Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Jan. 27 urged his allies to form an “anti-imperialist” military alliance to defend Latin America from potential attack by the United States. Speaking on his weekly TV program Aló Presidente, he called upon Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua to unite with Venezuela and “work to form a joint defense strategy and start joining our armed forces, air forces, armies, navies, national guards, and intelligence forces. Because the enemy is the same, the empire… Anybody who messes with one of us will have to mess with all of us because we will respond as one.”
Chávez again reiterated claims that neighboring Colombia is preparing a military provocation against his country. “We are sure the Colombian government is following the line that Washington dictates,” Chávez said.
Nicaragua‘s President Daniel Ortega, who accompanied Chávez on the program, added that US officials are using Colombia as a strategic pawn in an effort to counter regional integration initiatives championed by Chávez. “This isn’t just against Venezuela, it’s against the integration process,” said Ortega, who was in Caracas for the summit meeting of the Chávez-led Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). (AP, Jan. 29; VenezuelAnalysis, Jan. 28)
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Dominica joins ALBA
The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA)—a trade pact formed by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004 as an alternative to the virtually defunct US-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)—held its sixth conference Jan. 25-26 in Caracas. At the conference the Caribbean nation of Dominica officially joined the group, which by 2007 had grown to include Bolivia and Nicaragua. Representatives attended from Ecuador, Honduras, Uruguay, Haiti and several other Caribbean nations.
The meeting included the signing of several trade agreements, with Nicaragua pledging to supply milk, corn, beans and beef to Venezuela while Venezuela sells Nicaragua oil under preferential terms. Cuba has an agreement to send doctors to Venezuela in exchange for oil discounts. The conference also announced the creation of an ALBA bank, starting with $1 billion to $1.5 billion of capital, to support joint efforts such as farming projects and energy ventures.
ALBA’s growth remains slow. In Ecuador and Haiti plans to join face strong internal opposition. The principles behind ALBA are “like motherhood. You can’t be against them,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonzalez of St. Vincent and Grenadines said. “But when you start to add names—[Venezuelan president Hugo] Chávez, [Cuban president Fidel] Castro, [Nicaraguan president Daniel] Ortega—people get scared. So we have to educate our people before we can become full members.” Joel Suarez of Cuba’s Martin Luther King Center stressed the importance of involving social movements to back governments’ efforts to join ALBA. (CommonDreams.org, Jan. 28)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 3