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August 2006

ALBA: Latin America's anti-imperialist economic project

Cuba, Venezuela and other countries on the Latin American continent are rejecting the neo-liberal model of integration and development.


“The Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA) is a different proposal of integration. Whilst the Free Trade Area of the Americas (ALCA or FTAA) responds to the interests of transnational capital and pursues the absolute liberalization of trade in goods, services and investment, ALBA puts the emphasis on the struggle against poverty and social exclusion and, therefore, it expresses the interests of the Latin American peoples.”[1] 

To many, when ALBA was proposed it smacked of an interesting piece of rhetoric which did not and would not go beyond the exchange of Venezuelan oil for Cuban doctors. 

However, there is much more substance to the proposal than just a Cuba-Venezuela ‘axis’. The growing resonance of ALBA and the number of Latin American countries which are in various degrees, joining the Bolivarian process of integration, show that ALBA has gone well beyond being merely an abstract aspiration and a purely Cuba-Venezuela alliance. 

Brutal logic 

The reason for the current success of ALBA can be found in the abysmal record of thirty years of unabated neo-liberalism in the continent. The figures confirm this: in the late 1970s Latin America had 19% of its population living in poverty; in 2004 it was 44% (in 1990, when neo-liberalism was running high, poverty reached 48.3% of the whole population.)



The brutal logic of the model of capital accumulation known as neo-liberalism necessitated the drastic economic restructuring of the regional economies, which involved:- 

the complete elimination of protection for national industry, 
 
the favouring of those sections of the economy that produced for the external market, 
 
the elimination of all restrictions to the influx and operation of foreign capital in the national economy, 
 
the privatization of all state assets, 
 
and the elimination of all welfare provision. 

With a few exceptions, it was ‘Third Way’ political currents/parties that became the instrument for either the consolidation and/or deepening of neo-liberal policies in the region. 

True, in most nations of the Southern Cone of South America, neo-liberalism was originally imposed through fire and blood by nasty dictatorships such as in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

'Third Way' to poverty

But it was 'Third Way' administrations such as the Concertación in Chile, the Peronist Menem in Argentina, the traditional parties, Blanco and Colorado, in Uruguay, the MIR-Banzer alliance in Bolivia, ADECO and COPEI in Venezuela, Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s Partido Social Democratico Brasileiro, in Brazil, and the most pro-US factions within the Mexican PRI, just to cite the most prominent examples, which systematized, perfected and consolidated neo-liberalism in these countries. 

They were coalitions heavily based on the support of the middle classes and the better-off sections of the working class but politically hegemonized by a small financially-oriented, national elite who got significant crumbs from the multinational companies’ table.

They crucially rested on the exclusion of large sections of society that became not only politically but also socially irrelevant. Societies such as Venezuela had over 80% of its population living in poverty where most of the proletariat was part of the informal sector eking out a very precarious living, and even ‘success stories’ such as Chile had, as late as the 1990s had about 48% of people living in poverty. The levels of social exclusion in hitherto affluent nations such as Argentina became simply catastrophic, and it was far worse in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia

The utter failure of neo-liberalism and the social catastrophe it brought over the whole the continent, led first to the rise of powerful social movements and secondly to the unraveling of the social coalitions that had made the implementation and consolidation of neo-liberalism possible – in some cases leading to the actual collapse and near disappearance of those parties.

Social movements

The social movements had, in the long and hard years of opposition to neo-liberalism, formulated their needs, but they had done it in a way that universalized them in a new type of politics which can be summarized in the World Social Forum’s slogan: Another World is Possible.

At the risk of generalizing, the combined phenomena of the crisis of legitimacy of the existing political parties and the rise of powerful social movements, led to the emergence of unusual and unorthodox political conduits through which the mass movement could and did channel their energies and effect the formulation in policy (concrete) terms of their aspirations.


