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Bolivarian Alliance for the People of our America (ALBA)

In Spanish, the word alba means dawn. It is also the name of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of our America (ALBA), a regional organization formally launched in 2004 as the "Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas" (ALBA) in 2004 in response to the U.S.-proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Renamed an "Alliance" in June 2009, by 2011 ALBA was made up of eight countries in Latin America and the Caribbean representing over 70 million people Antigua & Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Venezuela. Honduras was a member until the coup government of Roberto Micheletti quit the organization in December 2009. ALBA was born as a bold plan for Latin American integration proposed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chvez in 2001, based on the principles of solidarity and complementarity between the countries of the Global South.

By 2015 the Latin American left had suffered significant electoral setbacks, against the backdrop of falling oil and commodity prices. As a result, these electoral changes may lead to a dangerous reversal to many of the gains achieved by progressive governments and popular movements over the past decade and a half. The political expectations of the regions highly empowered and critical citizenry led in part to right-wing electoral victories in Venezuela, Argentina, and to a lesser extent in Brazil and Bolivia. The subsequent electoral outcomes served as an indication that there are some major challenges facing the Latin America left in 2016.

The emergence of Latin Americas new middle class was facilitated in part thanks to the surge in demand [from China] for primary goods, including minerals, hydrocarbons, soybeans and other agricultural commodities. In 2014, commodity exports from Latin American and the Caribbean countriesaccounted for 68 percent of exports to Asia and the Pacific, up from 48 percent in 2000. Economic growth combined with social-welfare policies through transfer payments programs, meant that the less well-off benefitted and the middle class expanded from one fifth to one third of the population, prompting a second wave of demands such as greater economic inclusion and equality. Due to shrinking fiscal resources, the economically vulnerable sectors of Latin Americas newly established middle class may fall back into poverty.

ALBA was a dependable political tool for Chavez, with member states apparently coordinating closely on domestic as well as foreign policies. For example, ALBA countries seem to be taking similar approaches toward political opponents (charging them with criminal offenses), the judiciary (subordinating it to political interests), the media (instituting stricter controls on broadcast content and media ownership), and presidential terms (amending constitutions to permit indefinite reelection).

In April 2009 the Heads of State and Government of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, member countries of ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative of the Peoples of Our Americas], issued the Declaration of Cuman [Venezuela]. By the end of 2010 the ALBA member countries were Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela.

"Capitalism is leading humanity and the planet to extinction. What we are experiencing is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural nature, not another cyclic crisis. Those who think that with a taxpayer money injection and some regulatory measures this crisis will end are wrong. The financial system is in crisis because it trades bonds with six times the real value of the assets and services produced and rendered in the world, this is not a system regulation failure, but a integrating part of the capitalist system that speculates with all assets and values with a view to obtain the maximum profit possible. Until now, the economic crisis has generated over 100 million additional hungry persons and has slashed over 50 million jobs, and these figures show an upward trend.

"Capitalism has caused the environmental crisis, by submitting the necessary conditions for life in the planet, to the predominance of market and profit. Each year we consume one third more of what the planet is able to regenerate. With this squandering binge of the capitalist system, we are going to need two planets Earth by the year 2030.

"The global economic crisis, climate change, the food crisis and the energy crisis are the result of the decay of capitalism, which threatens to end life and the planet. To avert this outcome, it is necessary to develop and model an alternative to the capitalist system. A system based on:

  • solidarity and complementarity, not competition;
  • a system in harmony with our mother earth and not plundering of human resources;
  • a system of cultural diversity and not cultural destruction and imposition of cultural values and lifestyles alien to the realities of our countries;
  • a system of peace based on social justice and not on imperialist policies and wars;
  • in summary, a system that recovers the human condition of our societies and peoples and does not reduce them to mere consumers or merchandise.

"We question the G20 for having tripled the resources of the International Monetary Fund when the real need is to establish a new world economic order that includes the full transformation of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, entities that have contributed to this global economic crisis with their neoliberal policies.

