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ALBA secretary: Summit of the Americas is ‘failure,’ US ‘empire is losing its power’

The secretary of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), Sacha Llorenti, discusses Latin America and the Caribbean’s rebellion against the US government’s exclusionary Summit of the Americas, and growing efforts at regional integration against imperialism.

ALBA Summit Americas Sacha Llorenti

Multipolarista host Benjamin Norton interviewed the secretary of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), Sacha Llorenti, about Latin America’s rebellion against the US government’s Summit of the Americas.

Presidents of eight countries in the region boycotted the conference, which opened in Los Angeles, California on June 6.

Llorenti discussed ALBA’s alternative summit in Cuba, efforts at achieving economic and political integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the importance of unity against imperialism.

“We don’t consider this a summit, nor of the Americas,” he said. Llorenti condemned the Monroe Doctrine, US sanctions, and the “superiority complex that runs through US foreign policy.”

“Things are changing,” he added. “What we are seeing is an empire which is losing its power.”

A transcript of the interview follows below. It has been lightly edited for clarity.


BENJAMIN NORTON: Hello everyone, this is Ben Norton, and you are listening to or watching the Multipolarista podcast. This is a very special episode. I have the great privilege today of speaking with the executive secretary of the Bolivarian Alliance, the ALBA.

The full name is the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America. It’s also an economic alliance, and the full name is ALBA-TCP, which is also a “Trade Agreement for the People.”

This is an economic alliance created by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, to support independence from imperialism, sovereignty, and regional integration.

And today, I’m speaking with the secretary, the executive secretary of the ALBA, Sacha Llorenti. He is a former Bolivian diplomat and minister. He served as Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations, and as a minister under Bolivia’s former president, Evo Morales.

Today, we are going to be speaking about the ongoing Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California. This has been a diplomatic disaster for the U.S. government, which is hosting the summit.

At least eight countries in Latin America have boycotted – their heads of state have boycotted this summit, including the presidents of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Bolivia.

And Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba are not attending either. The U.S. government refused to invite them, but they also said that they don’t even want to attend this summit, which they do not consider legitimate.

There are also reports about members of the Caribbean and the Caribbean community, CARICOM, who said that they would potentially boycott the summit, which is going on right now. Today is June 8. It started on June 6, and is going on this week in Los Angeles, California.

So unfortunately, Secretary Llorenti does not have a lot of time today, so I’m going to go straight to him.

Secretary Llorenti, you are the the leader of the ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance. Can you talk about what the ALBA’s position has been on the Summit of the Americas? And can you give a general response to how you think the U.S. government has managed this?

SACHA LLORENTI: Thank you very much. I want to thank you very much for the opportunity. First of all, we don’t consider this is a summit, nor of the Americas, because of the arbitrary decision of the host country, in this case the United States, to exclude some nations, countries of the Americas, of Latin America and the Caribbean, from this meeting.

The ALBA, just to give you some information about our organization, is a multilateral, subregional organization that gathers 10 countries from Latin America and also the Caribbean. It was established in 2004 by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. And then eight other countries joined our organization.

We held a summit of ALBA-TCP on May 27, just a few days ago. And in our declaration, we reject the exclusions and the discriminatory treatment in the so-called Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

I think that, for any honest analyst, this meeting that was convened by the United States has failed already, not just because of the exclusions, but also because of the reaction of most countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

You mentioned a few. Everything started with the statements made by the president of Mexico, followed by the president of Honduras, of Bolivia. They have decided to take a strong position against this exclusion.

CARICOM, as you also mentioned, the Community of Caribbean States, had a meeting of foreign ministers a few weeks ago. And they also called the United States for everyone to participate in this meeting.

And also the president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states, CELAC, who is right now the president of Argentina, has said that he is going to participate in the so-called summit, but he will represent the voice of Latin America and the Caribbean, condemning the decision of the host country, the United States, to exclude these three countries.

So it is a failure, not just because the reaction that it has caused in the region, but also because I think that everyone realizes that the United States government is not interested in integration. It’s not interested in human rights, nor democracy.

What they do is they try to use every single venue, every single opportunity, in order to help their hegemonic interests instead of integration. This is a good example of what we are facing these days.

And another thing that I want to also underline is that it is not just the discrimination against these three countries, but also against many representatives of civil society from different countries.

So it shows really how the United States government considers our region. They continue to consider Latin America and the Caribbean as their backyard.

