Celebrating ten years of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA)

The presentation below is by Venezuelan born Dr. Maria Paez. It was given at the celebration of the Ten Year Anniversary of ALBA-TCP in Toronto on February 21, 2015. The event which drew over 70 was organized by the Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association and the Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle. Diplomatic representatives from Cuba and Venezuela gave greetings, and Five panelists spoke on the various aspect of ALBA which has made it a success and a model of cooperation. Music, poetry and refreshments added to the festivities of the occasion.

by Dr. Maria Paez

If we take a quick look at world history, the most significant alliances between countries have been made for the purposes of war. In recent history, the European Union was established with very laudable and lofty ideals…but its result was the strengthening the markets for corporations, not the welfare of the European people.

Two powerful institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were established for supposedly generous purposes of facilitating credit for developing nations. Sadly, in practice, their neoliberal policies resulted in not so generous consequences: in overwhelming national debts and imposition of austerity policies that impinged on the sovereignty of countries to decide their domestic affairs and brutally deteriorated the social services for their people. The European Union Bank has followed in the steps of the IMF and WB with respect to European nations that have the weaker economies, thus we have witnessed the staggering effects of their power on Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland; as well even England and Germany’s populations have been affected: Some results have been:

* Socio-economic inequalities have been rising in the European Union, being higher today than in 1980. 23% of European (11.5 million people) are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. [1]

* In a recent report the Red Cross point to a massive rise in poverty in the European Union such that it is facing a catastrophic economic and social decline. It links this to the austerity measures that have snowballed poverty and unemployment. As poverty increased, social services have been reduced and there has been a 75% rise in suicides in Europe between 2009/10.[2]

* In Spain, where the unemployment rate is about 25% - one third of all unemployed in Europe. Suicides are at 7.6% per 100.000 people.[3]

* In Greece, suicides have increased by 40%, a 50-year high with one suicide per day a year between 2009/2010. Every 1% fall in government spending led to 0.43% rise in suicides among Greek men.[4]

* In England suicide rates have risen by 4% linked to the economic inequality crisis. [5]

* In the United States, poverty has increased every year in the past decade by 14% - that is 45 million people without counting the 12 million illegal immigrants. The bottom 90% Citizens there are poorer than in 1987.[6]

* There has been a 30% increase in suicides in a decade up from 13.7% Suicide is now the leading cause of death in the USA.[7]

That was the bad news. The good news is in Latin America

The Latin American region as a whole, and the [eleven] ALBA countries in particular are a beacon of hope and an example of social peace and well being for the world, an example of what real international solidarity looks like.

ALBA set out to help its member countries work together in harmony to be independent of the US empire by finding an alternative to corporate control of their economies. ALBA is a cohesive alternative vision of international trade and mutual help based on complementarity and solidarity, not domination or exploitation. It relies on an egalitarian relationship between the countries, respecting each country’s sovereignty, culture, and development paths, while focusing on trying to meet the real needs of the people.

ALBA has no equal in the world, yet it does not act in isolation, but hand in hand with other instruments of regional integrations: CELAC, UNASUR, MERCOSUR, Bank of the South.

The ALBA countries expressed clearly their objective stating:

“We agree to convert our countries, not into zones of free trade, but in zones free of hunger, illiteracy, misery and marginalization.” (12th ALBA Summit) Some of the achievements in this decade have been:

* Helping 70 million people out of predatory trade relationships imposed by the USA and the corporate elite

* Solidifying a Latin American block that is anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal – its acting together internationally so as not to be victims of bullying and extortion

* Solidifying South-South trade and cooperation, with no strings attached

* In the last seven years, ALBA raised 11 million people out of poverty; in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela poverty was cut by half

* Eradication of illiteracy (with Cuban Yo Si Puedo method) increasing literacy to 96%

* Cutting infant mortality rates by half

* Training Latin American physicians in the free medical schools of Cuba and Venezuela

* Misión Milagro: has returned the miracle of eyesight to 3.5 million people

* Giving care to 1.3 million people with disabilities [8]

These objectives were met through several means

- Direct exchanges, such as for example, doctors for oil between Venezuela and Cuba

- Implementing their own currency, el SUCRE, which liberates them from having to get dollars. To date, there have been more than $700 million transactions with the Sucre between the ALBA countries

- ALBA BANK: unlike the WB, EB, IMF, loans do not come with strings attached. Loans and exchanges in ALBA recognize each country’s strengths, their unique path of development, allowing them to set their own development objectives in a more sustainable and equitable way than if they asked loans of the international organizations

