ALBA Summit Creates New Model for Latin American Integration

The Fifth Summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) finished Sunday with important agreements to form a new model of integration for Latin America. Heads of state from Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti left Venezuela today after signing several strategic agreements and establishing a formal organizational structure for ALBA.

By Chris Carlson - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Mérida, April 30, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— The Fifth Summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) finished Sunday with important agreements to form a new model of integration for Latin America. Heads of state from Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti left Venezuela today after signing several strategic agreements and establishing a formal organizational structure for ALBA.

"The history of the people has once again begun to march forward," said Venezuela President Hugo Chávez yesterday upon closing the two-day event.

The Fifth ALBA Summit finished on Sunday after the heads of state met with representatives of different social movements from around Latin America. The heads of state present were: Evo Morales of Bolivia, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, René Préval of Haiti, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and Cuban Vice-president Carlos Lage. Ecuador, Uruguay, Dominique, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines also all sent delegations to the summit.

As the final event of the summit, the Presidents and delegations met with various leaders of social movements from Honduras, Peru, El Salvador, Chile, Cuba, and other countries, where they agreed on the formation of an ALBA Council of Social Movements as a fundamental body in the organizational structure of ALBA.

The proposal was first made by President Hugo Chávez who then suggested that leaders of the social movements meet in Havana in the near future to discuss the formation of the new council. The Council of Social Movements will make up the new organizational structure of ALBA along with a Council of ALBA Ministers and a Council of ALBA Presidents. The purpose is to give the ALBA model a structural organization with the inclusion of the social movements to allow for grassroots participation in decision-making.

Among the first proposals agreed upon during the summit include integrated joint projects in many different areas under the names ALBA Education, ALBA Health, ALBA Cultural, ALBA Commerce, ALBA Food, ALBA Telecommunications, ALBA Transportation, ALBA Industry, ALBA Energy, and many more. The leaders also discussed the implementation of Venezuela's and Cuba's social programs throughout the other ALBA countries, and Haiti.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez also made several energy proposals including the supplying of all the ALBA nations with Venezuelan crude. Perhaps more importantly, leaders also signed an agreement to build a new regional energy system based on efficient use of resources and the substitution of gasoline for natural gas. ALBA countries would implement means to raise the consumption of natural gas substituting it for the more expensive and dirtier traditional fuels.

"Bolivia and Venezuela have the largest natural gas reserves on the continent," said Chávez.

Chávez also proposed the idea of the construction of a petrochemical plant in Haiti, along with an oil refinery to refine the crude sent from Venezuela. He also proposed the construction of refineries in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, Dominica, and Cuba. Chavez also said his government has plans to sell the seven refineries that it owns in the United States and to build a new network of refineries in Latin America.

"We offer to Latin America… as we sell off those refineries [in the US], or before, to construct new refineries or expand existing ones like in Cuba, and send our petroleum, instead of to the United States, to refine it there, to generate employment there," said Chávez.

Political Declarations

At the closing event of the summit on Sunday, leaders of the ALBA countries signed several joint political declarations. The final document included a declaration to condemn the United States for their release of international terrorist Posada Carriles. All member countries also signed a declaration in support of the Venezuelan government with regards to the recent decision to not renew the broadcast license of the private channel RCTV. The declaration recognized the need to democratize the airwaves and the sovereign right of the Venezuela government's decision.

President Chávez also denounced the OAS Human Rights Commission for taking the side of RCTV in their recent decision to take the case before the Human Rights Court. Chávez threatened to withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS) if the organization finds his government guilty in the RCTV case.

"If the OAS, after everything that has happened here, censures Venezuela, then Venezuela will withdraw from the OAS. Cuba withdrew and it didn't kill them," said Chávez at the summit this weekend. Chávez claimed that the OAS, like the World Bank and IMF, have been shown to be illegitimate organizations.

Bolivia also made the proposal for the ALBA countries to withdraw from the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a World Bank organization that played a role in the Bolivian Gas Wars in 2005 when multinational corporations tried to force the Bolivian government to pay indemnizations to them. All ALBA members signed the declaration and agreed to withdraw from the multinational body.

President Chávez suggested that at the next ALBA Summit agreements be signed between social movements, as well as between social movements and governments. He also suggested that the next summit be held in Bolivia or Cuba.

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