Slums in Caracas, capital of Venezuela
These social movements have roots deep in the history of the nations where they have emerged. It is not surprising that they seek to establish an intellectual and political link between their own struggles of those of their ancestors, such as Bolivar, Zamora, Rodríguez, Pachakuti, Artigas, Tiradentes, Zapata, and such like.

These movements seek to ‘complete’ what their historic national political ancestors began, and are Bolivarian in a Latinoamericanista sense: they share a common history, a common ‘enemy’, face similar obstacles to their progress, are mortgaged to the same international financial institutions, suffer similar kinds of discrimination, similar kinds of social, cultural, economic and political exclusion, and are in the grip of the same straitjacket, namely, neo-liberalism. 

This is the material base on which ALBA rests.

“The epoch that has just begun through long and difficult battles, is that of President Chávez’s ALBA, that is the dream of Martí and Bolívar of a solidarious and united in social justice Latin America, the realization of the human potential of its inhabitants, the defense of their culture and the conquest of a dignified position in the century that begins.” [2]

The official document launching ALBA (Construyendo el ALBA “Nuestro Norte es el Sur”) poses the objective of building of a common, prosperous future for Latin America, one that addresses the abhorrent social inequalities and that allows the region to insert itself in the globalised world through a model with possibilities of sustainable development, that is, through an alternative economic strategy for the region, which involves fields such as culture, environment, politics, society, economics and many other features of Latin America.

ALBA is the alternative to ALCA firstly because it seeks to uphold the rights of society as a whole (the specific rights of workers, peasants, women, indigenous groups, the poor, youth, children, and so forth) and, secondly, it is the cumulative experience of the utopias which Latin Americans have attempted over the centuries since the European invasion and conquest back in the 16th century.

Thus, the new society is contained in the multifarious aspirations of the social movements and their struggles.

ALBA’s specific projects 

The agreements signed with Cuba were based on the principle of recognizing asymmetries between the partners and building in compensatory mechanisms that address these asymmetries but which do not diminish the sovereignty of any of the participants.

Since July 2002, President Chávez had been putting forward the idea of creating Petroamérica, which he did for the first time at the II Summit of South American heads of State in Guayaquil, Ecuador. This was pursued in August 2003 in Trinidad and Tobago where a Letter of Intent was signed by various countries aimed at cooperation amongst Latin American state oil and gas companies; finally, in the Iguazu Declaration of 8 July 2004 when PetroAmérica was actually established. Two days later, Caracas proposed the creation of PetroCaribe and on August 27, 2004, in Jamaica, 13 nations signed an agreement to set it up.

They are viewed as strategic alliances that rest on the commercialization oil and gas but which are based on the conservation of non-renewable natural resources, shared solidarity and social co-responsibility aimed at ensuring people’s democratic access to energy at affordable prices; they are also viewed as agreements among governments which do not envisage the fusion with private capital, nor the transfer of resources from the state to the private sector. 

The strategy consists of conceiving the state energy companies as complementary so as to have a continental reach. [3]

On 17 June 2003, Brazil and Venezuela held the third Venezuela-Brazil Entrepreneurs Encounter in the city of Manaus and at which both Lula and Chavez were present. At the event Chavez stressed the need to strengthen Mercosur, aimed at the creation of a South American regional bloc and proposed the establishment of a Fund for the Integration of Latin America to foster a model of regional integration where the interests of the peoples are above those of the market and where the aim of joint policies was the improvement in the standard of living of the poor seeking to reduce existing social inequalities through a reversal of neoliberalism and the setting up of mechanisms of regional cooperation. 

In May 2005 PetroSur was created jointly by Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela, deemed the energy enterprise of Mercosur. In August 2005, Uruguay joined the initiative which is aimed at regional economic development as well as addressing some of the most urgent social problems of the member states through social, health and educational programs, as well as plans to reduce unemployment. [4]

PetroAmerica

Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Bolivia signed, on 8 June, 2004, a long-term, gradual project whose objective is that the state energy companies involved undertake investment, exploitation and exploration of oil and natural gas jointly, first as an alliance of companies which will end up merging into a continental multinational.

