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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Chavez Urges Pulling Latin American Reserves From the US

As the world focuses on the Middle East, my favorite Latin American firebrand, Hugo Chavez is rattling the US cage again

Chavez: Pull Reserves From US

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged his Latin American allies on Saturday to begin withdrawing billions of dollars in international reserves from U.S. banks, warning of a looming U.S. economic crisis.

Chavez made the suggestion as he hosted a summit aimed at boosting Latin American integration and rolling back U.S. influence.

"We should start to bring our reserves here," Chavez said. "Why does that money have to be in the north? ... You can't put all your eggs in one basket."

To help pool resources within the region, Chavez and other leaders launched a new development bank at the summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Nations of Our America, or ALBA.

The left-leaning regional trade alliance first proposed by Chavez is intended to offer an alternative, socialist path to integration while snubbing U.S.-backed free-trade deals.

Chavez noted that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Colombia in recent days, saying "that has to do with this summit."

"The empire doesn't accept alternatives," Chavez told the gathering, attended by the presidents of Bolivia and Nicaragua and Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage.

Chavez warned that U.S. "imperialism is entering into a crisis that can affect all of us" and said Latin America "will save itself alone."

Rice left Colombia on Friday after a trip aimed at reviving a free trade deal that has stalled in the U.S. Congress. She sidestepped an opportunity to confront Chavez, who accused Colombia and the United States of plotting "military aggression" against Venezuela.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega joined Chavez in his criticism of U.S.-style capitalism, saying "the dictatorship of global capitalism ... has lost control." Three days earlier, Ortega had shouted "Long live the U.S. government" as he inaugurated an American-financed section of highway in his country.

The ALBA Bank is "being born with the aim of boosting development in our countries," Venezuelan Finance Minister Rafael Isea said Saturday as he and other officials gathered at the bank's Caracas office for an inaugural ceremony.

Isea has said the bank will be started with $1 billion to $1.5 billion.

Chavez welcomed the Caribbean island of Dominica into the ALBA — an acronym that means "dawn" in Spanish — joining Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba. Attending as observers were the prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, along with officials from Ecuador, Honduras, Haiti and St. Kitts and Nevis.

Chavez said a new fund created by Venezuela and Iran to support projects in third countries would have links to the ALBA Bank. (source)

ALBA Bank to Open in Three Months

Caracas, Jan 25 (Prensa Latina) The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) will have its own financial institution three months from now to boost regional development projects, Cuban Central Bank President Francisco Soberon said on Friday.

Soberon told Prensa Latina that the ALBA ministers signed the Foundational Act and approved the constitutive fund of the ALBA Bank, as well as a schedule to start up operations within the next 60 days.

The project will be submitted for approval to the presidents or representatives of the ALBA member countries (Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela), who will end the Sixth ALBA Summit on Saturday.

The Cuban minister pointed out that the new financial body will fund projects that similar institutions would reject.

Unlike commercial banks, which reject low-profit loan requests, the new mechanism will consider the productive, social and ecological impact of the projects.

Therefore, each partner country will supply capital to the bank, which will also receive funds from third parties, because it will open so strong that it will be a perfectly-viable alternative in a relatively short term, Soberon added.

He explained that the bank would cover expenses and generate profits to grow moderately, but it would never be aimed at obtaining excessive profits.

In the end, loans will go to companies from the partner countries, so there is no point in acting with a capitalist mentality to obtain large profits in detriment of those who must be the beneficiaries, Soberon pointed out.

He noted that one of the main characteristics of the bank, unlike other similar institutions, is that it will not play a hegemonic role, and its decisions will be based on equal votes, independently from the partner's level of participation.

The creation of the ALBA Bank is one of the main issues being debated at the Sixth ALBA Summit, during which Dominica is expected to become the fifth member on Saturday.



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