Cuba, Venezuela forge ahead

Like it or not, believe it or not, Cuba and Venezuela are forging ahead of us in this battle against COVID 19 and its deadlier mutations. At this writing, a first case of the dreaded UK variant was reported in Pasay city, which makes one wonder if there are many more undetected ones. Then to everyone’s surprise, the IATF (Interagency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) has allowed movie theatres and arcades to open, without consulting local government officials and before the implementation of a massive vaccination program.

The mere mention of “Cuba” and “Venezuela” raises eyebrows because we are still in thrall to US black propaganda against these two countries. Former President Donald Trump continues to blame Venezuela for stealing the last elections; in like manner, when Mr. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. lost to Vice-President Leni Robredo, he launched a long-winded electoral protest blaming Venezuelan-made equipment for the steal. The Supreme Court dismissed the case a few days ago.

Frankly, it is always gratifying to hear that countries harassed by economic embargoes and threatened with politico-military coups (like Cuba and Venezuela) are forging ahead dauntlessly in the field of medical science. During the XVIII Summit of president’s and prime ministers of ALBA-TCP (held virtually last December 2020), President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela announced that his country and Cuba have pooled their resources to form a COVID-19 Vaccine bank in the framework of the ALBA-TCP. ALBA is the acronym for Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra America” (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) and TCP means “Tratado de Comercio de los Pueblos”(Peoples ‘Treaty of Commerce). Bolivariana comes from Simon Bolivar, the anti-colonial liberator of South America. The TCP, ALBA’s shield against divisive bilateral commercial agreements by the USA, aims to promote trade in the region on the basis of solidarity, cooperation and complementarity.

For the readers’ information, allow me to list the official names of the ALBA members: (1) República Bolivariana de Venezuela, (2) República de Cuba, (3) Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, (4) República de Nicaragua, (5) Mancomunidad de Domínica, (6) República del Ecuador, (7) San Vicente y las Granadinas, (8) Antigua y Barbuda y Santa Lucia, (9) San Cristobal y Nieves (St. Kitts and Nevis) and (10) Surinam. Cuba and Venezuela spearheaded the foundation of ALBA in 2004.

During that XVIII Summit, Pres. Madero declared that all the citizens of ALBA members should be vaccinated and that the ALBA Bank will guarantee funds for diagnostic tests including the PCR type, as well as for treatments and medication for patients with mild, moderate and severe symptoms, and also for the asymptomatic ones. That is a gargantuan project!

As you probably know, Cuba has successfully developed four vaccines, Soberana (Sovereign) 1 & 2, Abdala and Mambisa . ALBA is also counting on vaccines from China and Russia. Pres. Madero said the four vaccines from Cuba are efficacious and easily distributed because these do not require refrigeration; with regard to Russia’s Sputnik V, it has proven to be 100% effective especially for severe cases. As an aside, Pres. Madero mentioned that mass vaccination has begun in the United States.

Needless to say, President Maduro is well aware that flattening the curve of the Covid pandemic is not the only challenge ALBA members have to face. Like in other parts of the world, the USA included, economic recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean is just as urgent as obliterating the pandemic. In addition, he spoke about the “devastating sanctions by the US empire” and inferred that political intervention is a constant danger. He brought up the coup that threatened Bolivia’s democracy only a year ago and warmly welcomed Pres. Luis Arce who defeated the Jeanine Áñez dictatorship through the electoral process. For his part, Pres. Arce said that strengthening the ALBA-TCP is not an option but an urgent necessity. Did they hope to be left in peace during Pres. J. Biden’s watch?

PetroCaribe is the most valuable asset of the ALBA, until new sources of energy render fossil fuels redundant. In the meantime, members are assured of oil supplies on a concessional financial agreement. Pres. Maduro reiterated Venezuela’s commitment to the repositioning and expansion of PetroCaribe in 2021. There were proposals to reactivate the Economic Council of ALBA. President Maduro urged senior government officials to place the agenda of the Bolivarian bloc at the same level as the national agenda of each member country. The summit unanimously approved the mechanisms that have to be in place to enable a permanent consultation process for the post-pandemic ALBA work plan.

Cuba and Venezuela are beleaguered states that have been shoved into economic and political morass, but they are showing the ALBA members how to unite and forge ahead.