Venezuela has already signed bilateral agreements with Petrobras, Petroecuador, Cupet, and Petrotrin, all seeking similar objectives to those of Petroamerica. Also Venezuela set up a refinery with Brazil in Para, Northeast of Brazil in 2002, jointly run by Petrobras and PDVSA.

The broader objective is to establish a network of oil extraction plants, refineries and petrol stations in the whole of the Brazilian North East (the country’s poorest and most populous region) to supply fuel at heavily subsided prices. In 2003, a similar agreement was signed between PDVSA and Petroecuador which gave life to the “Unidad Hidrocarbuferica Regional” and whose natural gas sector will be jointly operated by the two companies and which will also involve the joint commercialization of liquid gas, kerosene, asphalt, and the raw material for lubricants.

Then, in October 2003, it was the turn of Argentina when Nestor Kirchner signed an agreement with Venezuela by which provincial state energy companies would enter into association with PDVSA and Petrobras. In 2004, Kirchner set up the Empresa Nacional de Energía, ENARSA, with a majority state stake for Argentina to better benefit from the energy agreements with Venezuela, Brazil and other oil producers in the region.

Setback for privatisation 

ENARSA represents a setback for privatisation in the country since it comes to replace Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF), the old oil state company which was sold at a pittance to Repsol, a Spanish corporation, under the Menem administration.

In April 2004, Venezuela signed an energy agreement with Bolivia’s YPF, a state company strengthened by President Carlos Mesa and which had been reduced to nothing by former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada. PDVSA is to provide technical advice with the aim to assist Bolivia in the process of recovery of its natural resources.

Ramirez, head of PDVSA, spelt out the strategic objective behind PetroAmerica:

“Together we will be stronger and have greater bargaining power. We have culture, language, history and problems which are similar, but we must find consensus with regards to technology and commerce in order to cheapen energy for our countries.” [5] 

Pipeline

On 26 September, 2005, the Energy Ministers of the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Surinam and Venezuela, signed the Caracas Declaration of the South American Community of Nations, which intends to continue taking concrete steps in order to advance towards the energy integration of the countries of the region. [6] 

Also in September 2005, Brazil and Venezuela signed an agreement of energy complementariness and integration between PDVSA and PETROBRAS which includes intense collaboration in the areas of supply and commercialization of crude oil, as well as exploration and extraction of oil and gas; design, construction and joint operation of refineries, storage facilities and deposits; transport and logistics, technology, training and public policies. The purpose, as stated by Lula, was a gigantic step forward in the process of integration 200 years after the initiation of that process by the Libertadores. [7]

On 3 January, 2006, Chavez welcomed Evo Morales’ electoral victory in the December 2005 Bolivian presidential election by offering Bolivia all its diesel needs for 2006 (which amount to about US$30 million) and said: “I do not accept that they pay us a single cent, but the equivalent in agricultural produce.” He also announced that PDVSA will open a commercial office in Bolivia to facilitate the integration process. [8]

Petroamérica then, is unique in that it is an anti-imperialist multinational company which will control about 15% of the world reserves of crude oil, would benefit from the areas of strength from all the participants and would lift the standard of living of about 530 million people. [9]

The corollary of energy integration of the region will be a 8,000 km pipeline which will run the length of South America linking Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Venezuela with an estimated cost of between US$17 to US$20 billion. It is a joint project of Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Bolivia. 

Collective efforts 

A centerpiece of ALBA is to free Latin America from the iron grip of the IMF and such international financial institutions. Chavez knows that unless the collective efforts of key nations in the region are enlisted into a concrete project that actually significantly reduce their financial dependence from the traditional centres of multinational and U.S. power and influence, it will not be possible to embark upon progressive Bolivarian programs.

