Report on ALBA and English-Speaking Caribbean Nations

A report on ALBA and Its Growing Caribeean Members

The following report on ALBA and the Caribbean was given to the Venezuela Coalition Planning meeting on July 13 by Faiz Ahmed who is doing a thesis on ALBA at the University of New Brunswick.

ALBA has three Caribbean members: Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda. Each has a population of about 100,000; the largest (Dominica) is 1/7 the size of PEI.

These island nations belong to several other trade groups. But ALBA offers something not available in the other alliances, because ALBA is based on cooperation not competition.

The islands are poor by Caribbean standards and are very vulnerable: environmentally (lack of fresh water, pollution), economically (dependency on tourism, lack of leverage in determining export and import prices); socially (class differentiation is little developed; the local elite is weak).They need oil, of course. But also storage capacity. And they need the ability to buy without cash: they are cash-strapped and highly indebted.

What does ALBA provide them?

First, the ALBA Bank. This gives the islands access to capital. ALBA Bank decision making is based on equality: there is no system of weighted voting. The bank will have a branch in each island. It has funded $1 billion for social, educational, cultural, and health projects.

Second, oil. ALBA members can apply for loans for oil purchases on a sliding scale based on the price of oil. Currently, oil consumes 20% to 40% of the islands' GNP. ALBA also sponsors Petrocaribe, which provides discounted oil to ALBA members and other Caribbean islands.

Third, sports and culture. Recently the islands were among thirty countries (including some from Europe) participating in the ALBA games. Cuba sent the most participants, a large number of them trainers to assist the other delegations.

Fourth, Telesur, which functions in English as well as Spanish. It assists the islands in developing independent media.

Little of ALBA is financially driven. It is laying the groundwork for national self-sufficiency. On that basis, nations can make a free choice regarding their future economic model. This is not necessarily socialism. President Zelaya of Honduras was politically conservative, not a socialist. But the self-sufficiency that ALBA is working for can provide preconditions for socialism.

Faiz will soon publish a written report on the English-speaking ALBA countries.

Eyewitness Report: Honduras

Military Coup in Honduras: Eye witness Report

The following report was given July 13 to the Venezuela Coalition Planning meeting by by Jose Martinez who has just returned to Canada:

I went to Honduras to help with the planned popular consultation on the constitution, which was adopted in 1982 and serves the rich of the country. Then we heard: a coup has taken place. We started phoning. I was in San Pedro Sula, and we built a demonstration of 50,000 there, that very day, shouting, "We want our president!" The army attacked us with tear gas and bullets, killing people from the outset. But there was no media coverage: they had shut down TV, radio, and electricity -- we had to spread the word person to person.

We rallied again the next day, Monday, and again we were attacked. We don't know how many were killed and wounded. We saw the army washing away the blood. The army picked up the wounded, saying they would be delivered to the hospitals. We arranged with Cuban doctors to set up a clinic where the wounded would be safe. We went to the hospitals to find them -- but no wounded were there. The army had "disappeared" them. We did find four bodies of murdered protesters.Last night, one of our leading people, Roger Ivan Bados, was killed in his home.

This morning, five more leaders on our block was killed. One body was dumped in front of my brother's house. And now the Telesur reporters have been expelled. We have no media, no connections. We are running out of supplies. Every day is worse.

Another demonstration will take place outside the offices of Conservative MP Peter Kent tomorrow to protest the Canadian government's pro-coup statements.

Demonstrations in Toronto organized by the Latin American Solidarity Network of which the Venezuela Coalition is a part, have taken place the last two weeks and will continue on Saturday, July 18 at the U.S. Consulate.

New Video: Bolivia in Transition


In January 2009, Bolivians held a national Referendum to approve a peoples constitution under Evo Morales. The country, historically polarized by the strength of the wealthy landowners and the struggles of the indigenous masses, suffered vicious opposition to the proposed changes.

