Saturday, March 03, 2007
Latin America, Backyard No Longer
Free Trade FTAA (ALCA) style, conceived for the benefit of US companies and the nation´s hegemonic plans is no longer an option. The scheme that should have begun operating in 2005 is practically dead. Only the bilateral agreements between Washington and some fearful or allucinating governments are left to show no benefits for the poorer of the sides.
On the other hand there is an awakening of independent integration alternatives like ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas -on Venezuela´s initiative´that already counts surprising achievements and four member countries: Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, with the possible addition of Ecuador.
A shining example has been the story of economic, cooperation and trade links between Cuba and Venezuela from 2000 to date.
The agreements from that first session were valued in 28.5 million dollars. Now, at the conclusion of the 7th session, the budget for the joint projects approved reaches 1.5 billion dollars.
At the first meeting of the joint commission, 31 projects were approved. Now the figure shot up to 355, all of them concerning strategic decisions in both nations´development plans.
The last agreement between both countries has brought about concrete achievements, such as: the uninterrupted supply of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to Venezuela, technical assistance to develop sports in the South American nation.
On the other hand, Venezuela supports endogenous development plans in the Havana province, in the Sandino, Marti and Bolivar communities in Pinar del Rio and on this occasion the municipality of Venezuela in Ciego de Avila province has been added.
Assistance from Cuba has also helped Venezuelan sugar industry and the endogenous development programs in Fundos Zamoranos. Computer science development programs have also helped develop this sector in Venezuela.
Eleven ethanol processing plants are to be set up in Venezuela, based on the sugar industry, using not only molasses but also bagasse to produce the fuel meant to be mixed with gasoline to run motor vehicles.
A plant to produce drinks from soya will soon open in the state of Anzoategui in Venezuela.
Venezuela, for its part, gives Cuba technical assistance in the production of oil and gas, besides supplying fuel in preferential terms. It is estimated that around 90 thousand barrels of Venezuelan oil are supplied daily to the island.
Social achievements have made cooperation with Cuba very popular in Venezuela. Medical assistance in the Mission Barrio Adentro was accompanied by the construction and setting up of 307 diagnostic centers, 406 rehabilitation wards and 11 state of the art technology centers.
According to official sources, by next July these figures will reach 600, 600 and 35, respectively.
It has been estimated that just from increased medical assistance, a total of 84,962 lives have been saved.
Mission Miracle, aimed at curing eye diseases by surgical means, has already helped 315,000 persons recover their eyesight.
Now bilateral cooperation has extended to several countries in South and Central America, by way of literacy campaigns using a Cuban method for learning to read and write in 70 lessons.
It even transcends the limits of integration scheme ALBA (Alternativa Bolivariana para las Americas), created only three years ago and to which already belong four countries: Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
The ripple effect of bilateral cooperation since 2000 has now adopted a regional level through ALBA and made Latin American and Caribbean governments more independent.
Awareness has increased several folds among the people. Thousands will soon become millions of those who have benefited from literacy campaigns, education programs, improved medical assistance and housing projects.
The money to support this social development revolution comes mainly from increased oil and gas sales income cashed by Venezuela, together with the highly qualified human resources formed by Cuba.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, president George W. Bush is highly worried because a region so docile to US policy as this was during the best part of the 20th century is now slipping from the hands of Washington at a fast pace.
Now the latest Washington scheme to perpetuate domination of the region by US companies is practically dead. The ALCA or FTAA as is known in both Spanish and English will never be born, according to specialists. The best shot for the US has been the bilateral agreements with Central America, Chile, Colombia and other countries in the region.
ALBA displays its wings
In the preps for the Cuba-Venezuela joint meeting held in Caracas last January, nine joint ventures were created in the areas of civil construction, telecommunications, sugar industry, naval construction, transport, oil and gas, culture, construction and the banking system.
Accords that lay out strategic cooperation in 15 areas were signed last January. Trade for one, has increased from 912 million dollars in 2000 to the new record of 2.6 billion dollars in 2006.
A comprehensive energy-saving program is not exclusive of Cuba. Venezuela, too, has undertaken that ecological goal in spite of being a country rich in fossil fuel resources. Now the renewable energy sources like sun, wind, water and biomass are to be developed at a fast pace.
Since November 17, 2006 when the Energy Revolution was put in motion in Venezuela, 35 million saving-light bulbs of the 52 million programmed have been changed for old incandescent ones and already maximum electricity demand has dropped by 550 MW, while generating capacity is to be expanded in 1,000 MW.
Task forces of both countries evaluated the existing 4 energy projects while another six are to be started this year, according to the final declaration signed on February 28 by the co-presidents of the Joint Commission, Marta Lomas, Minister for Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation of Cuba and Rafael Ramirez, president of PDVSA.
The accomplishments shown by Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia in such a short period are sure to expand the ALBA membership in no time.