With respect to the Twentieth Summit of ALBA-TCP, commemorating its establishment seventeen years ago, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega got to the heart of the matter. “The fact that we are meeting at all is a great victory. After six years of attacks, here we are, still affirming united the same principles that we declared seventeen years ago.”
The origins of ALBA-TCP
From 1999 to 2002, in various Latin American and Caribbean forums, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez proposed the creation of a mechanism that would promote solutions to the various problems resulting from neocolonialism, on the basis of the principle of the unity and integration of the nations of the region, a vision formulated in the nineteenth century by Simón Bolívar and José Martí. The idea became reality on December 14, 2004, when Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez signed in Havana the Joint Declaration for the establishment of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), as it was then known.
The Joint Declaration of 2004 maintained that integration in Latin America historically “has served as a mechanism for deepening dependency and foreign domination.” It proposed an alternative form of integration: “Only an integration based on cooperation, solidarity, and the common will to advance together with one accord toward the highest levels of development can satisfy the needs and desires of the Latin American and Caribbean countries, and at the same preserve their independence, sovereignty, and identity.” The Joint Declaration proclaimed that ALBA seeks social justice and popular democracy: “ALBA has as its objective the transformation of Latin American societies, making them more just, cultured, participatory, and characterized by solidarity. It therefore is conceived as an integral process that assures the elimination of social inequalities and promotes the quality of life and an effective participation of the peoples in the shaping of their own destiny.”
The 2004 Joint Declaration maintained that just and sustainable development is one of the principles of ALBA, and this implies an active role of the state. “Commerce and investment ought not be ends in themselves, but instruments for attaining a just and sustainable development, since the true Latin American and Caribbean integration cannot be a blind product of the market, nor simply a strategy to amplify external markets or stimulate commerce. To attain a just and sustainable development, effective participation of the State as regulator and coordinator of economic activity is required.”
ALBA was created in the historic moment of a neoliberal onslaught, when Washington was attempting to impose on the continent the so-called Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which designed an integration favorable to the interests of U.S. corporations. With the emergence of governments of the Left in the region, on a foundation of a popular rejection of neoliberalism, the U.S. initiative was blocked. Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay played a central role in the burial of the FTAA at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina in 2005.
Following its establishment in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela, other nations subsequently joined ALBA. Bolivia, with the arrival to power of the Movement toward Socialism and Evo Morales, was incorporated in 2006, along with its proposal for the Commercial Treaty of the Peoples, resulting in a change in the name of the organization. Nicaragua joined in 2007, following the return to power of the Sandinista Revolution and Daniel Ortega. Dominica was incorporated in 2008. In that same year, Honduras was incorporated, but it withdrew in 2010, following the parliamentary/military coup d’état against Manuel Zelaya. In 2009, Ecuador became a member of ALBA-TCP, following the electoral triumph of Rafael Correa and the Citizen Revolution. In that same year, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Antigua and Barbuda became members of the Alliance. In 2013, Saint Lucia was incorporated, followed by Saint Kitts and Nevis and Grenada in 2014.
The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) has emitted declarations on energy, food security, shared economic development, climate change, and progressive and revolutionary movements and political parties. It has developed various projects of cooperation of the members of the Alliance, especially in education and health.
The imperialist counterattack, 2016 to the present
As I discussed in a previous commentary (“The doctrine of preventive war plus unconventional war,” July 23, 2021), the U.S. project of military invasion and regime change in the Middle East had mixed results, both on the ground and in terms of a degree of opposition in U.S. public opinion. Therefore, the U.S. political establishment refrained from applying this approach to recalcitrant socialist and progressive governments in Latin America. It launched instead an “unconventional war,” beginning in 2015 in Venezuela and subsequently expanding the war to include Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua. As described in a U.S. Army manual, the unconventional war strives to topple governments without the direct use of Armed Forces personnel, using paid civilian actors who operate from the United States and in the targeted country. In an unconventional war, states are attacked in a variety of ways: economic blockades; financial and ideological support for opposition political parties and organizations; financing fascist gangs and destabilizing activities; enlisting the support of international organizations; and ideological attacks through the mainstream media and the social media. U.S. naval forces have presence in the region, constituting a continuous threat of direct military interventions. But ideally, they would not be directly committed; and if used, their presence would be short-term.
