ALBA Abandons Greenback, Endorses Regional Commitments
Hosted by Bolivia’s Evo Morales, the presidents attending ALBA were: Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), prime ministers Roosevelt Skerrit (Dominica); Ralph Gonsalves (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines); and Baldwin Spencer (Antigua and Barbuda), as well as Vice President of the Council of Ministers Jose Ramon Machado (Cuba).
ALBA member countries invited delegations from Paraguay, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Russia to attend as summit observers.
ALBA was created in 2004, as an initiative between Cuba and Venezuela. The brain-child of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the regional bloc emerged as a trade alternative to the U.S.-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA or ALCA in Spanish).
In 2006, Bolivia’s Morales proposed the People’s Trade Agreement (PTA) – a treaty that is based upon cooperation and reciprocity with respect for the well being of people, their history and cultures. The PTA rejects the trade liberalization policies of the FTAA and is considered the cornerstone of trade agreements within ALBA.
In their declaration, the nine-nation bloc committed to greater regional economic integration and increased independence from U.S. trade influence, spearheaded by the creation of a regional currency - the Sistema Único de Compensación Regional (Unified System of Regional Compensation) or sucre.
The sucre will go into effect in 2010 and may eventually develop into a regional currency similar to the euro – enabling trade within the bloc as well as with non-member countries. It would be used in commercial exchanges between ALBA countries in order to gradually reduce dependency on the U.S. dollar.
When SUCRE was approved at an ALBA meeting in April, Chavez said, “This will help us to overthrow the dictatorship of the dollar, imposed on us from over there, from Bretton Woods."
The proposed compensation system will also establish a regional monetary council, central clearinghouse, and a regional reserve and emergency fund.
According to Bolivian Finance Minister Luis Arce, there are plans for the group to develop an import-export business (Alba Exim), an agriculture business (Alba Alimentos), and also an energy company.
Bloomberg reports Arce’s announcement that the companies will seek “sovereignty and the development of food security in all member countries.”
Leaders demanded the return of democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zalaya and resolved that ALBA members will deny any representatives of the de facto government to enter their respective countries.
The group approved new economic sanctions against the current government of Honduras led by Robert Micheletti. They called on the international community to reject the upcoming presidential election planned by the interim government in November.
Colombia's plan to extend use of its bases to the U.S. military was denounced."The government of Colombia must reconsider the installation of these military bases,” read the member statement, calling it a threat to the region's security.
ALBA member countries also unanimously adopted a special resolution to reject the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
President Morales called for the establishment of an "International Tribunal of Climate Justice" to hold rich countries responsible for paying damages that stemmed from their disproportionate consumption of fossil fuels.
A joint resolution from ALBA member countries will be taken to the summit on climate change that will be held in Copenhagen this December.
Including the Grassroots
One of ALBA's more unique features is the status permitted to social organizations of member countries.
The revised ALBA model consists of a Council of ALBA Presidents, a Council of ALBA Ministers and a Council of Social Movements.
On Thursday, more than 700 delegates from social and indigenous movements across Latin America gathered for the First Summit of the ALBA Council of Social Movements, according to Cuba’s Radio Nuevitas.
Joined by representatives from 40 European, African and Asian countries, the social organizations met to draft priorities and guidelines on subjects such as climate change, autonomies, defense of the planet, and natural resources. Their recommendations were presented to heads of delegations from member countries on Saturday.
The most recent ALBA Summit was the fourth meeting held by the body this year. The next meeting is scheduled for December in Cuba.