A few days ago, Joe Biden said, “It’s not our backyard; it’s our front yard.” They don’t realize that we are not anybody’s back or front yard at all.

And I think it’s a mix of not understanding what’s happening, but also this superiority complex that runs through the U.S. foreign policy towards Latin American and the Caribbean.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Ambassador Llorenti, I would like to speak also about the countries that are attending.

I mentioned the boycott by the presidents of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador; and Honduras, the new left-wing president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro; and the president of Bolivia, Luis Arce; and also the president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, for different political reasons – he’s more conservative. But those are the presidents who are boycotting this summit.

Also the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua. Together, these countries represent over 200 million people.

I should also mention mention that there are reports that the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, is reportedly not attending.

So together, that’s more than 200 million people. In the region that is more than one-third of the population.

And the leaders who are attending are some of the leaders that are the most notorious for violating human rights.

I’m talking about Ivan Duque in Colombia, who is closely linked to drug trafficking. I’m also talking about the extremely right-wing president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who has threatened sitting politicians, who has praised the Pinochet dictatorship.

So what do you think this says about the fact that the progressive governments in the region are, at least their heads of state are, refusing to participate, but some of the most reactionary elements, that violate human rights and do not respect popular democracy are participating in this summit?

Along with, I should mention, the country of Spain, which was invited, which is very much not in the Americas. The last time I looked, Spain is in Europe.

So what do you think that says about this this summit that’s being organized by the U.S. government?

SACHA LLORENTI: As I said before, it’s a failure. It’s the way they look at our region.

But it’s part of a plan. It is not something that comes out of the blue. The United States has a clear policy of trying to dismantle, to destroy, every single attempt at genuine, authentic integration.

What happened in South America with UNASUR, the unity of nations of the South. It was destroyed by right-wing governments. And of course, everyone also understands that the hand of the State Department was behind that.

Also the privatization of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, I mean, until Mexico took over the presidency.

So it is part of a plan. They don’t want a proper unity or integration of Latin American and Caribbean states.

That’s why, what they are trying to do is to have the OAS and its secretary general to be, like it was pointed out by Cuban revolutionary Che, the Ministry of the Colonies.

And I think it even goes even beyond that. I think that we have to understand that Latin America and the Caribbean has a different agenda, has different interests, has even a different doctrine than the United States.

This is the confrontation that we have now. It is a two-centuries-old confrontation.

The Monroe Doctrine, that was published in 1823 – it’s going to be 200 years old next year – and the Bolivarian Doctrine, that is also 200 years old.

Those two doctrines are in confrontation, because of the incompatibility of their interests for 200 years.

And of course some countries of our region align themselves to the Monroe Doctrine, and some others to the Bolivarian Doctrine.

I believe that our venue for integration is not the Summit of the Americas. I believe that the true, authentic venue for us to get together is CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

And a proposal has come out in the summit of ALBA. The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, and also President Maduro recently reiterated the proposal of having meetings with the United States, of course, and Canada, but in another kind of format.

CELAC has regular meetings with China, with Russia, with different countries. And I think that this kind of format could be established with the United States and Canada.

But we need some venue in which things are run by Latin America and the Caribbean countries and interests, not the US interests. Because, as I said, they are not aligned.

And just another thing on who is going on and who is not going. What I believe is that most of the leaders or representatives that are that are going are going to protest the situation.

And the ones that are not going, of course they are not going in protest of the decisions of the United States.

The summit is a failure. But I think that we have to understand that the integration will not be achieved through the Summit of the Americas.

Because from the beginning, from 1994 when the first summit was held, the purpose of the United States was to have a free market area in America.

And of course that failed. In 2005, in the summit held Mar del Plata in Argentina, when leaders such as Néstor Kirchner, Tabaré Vázquez, Lula da Silva, Hugo Chávez, had a strong position against the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The main interests of the United States is to have control of Latin America and the Caribbean’s natural resources. That’s the first interest.

The second one is for the region to be the market for U.S. products, or companies, or multinational corporations.

Also, they want our workers for cheap labor.

And the whole reason of their interest is for them to control all the commercial, international commercial routes. That’s why the Panama Canal is so important. That’s why they did everything that they could in order to stop the project for the canal in Nicaragua.

And the fifth reason is for them to to punish everyone who does not obey their commands.

