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Volume No. 2 Issue No. 27 - Friday January 25, 2008
Dominica Joins Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) Revolution

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Presidents Fidel Castro, Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Hugo Chavez at the ALBA signing on April 29, 2006.
Havana, Jan 22, (Prensa Latina) A small English-speaking island in the Caribbean has joined a revolutionary Latin American alliance, which has been largely overlooked by major media, but Dominica's Ambassador to Havana Clarkson Thomas tells about it here.

In the last couple of years the progressive Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA in Spanish) has skyrocketed to include Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and this month the island of Dominica, which has 75,000 residents and almost the same abroad.

Ambassador Thomas says he "sees no contradiction" in Dominica's new relationship with ALBA, and explains that aid from the United States for Dominica's banana dependent economy was present through the 1970's, when it became an independent republic from Great Britain in 1978, but flagged through the 1990's.

The diplomat said Dominica's interest in ALBA began early this millennium, and by June 2005 it signed the Petrocaribe Energy Cooperation Agreement with 13 other regional countries to "contribute to energy security, social and economic development, and integration of the Caribbean through the sovereign use of energy based on ALBA principles."

In November 2005 the United States tried in a last ditch attempt to peddle its Free Trade Agreement at the Americas Summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Regional chiefs of State "buried" the FTAA and at the parallel People's Summit ALBA was fully launched. Clarkson Thomas told Prensa Latina that "whether the FTAA is dead or alive is irrelevant, and we will continue with the disinterested assistance of ALBA."

Its founding documents explain ALBA is anchored in "cooperation, solidarity and complementarity as an alternative to the neo liberal model."

People in Dominica only make about an eighth of the US per capita income, so it's no wonder why they are committed to an alternative that aims to attack "poverty, inequality and unequal exchange."

Dominica's accession to ALBA was announced on January 10 by President Chavez in Caracas, venue to the next summit of the group on January 24-25.

The 35 year-old Dominica�s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt is the second youngest state leader in the world, and studied in two US universities for a BA in English and Psychology. He is friends with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro and said this month that his country's entry to ALBA is a move to "give citizens of the world a chance to survive."

ALBA is also a historical initiative, and in the conversation with Prensa Latina Thomas refers to the Carib indigenous population. Dominica was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans, thanks to fierce defiance from the Caribs.

Sources explain that those native people were represented at the World Indigenous Summit last October in Bolivia, which is a founding member of ALBA and its native President Evo Morales is a major proponent of rights for "originary peoples."

Bolivia has been key in developing ALBA's quality of "complementing instead of competing," which is a part of this challenging ideology which is absent at World Trade Organization negotiating tables.

Prensa Latina sources consulted last week said the alphabetization campaign, construction of a bi-oceanic corridor by Chile, Bolivia and Brazil and cultural integration are the most important cooperation projects underway there.

Transportation is a common issue in this region and ALBA cooperation in Dominica is very related to that, with a Cuba-Venezuelan built airport extension and plans for oil storage and refining.

An economic specialist consulted for this article said Dominica's energy needs of 600 barrels a day is no skin off Venezuela's back, while the island's supply of a site for an oil refinery and storage will be strategically important for the region. The possibility of paying for the fuel with goods and services is being studied in Caracas.

Ambassador Thomas explained Dominica has "very good relations with Venezuela," and Skerritt made no apologies when he said "President Chavez and the people of Venezuela are our friends."

Cuba is not excluded from that camaraderie, and Thomas said the nursing school Cuba helped open there in 2005 is in full swing, recruiting students from Dominica and other islands.

Considering the phenomenon called "brain drain," which includes southern students finishing their education and staying in the US, it is important to offer training here too.

Thomas said "the operation includes 30 Cubans as teachers and a director, and 90 percent have passed the exam given by the Caribbean Nursing Council."

ALBA medical cooperation also includes over 1,300 Dominicans receiving free eye surgery in Cuba and more than 50 youth studying at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana.

When asked about being the first English-speaking nation to enter the Alternative, he said "we are also the first CARICOM member," and spoke fluently of responsible relationships, complementary assistance and endogenous growth.

He said "CARICOM lacks resources and with ALBA one can get great assistance," and mentioned the newly formed Bank of the South.

"We have no choice and we expect the world to understand our situation, our intelligence. We respect the United Nations, we want multiple relations with ALBA, and we hope our move is not belittled," he explained.

* Prensa Latina reporters Mario Esquivel and Charly Morales Valido contributed to this story from Venezuela and Bolivia, respectively.

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Volume No. 2 Issue No. 12
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