One way, as we have seen already with Venezuelan diesel for Bolivia, is to enter into barter agreements so that the exchange of goods and services takes place outside the usual international banking and corporate trading system.

“Hugo Chavez has been at the epicenter of this innovative change and is enlisting support of other leaders in the region to join with him. Discussions have been held about establishing a Bank of the South to finance "real" development projects without the suffocating and constricting burdens of debt that come with IMF loans.” [10] 

The best known example of this is the exchange of Venezuelan oil for 20,000 Cuban doctors, the crucial factor that has ensured the successful implementation of the Barrio Adentro Missions to provide free basic and other more complex health care to at least 17 million Venezuelans.

Cuba has also sent teachers to teach illiterate Venezuelans to read and write. Another manifestation is the agreement between Argentina and Venezuela on oil for cattle and dairy products.  No hard cash or currency changes hands. [11]

Wise measures

The Bolivarian regime in Caracas has already demonstrated practically what can be achieved if financial resources are used wisely and collectively. At the beginning of 2006 Venezuela bought about US$2.5 billion in bonds of Argentina’s debt. This plus the robust economic performance of the economy in 2005 allowed Argentina to pay about US$9 bn of its external debt that was due between the financial years 2006 and 2007.


Presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela link hands
Chavez praised Kirchner’s decision and promised to help Argentina end its financial dependence on the IMF. Brazil also announced it will be paying ahead of schedule the sum of US$15.5 bn of its external debt which was due to be paid in installments up to 2008. Evo Morales, due to a combination of high gas prices and financial surplus, also announced that it will not require monies form the IMF either. [12]

The strong economic performance of these economies does not in itself explain their efforts to obtain as much autonomy from the IMF as possible. It is the process of regional integration which has created a context where this is possible. Bolivia itself has already benefited from Venezuelan oil; additionally it has received Cuban and Venezuelan volunteers to implement literacy programs and has been offered 5,000 grants to train Bolivian doctors from Cuba and another 5,000 grants from Cuba, plus full integration in Mercosur as well as full participation in the energy plans already mentioned.

Literacy

The Cuba-Venezuela-Bolivia agreement on literacy will benefit immediately 200,000 people in Bolivia through the Cuban audiovisual teaching method ‘Yo si puedo’ which will establish 10,000 centres of literacy in the nation. The total number of illiterate people on Bolivia is 1.1 million, that is, 13.3% of the population. A similar number in Venezuela were made literate in about 2 years. [13]

Venezuela argues that the Bank of the South is meant as a fund built up with part of the reserves of the participant countries (Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have been specifically mentioned by President Chavez) to enable countries to borrow without their economic policies being determined by Washington.

However, Chavez’s proposal goes much further than the establishment of an independent financial institution. The Bank of the South is seen as a key instrument in the ongoing process of regional integration and, as Gastón Parra, President of Venezuela’s Central Bank, said at a seminar on financial integration organized by Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina held in Caracas on March 24, 2006, also aims at the creation of a single currency, the establishment of a free trade zone with common foreign tariffs and the coordination of economic policies. [14]

Telesur

Another initiative stemming from ALBA is Telesur, a TV channel primarily aimed at Latin America by the joint efforts of Venezuela (51%), Cuba (19%), Uruguay (10%) and Argentina (20%) with the support of Brazil. It aims to rival CNN and Fox, whose networks dominate the waves in the Spanish-speaking TV news and other media with a mass viewership. 

Jorge Botero, the Colombian director of Telesur, says that the with the new TV channel "We want our cameras to get into places that their cameras have never been, to give a real, street-level view […] 'The true face of Latin America.'" [15]  This is the view from the South about the South and the relation of the South with the South as well as the North’s relation to the South, as the channel’s slogan has it: “Nuestro Norte es el Sur”.

Telesur is a counter-hegemonic telecommunications project, unique in its field, a major undertaking because it confronts the hugely powerful media oligopolies that overwhelmingly dominate the airwaves.


