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Nicaragua Joins Venezuela in Regional Association and Cooperation Agreements

Caracas, January 12, 2007 (— Nicaragua’s newly elected President Daniel Ortega signed 15 cooperation agreements with Venezuela and agreed to have his country join Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.” Venezuela also forgave Nicaragua’s debt to Venezuela.

Following his inauguration as President on Wednesday, Venezuela’s President Chavez traveled to Nicaragua, where he attended Daniel Ortega’s inauguration which took place on the same day as his own inauguration. Ortega received Chavez as a guest of honor, together with President Evo Morales of Bolivia.

In his first official act upon assuming the presidency, Ortega signed an agreement for Nicaragua to join the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) yesterday, to which Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia already belong. The grouping was conceived by Venezuela as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and is supposed to base relations between countries on solidarity instead of free trade.

According to Ortega, ALBA is “based in solidarity, cooperation, complementarity, and mutual aid,” and aims to rescue “our identity, participatory democracy, and economic development with equity.”

Morales, stated that “ALBA has defeated ALCA [FTAA in its Spanish aconym].” Originally the Bush administration had hoped to have the FTAA in place throughout Latin America by 2005, but most countries refused to sign it and the U.S. abandoned it, signing instead bilateral free trade agreements with various countries, such as Colombia and Peru.

With his usual rhetorical flair, Chavez said, “We cannot give ourselves the luxury of a new historical defeat. No! This century must be the century of our America, of our liberation, of the definitive breaking of the chains of imperialism.” Chavez then added, “Death to imperialism!” and clarified that he meant the “moral and political” death of imperialism, not the physical. “We do not have plans to invade the United States. This has not been planned yet,” joked Chavez.

As one of the first agreements between Venezuela and Nicaragua, Chavez announced that Venezuela would forgive “without conditions” Nicaragua’s debt to Venezuela of about $31.3 million.

Another agreement includes a feasibility study of having Venezuela construct a refinery in Nicaragua, whose income would allow the Nicaraguan people “to liberate yourselves from the International Monetary Fund,” said Chavez. The refinery would have a capacity of 100,000 barrels per day.

Other bilateral agreements between Venezuela and Nicaragua include the supply of 10 million barrels of discounted oil per day and the donation of $10 million for social programs. The leaders also signed a letter of intent to study the construction of an aluminum factory, the creation of a food distribution network, and a contract for the purchase of Nicaraguan beans.

Venezuela is already sending 32 electricity generators to Nicaragua, to help the country overcome its chronic blackouts. The first of these generators was to arrive on the day of Ortega’s inauguration.

According to the news agency AFP, the agreements are valued at $600 million.

Following the signing of the ALBA and the bilateral agreements, Chavez went to Nicaragua’s National Engineering University, where he received an honorary doctorate.

Published on Jan 12th 2007 at 8.11pm