In this documentary, the impact of the new Constitution is shown through two very different realities; one of courage, the courage to bring about change vs. the culture of fear. Interviews with people from all sectors of society sheds light on the contrasts of opinion and, finally, demonstrates Bolivia's transformation towards a more dignified and just society.

Witness a nation write their own history as its people rediscover their identity. Bolivia under Evo Morales, has demonstrated to the world that courage can overcome the culture of fear. That people united under the banner of fraternity, peace and justice can never be defeated; Bolivia’s new constitution is the result of that victory.

Democracy: Real Popular Participation in Government

Anti Imperialist Trend in Latin America Is Lead by Venezuelaby Diane Raby

The recent coup in Honduras (which I gather has received very inadequate, and biased, coverage in the UK media - surprise, surprise!) is extremely serious. It is clearly directed not just at President Zelaya but at the entire popular and anti-imperialist trend in Latin America headed by Venezuela, with the aim of halting and indeed reversing the most important progressive development in the world in recent years. It is also almost certainly part of the behind-the-scenes struggle for power in the US, with the mini-Pinochets in Honduras being backed by the Republicans, the Pentagon and CIA as part of a strategy to neutralise Obama.

Fortunately the US military-industrial complex and their Honduran puppets miscalculated, and were met with a totally unprecedented unanimous vote of condemnation by the Organisation of American States, the UN General Assembly, the US government (although with some ambiguity resulting from the aforementioned tensions) and the EU. Equally, they underestimated the level of consciousness and combative disposition of the Honduran people, who have taken to the streets on a massive scale despite brutal repression.

It is still by no means clear exactly how and when the Honduran junta will fall. Unlike the Venezuelan coup in 2002, where the people in the streets could count on a large revolutionary section of the Armed Forces to join them in overthrowing the coup-mongers, the reactionaries led by Mr Micheletti (or “Pinochetti”, as he was described on one demonstrator´s poster) can count on a thoroughly disciplined repressive force trained for decades by the Pentagon.But fall the junta certainly will before very long: total international isolation and a fragile internal base of support guarantee this. Moreover, when it does fall the result will almost certainly be an acceleration of the process of popular change in Honduras, where the people are now mobilised as never before behind “Mel” (President Manuel Zelaya) and his project for a popular Constitutional Assembly.

This in turn will further consolidate the regional ALBA alliance (which now has nine member states) and its project for alternative development based on anti-capitalist principles. It will also increase international awareness of the idea that democracy in today´s world can only mean real popular participation in government, and not just a formal charade controlled by elites - something which is very relevant right now to us in the UK!

Diane Raby is a national council member of Respect. She sent this report from Venezuela.

Venezuela Supports President Zelaya

Venezuela: U.S. Must Clarify its Position on Honduras
by Kiraz Janicke

June 7, 2009 - Speaking on behalf of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) on Monday, former Venezuelan interior minister, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín called on United States president Barack Obama to clarify his government's position on the coup d'etat in Honduras, in which democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya was ousted on June 28.

"There must be a categorical pronouncement and concrete actions by Obama in rejection of this coup d'etat," Rodríguez Chacín insisted, because it is "clear this coup is being supported by the military establishment of the United States."

Rodríguez Chacín argued that the coup must be understood in the context of increasing global political confrontation and as something that represents an attempt to destroy the progressive advances in Latin America signified by the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA)

ALBA is a bloc of nine countries, spearheaded by Venezuela, which aims to promote an alternative development model in the region to the neoliberal model imposed by the US, based on economic and social justice, fair trade and participatory democracy.

While condemnation of the military coup has been near universal, the response of the United States government has been slow. The initial statement from the White House did not denounce the coup or call for the reinstatement of Zelaya but rather called for "all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter". Although US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have made statements condemning the ousting of Zelaya and calling for his return, the US State Department is yet to legally define the coup as a "coup."

