The ALBA Warning

June 29, 2009

One essential element of the backdrop to Honduras’ woes is the ongoing expansion of ALBA as a rival to the economic integration of Latin America under U.S. direction. ALBA is a project of regional integration, seeking to link the nations of Latin America together and build economic and infrastructural links such as roads, railways and pipelines. It is also explicitly leftist – seeking to enshrine workers’ rights as a central goal, in contrast to neo-liberal trading plans that have, in the past, sidelined concerns about human rights and focused on increasing the volume of trade between the U.S. and the nations of the region.

As Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa puts it, “the ALBA bloc, which aspires to supplant neoliberal, U.S.-dominated free trade deals with regional unity, must construct a type of integration that goes beyond the economic initiatives that the ALBA and other integration organizations have so far constructed…ALBA is a political project” based on “solidarity, integration, and being the owners of our own destiny…We should not reduce integration to the search for markets.”

So it is not solely, or even mainly, an economic project. It is an attempt to counter the power of the United States, which has continuously sought to engineer hegemony over the peoples of Latin America.

Honduras has rapidly become a key part of the ALBA bloc. At ceremonies to mark the admission of Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines into ALBA, Honduran Foreign Minister Patria Rodas said that “ALBA nations should increase their political power by forming a “united platform regarding their common problems” when attending summits of international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS).”

The OAS had for years been used by the U.S. as a means of attacking nations such as Cuba, with whose government Washington took issue. With a gaggle of U.S. backed dictators of neoliberal placemen, this was plausible. But now the OAS has moved ALBA-wards.

As Venezuela Analysis notes, “Last April, ALBA countries collectively refused to sign the final declaration of the OAS summit on the grounds that the document “offers no answers to the… global economic crisis” and “unjustifiably excludes Cuba,” according to a joint statement.”

ALBA nations therefore seek to enunciate an alternative view of world governance, challenging the legitimacy of organizations that are dominated by a few powerful nations. As Hugo Chavez puts it, “The UN as it is and the OAS as it is are worthless. They do not serve our peoples… we either restructure them or they will die as institutions.”

This is radical stuff, and if left to develop unchecked, ALBA holds the potential to break the stranglehold through which Washington has ruled Latin America for almost 200 years.

It has become active in space – having worked with China to launch a telecommunications satellite. It has begun to work towards food security, having formed an international food production company. It has plans for a university and a commission for womens rights.

So it is plain that there is a motivation for the U.S. to interfere with ALBA nations. If so, then the ousting of Manuel Zelaya is no mere coup. It is a “coup” for the power of Washington, and a warning to members of ALBA, or prospective members – keep out.

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