Monday, September 28, 2009

ALBA: Latin American Integration for Political Sovereignty and Economic Independence

A Brief Overview of ALBA's Values, and 21st Century Sustainable Ideas

The dysfunctional, status-quo, market-oriented system has given Latin America nothing other than economic and social crisis for decades, focusing solely on foreign investment, and measuring national progress and living conditions by inaccurate growth rates. It is an unrealistic model of infinite growth, precisely at a time when we need to immediately and considerably check our consumption habits, and slow the exploitation of the planet. Evo Morales has said that "Mother Earth cannot be a piece of merchandise.... Under capitalism, we are not human beings, but consumers. Under capitalism, mother earth does not exist, instead there are raw materials."

As both an economic and a social alternative, ALBA will work to develop a completely different way of reshaping society, focusing instead on the development of human capital, namely through improved health and education. These social programs emanating from ALBA, known as missions, operate in many South American countries, even many which are not official members of ALBA. The Cuban 'Yo, Si Puedo' reading and writing campaign, for example, has wiped out illiteracy in Venezuela and Bolivia, Bolivia being the most recent announcing itself free of illiteracy in December 2008. 'Operacion Milagro', a program to provide free eye care procedures and restore eyesight has benefitted more than one million eight hundred thousand people in 35 countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa. And, directly in the field of education, the formation of thousands of doctors, technical professionals, and engineers free of charge is strengthening the social and communal fabric of Latin America. The creation of Bolivarian universities in Venezuela to promote social embodiment, and the introduction of Indigenous universities in Bolivia are strong examples.

As a 21st century alternative, ALBA must encourage and support cooperative workplaces with democratic decision-making, and smaller-scale, local, and sustainable production and consumption. Financial and technical collaboration between nations will provide cohesion to existing state industries and newly-acquired ones, to strengthen industry in general, and to prevent the flight of foreign capital, and subsequent instability and unemployment.

ALBA, in contrast to other regional trade organizations, is putting forward cooperation in trade of goods and services for sustainable resources and food security, toward the goal of self-sufficiency for the continent. This begins with the development of local and national agriculture and industry to end foreign dependence. Most of Latin America, and especially South America, is an area where forests and rivers are plentiful, and where the land is extremely rich in natural resources, from a large variety of food crops, to natural gas, oil, and minerals. Despite this tremendous natural wealth, Latin America is heavily dependent on imports, namely food imports, a trend which must be urgently reversed; as Jose Marti has said, "a people that cannot produce its own food are slaves; they don't have the slightest freedom. If a society doesn't produce what it eats, it will always be dependent on someone else". Food sovereignty, by extension, will serve to protect traditional and indigenous culture, subsistence, and employment. In other words, if the peoples of Latin America wish to attain genuine and permanent independence, they must first and foremost break the economic chains of neo-liberalism. Capitalist globalization is attempting to turn Latin America into another cookie jar, and ALBA must be there as the necessary alternative to reclaim the continent's markets and resources, not in competition with the rest of the world, but in collaboration, to ensure that the economy serves as a tool for the prosperity of people, and not the other way around.

Ideologically, ALBA will help to build anti-imperialist solidarity in a tangible way, and not just in rhetoric. ALBA serves as an engine for the battle of ideas, as a means to disseminate the human values of love, truth, justice, equality, and community, to break with the invisible cage of selfishness and individualism, qualities which are inherent in the culture of capitalism.

One of the main components working in concert with ALBA will be the Banco Del Sur (or Bank of the South), which will serve as a necessary feature, for the time being, to counter the capital power of the traditional international finance and lending institutions. The Banco Del Sur will provide countries and people with an alternative to weaken the economic grip of, namely, the International Monetary Fund(IMF), The World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank(IADB), and to minimize the influence of the World Trade Organization, at least in Latin America and the Caribbean. Typically the IMF, and the World Bank, etc. will hand out loans packaged with conditions of economic structural adjustments, trade liberalization, and privatization, and often with extremely high interest rates. The Banco Del Sur on the other hand will charge very low interest rates, and will be geared toward social programs and development. The original founding members of the Bank are Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Ecuador. One of the main tenets along with the initial idea for the bank is that each member is assigned one vote, regardless of the size of its financial contribution. On Sunday Sept.27, 2009 the second Africa South America Summit (ASA) took place on Isla Margarita, and in addition to expanding South-South solidarity across the Atlantic, the original seven Banco Del Sur countries concluded the formalized creation of the bank, with a start-up capital of $ 20 billion. Hugo Chavez even floated the idea of adding African countries as members in the future to expand the bank under the new name of BancASA. Chavez also announced intentions to create PETROSUR oil company, an intercontinental oil giant to serve the peoples of Africa and South America.

Simply put, we proclaim ALBA for liberty, because self-sufficiency is self-determination.

The current brutal military coup in Honduras, which continues its attempts to cut down the peaceful resistance on a daily basis, has attacked not only Hondurans, but the Bolivarian movement as a whole. This aggression has reaffirmed with absolute certainty that the reactionary forces of the hemisphere will not tolerate social advancement, and will not go quietly, or peacefully. The relevance of ALBA suddenly becomes even more imperative, and undeniable.

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