The ongoing six-year unconventional war has damaged the economies of the targeted countries. Especially important have been the denial of Venezuelan government access to its deposits in international banks, the blocking of Cuban financial and commercial transactions with companies and financial institutions in third countries, and the disruption of the socialist project in Bolivia. As is logical, the war has reduced the possibilities for the cooperative agreements envisioned and planned by ALBA-TCP.
In the 2017 ALBA-TCP Summit in Venezuela, the Alliance reaffirmed its commitment to self-determination, national sovereignty, and the sovereign equality of states. It declared its continued commitment to the principles of solidarity, complementarity, and cooperation, recognizing that national struggles are interdependent processes. It noted that neoliberalism is not a theory of development, but a doctrine for the total plundering of the peoples. It observed that under neoliberalism, the world-economy has not grown in real terms, but instability, financial speculation, the external debt, unequal exchange, financial crises, poverty, inequality, and unemployment have multiplied.
Meanwhile, ALBA-TCP lost members. Ecuador severed ties with ALBA following the presidential elections of 2017, won by Lenin Moreno, who was a Trojan Horse, the candidate of Correa’s Nation Alliance Party who did not announce his intentions to dismantle the revolution and take the nation to the Right. Saint Lucia ceased its participation in 2018. In 2019, Bolivia withdrew from ALBA, following the coup d’état against Evo Morales.
Anti-imperialist resistance continues, 2019
The 2019 Summit of ALBA-TCP, held on December 14 in Havana, issued a Declaration entitled “Fifteen years in defense of unity, peace, and integration.” It declared that the governments of ALBA-TCP continue with “firm commitment to deepen . . . a genuinely Latin American and Caribbean integration in the face of the increasing threats to self-determination, sovereignty, peace, and regional stability.” The governments affirm that “unity and regional integration is the only way to confront the domination that the hegemonic structures of world power exercise.” They maintain that “ALBA-TCP is in the front line of a genuinely Latin American and Caribbean integration, sustained on the principles of solidarity, social justice, defense of independence and sovereignty, the self-determination of peoples, economic cooperation and complementarity.” They affirm that the governments have the “political will to advance together toward sustainable development and the satisfaction of the needs of the countries and peoples of the region.”
The Declaration points out the gains of ALBA-TCP, including the establishment of the Bank of ALBA, which has financed various projects in infrastructure, production, and services. It reiterates the will of the governments to continue to combat climate change, which, it maintains, is the product of the capitalist system and its irrational patterns of production and consumption.
The Declaration condemns the aggressive and interventionist policy of the government of the United States, which is carried out with the complicity of the national oligarchies of the region and the corporate-owned media of communication. It maintains that these policies are clear violations of the consecrated principles of the Charter of the United Nations and International Law. It repudiates the criminal, coercive, and unilateral measures of the so-called unconventional war waged by the United States against Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, and Surinam.
The Declaration concludes, “The challenges that we confront reaffirm the need for closing ranks in the face of the threats, interference, and external aggressions, with full confidence in victory. United we confront the interventions and the coups d’état. We are sustained by the deep conviction that the construction of the better future that we desire and for which we work for Latin America and the Caribbean is and increasingly will be in the strong and firm hands of free peoples.”
Renewal of hope, 2021
There has been during the past year a revival of the hopes of the progressive forces for change. With the electoral victory of the Saint Lucia Labor Party, Saint Lucia has reincorporated itself into the Alliance. And Bolivia has rejoined the Alliance, following the return to power of the Movement toward Socialism with the election Luis Arce Catacora, who was welcomed officially by the Cuban government in conjunction with his participation in the ALBA-TCP Summit. At the same time, recent elections in Venezuela and Nicaragua have reconfirmed popular support for the socialist projects in those nations. In addition, Cuba has emerged from the pandemic as a world health power, and it successfully defeated the destabilization campaign launched by the United States. In this context, the member countries of ALBA-TCP have held a dozen meetings during the past year to revitalize initiatives in such areas as health, education, agriculture, communication, and tourism.