Telesur: 'the true face of Latin America'
The importance of having an alternative, critical, view of news is becoming increasingly crucial as Latin America moves to the left and the pro-US traditional parties suffer defeat after defeat and increasingly rely on the manipulation and lies to stem the leftward trend.

TV imperialism 

In the April 2002 coup against President Chavez the media, particularly the TV networks, played a central role in helping to create the atmosphere which made the temporary ousting temporarily of the President possible. In Venezuela 90% of the media are private, anti-Chavez, companies and their vociferous message has become increasingly strident and overtly propagandistic.

Furthermore, in the region 70% of the TV programming is imported with the United States being responsible for 62% of it. It is estimated that for the United States, the largest export industry is movies and television programs. Additionally, the US, the EU and Japan control 90% of the information worldwide, and out of 300 leading information corporations, 144 are in the United States, 80 in the European Union and 49 in Japan.

Telesur’s advisory council includes well known figures such as Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua, Luis Britto of Venezuela, Eduardo Galeano of Uruguay, Fernando 'Pino' Solanas of Argentina, Ignacio Ramonet of France, Danny Glover of the USA and Tariq Ali, a Briton of Pakistani origin.

Telesur is independent of the governments that sponsor it and has permanent correspondents in Bogota, Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Mexico City, Havana, Montevideo, La Paz and Washington, along with a network of stringers.

Telesur actively seeks links with social and mass movements in the region so as to inform about their plight and struggles. Telesur consciously and deliberately seeks to show the ‘other America’ the one that never appears in the mainstream networks: the indigenous communities, Black people, peasants, workers, women, youth from the barrios (including their rapping), and the poor more generally, all combined with informative documentaries, interviews to intellectuals, artists and radical politicians. [16]

Never before has the cultural and propaganda hegemony of the United States in the region has been challenged so comprehensively and so effectively. 

Economic and political obstacles to ALBA 

As can be imagined, the United States is deeply hostile to all of this ands will do anything and everything to stop it.

An important plank of the US tactics is to lure as many countries as possible in the region to sign 'free' trade agreements (FTAs) as a way of inoculating them against the Bolivarianism of Cuba and Venezuela. Central America has been cajoled into CAFTA. The FTAs are being extended to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. Also, the United States is endeavouring to lure the more moderate Left wing regimes in the region, such as Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, away from the ALBA project.

Where this is not possible the US unleashes destabilization programs. The program of destabilization against Evo Morales has begun and it consists of support for secessionist currents in Santa Cruz.

There is, additionally, the seemingly unsurmountable problem of existing asymmetries. This is evident in, for example, significant differences in the labour costs of Brazil and Argentina, both countries responsible for the bulk of the trade in MERCOSUR. As late as 2004-05, Argentina was breaking the trading bloc’s rules by practicing protectionism against imports from its powerful neighbour, because they were thwarting the country’s industrial recovery.

Furthermore, Brazil and Argentina are competitors in almost every area and they export to the same countries and seek foreign investment from the same sources.

The election of Morales in Bolivia consolidates the position of the Bolivarians at a continental level by changing the relation of forces further in their favour against the United States but the price of Bolivian gas for Brazil and Argentina will increase considerably, raising all sort of difficulties. [17]

Furthermore, if Morales is to increase the movement’s electoral and political strength he must address the pent up socio-economic demands of the vast majority of Bolivians. The only source of economic resources to finance social programs is the nation’s gas. [18]  It will not be easy for Argentina and Brazil to absorb the extra cost.

These objective obstacles stemming from the uneven and combined underdevelopment of the Latin American countries can be multiplied ad infinitum (see the severe conflict between Argentina and Uruguay over the construction of two large cellulose factories in the latter which is being fiercely opposed by the former, for example).

Similar disparities can be found between Peru and Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and all three of them, Brazil and all four of them. No process of integration, ALBA being no exception, can overcome these enormous hurdles in the short term.

