ALBA has grown to include eight Latin American and Caribbean countries (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
ALBA has refused to limit itself to an alliance of governments and has created an ALBA social movement’s council. This lets both can sit at the table as equals and discuss the way forward in the struggle against imperialism.
Ruben Pereira, a Venezuelan trade union leader, community activist and coordinator of the ALBA social movement’s council, arrived in Australia on November 20 as a guest of the Bolivarian Embassy of Venezuela and the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN). Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes spoke to Pereira about ALBA. His comments are below
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On December 14, ALBA will celebrate its seventh anniversary.
ALBA began in 2004 as a result of a meeting between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and [then] Cuban president Fidel Castro. Since then, ALBA has grown to become an instrument at the service of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, and a reference point for the peoples of the world.
ALBA emerged as a direct response to the plan of US imperialism to impose its Free Trade of the Americas Agreement [FTAA, or ALCA in its Spanish abbreviation].
It is important to remember that at the 2001 Summit of the Americas, the US tried to get approval for ALCA, a perverse project based on domination and accumulating capital to benefit a few rich elites at the expense of the majority.
At that summit, Chavez was the sole voice to speak out against ALCA and block consensus.
In response, ALBA emerged as an instrument for a different type of integration, one based on solidarity where the returns on social investment are not measured in monetary terms but rather in improving peoples’ wellbeing.
In the face of capitalism’s structural crisis, ALBA fights to ensure the culture of life prevails over capitalism's culture of death and war. ALBA is centred around anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist unity, and the promotion of alternative economic and social policies.
Western governments are deepening anti-worker austerity. ALBA, on the other hand, is investing in social and job security, and promoting public policies to benefit the people. This makes Latin America a political, economic, social and moral reference point for the peoples of the world.
ALBA is based on two fundamental tenets: respect for national sovereignty and self-determination, and the creation of relations between countries based on solidarity, equality, justice and integration.
ALBA has promoted a number of important initiatives aimed at promoting a multi-polar world, building an alternative economic structure, creating new relations between progressive governments and social movements in Latin America, and alleviating the huge levels of poverty in our region.
This includes building an alternative financial architecture at the service of the people. The ALBA bank was been created to finance programs to expand social benefits.
Similarly, we have the SUCRE (Unified System for Regional Compensation), a virtual currency that aims to replace the US dollar in the various preferential and special trade agreements among member-nations.
Such trade agreements do not fit within the logic of capitalism, such as Venezuela’s provision of cheap oil to countries that cannot afford to meet the needs of their people due to the high prices on the international market.
Another example is the agreement between Venezuela and Cuba to exchange oil for doctors. Within capitalism, such an agreement is impossible. How do you quantify in monetary terms the value of a doctor and the impact of free health care on the lives of ordinary people?
ALBA is establishing relations that are not based on accumulating capital or making profit. ALBA's investment is an investment whose return is based on satisfying the basic needs and wellbeing of the people of ALBA countries and others.
Another example is ALBA's program dedicated to the needs of the disabled. This program sends armies of doctors and health workers to go door-to-door finding those with disabilities to provide them with needed attention.
So far, the program has assisted more than 3 million people in ALBA and non-ALBA countries.
Medical attention is provided to disabled people, along with any instruments they may need to live a dignified life, free of charge.
We are also carrying out campaigns to provide free education, free health care and free literacy programs across Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Latin American School of Medicine in Venezuela is another ALBA initiative. It is training students for free from Palestine, Africa and Latin America to become doctors with a humanist attitude, ready to treat patients, not clients.
ALBA is incorporating social movements and popular organisations into its organisational structure, with voice and vote. Nothing like this has been seen before.
There has never existed an international organisation in which social movements participate as equals with governments.
Within ALBA, we have the presidential, political, economy and social councils. In a horizontal manner, we have sitting side by side with them the social movements’ council.
At the ninth ALBA summit in Caracas in April last year, the social movement council was proposed as a space to propose social and economic polices for ALBA, rather than to simply raise sectorial concerns.
We saw this in practice at the 10th ALBA summit held in Ecuador in June last year. The heads of states of ALBA member-nations met with indigenous and afro-descendent groups from across the region to draft policies to benefit those that historically have been the most excluded sectors of society.
A number of social movements from non-ALBA countries are taking part in building a social movements' platform in support of ALBA. This means that social movements anywhere in the world, including Australia, could integrate into this platform of social movements.
The proposal is being pushed by many social movements, in particular Brazil's Movement of Landless Peasants (MST), to consolidate, strengthen and build solidarity with the pro-people policies of Latin American progressive governments.
On behalf of the people of Venezuela, I would like to thank the solidarity work done by the AVSN, especially the solidarity brigades that have visited our homeland. The solidarity expressed by those that have spent time with our people is of tremendous importance.
We know that our peoples are united in the struggle for a better world, one in which, as [Bolivian President] Evo Morales says, we must guarantee the rights of Mother Earth, because without Mother Earth there is no future for humanity.
Karl Marx wrote that in the 19th century that the spectre of communism was haunting Europe. In the 21st century, the spirit of The Indignants is haunting the world a global indignation that requires organisation and politicisation to truly change the world.
Venezuela and ALBA will continue to do all it can to make this a reality.