We are not merely spectators. This world is also our world. Nothing can take the place of our united action. No one will take the word for us. We alone, and only united, can cast off the unjust political and economic world order that is imposed on our peoples
—Fidel Castro Ruz, Eleventh Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, October 18, 1995.
However, two events during that year heralded a revival of a spirit of struggle among the peoples. The renewal would change the political landscape over the next twenty years, bringing socialist and progressive movements to political power in Latin America, and changing the discourse of the international organizations of Third World governments, such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77. The first event was the Zapatista uprising in Mexico. And the second was the emergence from prison of Hugo Chávez, released by the demand of the people, who admired his courage and commitment to principles, evident in his leadership of a failed coup d’état that sought to establish a new Constitution in Venezuela.
In December of that year, Chávez undertook his first trip to Cuba. He had been a great admirer of the Cuban Revolution, but he had not previously met Fidel. When he arrived in Cuba, he was surprised to find the leader of the Cuban Revolution waiting for him at the foot of the steps of the airplane. Nicolás Maduro years later would describe their embrace as the encounter of two revolutions.
Ten years later, when the renewed social movements had established more favorable political conditions for the process of Latin American unity and integration, Fidel and Chávez founded the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA for its initials in Spanish). It was conceived as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA; in Spanish, ALCA), which was a U.S. proposal for a U.S.-directed integration that encompassed Latin America, the Caribbean, the USA, and Canada. ALCA was never implemented, as it was blocked by the renewed popular movements and the emerging progressive governments of America, buried at the 2005 Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina (see “The fall of the FTAA” 3/7/2014 in the category Latin American Unity).
Chávez previously, in 2001, had conceived of a Bolivarian alternative to the U.S. controlled project of integration, and he announced the idea at a meeting of the Association of Caribbean States in Margarita Island, Venezuela in December of that year. Fidel enthusiastically supported the idea, and the two communicated in writing concerning the details. They signed the joint declaration establishing ALBA on December 14, 2004 (see “The rise of ALBA” 3/11/2014 in the Category Latin American Unity).
Bolivia was incorporated into ALBA in 2009. The word “Alternative” became “Alliance,” and the name of the organization was changed to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Commercial Treaty for the Peoples (ALBA-TCP).
ALBA-TCP now has eleven members. In addition to the two founding nations and Bolivia, they are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada.
ALBA celebrated its fourteenth anniversary with its Sixteenth Summit, held in Havana on December 14, 2108, issuing a Declaration entitled, “In Defense of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.” It declared the need for a new, more just world-system, in which the sovereignty of nations and the right of self-determination of peoples are respected. “We reiterate our will to continue to promote the construction of a new democratic, just, inclusive, and equitable international order, in which there is genuine sovereign equality among states and respect for the self-determination of peoples; an order that promotes cooperation and multilateralism.”
The Declaration rejects “interventionism” in the internal affairs of states. And it rejects “unilateral coercive actions,” by which it means actions undertaken by a single powerful state against governments of which it does not approve, without consultation or dialogue with other states, and with the intention of creating such economic hardship and political instability that the targeted state would be forced to abandon its political-economic project. Examples of such unilateral coercive actions include the long-standing U.S. economic, commercial, and financial blockade of Cuba. And they include the economic war against Venezuela and the destabilization campaign against Nicaragua, both unleashed by the U.S. government with the cooperation of local actors with particular economic interests. The Declaration insists that such unilateral coercive actions violate the United Nations Charter and International Law.
The Declaration calls for the unity of the Latin American and Caribbean nations. It maintains that unity and cooperation will enhance their capacity to resist such unilateral coercive measures and “to confront the interference and domination historically imposed by the hegemonic global powers.”
The Declaration specifically rejects the coercive measures taken against Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. It especially expresses concern with the threats of the use of force against Venezuela, in opposition to the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, emitted by the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States celebrated in Havana on January 28-29, 2014. It rejects the interventionist policy of the Organization of American States (OAS) with respect to Venezuela, Nicaragua, and other countries. It expresses solidarity with Lula Da Silva, a political prisoner in Brazil. It supports the just and historic right of Bolivia to sovereign access to the sea, and it calls upon Chile and Bolivia to reinitiate dialogue, within the framework of the judgment of the International Court. It supports the Caribbean countries in their demand for compensation for the genocide of the native population and the horrors of slavery and the slave trade. It reaffirms commitment to confront climate change, which is a consequence of the irrational and unsustainable models of production and consumption of the capitalist system.
In his address at the inauguration of the Sixteenth Summit, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel reviewed the history ALBA, and he summarized its works during the past fourteen years. Namely, more than eleven thousand doctors in the countries of ALBA have been educated in Cuba and Venezuela; more than two million persons have had eye surgeries; and more than four million have been taught to read. Moreover, through just payments for petroleum, income was made available for investments in social development, agriculture, fishing, industry, and infrastructure. Furthermore, following the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the countries of ALBA approved a plan of action to contribute to reconstruction. In addition, ALBA has developed concrete projects to increase the potential of member countries with respect to food, the environment, science and technology, just commerce, culture, education, energy, industry, mining, health, telecommunications, transportation, and tourism.
Díaz-Canel also maintained that ALBA has become a moral and political power in the region, standing in support of countries under attack by the global powers, and condemning interventionist measures. ALBA played an important role, for example, in the 2008 reversal by the Organization of American States of its infamous 1962 suspension of Cuba. In a similar vein, Ralph Gonsalvez, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, pointed out that the weight attained by the positions of ALBA in the international political context has impeded, up to now, military intervention in Venezuela by the United States.
We live in an epoch of a sustained structural crisis of the world-system (see “The terminal crisis of the world-system” 3/28/2014). The global elite first discerned the signs of the global crisis during the 1970s, and in subsequent decades, it acted decisively in defense of its interests, imposing the neoliberal project on the peoples of the world (see “What are the origins of neoliberalism?” 6/17/2016) and launching wars of aggression in the Middle East. In resistance, humanity has lifted up social movements in defense of itself, stimulating the renewal of the Third World project of national and social liberation and the coming to political power of progressive and socialist movements in Latin America (see various posts in the category Third World). In reaction to the revitalized cry of the peoples, the U.S. power elite and the Latin American Right have adopted new strategies (see various posts in the category Latin American Right), which have led to a turn to the Right by the governments of Argentina and Brazil and the fall of the Citizen Revolution in Ecuador. Now, the U.S. government in cooperation with the Latin American Right undertakes new efforts at destabilization in Venezuela and Nicaragua. In this context, the principles and good works of ALBA constitute an important declaration, in theory and practice, of the necessary road for humanity.
Fidel taught that “no one has the right to lose faith in the future of humanity.” If we are to follow this teaching, we must believe that a more just, democratic, and sustainable world-system is possible. From a framework grounded in this faith, we can see the significance of ALBA. ALBA is not, after all, merely a protest of concerned or enraged citizens, organized by popular leaders who have been called by a commitment to social justice. More than this, ALBA is a protest made by governments, and it is a protest informed by historical consciousness and theoretical analysis, and accompanied by practical steps toward implementation of its vision. Moreover, ALBA is part of an international effort to construct an alternative, more just, and sustainable world order, undertaken by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Non-Aligned Movement, the G-77 plus China, and key nations, including China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua (see various posts in the category Third World). This international movement is empirically evident, and all who are capable of setting aside a framework grounded in cynicism can see it. Furthermore, this global movement from below is emerging during a time in which the capitalist world-economy is increasingly making evident its economic, financial, and ecological unsustainability; its inherent political instability; and its underlying barbarity.