But things are changing in Latin America and the Caribbean. And the dignity which most of the countries are expressing in their rejection of the U.S. decisions is going to be the main and most important issue that will be discussed, or is being discussed in Los Angeles right now.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Secretary Llorenti, you mentioned that, just a few weeks ago, there was a summit held in Cuba of the members of the ALBA. These are countries in both Latin America and the Caribbean.

Can you talk about what was discussed in that summit and the final declaration that was published?

SACHA LLORENTI: Well, the declaration was a very important one. As I mentioned before, ALBA brings together the 10 countries. Allow me to mention them, because I think it’s important. It’s one-third of the whole Latin American and the Caribbean region.

It’s Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Those 10 countries gathered in Havana. And the first point that they adopted was the rejection of exclusions and the discriminatory treatment in the so-called Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

They pointed out that genuine regional integration should be made by the CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. And the underlined the the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace.

That’s why the presence of US military bases is an aggression to this proclamation of our region as a zone of peace. Also the presence of NATO goes against this this proclamation.

So that’s that’s another point that was underlined in our summit.

The other thing is the the support for the right of all countries of the continent to be not just invited but also to participate in meetings such as the so-called Summit of the Americas.

Also, the ALBA has denounced the discriminatory treatment by the United States as the host country of the so-called Summit of the Americas against numerous representatives of the genuine civil society of our continent.

And also we rejected the unilateral coercive measures that the United States imposes against countries of our alliance. This goes against the principles of the UN Charter. It goes against international law, and against the principles of multilateralism as well.

We have to repeat every single time that the United States imposes a blockade, an embargo, against Cuba for more than six decades. That’s a crime against humanity. Also against Venezuela and Nicaragua.

And this is, I think, something that we should should always remember, that the United States government used the [Covid-19] pandemic as a weapon. They weaponized the pandemic against not just these three countries, but some others in the world. Because instead of trying to lift some of these illegal measures against the peoples of these countries, they used the pandemic in order to strengthen these illegal, unilateral coercive measures.

So the [ALBA] summit based itself in the principles and purposes of the United Nations charter, that the United States has committed itself to uphold, the same thing with international law.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Ambassador Llorenti, you mentioned that the U.S. government has gone out of its way supporting coups to try to prevent countries from integrating into the Bolivarian Alliance.

For instance, Honduras under President Manuel Zelaya was a member of the ALBA. There was a US-backed coup in 2009, and Honduras was removed from the ALBA.

Similarly, Ecuador had been part of the ALBA, and there was this betrayal, a kind of internal soft coup by Lenín Moreno against the former president, Rafael Correa. And he withdrew Ecuador from the ALBA.

And I would say, from studying this, that one of the main reasons that Washington has been afraid of the ALBA is that it proposes an economic alternative for the region, based on regional integration, based on bartering, and based on the creation of a new currency.

The ALBA did create a new currency for trade in the region, called the Sucre.

And we saw recent comments from the former president of Brazil Lula da Silva, who said that if he wins the October election, that he plans on creating a new currency in Latin America and the Caribbean for trade called the Sur.

Can you talk about attempts in the region to create a new currency, to integrate the economics of the region, and to create more independence from the U.S. dollar and U.S. hegemony?

SACHA LLORENTI: Yes, first of all, you mentioned many of the the countries in which the United States was part of a coup d’etat. I have to add Bolivia to that list.

What the OAS and the United States supported was a dictatorship in my own country. And, I mean, what happened in Bolivia was, of course, one of the latest examples of how the United States does not care about democracy.

They talk about democracy, but what they do is they organize and finance not just coups d’etat, but also the political instability in our countries.

We we have to ask ourselves for instance, who funded, who is funding the opposition in countries such as Nicaragua, or Cuba, or Venezuela? Through NGOs, directly, is the United States.

So they are the last ones to try to teach lessons on democracy or human rights.

Our countries, our peoples, know exactly what they have done for decades and decades in Latin America and the Caribbean.

And you mentioned the efforts in order to achieve a different kind of relationship in terms of economics or finances. That’s one of the goals of ALBA-TCP.

We have made tremendous advances in terms of having an economic relationship based on solidarity, not just profit. Petrocaribe is another example, in which the solidarity of Venezuela has been shown all over the region, in terms of providing energy in an affordable way for different countries.

The idea of having our own currency is, of course, one of our goals. And we were pleased by the declaration made by Lula da Silva.  That’s an effort that we have to continue working on.

