ALBA, formally the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América), is an intergovernmental organization based on the idea of the social, political and economic integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The name "Bolivarian" refers to the ideology of Simón Bolívar, the 19th-century South American independence leader born in Caracas who wanted Hispanic America to unite as a single "Great Nation." Founded initially by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004, it is associated with socialist and social democratic governments wishing to consolidate regional economic integration based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid. The eleven member countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela. Suriname was admitted to ALBA as a guest country at a February 2012 summit. ALBA nations may conduct trade using a virtual regional currency known as the SUCRE. Venezuela and Ecuador made the first bilateral trade deal using the Sucre, instead of the US dollar, on July 6, 2010.
The name initially contained "Alternative" instead of "Alliance", but was changed on June 24, 2009.
The agreement was proposed by the government of Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chávez, as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA or ALCA in Spanish, an agreement proposed by the United States) that had been opposed by several countries in the region and inspired massive popular protests.
This Cuba-Venezuela Agreement, signed on December 14, 2004, by Presidents Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, was aimed at the exchange of medical and educational resources and petroleum between the both nations. Venezuela began to deliver about 96,000 barrels of oil per day from its state-owned oil company, PDVSA, to Cuba at very favorable prices. In exchange, Cuba sent 20,000 state-employed medical staff and thousands of teachers to Venezuela's poorest states. The agreement also made it possible for Venezuelans to travel to Cuba for specialized medical care, free of charge.
When it was launched in 2004, ALBA had only two member states, Venezuela and Cuba. Subsequently, a number of other Latin American and Caribbean nations entered into this 'Peoples' Trade Agreement' (Spanish: Tratado de Comercio de los Pueblos, or TCP), which aims to implement the principles of ALBA. Bolivia under Evo Morales joined in 2006, Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega in 2007, and Ecuador under Rafael Correa in 2009. Honduras, under Manuel Zelaya, joined in 2008, but withdrew in 2009 after the 2009 Honduran coup d'état. The Caribbean nations Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia also joined.
Jamaica, at the invitation of Hugo Chávez, the President of Venezuela and Mexico, at the invitation of Daniel Ortega, the President of Nicaragua, were invited to join the ALBA countries. Hugo Chávez also invited the countries of Central America to join ALBA, and Argentina, to use SUCRE, the currency of this organization. Vietnam has been invited to join as an observer. In the eleventh Summit of ALBA in February 2012, Suriname, St. Lucia and Haiti requested admission to the organization. Haiti was granted the special status of permanent member; while the other two countries were named special members, while awaiting their full incorporation.
President Chávez was honored posthumously by the nine member countries of the group and special guests Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Suriname, Guyana and Haiti at the group's 12th Presidential Summit in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
In October 2009, ALBA leaders agreed, at a summit in Bolivia, to create a common regional currency. "The document is approved," said Bolivian President Evo Morales, the summit host. President Hugo Chávez (Venezuela) announced "The sucre [is] an autonomous and sovereign monetary system that will be agreed upon today so that it can be implemented in 2010." As of 2015, the virtual currency is being used to compensate trade between Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and especially Ecuador and Venezuela.
In addition, Suriname is a "special guest member" that intends to become a full member. Haiti, an observer member, also intends to join ALBA.
Established in 2005 and based on earlier agreements between ALBA founders Cuba and Venezuela, Petrocaribe looks to sell oil under a concessionary financial agreement to fourteen member nations situated in the Caribbean. This initiative provides the Caribbean nations with important hydrocarbon resources, which many do not possess on their territories. In the case of Cuba, Petrocaribe ensures a continual flow to a nation that has been deprived of oil since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.
Launched in 2005, TeleSUR is a media conglomerate that provides news and current affairs broadcasts throughout the ALBA bloc. The program is based on an internet based television channel and is a cooperative effort between the governments of Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
PETROSUR is an inter-governmental energy alliance between Venezuelan PDVSA, Argentinean YPF, and Brazilian Petrobras nationalized oil companies. The goal of this initiative is to provide funding for social welfare programs within these nations. It is another example of how ALBA nations are using oil revenues to bring aid to poorest inhabitants of these nations.
Established in 2008, UNASUR is an intergovernmental union charged with integrating the Andean communities of South America a system that currently favors nations with coastal access. The UNASUR agreement could be the beginning for sustainable agriculture in the ALBA bloc as communities living in these nations, particularly Bolivia and Peru possess a wealth of knowledge about cultivation and a favorable climate for such activities.