On May 25, Washington’s advance across the region by means of the Pacific Alliance met a counterattack in Bolivia. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro relaunched the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), signed bilateral agreements in 14 strategic fields and denounced the new imperialist offensive against the region.
As a response to the formal invitation extended to Ecuador to join the Pacific Alliance, the Bolivian president called an ALBA meeting of governments and social movements in Guayaquil to “liberate the countries that are still subject to the empire” and “defend the anti-imperialist governments” of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Nicolás Maduro did not mince his words when giving this warning on behalf of the ALBA governments after the second Joint Integration Meeting between Bolivia and Venezuela on May 25: “We raise a voice of warning for the peoples of Latin America because imperialism is coming with a new offensive to impose his economic colonialist project through the FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas].”
It was the consequence of the advance of the Pacific Alliance, a bloc comprised by four US-allied governments: Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru, which seeks to reinstate free trade in the region and held its 7th summit in Cali, Colombia, one day earlier. “They want to promise old chains by wearing new masks”, denounced the Venezuelan president in a clear reference to the bloc, which was launched in 2012.
After the long working meeting, which resulted in new agreements in 14 strategic fields between Bolivia and Venezuela, Maduro participated in a mass political rally at the José Casto Méndez coliseum organised by Bolivian social movements, workers and peasants in support of Venezuela. There, he warned that “US imperialism did the numbers” after the death of Chávez and believe that “this is the end of the independence revolution of the 21st century.” Therefore, the United States is trying now to “impose the FTAA and a process of economic and social regression” in Latin America.
“Is it true that this is the end of the revolution in Latin America? Is it true that our people want neoliberalism again?”, asked Maduro. He called on the people to raise up again the flags of the fight against neoliberalism. “Now it is beginning”, he said referring to the continent’s struggle. “Either we follow the path of the Homeland, the people’s power and liberating socialism, or neoliberalism is back. But it will return with the deadly face of fascism because it would come to wipe out the people who dared to be free.”
Morales’ and Maduro’s call to strengthen ALBA, Petrocaribe and regional solidarity was the response of the South to fight the new offensive launched by Washington. “We are taking an offensive of mobilisation of the ALBA movements”, announced Maduro in Cochabamba as he called for the creation of a Latin American confederation of Indigenous peoples and other union organisations. “We are forging a socialist revolution in Latin America and the Caribbean. We need to raise the flags of our struggle”, he said.
Morales expressed his willingness to organise an ALBA meeting: “I’d like to communicate here publicly with comrade Rafael Correa [president of Ecuador] to organise together a great meeting of the ALBA member countries on the Pacific, in Guayaquil.” This is not a casual call. Ecuador was invited to join the Pacific Alliance at the last summit, where Ecuador’s future participation as an observer country was discussed. “Ecuador is a country which is part of the Pacific, and we receive it with our open arms”, said Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera when he arrived in Guayaquil from Cali on May 24 to attend the inauguration of Correa.
If Ecuador joined the Pacific Alliance, which imposes free trade on its members, the entire Pacific coast in South America would automatically be integrated into the new regional bloc. Therefore, Morales invited Correa to call an ALBA meeting in the Pacific to counteract the offensive.
“I’m not afraid to say that we have to continue moving forward with our social movements of Latin America and the Caribbean in order to free those countries where some governments are still subject to the empire and lackeys of the US empire”, added the Bolivian president in an open confrontation with the governments promoting the Pacific Alliance. Hence the strategy of scheduling a meeting of the ALBA governments and social movements, including organisations from Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica, in Ecuador. Morales stressed the importance of “strengthening social movements all around Latin America” in order to defend “the anti-imperialist countries, governments and presidents”.
The bilateral meeting also focused on the joint work of each country’s armed forces. After Maduro’s visit to Bolivia, high-ranking officers held a meeting in Caracas to “deepen the Bolivarian ideals in the military doctrine of both states”, according to an official press release. The general of the army of Bolivia Edwin de La Fuente called for the unity of the South American armed forces to design joint actions in defence against foreign threats.
On the occasion of the bilateral meeting held in Cochabamba, Venezuela and Bolivia agreed to strengthen the ALBA School of Defense, which was created two years ago to train military officers and civilians, and to research security and defence. Evo Morales celebrated publicly that Bolivia freed its armed forces from the US meddling, in contrast to the agreements between other countries of the region and the Pentagon. “In the 19th century, we were a single army”, highlighted Maduro.
The South American Union of Nations (UNASUR) did the same: representatives of the 12 defence ministries of the UNASUR member countries ratified in Caracas the creation of the first South American School of Defense, which is now outlining the statutes and courses that will comprise the training program. These will be presented to all the defence ministers in November.
In order to review and relaunch agreements, eight working groups were installed at the second Joint Integration Meeting between Bolivia and Venezuela to discuss agriculture and food, industry, science and technology, hydrocarbons and energy, communication, education, health and sports, and trade.
The agriculture working group agreed to create a company to produce and trade food. Each country will contribute 1236 acres towards the production of beans and rice.
In the industrial field, they agreed to create textile innovation development centres, and a research, development and training bi-national team to propel the industrialisation of lithium.
Both countries agreed to strengthen connectivity in the community education centres through the Túpac Katari satellite, which will be put into orbit by late 2013, and the development of training activities regarding the use of information and communication technologies.
Regarding energy, they signed agreements to explore and exploit gas in Bolivia and oil in Venezuela. Maduro’s intention is to help Bolivia have productive camps in the Orinoco Oil Belt.
Maduro announced the relaunch of Mission Miracle, which offers free eye treatment and surgery and has provided care to more than 2 million Latin Americans.
In total, Venezuela and Bolivia endorsed six new agreements and a joint declaration. After the meeting, Maduro informed that the technical and political teams will meet every three months to review their achievements, progress and new projects.