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FOX NEWS Latino – The Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America, or ALBA, celebrated its 10th anniversary Sunday with an eye toward moving toward the economic integration of its members, welcoming two new Caribbean members and paying tribute to founders Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.
“Exactly a decade ago, ALBA was born in Havana as the result of the political vision and unifying will of (former Cuban President) Fidel (Castro) and (late Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez, the authors of this epoch of changes that today all our peoples and their political elites are experiencing,” said Cuban President Raul Castro, the host of the 13th ALBA summit.
Although the conference lasted a mere five hours and its main participants were the presidents of the Bolivarian alliance – including Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega – also in attendance were the heads of the Caribbean nations of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was not on hand, but he sent his vice president, Jorge Glas, to represent him.
Emerging from the meeting was a 43-point declaration that included expressions of solidarity for Venezuela and Cuba in the face of “destabilizing attacks” by the United States, and condemnations both of the economic embargo on the communist island as well as the new sanctions imposed by the U.S. Congress on Caracas.
“The countries of ALBA will not allow the utilization of the old policies already implemented in the region directed toward fostering political regime change, as has occurred in other nations of the world,” the document said.
On the economic front, the Cuban president said that, in the spirit of building a “new financial architecture,” the bloc will push for a “complementary economic zone” that will integrate all the ALBA, PetroCaribe and Mercosur nations, a project promoted by Venezuela.
Regarding this initiative, Maduro said that the common space would be “a great economic zone of production chains, fair and balanced commerce, investment and technological advancements.”
The ALBA nations also make up part of the PetroCaribe alliance, along with other regional countries to whom Caracas supplies oil at cut-rate prices, although the recent plunge in the price of petroleum was not discussed.
Cuban Foreign Minister also read to the assembled leaders a message from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who praised the alliance as an “effective organization” and said “I want to confirm (Russia’s) interest in continuing to broaden our dialogue and practical interaction” with the ALBA nations.
The island nations of St. Kitts & Nevis and Grenada were welcomed as the alliance’s newest members, bringing the number of nations comprising it to 11.
No significant agreements emerged from the summit, although tributes were paid to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, with Sunday’s gathering commemorating the first meeting between those two leaders in 1994 and the pair signing the treaty constituting the alliance 10 years later on Dec. 14, 2004. EFE