Latin American nations, following Europe’s model, have been busy forming a variety of economic unions and institutions. Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia and Cuba are leading the campaign to unite Latin America, with many other countries having joined in. The new initiatives they have created are designed to protect and defend the region from US, Canadian and European political, economic and military intervention, while creating an entirely new socialist-oriented, self-sufficient, continental economy. This Latin American style economy does not function according to capitalist market rules, but rather responds to the development needs of the Latin American people. The following is a laundry list of various organizations and institutions that have emerged in the past decade:
Bolivarian Alliance for Peoples of our America (ALBA)
In 2004, Venezuela and Cuba set up the progressive trade group called the Bolivarian Alliance for Peoples of our America (ALBA). Since then, the progressive trade alliance has grown to include eight countries: Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and the Caribbean countries: Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda. The alliance does not trade goods in U.S. dollars but instead in the Sucre, a virtual currency. ALBA is aimed at advancing social justice and human wellbeing, rather than expanding free trade. The Alliance calls for “fair, complementary, and mutually supportive” trade so that member nations can overcome their economic inequalities and eradicate poverty.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is an integration of 12 South American countries, which includes a parliament, a presidential forum, a secretariat, and a military alliance. UNASUR was formally constituted in May of 2008, at a summit in Brasilia, Brazil. The countries are Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, and Uruguay. UNASUR represents 377 million people, and it sends the message to the world that South America is ready to control its own destiny. The Union’s main focus is eliminating poverty and illiteracy.
The South American Defense Council
The UNASUR member states, except for Colombia, also agreed to the formation of the South American Defense Council, a military alliance formed without the United States, which is unprecedented. The Council is committed to the preservation of peace.
A new alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS)
In February 2010, 32 Latin American and Caribbean nations agreed to create a new regional bloc that will include every country in the Americas except for the U.S. and Canada. It is intended to be an alternative to the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS), with the intention of eventually replacing it.
The Bank of the South
The Bank of the South was formed in 2009 by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela with an initial capital of $20 billion U.S. dollars. Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil each pledged $4 billion, while Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay and Bolivia chipped in smaller amounts. The ultimate goal of the Bank of the South is to include every state within the region of South America and to help foster regional independence and endogenous development. The Bank is intended as an alternative to borrowing from the IMF and the World Bank and gives Latin American countries credit at low interest rates without punitive conditions. This means the end of 25 years of U.S.-imposed policies that impoverished these nations through enforced privatization, free trade, and “structural adjustment programs” (SAPs).
For example, in the past, whenever Latin American countries wanted to fund a development project, they had to go to the U.S dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) and/or the World Bank, which would offer loans at usurious interest rates that the states could not afford.
When the countries could not pay back the loans, they had to agree to the World Bank and IMF’s SAPs, which included selling whatever valuable national assets they had to multinational corporations, which then controlled their economies. This was known as “the Washington Consensus,” and from 1980 to 2005 it created tremendous poverty in Latin America.
PetroAmerica is a multinational oil company formed by the state oil companies of Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Cuba, and Trinidad. The joint company controls 11.5% of world oil reserves. PetroAmerica aims at achieving full energy cooperation within Latin America so that its oil can be used for the development of its people rather than that of Northern countries.
Through PetroAmerica, Venezuela shares its oil with Latin American countries that do not have any and have difficulty buying it. It has given 14 Caribbean countries cheap financing for oil purchases, to be repaid over 25 years.
Venezuela also has entered into a barter arrangement with Cuba. It supplies 90,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for the 20,000 Cuban doctors who are working in the poorest areas of Venezuela. Such South-South cooperation means a new economic focus on serving the needs of the South American people, rather than the interests of multinational corporations and Northern governments.
The New Television Station of the South (TELESUR)
TELESUR is a television channel formed by the state television broadcasters of Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. Its function is to allow the people of these countries to communicate directly with one another, and not through the U.S. network CNN, as they did before.
For the first time, TELESUR gives Latin Americans a clear vision of each other, which is crucial for creating an integrated community of nations.
ALBS, UNASUR, The Latin American Defense Council, the new alternative to OAS, the Bank of the South, PetroAmerica, and Telesur signify the maturity of what can only be called a Latin American Revolution at both the national and continental levels. The aim of the Revolution is to eliminate poverty and exploitation all over Latin America, as well as providing free education, medical care, and basic needs to all its citizens. In moving towards a united, socialist Latin America, its citizens have taken inspiration from Simon Bolivar, Che Guevara, and their indigenous leaders and philosophies. The philosophy of the Revolution is that life is about sharing and community, and that society and government exists to uplift everyone, not just a privileged few.