The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) marked its 10th anniversary in Havana over the weekend in nostalgic mood. At its 13th summit, the group reminisced over important moments in its history – Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez signing the agreement that created the forum in 2004, as well as the 20th anniversary of the first meeting between the two men in 1994, back when the late Venezuelan president was a lieutenant colonel who had just been released from military prison and the Cuban leader seemed like the last Mohican of socialism on a planet wrapped up in a neoliberal frenzy.
That meeting “gave rise to a close friendship, based on shared ideas and goals, which had a remarkable influence on the region and in the emancipatory processes of the last few decades,” said Raúl Castro, Fidel’s brother and current president of Cuba, in his opening remarks at the summit. The absence of “the two founding fathers,” as the participants called them, led to the strange circumstance of several speakers referring to the former Cuban leader as they might talk about someone who had passed away, despite the fact that he remains in the capital, convalescing just a few kilometers away.
Maduro has called a massive demonstration in Caracas to protest against Washington’s “interventionist” stance
Included on the event program, as well as in its 40-point final declaration, were expressions of solidarity with the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and condemnation aimed at the United States, where lawmakers are pushing for sanctions against some Venezuelan civil servants and military officials. On December 10, both houses of the United States Congress passed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, a bill sponsored by the Republicans. The measure will allow authorities to seize the properties and freeze the assets of 56 Venezuelan officials who participated in efforts to repress demonstrations that took place in several cities throughout the country in February 2014. The law, which will also allow the American government to deport those individuals and revoke their visas, awaits the president’s signature.
Maduro, who co-chaired the ALBA summit with Raúl Castro, has mobilized all available diplomatic resources to respond to those potential US sanctions and use them to stir up patriotic indignation. He has called a massive demonstration for Monday along Caracas’s Avenida Bolívar to protest against Washington’s “interventionist” stance.
The conference also welcomed two new members: Grenada, a country that was invaded by the United States in 1983 under the Ronald Reagan administration, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Now all the English-speaking islands in the Lesser Antilles, in the eastern Caribbean, are ALBA members.
The conference also welcomed two new members: Grenada, and Saint Kitts and Nevis
All country representatives thanked Cuba and Venezuela for their efforts at integration and their subsidized oil without which, as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said: “We would not have survived the global financial crisis.”
Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glass stood in for President Rafael Correa, while Bolivian leader Evo Morales and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega both delivered speeches. To counteract possible US sanctions on Venezuela, Ortega suggested that ALBA members should create their own annual lists of terrorist nations to isolate. “The Yankee government would be the first,” he said.
Translation: Dyane Jean François