Latin America's Time is Now

The following is excerpted from an article by Nidia Diaz, which appeared in Granma International, April 30, 2006.

On the first anniversary of the agreements to implement the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), signed by Cuba and Venezuela, a revolutionary triad has formed with the incorporation of Bolivia into this tool of integration, and the Bolivian president's proposal, moreover, of a People's Trade Agreement (TPC) as an alternative to the free trade agreements used by the U.S. government in its attempts to sink our people into greater exploitation and dependence.

In the documents that were signed by the leaders [of Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia - Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Evo Morales], which include a Joint Communiqu‚, positions are established on an integration process that, they agreed, must be "based on principles of mutual aid, solidarity and respect for self-determination" with the goal of "providing an appropriate response to raising up social justice, cultural diversity, equity and the right to development that the peoples deserve and demand."

With this step taken by Bolivia, the integrationist efforts taking place throughout the continent under new nationalist and popular governments are deepening, efforts that are already bearing fruit in the case of Cuba and Venezuela.

Fidel, Ch vez and Evo also agreed that only a new and genuine form of integration that goes in the opposite direction of the economic and political relations established by the Free Trade Area of the Americas and other free trade agreements can guarantee sustainable and sovereign development for our peoples. . . .

ALBA'S Figures

In 2001, trade between Cuba and Venezuela was $973 million. In 2005, that figure went up to $2.4 billion, representing growth of 255% in non-oil Venezuelan exports to Cuba compared to 2004. In 2001, Cuban medical cooperation did not yet exist in Venezuela. Today, 23,601 Cuban health professionals are lending their services, providing care for more than 17 million Venezuelans, with a historic record of 175 million medical consultations. Currently, 3,328 Venezuelans are studying General Comprehensive Medicine in Cuba, and 12,940 are doing so in Venezuela under the Comprehensive Community Program, under the guidance of 6,525 Cuban experts who are part of the Mission Barrio Adentro (Into the Barrio) Program.

As of April 28, under the Operation Miracle program, 220,571 vision restoration operations had been performed, with 188,389 of them on Venezuelans. In 2001, Operation Miracle did not yet exist; today, patients from 17 Latin America and Caribbean nations are benefiting, and others are joining in.

In 2001, there were more than one million illiterate people in Venezuela; today, that country is an Illiteracy-Free Territory. With Cuba's advisement and the "Yes, I Can!" Teaching method, 1,482,543 people learned how to read and write, 76,369 of them from indigenous groups.

In 2001, Venezuela and Cuba began down the road of ALBA, and now Bolivia has joined, and others will join....

[In a speech given during the meetings in Cuba, Evo Morales] noted that only by rescuing their natural resources will the peoples be liberated, and in that sense, he referred to the call he made for a Constituent Assembly for the refoundation of Bolivia, a Bolivia that "must stop being a beggar, even though oligarchic sectors are attempting to put up resistance."

Moreover, the Bolivian president said that his country intends to nationalize not just its hydrocarbon resources, but all of its natural riches, to benefit the people.

"Our government will never abandon the struggle to return to the Bolivian people the resources that belong to them," he emphasized. In that sense, he stated that he has a mandate to guarantee a democratic and social revolution in Bolivia to do away with the neoliberal model and de-colonize the nation's riches. "I am sure that with the unity of the Bolivian people, we will defeat the exploiting oligarchy," he affirmed. . . .

Regarding the agreements that were signed, he said that only the ALBA can confront and defeat the FTAA, and it is the only way to overcome colonialism and neoliberalism.

Thanks to Operation Miracle, which is the fruit of ALBA, more than 7,000 Bolivians have had their vision restored, and many Cuban doctors are already lending their services in his country's provinces, he noted.