ALBA member countries mark 10th anniversary in Cuba amid falling oil price worries

HAVANA – The left-leaning regional economic and diplomatic bloc known as ALBA marked its 10th anniversary Sunday amid pressures made by tumbling oil prices on petroleum-producing countries such as top ALBA member Venezuela.

Presidents Nicolas Maduro, of Venezuela; Daniel Ortega, of Nicaragua; and Evo Morales, of Bolivia joined Raul Castro, of Cuba for the festivities in Havana, where the group was founded. Foreign ministers from other bloc-member countries also attended the gathering.

The meeting wrapped up in the afternoon with a 40-point general declaration about some of the top issues in the region, such as ways to help landlocked Bolivia’s access to the ocean, and the peace process aimed at ending the decades-old conflict in Colombia.

The summit was held against a backdrop of falling international oil prices that worry petroleum exporters like Venezuela. The South American country in recent years has provided fuel on preferential terms to Cuba and some other ALBA members through a related regional grouping called Petrocaribe.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban economist and researcher at the University of Denver, said the drop in petroleum prices “could have severe costs for Venezuela’s international commitments with ALBA and the countries benefiting from preferential energy agreements.”

The Boliviarian Alliance known as ALBA pulls together centre-left countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and places much of its focus on social programs dealing with such issues as health and education.

ALBA was created in 2004 by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has since retired. ALBA aims to counter US influence in the region and Raul Castro on Sunday called ALBA “a real alternative to the economic and social model” of many developed countries, especially the United States.


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