Josefina Vidal Ferrerito, Cuban Vice-Minister for Foreign Relation, noted that at the present time, cooperation in the area of health has a priority. The Bank of ALBA is being utilized to send vaccines, medical personnel, treatments, and supplies to the populations of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It has placed two million dollars at the disposition of the eastern Caribbean countries for the purchase of vaccines. Two of the countries of the Alliance already have received Cuban vaccines. At the same time, in July and August of this year, when Cuba was experiencing the most critical moments moment in the confrontation with the pandemic, several countries of the alliance donated medical supplies, transported by the Venezuelan airline.
Declaration of the 20th ALBA-TCP Summit, December 14, 2021
The Declaration emitted by the Twentieth Summit of ABLA-TCP, held in Havana on December 14, 2021 reaffirmed the commitment of its members to the founding principles of the Alliance.
“The Heads of State and Government and the Heads of Delegations of the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), meet in Havana, Cuba, on December 14, 2021 to commemorate the 17th Anniversary of the Alliance. In signing this Declaration, we renew our commitment to strengthen this mechanism of political coordination based on the principles of solidarity, social justice, economic cooperation and complementarity, the fruit of the political will of its founders, the Commanders Fidel Castro Ruz and Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías.
“We ratify that the cardinal principle guiding ALBA-TCP should be the widest possible solidarity among the peoples of Our America, as stated in the Joint Declaration by Commanders Chávez and Fidel on December 14, 2004.
“We ratify our commitment to a genuine Latin American and Caribbean integration that permits us to jointly confront the intentions of imperialist domination and hegemony and the growing threats to regional peace and stability.
“We advocate a transparent, democratic, just and equitable international order based on multilateralism and the observance of the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and International Law; which ensures international peace and security and respect for the right of the peoples to self-determination, territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-interference in internal affairs and the sovereignty of States.”
The Declaration reaffirmed “the right of every State to construct its own political, economic, social and cultural system, free from unilateral coercive measures, threats, and aggressions, in an environment of peace, stability, justice, democracy and respect for human rights.”
It called for reform of the international financial order. “We emphasize the urgency of moving toward the development of a more comprehensive mechanism for debt relief for developing countries, the cancellation or refinancing of foreign debt at the global level, economic recovery with a comprehensive and sustainable approach, and the democratic transformation of international financial institutions.”
The Declaration strongly condemned the sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela as flagrant violations of international law and the provisions of the UN Charter. And it expressed its “strongest rejection to the absurd and unjustified inclusion of the Republic of Cuba in the U.S. State Department’s spurious and arbitrary list of States Sponsors of Terrorism.”
The Declaration rejected the unconventional war against the progressive governments of the region.
“We denounce the use of strategies of unconventional war against progressive governments and leaders in the region through politically motivated judicial processes (lawfare); manipulation of human rights for purposes of destabilization; disinformation and propaganda campaigns; the malicious use of information and communication technologies; and cyber-attacks; among others.
“We reiterate our commitment to the promotion and protection all human rights for all, and at the same time we denounce their politicization and manipulation with interventionist ends.”
In his address to the Twentieth Summit of ALBA-TCP, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel declared, “I confirm the commitment of Cuba to unity and to the promotion of regional cooperation and integration. In front of the challenges that we confront, Cuba will not cease in its efforts to construct a socialist society increasingly just and characterized by internationalist solidarity. Fidel and Chávez advanced more than any others in the road of the integration of Our America. Their humble followers and loyal disciples, we have the duty and the honor of promoting and strengthening that magnificent work.”
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I do talk to my students about this, options to World Bank and IMF. Love what ALBA does.