The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a Fair Trade Association

One of the
most important programs to counteract
the neoliberal trade model is the Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas or in English,
Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. ALBA was
designed in collaboration with Cuban President
Fidel Castro as an alternative to the FTAA, to promote the idea of social,
political, and economic integration within the
countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

By Kaitlin Baird
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For a long
time industrialized capitalist countries
have assumed they know what is best for
the rest of the world. International organizations
like the World Trade Organization (WTO),
International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank
have allowed wealthier nations to impose
neoliberal ideas and policies upon under-developed
countries. U.S.-backed trading blocs such
as the Free Trade of the Americas Association
(FTAA), North American Free Trade Association
(NAFTA), and Central American Free Trade
Association (CAFTA) have tried to force the
values of trade liberalization and profit upon Latin
America. Latin American nations have
significantly less developed industries compared
to the United States and because of this
the only people who have benefited from these
trade agreements are the wealthy government
and corporate elites, leaving the majority
of these countries' populations to suffer in
poverty.

The Chávez
government of Venezuela has been
taking a leading role in movements and
struggles to combat the damaging effects of
globalization in Latin America. In addition to denouncing
the U.S. government and its policies toward
Latin America, Chávez has taken real steps in
fighting harmful neoliberal influences in the
region. Since taking office Chávez has helped
create BancoSUR (Bank of the South), an
alternative to the IMF and World Bank which provides
low interest loans to Latin American countries,
and TeleSUR (The New Television Station of
the South), a regional station providing local
alternative perspectives for stations coming from the
U.S.

One of the
most important programs to counteract
the neoliberal trade model is the Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas or in English,
Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. ALBA was
designed in collaboration with Cuban President
Fidel Castro as an alternative to the FTAA.
Additionally ALBA promotes the idea of social,
political, and economic integration within the
countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
ALBA is not based on profit and trade
liberalization, but on equity, social welfare, and mutual
economic aid. Although the current members include Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia,
Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Saint Vincent
and the Grenadines, many other regional
countries engage in trade and support ALBA's
alternative values. Amid founding this organization,
presidents Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro
decided upon three main principles: 

(1) using
trade and investment as instruments
which can help achieve fair sustainable
development,

(2) special and individualized
treatment for each nation, considering
the levels they have of development and the
dimensions of their economies,

(3) financial
complementarities and co-operation between
participating countries which may contribute
to the fight against poverty and to preserve
the different cultural identities.[1]

Unlike the
FTAA, ALBA acknowledges that all
nations are not economically equal and that trade
agreements must be made around the idea of
equality for everyone and not maximum profit.

The values
and ideals that define ALBA are
represented in trade agreements with Latin
American countries. Venezuela provides subsidized
oil to Cuba and in return Cuba provides free
health care assistance to Venezuelans and trains
Venezuelan doctors. Both countries benefit
immensely from this trade. Venezuela is able to
implement the government program, Barrio
Adentro, where many Cuban doctors work to
provide free health care for previously marginalized
people in poor communities, while Cuba uses
cheap oil to continue to rebuild its
economy after the devastation left by the collapse
of the Soviet Union.[2]

Since the
election of leftist Bolivian President
Evo Morales, Bolivia has also received medical
aid from Cuba. Cuban doctors work in 180
Bolivian municipalities and nine provinces.[3] Cuba and
Venezuela have contributed to Bolivia's literacy campaign, Yo, Si Puedo (Yes, I
Can), which in 2008 allowed Bolivia to declare
itself free of illiteracy.[4] In another Bolivian
support agreement, Venezuela and Cuba
purchased soy beans from Bolivia after Colombia,
Bolivia's main importer of agriculture, signed an
agreement with the United States to pay
cheaper prices on imported U.S. soy beans.[5] In
addition to these specific mutual interest trade
agreements, Venezuela and Bolivia have signed
numerous other agreements pertaining to
education, hydrocarbons, petrochemicals, finance,
communications, the environment, mining,
security, defense, and technology.[6]

Trade that
does not revolve around profit
and trade liberalization is considered as a step in the
wrong direction by countries like the United
States. The negative effects of this mindset
are slowly becoming more apparent in light
of our global economic, political, social, and
environmental problems. ALBA is just one example of
the inspirational movement against globalization
and free trade happening all over Latin
America. U.S. intervention and neoliberal policies
have and will continue to try to dismantle anti-capitalist
leftist movements and their leaders. However,
after decades of repeating the same mistakes
and in light of our current economic crisis, it
is clear that it is time to begin to build something
different. It is time to pay attention to what is
happening in our hemisphere and to
acknowledge this downward spiral that will continue
unless we change something. ALBA doesn't
solve all the problems of unfair trade policy,
but it provides an appealing alternative to an unjust
system in the process of collapsing.

Kaitlin is a student at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She recently
spent three months studying in
Venezuela with
Evergreen's academic program Building Economic and Social Justice.

Notes

[1] Venezuela
- PDVSA's Trans-national System in Latin America." Goliath: Buisness Knowledge
on Demand. 26 Nov. 2007. 1 Dec. 2008 <http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-7351608/venezuela-pdvsa-s-trans-....

[2] Macbeth,
Hampden. "The Not So Odd Couple: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel
Castro." 22 June 2005. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs. 28 Oct. 2008 <http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/1207>.

[3] Whitney,
W. T. "Cuba, Venezuela Bring Medical Care to Bolivia." People's Weekly World
(2006). PWW.org. 10 June 2006. NLine. 31 May 2009 <http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/9280/>.

[4] Frances,
Liannis Mateu. "Cuba Contributes to Post-Literacy Campaign in Bolivia." Radio
Rebelde. 15 Apr. 2009. Osana Osoria
Arrue. 31 May 2009 <http://www.radiorebelde.cu/english/world/world-1-150409.html>.

[5] Burbach,
Roger. "Bolivia's Radical Realignment Under Evo Morales." America Latina en Movimiento. 03 May 2006. Agencia Latinoamericana de Infomacion. 31 May 2009
<http://alainet.org/active11335=es>.

[6] Munckton,
Stuart. "Venezuela: Deepening Latin American Integration." Green Left Online.
14 June 2006. Green Left Weekly. 1 Dec. 2008 <http://www.greenleft.org.au/2006/671/6449>.