When the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA – TCP) came about, its founders envisaged a solid economic foundation to support the noble idea of integration between its member countries. The idea of independence and alliance has cost them dearly. The United States did not like it.
Lemay Padrón Oliveros
So it went that at 6th ALBA-TCP Summit the foundational accord of the ALBA Bank was signed, representing one of the block’s three financial instruments, together with its own virtual money, the Single System for Regional Compensation (Sucre), and a Reserve Fund.
In an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina, Ramiro Lizondo, executive director of the Bank and of the monetary regional council for the Sucre, where he represents Bolivia, explains that the objective was to achieve future economic independence.
Up till now, they have managed to implement two of their objectives: the Development Bank, in operation since 2010, and the Sucre, a virtual currency which serves as a “payment method for our countries’ transactions,” he says.
However, despite the virtues of the idea and its demonstrated viability, the current context is not favourable for the group.
Sadly, due to the continued financial embargo forced on Venezuela, operations have stalled. The Bank has proven it can operate successfully because, in almost a decade of the Sucre being in use, transactions to the sum of around 3 billion dollars were made, without using dollars, he says.
The third economic pillar envisaged as part of the plan has not come to fruition and that’s the Reserve Fund, whose purpose would be to alleviate the effects of financial crises linked to capitalism. The present situation, however, has prevented its launch.
The political landscape has become more complicated with the ascendency of right-wing governments, set on making ALBA’s actions more difficult. Ecuador’s departure from the group in which it was an important member has also complicated everything and will change the operational strategy of the system and the political playing board in the region, he explains.
Lizondo acknowledges that it is a difficult time but as far as the Bank goes he has made assurances that it will continue to operate and is financing projects in various Caribbean countries like San Vicente, Dominica and Cuba, and also in Venezuela and Bolivia in South America.
Even though we haven’t been able to use the Sucre for almost two years, we haven’t ceased operations thanks to the capital being invested by member countries. Making outlays is very difficult because the whole international financial system is blocked to Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, which inflates the price of changing currency and makes it a more difficult process, he explains.
The civil servant suggests that to talk about ALBA is to talk about the subversive since it goes against the interests of oligarchs in the region. Among the aims of right-wing governments in the region is to liquidate ALBA, an agreement so different to those traditionally made, that prioritise competition, whilst ALBA is based on solidarity, reciprocity and cooperation, he points out.
He notes that thanks to this initiative programmes have been launched to eliminate illiteracy in Bolivia and Nicaragua, alongside others in areas of health, sports and culture.
In mid-April, members of the Executive Board of the ALBA Bank, one representing each country (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica) attended a meeting in Havana, where they agreed that despite the current complications, they have faith that the Bank will recover.
Spirits are high because, despite everything, a new country joined the Bank in February, Antigua and Barbuda, which, having spent a period as an observer, has now passed all the requirements to become an active member, he said.
In the same vein, he recalls that in the first years of the Sucre’s use, when many transactions were being made, the Bank received applications from countries outside of ALBA, in Latin America and also Asia and Europe.
“There’s a lot of hope and expectation that we will overcome this and this period of resistance will just sharpen our instruments,” he concludes.
Besides the countries currently forming the Bank, the ALBA alliance includes Granada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and Suriname. (PL)
(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)