- PETROCARIBE: Venezuela sells oil to the ALBA countries at market price but they pay only 50% up front, 25% over 20 years at 2% interest plus 25% is invested in joint poverty reductions programs

- The Grand Enterprises are joint government owned enterprises between countries in areas greatly needed: food security, environment, science and technology, Just Commerce, education, energy, industry, telecommunication, transportation. For example: ALBATEL, to establish radio stations in remote areas; ALBAMED to produce needed medicines; ALBACULTURE to protect Latin American cultural heritage; ALBA sports, to encourage and train youth towards sports

Another interesting aspect of ALBA is that it is committed to safeguarding the environment in as much as they can, helping each other to protect biodiversity and ecosystems and fight climate change. The have acted as a block and as such had a strong presence in the climate change summits. ALBA has unequivocably declared that “Nature is our home and is the system of which we form part, and therefore it has infinite value, but it does not have a price and is not for sale.”[9]

It is noticeable how increasingly spokespersons for the USA throw barbs against the ALBA countries. “It is a threat to the powerful to allow lesser states to have strong effective, and efficient governments, therefore they strive to keep them weak, dependent and compliant. “[10] ALBA is therefore, definitely in their crosshairs as it is a state-centred instrument that is linked to social movements, to counter weakness and dependency.

ALBA is an original project, although it has deep historical roots in the ideals of its liberators and indigenous leaders. It breaks the mold of previous relationships between nations and it is an alternative to the capitalist thrust to weaken welfare state infrastructure and increase privatization of public spheres.

The famed sociologist Eric Hobsbaum was aware of the threatening rise of the power of corporations and the erosion of the public sphere, which the only place where true democracy can flourish. He said that the future will depend on restoring public authorities that guard the public interest. And that is what the ALBA countries are doing: linking their governments and their social movements together to defend the public interest, their sovereignty and democracy helping each other to increase the happiness of their people.

There is recent talk in Europe about creating an association similar to ALBA in the southern European countries, and some are even speculating about “European Chavismo”[11]

The new leaders of Spain’ PODEMOS and Greece’s SYRIZA are both friends of the Bolivarian Revolution, and it will not be long when they also start looking to ALBA for a way toward genuine solidarity between nations. It is about time Europe cast aside their Eurocentrism, and looked South, to Latin America where there is a a new dawn for human development through genuine international solidarity and cooperation.

[1] Poverty in Europe, the Current situation, Inequality Watch, www.inequalityWatch.eu/spip.php?article99
[2] European Union economic crisis causing massive rise in poverty – Red Cross, www.rt.news/Europe-crisis-red-cross-981 Oct. 2013
[3] Spain’s Suicide rate at Record High: Report. PRessTV http://www.presstv.com/detail/2014/02/01/348672/spains-suicide-rate-at-record-high/
[4] European Economic Crisis Causing Massive Rise in Poverty- Red Cross,
[5] Rise in suicides by middle age men in England, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/feb/19/rise-in-middle-aged-men-committing-suicide-all-the-uk-data
[6] Stanfield Smith, Ten Years of ALBA’s Achievements Celebrated, Dec. 22, 2014, www.greenleft.org.au/node/57998
[7] www.rt.com/usa/us-suicides-crisi-cdc-report-761
US suicide rates surge, surpass road fatalities, May 3, 2013
[8] Maria Páez Victor, ALBA, Latin America’s groundbreaking alliance of solidarity and mutual Aid, rabble.com, 8 August 2013
[9] Maria Páez Victor, ALBA, Latin America’s groundbreaking alliance of solidarity and mutual Aid, rabble.com, 8 August 2013
[10] Maria Páez Victor, The Campaign Against Venezuela, 4th International Festival of Poetry of Resistance, 12 Oct. 2012
[11] Luciano Vasapollo, the Italian coordinator of the Network of Intellectuals and Artists in Defence of Humanity, declarations in La Habana, referred to a “Mediterranean ALBA” http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/intelectual-vasapollo-crear-alba-mediterránea-ayudará-encarar-neoliberalismo-europeo; Humberto Gomez Garcia, Un fanatasma recorre Europa, el fantasma del cavismo, http://www.aporrea.org/internacionales/a202068.html Gianni Vattimo, El Chavismo Europeo, http://www.contrainfo.com/9499/gianni-vattimo-el-chavista-europeo/

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