Let us continue to listen to the critical observations of Roland Simbulan in his book “The World Is My Classroom”. Latin America is one of the many countries he has visited as a student of world politics. Or rather, as a conscientious observer of the state of affairs obtaining in these Latin American societies, their historical experience both as individual nation-states and as a collectivity of peoples struggling against a common aggressor—US Imperialism.
In the first part of this article, we learned about the emergence of the ALBA, an alliance of Latin American societies purported to be an alternative to the US-sponsored free trade agreements. As a brainchild of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and other emerging progressive states in Latin America, ALBA’s projects which are being implemented in the Latin American continent include the following:
1. Prioritizing people’s needs and interests
This is being achieved through food self-sufficiency in agriculture before focusing on profit-making processes. Internal production must be protected and states should the ability to design and implement policies in the defense of their people’s right to have access to essential high-quality services at fair prices. In effect, public services have to be oriented toward fulfilling the people’s needs, not those of big business which have accumulated more private profit through deregulation, liberalization, and privatization.
2. Strengthening the infrastructure of public services especially in education, health care and housing
Foremost of these is “Operation Miracle” which provides free eye operations, plus transportation and accommodation, to almost 600,000 Latin American citizens each year. One beneficiary of this was the Bolivian soldier who was ordered to shoot the guerrilla leader Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara in 1967. Regional exchanges of cheap Venezuelan oil for Cuban doctors and health care expertise sent to the poorest provinces have also been initiated and a Latin American School of Medicine has been organized to train more doctors and health workers from all over South America.
3. Mutual exchanges in technical expertise and markets
One good example is the case of Bolivia, where doctors, engineers and teachers from Cuba, which has the best social services among developing countries were sent to the countryside to share their technical expertise, especially in managing its hydrocarbon extraction sector. Bolivia also gained a regional market for its soy beans while its contribution is mainly in the form of its natural gas reserves. A continental oil and gas pipeline is being constructed to benefit most Latin American countries.
4. A cooperative bank of the south.
Otherwise also known as a “compensatory fund for structural convergence” this bank becomes an alternative to the World Bank and IMF regime which, over the past decades, has only further impoverished many developing nations which have been losing control over their economic planning and fiscal policies.
5. TeleSUR, a regional tv and radio network presenting a Latin American people’s perspective.
TeleSUR, a Pan-Latin American network financed by the governments of Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay and supported by Brazil, is now in a way, serving as the Al Jazeera for South America. It is emerging as the alternative voice of Latin American peoples to the Western capitalist viewpoint monopolizing global television through CNN, Univision and BBC.
ALBA, in effect, is a far cry from the kind of “free trade model of integration” which the United States has long dictated to gain economic, political and military hegemony over the region and other parts of the world.
But the scope of the ALBA vision and project is even more ambitious. It is a regional anti-poverty project that focuses on upgrading basic social services and developing local economies. Its core objective is to promote the social side of development, the eradication of poverty and provision of the best social services which have for so long excluded the vast majority of the people. It is firmly grounded on popular participation, that is, the solidarity and cooperation not only of government, but also of their peoples’ movements such as workers’ movements and indigenous peoples’ movements.
ALBA represents a new form of international relations that is worth watching.
With this development in Latin America, our own government should have taken initiative in paving pathways towards a similar regional formation, instead of kowtowing to the whims and dictates of the US Imperialism. Our long experience with the US should have already sunk deep into our leaders’ consciousness that the free trade model propagated by the US Imperialists has all along been inimical to the interests and aspirations of the vast majority of the people. As proven by long experience neoliberalism can never eradicate poverty.
The Latin American experience has shown us the only alternative path toward a meaningful social development.