuses in Cuba and Venezuela, ALBA has produced some 21,075 doctors and 1,590 medical specialists.
2. Over 3 million people have had their vision restored by ALBA, for free
Through the Miracle Mission, more than 3 million people have undergone surgery to have their eyesight improved or recovered at no cost.
3. Almost 4 million people have learned to read through ALBA supported programs
Using the “Yes I Can” teaching method designed by Cuba, a total of 3,815,092 people have become literate in the region through ALBA supported programs. UNESCO has declared ALBA members Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as “Illiteracy-Free Territories.”
4. ALBA countries pledged $2.42 billion in aid to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake
Just after the devastating quake, ALBA also set up five camps with comprehensive care, which housed 3,455 families, provided 55,939 medical consultations and administered 5,904 vaccinations.
5. ALBA sent over 100 tons of supplies to Gaza after the Israeli-Gaza war this summer
The Venezuelan people sent 56 tons of humanitarian aid, while Ecuadorians contributed 48 tons and Cuba sent six tons of aid to Gaza following Israel’s deadly offensive against the occupied strip, dubbed Operation Protective Edge. These shipments included tents, non-perishable food items, water, clothes and medical supplies.
6. ALBA games have set new athletic records
In 2005, the ALBA Athletic Games were set up to promote physical activity and solidarity among peoples. In the 4 competitions convened so far, a record 10,532 athletes have competed.
7. Four ALBA countries have been declared free from hunger by the United Nations
Grenadines, St. Vincent, Venezuela and Cuba have been declared hunger-free by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN. Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador have also made significant progress in this area.
8. ALBA has developed an alternative currency to break dependency on the U.S.
To date, 5,657 transactions totalling U.S.$2.5 billion have taken place using the SUCRE. The currency was developed by ALBA so that international trade would not depend on U.S. currency and exchanges. In the first half of 2014, 76 per cent of those trading using the SUCRE were private enterprises and 24 per cent represented the public sector.
9. Trade amongst members is based on solidarity rather than ‘the market’
According to its founding document, “the cardinal principle that should guide the ALBA is the widest solidarity between the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean … without selfish nationalism, nor restrictive national policies that deny the objective of building the greater Homeland (Patria Grande) in Latin America.”
As such, trade between members is done at preferential, non-market rates and payment can be made through goods as well as through payments over a period of time at lower-than-market interest.
10. ALBA is growing
In the last 10 years, the bloc has grown tremendously. It has expanded from its two signing partners, Cuba and Venezuela, to include Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Suriname and Haiti are also slated to become members.
(Telesur, December 14, 2014)