A law passed by US congress forbids granting aid to any government that has come to power through a military coup. Under pressure from a united Latin America to reject the coup US State Department official Ian Kelly announced on July 2 that the US has "paused" economic aid "directly aiding the government" pending the outcome of its legal finding.

However, in a State Department press briefing on Monday, Kelly indicated that the majority of activities funded by the US would not be affected by the measure, including humanitarian aid and "democracy promotion" programs.
The US also continues to maintain diplomatic ties with the coup government of Roberto Micheletti, with US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Florens remaining in Tegulcigalpa, the Honduran capital, in an official capacity.

The BBC in Spanish also reported today that the Honduran Ambassador to the US, Roberto Flores, originally appointed by Zelaya but now a supporter of the coup, continues to retain official diplomatic accreditation from the White House and official access to US diplomats, despite being fired by the legitimate president after the coup.

US State Department officials have admitted that they knew about the coup plans for several months, but claimed they were trying to promote dialogue.

In a report today, US-Venezuelan human rights lawyer, Eva Golinger, documented links between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which grants $49 million annually to Honduras, and International Republican Institute (IRI), considered to be the international branch of the U.S. Republican Party, with groups involved in the Honduran coup.

Another "damning piece of evidence linking the IRI to the coup," Golinger argues, is a slideshow presentation by Susan Zelaya-Fenner, assistant program officer at IRI, on March 20, 2009, discussing the ‘good governance' program in Honduras during which she joked, "Coups are thought to be so three decades ago, until now (laughs, audience laughs), again."

"The majority of the recipients of [US AID] in Honduras, which comes in the form of funding, training, resources, strategic advice, communications counseling, political party strengthening and leadership training, are organizations directly linked to the recent coup d'etat," Golinger pointed out. The organizations include the National Anti-corruption Council, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran Private Enterprise Council (COHEP), the Council of University Deans, the Confederation of Honduran Workers (CTH), the National Convergence Forum, the Chamber of Commerce (FEDECAMARA), the Association of Private Media (AMC), the Peace and Democracy Group and the student group Generación X Change.

"These organizations form part of a coalition self-titled "Unión Cívica Democrática de Honduras" (Civil Democratic Union of Honduras) that has publicly backed the coup against President Zelaya," Golinger's report continued.

An indication of the US role is the extremely close military relationship between Washington and the Honduran military, US political analyst Michael Parenti argued.

"The Honduran military is trained, advised, equipped, indoctrinated, and financed by the United States national security state. The generals would never have dared to move without tacit consent from the White House or the Pentagon and CIA," he said.

Although the US has suspended "joint military operations" it continues to maintain around 600 military personnel in the Soto Cano airbase about 50km from Tegulcigalpa.

A press statement by the Honduran National Congress on Monday announced that a delegation of "Leading members of the Honduran National Congress and private sector and former members of the Honduran Judiciary will hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., to speak on recent events in Honduras."

"The delegation will be traveling to Washington for several days of meetings with United States policymakers to clarify any misunderstandings about Honduras' constitutional process and to discuss next steps to ensure the preservation of the country's democratic institutions," the statement continued.

Ian Kelly responded, "we don't know about a delegation coming here. So this is - if the delegation is from this de facto regime, the State Department wouldn't meet with them."

In Zelaya's highest-level talks with US officials since the coup he met with Hilary Clinton today in Washington. Clinton announced that Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias would mediate talks between Zelaya and the de facto government.

"We are supporting the efforts that the OAS [Organisation of American States] has made but we think there needs to be a specific mediator," the US secretary of state said.

Speaking earlier from Russia, Obama said, "America supports now the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies". Venezuelan political analyst and former vice-president José Vicente Rangel argued that the contradictory response of the US administration reflected two political lines in Honduras - a public one coming from Obama and the White House and the other from "the political machinery that remains in tact from the Bush administration," which is being applied through the US military personal and advisors based in Honduras.