The Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) is an anti-imperialist trading bloc first formed by the left-wing governments of Venezuela and Cuba to promote trade on the basis of solidarity rather than competition. It has since expanded to include Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Honduras was an ALBA member, but was forced to withdraw when a 2009 US-backed coup installed a right-wing dictatorship.
A second round of talks between US and Cuban diplomats began in Washington on February 27, with the aim of restoring diplomatic relations. US President Barack Obama announced, in what he termed the most significant Cuba policy shift in more than 50 years, that he will pursue diplomatic relations and urge Congress to dismantle the US blockade of Cuba.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro told a meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Costa Rica on January 28 that Latin America is living in a “new historic era” marked by unity and great opportunity. CELAC was first launched in 2011 in Venezuela, uniting all countries in the Americas except for the United States and Candada. It was set up as a counter-point to the Organisation of American States, which traditionally been dominated by the US.
“I want to see Cuba before everything changes,” is how many reacted to Barack Obama’s surprise December 17 announcement that he would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba — severed by the US in 1961 — and urge Congress to lift the US blockade. Seeing Cuba for oneself can only be encouraged, but those who fear that it will soon be transformed by American tourists, US corporations and commercialism need not rush to book flights.
Cuban President Raul Castro gave a speech on December 17 in which he said relations between Cuba and the United States would be reset. “We have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations, but this does not mean that the main issue has been resolved, the blockade that generates economic losses and humanitarian problems in our country must stop,” Castro said.
Representatives from more than 30 countries across the Americas met in Havana on October 29 to discuss a regional plan of action to combat Ebola. The specialists and government representatives were invited by the anti-imperialist Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) bloc to exchange experiences and create prevention strategies to address the Ebola virus. ALBA was formed in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela to promote pro-people regional integration and now has eight nations.
The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for the 23rd time on October 29 to condemn the decades-long United States economic embargo against Cuba. Reuters said that day that many nations praised the socialist country for its response in fighting the deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging west Africa. Cuba has sent hundreds of doctors to affected countries in west Africa.
At the same time as the United States government has responded to the Ebola crisis in west Africa by sending soldiers ― and the Australian government by refusing to send any medical personnel at all ― Cuba has sent 460 medical personnel to affected countries. In his regular column, reprinted from the Cuban News Agency, former Cuban president Fidel Castro explained Cuba's response. ***
The ebola outbreak in West Africa is "unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times", World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Dr Margaret Chan said on October 14.