"As for climate change, developed countries are in an environmental debt to the world because they are responsible for 70% of historical carbon emissions into the atmosphere since 1750. Developed countries should pay off their debt to humankind and the planet; they should provide significant resources to a fund so that developing countries can embark upon a growth model which does not repeat the serious impacts of the capitalist industrialization. Solutions to the energy, food and climate change crises should be comprehensive and interdependent. We cannot solve a problem by creating new ones in fundamental areas for life. For instance, the widespread use of agricultural fuels has an adverse effect on food prices and the use of essential resources, such as water, land and forests.

"We condemn the discrimination against migrants in any of its forms. Migration is a human right, not a crime. Therefore, we request the United States government an urgent reform of its migration policies in order to stop deportations and massive raids and allow for reunion of families. We further demand the removal of the wall that separates and divides us, instead of uniting us. In this regard, we petition for the abrogation of the Law of Cuban Adjustment and removal of the discriminatory, selective Dry Feet, Wet Feet policy that has claimed human losses. Bankers who stole the money and resources from our countries are the true responsible, not migrant workers. Human rights should come first, particularly human rights of the underprivileged, downtrodden sectors in our society, that is, migrants without identity papers. Free movement of people and human rights for everybody, regardless of their migration status, are a must for integration. Brain drain is a way of plundering skilled human resources exercised by rich countries.

"Basic education, health, water, energy and telecommunications services should be declared human rights and cannot be subject to private deal or marketed by the World Trade Organization. These services are and should be essentially public utilities of universal access.

"We wish a world where all, big and small, countries have the same rights and where there is no empire. We advocate non-intervention. There is the need to strengthen, as the only legitimate means for discussion and assessment of bilateral and multilateral agendas in the hemisphere, the foundations for mutual respect between states and governments, based on the principle of non-interference of a state in the internal affairs of another state, and inviolability of sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples."

ALBA said in front of all of the countries in the United Nations that "poverty is not a mistake of the capitalist system; it is the natural consequence of the system. Capital goes one way, and ethics and morality go the other direction. The Millenium Development Goals are not going to be achieved; they said it there in New York. In the ALBA, many of the goals have already been fulfilled. What we are saying in the ALBA is a denouncing of those who do not do things in this way. There cannot be a discourse about social welfare and an economic discourse that damages all social initiatives. There cannot be a rhetoric that says we are going to eradicate poverty, when all the economic initiatives are doing damage to the eradication of poverty. In the ALBA, this contradiction does not exist.""

Amenothep Zambrano, executive secretary of ALBA, said March 2, 2011. "The ALBA is threatened, assaulted, and persecuted constantly. Coup dtat in Venezuela; coup dtat in Honduras; attempted coup in Ecuador; attempt to divide the Bolivian territory, a blockade for more than 50 years against Cuba. We do not have a favorable environment: Perverse media campaigns against our initiatives, threats to expand United States military bases in the region, technological colonialism, pressure from financial institutions. It has been really very hard to get as far as we have gotten. Despite this, ALBA has set a goal for itself to achieve the second and definitive independence of our peoples."

In June 2012, during the 42nd OAS General Assembly held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patio said Our [ALBA] countries have made the decision to drop what is droppable, what doesnt work anymore, like the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, which was supposedly created to defend the countries of the region before an extra-continental military threat, which never happened.

The only time when the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance was really important was in the Falkland Islands in the 80s, when an extra-continental power attacked a country of our continent, but it didnt work. In fact, one of the countries of the continent supported that extra-continental power, recalled Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca.

The states withdrawing were the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Republic of Nicaragua, and the Republic of Ecuador. The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance was created as a mechanism for collective continental defense after World War II and the subsequent Cold War, which conditioned and determined the international legal instruments supposedly aimed at guaranteeing peace and safety in the Inter-American geographical framework.

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