ALBA and the United States: the coming showdown

ALBA and ALCA are fundamentally incompatible and the Bush administration (or its Democratic successors) will do whatever it takes to stop and reverse its objective and subjective logic.

It is unthinkable to imagine a government of the empire that is prepared to coexist in a hemisphere in which its neighbours – traditionally under its economic, political and cultural thumb – assert their independence, nationalism and autonomy away from and against the interests of its financial, industrial and military oligarchy.

Given the intense hostility expressed by high officials of the Bush administration such as Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Roger Noriega, John Negroponte, John Bolton and a few others, the United States’ opposition to the Bolivarian integration of some Latin American countries, let alone the region as a whole, little needs to be said about the US intentions.

The inference of their hostility is clear, if they can overthrow the Chavez government, they will, whether through supporting a long-term campaign of domestic destabilization (which they have tried and failed, several times), a border conflict involving centrally Colombia which would allow the U.S. military to ‘jointly’ invade Venezuela, or through direct U.S. military invasion and ‘get the job done’. This hostility is compounded by the fact that Venezuela’s strategic ally in the Bolivarian project is Cuba. [19]  In both cases, the logic of the US plans is the subversion and overthrowing of these regimes through massive military intervention.

It is difficult to interpret the obsessive desire of the Bush administration to establish as many military bases in Latin America as possible in any other way than a systematic preparation for a ‘preventive war’ against ‘rogue’ states in the region.

The United States has military bases in Guantanamo Bay, Roosevelt Roads and Forth Buchanan in Puerto Rico, air bases in Aruba and Curaçao, Palmerola and Soto Cano in Honduras, Manta in Ecuador, and radar stations in Colombia and several other secret locations in the region and it is busily militarizing the Triple Frontier (border area in Brazil, Pargauay and Bolivia), where US spokespeople allege Al Qaida and Hizbollah have links with Latin American Marxist guerrillas, radical populists, left wing narco-traffickers and, of course, with Chávez, Castro and Evo Morales.

A worrying trend in US military expenditure is that of the US$333.7 billion it spends on defense, 43% is devoted to Latin America. The US already operates from military facilities in Paraguay’s bases of Coronel Oviedo, Salto de Guairá and Pedro Juan Caballero, but since May 2005, it does it from its own military base granted by the Paraguayan government and parliament in Mariscal Estigarribia. [20]  And recently, the US has set up a military camp in Barahona, Dominican Republic, which is building rapidly into a military base.

True, the empire is heavily bogged down in Iraq and it looks very difficult for it to extricate itself from the mire in which it got itself embroiled. Thus, objectively it looks quite unlikely that the United States will launch an all-out invasion of Cuba or Venezuela or both.

Nevertheless, they are getting quite desperate. The Bush administration has barely two years to ‘sort out’ Cuba and Venezuela. The presidential election in 2008 is unlikely to produce another Republican administration although since 2000 US elections have become quite unpredictable affairs. Thus, they are busily expanding their military positions and capabilities in the region for the showdown that they know is coming.


Francisco Dominguez is head of Latin American Studies at Middlesex University, UK


References:

[1] Alternativa Bolivarian apara las Américas, ¿Qué es la Alternativa Bolivariana para América Latina y El Caribe?, www.alternativabolivariana.org, visited Feb 7, 2006.

[2] Diputado Rafael Correa Flores, Constuyendo el ALBA “Nuestro Norte es el Sur”, Ediciones del 40 Aniversario del Parlamento Latinoamericano, 1ra Edición, Caracas, República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Mayo 2005, p. 16.

[3] Diputado Rafael Correa Flores, op.cit., p. 21.

[4] PDVSA, Uruguay firma Acuerdo de Adhesión a la Secretaría de PETROSUR, 10-08-2005, www.pdvsa.com

[5] Miguel Lora, “Petroamerica, la estrategia sudamericana para recuperar la soberanía energética”, www.granma.cubaweb.cu/secciones/alba, visited Feb 7, 2006.

