HAVANA – A meeting of foreign ministers of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) began on Thursday with calls to combat an international campaign targeting Venezuela and to bolster regional integration.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza and their colleagues from Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and El Salvador were among those in attendance, as was David Choquehuanca, ALBA’s secretary-general and a former Bolivian foreign minister.
ALBA, which on Thursday is marking the 13th anniversary of its founding, “needs an additional push,” Rodriguez said at the inauguration of the organization’s 16th Political Council.
He said this year had been one of changes in the international arena, including a “growing onslaught of US imperialism” in Latin America and the Caribbean, an “escalation” of aggression against Venezuela and “growing threats to peace and security.”
In Thursday’s session, ALBA members will review global political issues such as the “campaign against Venezuela,” a reference to harsh sanctions imposed earlier this year by the United States, the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s director-general for Latin America and the Caribbean, Eugenio Martinez, told reporters.
US President Donald Trump in August signed an executive order that bars dealings in new debt and equity issued by the Venezuelan government and that nation’s state oil company, PDVSA.
The US Treasury Department said the measures were “carefully calibrated to deny (President Nicolas Maduro’s) dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule, protect the United States financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption and in the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people, and allow for humanitarian assistance,” the statement said.
The European Union and Canada also have imposed their own sanctions on Venezuela.
Maduro and his allies have come under additional fire internationally this year for creating a plenipotentiary body that has taken over the functions of the National Assembly, the unicameral legislature and the only institution in the opposition’s control.
Maduro insists the National Constituent Assembly became necessary due to opposition-led street protests, political deadlock and an economic crisis.
Also at the one-day meeting, participants in the ALBA meeting will discuss “cooperation mechanisms” for forecasting and responding to natural disasters such as major Hurricanes Irma and Maria that left a trail of devastation in the Caribbean in September, Martinez said.
Another item on the agenda is the need to strengthen the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as a “genuine inclusive and political entity in the region,” he added.
ALBA is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela.