Caracas, June 28th, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The curtains were drawn on the tenth Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba) in Ecuador last Friday with a declaration that proposed a new progressive economic trade agreement and a recognition of the importance of the indigenous and afro-descendant communities to the future development of the alliance.
Three hundred indigenous and Afro-Caribbean groupings attended the summit in the city of Otavalo, 40 miles north of the capital Quito, alongside a similar number of delegates from the 10 member countries Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Antigua y Barbuda, Dominica, y San Vicente y the Granadines. Representatives from Paraguay and Guatemala also attended the summit as observers.
The attendees took part in four working groups – cultural exchange in the public sector, exercising economic political and social rights against racism and discrimination, climate change and the defence of Mother Earth, and international trade among the peoples and the objectives of the People’s Trade Agreement (Alba-TCP).
After the conclusion of the working group discussions, the countries’ leaders incorporated them into the Declaration of Otavalo, which they signed at the close of the summit.
The declaration confirmed the goal of a progressive, culturally diverse, and economically and environmentally sustainable Latin America. Delegates also heard speeches and debate on sovereignty, democracy and anti-imperialism.
The Ecuadorean Minister for Peoples, Social Movements and Citizen Participation, Alexandra Ocles Padilla, said that Alba had to “generate mechanisms that make the capacity of our countries to join a process towards a People’s Trade Agreement visible.”
Reflecting on the summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez described what he said was the new task of the Alba by saying that “this battle … apart from being a relentless struggle against colonialism as a structure and system of external domination” is also a permanent struggle “against the internal colonialism that dominates, exploits, oppresses and discriminates along ethnic and racial lines.”
Echoing Chavez, Bolivian President Evo Morales said that for Alba’s objectives to be achieved, unity, both among countries and among the groups within them, was essential.
“Allies are necessary inside nations and between them in order to face the conspiracy that still threatens the processes of structural change that is ongoing in Bolivia and other Latin American countries,” he said.
And referring to some US NGOs that act against the interests of his government, Morales warned, “US imperialism uses diverse strategies to weaken the processes of social liberation that have begun in Latin America.”
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa used the summit as a platform to make a direct demand from the incoming president of neighbouring Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, to apologise for the bombing of a base of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) in March 2008, located unbeknown to Correa and his government, on the Ecuadorean side of their shared border, in complete violation of international law.
Santo was minister of defence at the time of the attack and expressed his pride at the action, which resulted in the death of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) second-in-command Raul Reyes and 25 others. Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe subsequently apologised for the illegal bombing.
On Friday, Correa said that he hoped Santos would “at least” ratify Uribe’s words. The two countries still have not fully restored diplomatic relations because of the incident.
Chavez also raised concerns about Colombia and suggested that Santos might rethink the location of US military bases in Colombia.
“Let’s hope the new government in Colombia withdraws the Yankee bases from the sacred territory of the sister nation Colombia,” he said, adding that if they did it would demonstrate a “desire to change” from Bogota.
ALBA has its roots in an agreement between Venezuela and Cuba in December 2004 in opposition to the neo-liberal “free” trade agreements being pushed by the US in the region. Venezuela was to exchange oil with Cuba while Havana was to send doctors and educational expertise to Venezuela.
The member countries of ALBA are also considering the possibility of creating a common currency, the Sucre, for trading purposes between ALBA nations. This would remove the transaction costs associated with using an external currency such as the dollar for trade.