[6] PDVSA, Se robustece Petroamérica en el ámbito de la integración, 26-20 September, 2006, www.pdvsa.com

[7] PDVSA, Acuerdo energético Venezuela – Brasil fortalece Petrosur y estructura Petroamérica, 30-09-2005, www.pdvsa.com

[8] PDVSA, Presidente Chávez: “Con la llegada de Evo se fortalece Petroamérica” 03-01-2006, www.pdvsa.com

[9] PDVSA, Petroamérica controlaría 11.5% de reservas mundiales de petróleo, 06-10-2004, www.pdvsa.com

[10] Stephen Lendman, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Movement: Its Promise and Perils, Wednesday, Jan 04, 2006, www.venezuelanalysis.com

[11] Stephen Lendman, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Movement: Its Promise and Perils, Wednesday, Jan 04, 2006, www.venezuelanalysis.com

[12] In January 2005, Venezuela also bought $25 million, or about 4 percent, of the first Ecuadorian bonds issued since the country’s 1999 default (Simone Baribeau Venezuela to Buy Argentine Bonds, Backs IMF Payoff Wednesday, Dec 21, 2005, www.venezuelanalysis.com)

[13] Ministry of Comunication and Information of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Venezuela-Cuba-Bolivia: Plan de Alfabetización para América Latina, 20 March, 2006; La Razón, Venezuela-Cuba-Bolivia: El Plan de Alfabetización, 20 March, 2006; Prensa Latina, Primera Oleada de Alfabetización Alcanzará a 200 Mil Bolivianos; 20 March, 2006.

[14] Prensa Latina, Venezuela urges Latin American Banco del Sur, March 25, 2006, http://www.plenglish.com/article.asp?ID=%7B65AF16BA-D011-47D6-A6AA-F9E905370052%7D&language=EN

[15] Iain Bruce, Caracas Venezuela sets up 'CNN rival', http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4620411.stm

[16] Telesur has been under severe attack from right wing Republican members of Congress – such as Connie Mack [R-Fla] - who see it as the most pernicious ‘communistic’ propaganda being used by Chavez to promote his Bolivarian Revolution throughout the rest of the continent and undermine the US position in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, in Mack’s website, Telesur is presented as something much worse: “New Alliance Between Chavez’s Telesur and Al-Jazeera Creates Global Terror TV Network”(http://mack.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseActionfiltered=PressReleases.View&ContentRecord_id=173).

[17] Green Left Weekly, Reversing neo-liberalism: an interview with Bolivia’s new energy minister, 1 February, 2006, www.greenleft.org.au/back/2006/654/654p12.htm

[18] The first steps were taken the day after Morales’ inauguration. PDVSA opened an office in La Paz on January 23. That same day, an agreement was signed by Chavez and Morales for cooperation between PDVSA and YPBF to develop projects for infrastructure, processing and refining of gas and petroleum (Green Left Weekly, 1 February, 2006, op.cit. 

[19] With regards to Cuba, the US plan is to implement a blueprint for regime change in the Caribbean island which includes among other niceties, the complete dissolution of the state’s armed institutions, the illegalization of the Cuban Communist party and the Confederación de Trabajadores Cubanos and any other ‘communist’ organization such as the Federación de Mujeres Cubanas and many more that exist in the island, the transformation of Cuba into a capitalist country, the ‘recovery’ of the confiscated land, property, buildings, houses, enterprises and everything else that used to belong to US corporations and the some of the Cubans living in Miami; the US has even appointed a ‘Transition Coordinator’, Caleb McGarry whose sole job is to ‘transition’ Cuba.

[20] Cristian Lora, Fuerzas de EE.UU Inician Operativo "Medrete", Portalba, Alternativa Bolivariana para la América, 10 March, 2006 www.alternativabolivariana.org;