ALBA: Hope and Alliance of the Peoples of the Americas

By Alejandra Garcia on December 14, 2021 from Havana

photo: Prensa Latina

Hugo Chávez never forgot the first time he stepped on Cuban soil on December 13, 1994. To his surprise, Fidel was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs of the plane. One photo immortalized that historic encounter: On the right, the Cuban leader, on the left, Chavez, both smiling, dressed in olive green with their arms tightly clasping each other’s shoulders.

Ten years later, Fidel and Chavez founded the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP), a mechanism of political agreement and solidarity between fraternal nations, which the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution himself considered that it “was born from that first hug”.

Seventeen years after that meeting and that brotherhood, Havana welcomed the presidents of ten Latin American nations, members of ALBA, for a new edition of the summit, which took place on Tuesday, December 14.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his counterparts from Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; and Bolivia, Luis Arce are some of the Latin American leaders who arrived on Cuban soil today to attend the “most necessary summit of these times,” as they called it.

“We have arrived in Cuba remembering the encounter between two Giants, Commanders Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, who had a great brotherhood and one common dream: the Latin American union. That’s where our paths come from: the ideal of Bolivar and Marti, their heroism and their struggles,” Maduro tweeted the instant his plane landed on Jose Marti International Airport runway on Monday.

“This is our space, our home. Here we all are like brothers and sisters. There are no powerful people who dominate, and no blackmailing, scolding, or threats. Here we are all equal,” he said a day later, during his speech at the event held at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana.

This new edition comes after two years of an unprecedented health crisis. However, these were months of a lot of action. According to the attendees, the emergency caused by the Covid-19 made the Alliance stronger than ever before. During these hard months, the Latin American leaders coordinated actions to contain the virus and created a humanitarian fund for vaccines and medicines.

In 2021 forces were also mobilized to support the people and government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines during the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano, and several forums were held to boost cooperation for social and economic programs in the region.

“The decisions taken during the Virtual Summit we held one year ago were a success. Together we stood up for solidarity so that the peoples of ALBA would not lack medicines nor vaccines,” Maduro added.

Amidst the worst crisis the world has ever faced, ALBA-TCP did not lose its way. It adjusted the practice of solidarity, which is the foundational principle of the Alliance, to the conditions and possibilities of each nation. Cooperation was not long in coming.

The achievements could have been much more if it were not for the unjust international economic order, which, along with the pandemic, increased poverty, unemployment, and inequality indexes in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The most terrible thing about these months were the neoliberal decisions that favor the plundering of resources from the impoverished nations of the South. The Sanctions didn’t stop, not even amid the global health emergency,” Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel explained.

For Daniel Ortega, the region is experiencing another pandemic: the savage of capitalism and imperialism that destroys states and provokes chaos in the name of democracy. “Cuba is an example of what dignity and conscience mean. It is a symbol of resistance and creation, despite adversities.”

This is the first summit to be held in Cuba, the Caribbean island facing hundreds of sanctions by Joe Biden’s administration, and the one that struggles to overcome the economic hardship caused by a 60-plus-year blockade.

“We are proud to hold the first face-to-face summit in Cuba, the island that gives lessons to the world on how not to bow down to unjust and suffocating sanctions,” ALBA-TCP Executive Secretary Sacha Llorenti clarified.

“Bolivia’s response to the Republic of Cuba will always be about more solidarity and more social justice for our peoples. The island is not alone. Latin America is united,” President Luis Arce added.

The historic significance of this summit was not lost on any of the leaders in attendance who have not forgotten they were not invited to the recent Summit for Democracy by the Biden Administration. The contrast could not have been greater. Biden’s event was to strong arm weaker countries to get in line or else while the ALBA conference in Havana was all about solidarity, co operation, trust and mutual respect.

Despite the challenges, the region remains steadfast. ALBA continues to be as necessary as it was that day in December when Fidel and Chavez joined in an embrace and vindicated a dream longed for centuries. That warm hug became the hope and the Alliance of the people of our America.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English