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Shortly before the Bogotazo (riots in Colombia’s capital city Bogota) following the murder of Eliécer Gaitán in 1948, Fidel Castro, a student at the time, signed a proclamation that was distributed in a meeting in the city of the Fourth Pan American Congress where the Organization of American States (OAS) was founded.
Back then, when the United States was violently expanding across the Americas, the document proclaimed: “…the struggle for democracy in Santo Domingo, the struggle for Puerto Rican independence, the Panama Canal, the end to colonies in Latin America, the return of the Malvinas islands to Argentina and the struggle for democracy.”
It was based on Martí’s idea that “We can no longer be a people of leaves, living in the air, our foliage heavy with blooms and crackling or humming at the whim of the sun’s caress, or buffeted and tossed by the storms. The trees must form ranks to keep the giant with seven-league boots from passing!”
It is very telling that so many years before the triumph of the Revolution, the man who became Cuba’s leader, would be presenting himself as an exponent of unity, before a student congress truncated by violence; and presenting these ideas at the very same moment when the instrument that the U.S. would use to intervene in Latin America, support dictatorships and help its large companies to gain control, was being born.
Given Washington’s intervention in Cuban affairs, Fidel had already decided what his struggle would be – one inspired by the ideas of Martí, which the Cuban leader would later draw upon, stating, there before a large crowd gathered at the Presidential palace, that he didn’t have to “report to any U.S. Congressperson (…) or foreign government (…) I report to the people, in the first place, my people, the Cuban people, and secondly, all peoples of the Americas.”
The people, their unity, integration was always the great statesman’s constant goal, and in the years to follow would channel all his energy into defending first the country, and then the rest of the continent.
However much it tried, the empire was neither able to isolate or destroy the Revolution, while Cuban diplomacy, led by Fidel, moved intelligently across the entire Planet.
New, liberated governments began to appear on the continent’s political map, while the Comandante, who was joined by Bolivarian leader Hugo Chávez in 1998, advocated integration and unity as the number one objective for Latin America and the Caribbean.
On December 14, 2004, then Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, signed the Joint Declaration of Havana for the creation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) and its associated implementation agreement. ALBA was a tool created as a counterbalance to the Free Trade Area of the Americas Agreement (FTAA) promoted by the U.S.
The name was changed to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples’ Trade Agreement, although the acronym remains the same, and ALBA became a major promoter of integration among a group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, with the aim of combating poverty and social exclusion on the basis of cooperation and political, social and economic complimentarity.
It represented a “No” to the competitive neoliberal capitalist market and a “Yes” to solidarity and complimentarity, with the creation of the ALBA Bank and e-currency systems to facilitate financial cooperation and protect the cash reserves of states with few resources.
In the first five years ALBA had already made significant achievements with health and social missions sent to remote areas to treat communities; the incredible Operation Miracle which has provided eye surgery to millions of poor or destitute people, free of charge; as well as the agreement between Cuba and Venezuela to train 40,000 Latin American doctors over 10 years.
In 2005, Bolivia joined ALBA, followed by other Caribbean, Central and South American countries. The organization’s success was assured as efforts to increase and expand regional unity continued under the leadership of Fidel and Chávez, with the creation of Venezuelan project Petrocaribe, in 2005; the Union of South American Nations in 2007; and finally the establishment of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011.
In addition to these new organizations, efforts were also undertaken to create the Bank of the South, gas pipeline, and telecommunication network projects. However, these were never concretized due to subversive actions carried out by the U.S. to regain the ground it had lost since Fidel’s ideas of unity and integration began to gain a hold and supporters in the region.
One of ALBA’s most outstanding achievements has been the elimination of illiteracy in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador through the Cuban designed Yo sí puedo (Yes, I can) method.
Washington might not like the creation of large national entities which threaten the interests of trans-national companies, but they already exist in sectors such as fishing (Transalba), mining, transport, telecommunications (Albatel) and agriculture; as well as the ALBA.S.A. Ports initiative responsible for building port facilities in Cuba and Venezuela; and the Albanisa oil refinery project between Venezuela and Nicaragua.
In regards to e-commerce, the Sucre organization was created and began operating in 2010, among ALBA member countries.
One of the region’s poorest nations, Haiti, has benefited from three electricity plants; while, ALBA, a seed of integration and unity, has also contributed to reducing Nicaragua’s energy deficit with the construction of similar facilities. José Luis Merino, a member of El Salvador’s FMLN Political Commission, highlighted, “ALBA is a tool that has enabled us, without looting, without robbing countries’ riches, to increase the well-being and improve the standard of living of practically all Latin America, and even U.S. citizens themselves in the heart of the empire.”
He noted that Venezuela offers assistance programs to heat homes in various neighborhoods in the U.S. The tree has grown and its branches are strong. The empire continues to try to cut them and stop its roots from going deeper, but the peoples of Latin America are imbued with the spirit of struggle and although there might be setbacks, it will be difficult to stop the Latin American advance with repression and neoliberalism, because the trees (the people) are coming together. The ideas Fidel expressed in 1948 in Colombia regarding integration and unity will not be stopped.