CHAVEZ AND CUBA SIGN ANTI - US TRADE AGREEMENT
During a 2 day visit to Cuba, president Chavez of Venezuela and President Castro of Cuba signed copies of an agreement they call the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
(ALBA) which arranges for cooperation and bilateral relations in general and for a free trade area, which is the antithesis of the US sponsored Latin American Free Trade Zone
(FTAA). The treaty is named in honour of Simon Bolivar and the word ALBA in Spanish means “dawn”. The signing took place in the Karl Marx Theatre on the 10th Anniversary of Chavez’ first visit to Cuba.
The intention is to eliminate trade barriers and tax obstacles, provide incentives for investment, increase banking relations and tourism cooperation. Initially Venezuela has promised financing for Cuban industrial and infrastructure projects, while Cuba agreed to pay a minimum price of $27 per barrel of Venezuelan oil, which they are currently importing at the rate of 53,000 bpd.
“The FTAA is dead”, said Chavez.
President Castro, 78 (who is recovering from a broken knee and arm from a fall in October), decorated Chávez with the Order of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes , he quoted de Céspedes, known as the father of the nation who, in reference to the great country of Bolívar remarked: “Venezuela, which opened the way of independence to Spanish America and traveled it gloriously until Ayacucho, is our illustrious teacher of freedom.”
Cuba suffers from regular power shortages, with output said to be as low as 50% of demand. In May Cuba's main oil-fuelled power plant in Matanzas province, took months to repair and frequent blackouts occur. Basic Industry Minister Marcos Portal Leon was sacked on October 14 and replaced by Yadira Garcia, amid a paralysing energy shortage and controversial decisions about the nickel industry. The ministry handles power generation, oil, nickel, rubber and pharmaceuticals.
Cuba has had enormous energy problems since collapse of the Soviet bloc, which once provided subsidised food and fuel and now they cannot complete the Soviet-technology nuclear reactor planned for Juragua.
Cuba's oil-burning electricity generating plants need Venezuelan oil because Cuba’s crude, which is high in sulfur, requires costly cleaning.
The U.S. State Department is reported in the Washington Times on Wednesday it was "troubled" by Venezuela's economic pact with Cuba. "We are troubled that a country with a democratic tradition like Venezuela would want to strengthen its ties to the only undemocratic regime and closed economy in the hemisphere," spokesman Richard Boucher said.
The increasing ties between Chavez and Castro are a response to the threat they see from Bush’s US where before the election the US stepped up the propagandist TV Marti by overflying Cuba. The failed coup against Chavez 2 years ago is considered throughout Latin America to have been masterminded and planned by Washington.
This is one more step in the Anti-American Alliance Castro and Chavez have attempted to bring about since their 2000 sweep through OPEC nations which resulted in the denomination of oil sales from Saddam’s Iraq into the UN Oil for Food program in dollars, just as president Bush was sworn in as President.
The decline of the dollar and the rise in the international oil price and the steady and inexorable acceptance of the Euro, combined with the continuing US Trade deficit reflect the consequences of their actions.
It remains to be seen how “troubled” Washington is. It would not be surprising if, as in the ambiguous phraseology of UN resolutions, there will be “serious consequences”.
Granma/ Cuba report