Because imperialism is not just the political control; imperialism is not just territorial control; imperialism is also very, very much linked to natural resources, to the financial system, to how the debt system works; it is very much related to the World Bank, to the International Monetary Fund, the way in which the dollar imposes its will on the whole world.

And things are changing. Things are changing, not just in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also in Asia and Africa.

So what we are seeing is an empire which is losing its power. And I think that this century will be a century in which we will see the decay U.S. imperialism.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Secretary Llorenti, in addition to being the executive secretary of the ALBA, you were previously a Bolivian minister under President Evo Morales, and Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations.

You mentioned the US-backed coup in Bolivia in 2019 against Evo Morales. The people of Bolivia were able to overthrow, democratically, that coup, defeat the coup regime at the ballot box.

And the current government, led by the Movement Toward Socialism party and President Luis Arce, the government – the judicial system has just said that the former dictator, Jeanine Áñez, faces 15 years in prison.

I’m wondering if you can comment on the process of defeating the coup in Bolivia and the restoration of democracy in your country.

SACHA LLORENTI: Well I believe that the Bolivian people have written one of the most heroic, epic pages in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Because if we compare similar processes in some other countries, we will find that there are very, very few examples in which the people itself recover democracy after a short period of time.

I mean, it took in some cases 10 or 15 years before the people would get back to power. In the case of Bolivia, it took one year.

But at a very high cost. There were two massacres in Bolivia. Almost 40 people were killed. People were persecuted and were jailed. Many of us had to go into exile.

But the people itself recovered democracy, democratically. And now what has happened in Bolivia, they are of course people who took power illegally, and are being prosecuted. And we hope that all of those responsible will be rightfully and lawfully punished.

I think that will send a clear message not just to Bolivians, but also to all Latin Americans and Caribbeans, that coups d’etat should be part of the past.

But we also understand that the right-wing interests, the oligarchy, or the U.S. interests do not support democracy. When democracy does not fit their interests, they go and do these things that they have done, not just in Bolivia; they also tried to do that in Nicaragua in 2018.

They tried to do it in Venezuela. The latest revelations of what they were organizing in Venezuela are really, really scary. Not just mercenaries, not just the discussion of military intervention, but also they tried to kill President Maduro.

So we have to be aware. We don’t have the luxury of being naive. We have to be alert 24/7. Because the rights of the people, the benefits of this revolutionary process, are not safe if we are naive.

BENJAMIN NORTON: Secretary Llorenti, I know that you are a very busy man, and I know we have to wrap up the interview. I just want to conclude with one final question.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, in Los Angeles right now, outside of the US government-sponsored summit, there is an alternative summit called the Summit of the Peoples, the People’s Summit for Democracy.

This has been organized by social movements across the Americas, including social movements in the United States and Canada, but also social movements in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

And one of the co-conveners of this People’s Summit for Democracy that’s going on in protest, is ALBA Movimientos, the social movement arm of the ALBA. I believe it’s independent from ALBA, the body that brings together the countries.

But I’m wondering if you can just speak about the People’s Summit for Democracy that’s going on to protest the US government-sponsored, exclusionary summit.

SACHA LLORENTI: I believe that’s a real summit, the People’s Summit. Because the policy of exclusion of the United States has made clear what’s at stake.

There are global and regional threats. We are missing the opportunity for governments to talk about health, to talk about climate change, to talk about debt, to talk about the real challenges that our peoples face.

So we are looking forward to the conclusions of the People’s Summit. We are going to participate. I will participate virtually on the last day of the summit.

And we we believe that they were also victims of this discriminatory policy. Because, as I pointed out, many representatives of civil society of our countries were excluded from the participation of the Summit [of the Americas], because the US government didn’t provided visas for these people.

So we look forward to the conclusions of the summit. I think that this is going to be a milestone on the long process for hope for our peoples to get together and to struggle against our common threats.

And our common threats are imperialism, capitalism, colonialism, and, of course, patriarchy as well.

So that’s my point of view. And I really thank you very much for this opportunity.

BENJAMIN NORTON: I want to thank you, Secretary Sacha Llorenti, the executive secretary of the Bolivarian Alliance, the ALBA.

For people who want to find more information about Secretary Llorenti and the ALBA, you can follow him on Twitter at @SachaLlorenti. And you can also follow the ALBA at @ALBATCP.

Again, I want to thank you, Secretary Llorenti. I know you’re a very busy man. It was a real pleasure speaking with you.

SACHA LLORENTI: Thank you. It was my pleasure, Ben.

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