Pandemic, economy to be focus of ALBA summit in Cuba

Havana, Dec 13 (EFE).- Political coordination, the regional response to the pandemic and the need to bolster economic mechanisms will take center stage at the 20th Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which will be held Tuesday in the Cuban capital.

The executive secretary of that organization, Sacha Llorenti, said Monday in a press conference that the bloc has functioned in “exemplary” fashion amid challenges such as the pandemic, the “unequal” distribution of vaccines and what he termed “illegal” coercive measures imposed by the United States on three of its members – Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that even though ALBA has grown stronger over time there remains an urgent need to reinforce economic complementarity, one of the principles upon which the organization was founded 17 years ago by the then-presidents of Cuba and Venezuela, Fidel Castro (1926-2016) and Hugo Chavez (1954-2013).

The goal in the economic sphere is to review the “alternatives for strengthening this indispensable part of our alliance,” the Bolivian diplomat told Efe.

He added that another key matter is that of forging closer ties between the Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and the other members of the alliance (Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela).

The executive secretary hailed the advances made in the cooperation area, pointing to a humanitarian fund that was created to distribute health care aid and supplies among the ALBA member countries.

That assistance exemplifies the “radical difference” between ALBA and other regional integration entities like the Washington-based Organization of American States, according to Llorenti, who said the former is an “alliance for life.”

It is unclear at the moment how many heads of state will attend the Havana summit, which will be an in-person event. Bolivian President Luis Arce said Monday on Twitter that he is on his way to the gathering.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Twitter that the summit will promote greater integration among the bloc’s members and address the problems stemming from the Covid-19 crisis.

For her part, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Josefina Vidal said the summit will be “a good opportunity to jointly evaluate the regional scenario, the actions to ensure peace and regional stability” and political formulas for preventing third-country interference in the internal affairs of member states.

Vidal also said another topic for discussion at the summit will be the possibility that Cuba, which has already provided its Covid-19 vaccines to Venezuela and Nicaragua, could extend those shipments to other members of the bloc.

Llorenti mentioned on Monday that one of ALBA’s responses to the Covid-19 crisis has been the shipment of medical supplies via Venezuelan flagship airline Conviasa to Cuba, mostly donations from several Caribbean countries.

In September, the Venezuelan government said that regional cooperation effort was aimed at helping the Cuban people “reduce the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States,” a reference to Washington’s decades-old economic embargo on the Communist-ruled island.

The executive secretary added that other social advancements incorporated into ALBA’s programs include “Operacion Milagro,” an international solidarity initiative launched in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela that provides free eye surgeries in dozens of countries in Latin America and beyond; and the “Yo Si Puedo” adult literacy program developed by Cuban educator Dr. Leonela Relys Diaz. EFE

NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: Decisions made by the Cuban authorities in recent months have severely reduced staff at Efe’s bureau in Havana, where only two journalists are currently able to carry out their work. Efe hopes to recover its news-reporting capacity on the island in the coming days.


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