Chavez calls for ALBA's expansion

Cuban newspaper Granma reported on June 6 that Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez, had called for an expansion of ALBA — the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a solidarity-based alternative to US-backed bilateral "free trade" agreements and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Chavez made the call during the closing of the first meeting of ALBA's Council of Ministers in Venezuela's capital, Caracas.

ALBA was initiated by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004. After President Evo Morales of Bolivia and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua assumed office in January 2006 and 2007 respectively, their nations signed up to ALBA.

Chavez also spoke on the possibility of expanding ALBA to create a new regional defence pact to replace the Inter-American Defense Board, which is based in Washington DC. Granma reported that Chavez called for "joint military aid as well as intelligence and counterintelligence cooperation 'to prepare our people for defense so that nobody makes any mistake with us'". He explained that it was necessary because of "the terrorism and permanent aggression of the United States".

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