ALBA Aims to be a Zone Free of Extreme Poverty

The 12th Summit of ALBA-TCP (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Trade Agreement among the Peoples) concluded with the Declaration of ALBA from the Pacific (, on July 30, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The presidential meeting formalized the adhesion of Saint Lucia as a new member of this integrationist process, and pledged "to convert our countries, not to free trade zones, but to zones free of hunger, illiteracy, extreme poverty and marginalization."

Among the agreements adopted, a high level commission will be set up "to draft a proposal for the establishment of a Complementary Economic Zone among adherents of ALBA, Mercosur and Petrocaribe, which will be put to consideration of the aforesaid institutions".

In this vein, the Declaration points out that "complementarity and solidarity, rather than competition between our countries, should be privileged as guidelines for economic integration, as the only way to strengthen the material base of the alternative project represented by ALBA, and in this way, to ensure the continuity and a new impetus for the successful social programmes that characterize the Alliance."

The fulfillment of this project demands "an integral and alternative vision of development", focused on "those areas in which we can establish synergies (…). Particularly in areas such as energy, intraregional trade, food production, intermediate industries, investment and finance" notes the document. There will also be an effort to establish new relationships on an international level, for which a proposal will be made to the group known as "BRICS" (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).

Other decisions made in this Summit include the creation of a consultative group to study risks arising from complex socioeconomic problems; the formation of a technical-juridical team to prepare a formal complaint against the United States in the United Nations, due to their having established a massive system of espionage on a world level, in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (as was recently revealed by the former agent Edward Snowden); and to reinforce cooperation with Haiti in health, education and social programmes. Haiti, together with Argentina and Uruguay, took part in the meeting as observers.

Synchrony with social movements

At the end of the meeting, the heads of state took part in a massive rally in the Coliseo Voltaire Paladines where they were formally presented with the Declaration of Guayaquil ( derived from the Summit of Social Movements of ALBA, which had begun the day before. This Declaration shares the vision of seeking "a new multi-pole and pluri-centric world order, based on horizontal political and economic international relations that respect the balance between human beings and nature."

At the same time, it repudiates any attempt to return to direct government by the private business sector (neoliberalism) and "endeavours to renovate imperialist hegemony as expressed, among others, in the Alianza del Pacífico" (Pacific Alliance), which tends to favour "private and elitist interests, which are not concerned for the common good."

In comments to the press, Bolivian President Evo Morales noted that "for the first time I feel that anti-imperialist presidents and governments are organizing (together) to accompany our peoples, themselves organized in social movements to face the policies of hunger, looting and invasion", and indicated that this action moves him to think that ALBA is once again taking on its task of the defence of peoples. Also, Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, on reading the Declaration of Guayaquil of the social movements, recognized its synchronicity with the vision of the presidents of ALBA.

The movements' declaration underlines the challenge of stepping up the participation of social movements in the establishment of "this great alliance of peoples and of strengthening People Power in our countries and in the region." Along these lines, the document points out that the concrete achievements of social struggles for justice, their proposals in the defence and projection of ancestral peoples and those of African descent, and their visions of Buen Vivir / Vivir Bien (Good Living) constitute "the best contribution of the peoples and movements that have made their own the proposals of ALBA in their struggles of resistance to capitalism." At the same time, it makes a call to "go forward in an organic and full incorporation of People Power in the decision-making process within ALBA.

New mechanisms of domination

Both the official declaration and that of the social movements express concern about Bilateral Investment Agreements (BITs) and international arbitration bodies such as ICSID which have allowed transnational corporations to present multimillion demands against Nation-States for supposed damages and injuries, as is the case of the Chevron and Oxy petroleum companies against Ecuador. The official declaration describes them as "new mechanisms of domination" that put at risk "the stability of our countries — even their economic solvency — through judicial processes clearly marred by nullity, abuse and collusion of interests." Although the Declaration also points out that it "does not imply the complete rejection of Direct Foreign Investment, but rather an intelligent relationship with it." For their part, the social movements demand an audit of the Bilateral Investment Treaties and a rejection not only of these but of any commercial instruments that "put the reproduction of capital ahead of the reproduction of life."

With respect to the issues of information security and massive espionage, the social movements express support for the standpoint of dignity taken by the governments and for their efforts "to unmask the mechanisms of imperialist control, such as espionage, the usurpation and storage of data on countries and persons." In the face of this, they propose the development of initiatives of technological and knowledge sovereignty, with a particular emphasis on the importance of furthering efforts to develop the region's own telecommunications mechanisms as well as free/open source software.

In addition, they encourage intensifying processes to democratize communication, so as to "affirm the right of peoples to communicate freely and to adopt models of socialist redistribution of radio frequencies."

Other themes that are taken up by the Declaration of social movements include the agrarian revolution, including plans for agroecology and fair trade; the de-patriarchalization of the State, and the struggle against racism.

For Irene León, spokesperson of the movements' Summit, the Declaration is "a forceful statement to the effect that the ALBA countries should analyze, understand and eliminate as far as possible the instruments of imperialist control in the region."

For his part, the campesino leader and spokesperson Romelio Guamán believes that in this process, the social movement should have a clear understanding of its leadership, its strategy and its own autonomy. And he notes that the movements have formed their own plan of action. Indigenous peoples, those of African descent, rural sectors, women and youth all interchanged and formulated proposals for the organization of movements, whose next meeting is in Cochabamba as from July 31st, with the "International Meeting for the Defence of Human Rights and the Sovereignty of Our Peoples".

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