On Tuesday the 19th, the Social Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-People’s Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP) met to coordinate efforts to guarantee massive and free access to the vaccine against covid-19 and other medicines to the peoples of the member countries.
Headed by its new executive secretary, Sacha Llorenti, the meeting was in response to a proposal by the current presidents of Venezuela and Cuba, Nicolás Maduro Moros and Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, respectively, for the creation of a vaccine fund for the ALBA-TCP countries.
This item was also among the topics discussed during the visit to Cuba by Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez, who carried out an intense working session with Cuban authorities.
During an assessment of the situation of the covid-19 pandemic in Venezuela last Sunday, President Maduro insisted on the need to meet the medicine needs of Latin American and Caribbean nations, in view of the existing inequality in the access to these supplies at a global level.
The President recalled that the project arose during the 18th ALBA-TCP Summit held in December, as a way to alleviate the “unfair and unequal” monopoly exercised by a small group of governments in the acquisition of most of the doses of vaccines to meet the health emergency in their respective countries.
This bloc of countries was created on December 14, 2004 in Havana when the then presidents of Cuba and Venezuela, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, signed the Joint Declaration for the creation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) inspired by the ideas of Bolivar and Marti.
Beyond the slogan: “United against covid-19”.
Although it may seem just a slogan charged with good intentions, it is exceptional to stand united against the most significant scourge that the world has experienced so far this century, especially in a region like Latin America, where the neoliberal wave that has taken power in several countries has deconfigured every regional integration initiative that was proposed in previous years.
Governments such as those of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Paraguay, Ecuador and the ousted coup in Bolivia have left their peoples abandoned in the face of a pandemic that reveals daily the fragility in which they live. The market-centered policies implemented by these governments are the driving force behind the alarming figures that Latin America and the Caribbean now present in the face of covid.
In this regard, Llorenti reviewed the covid-19 situation in the Americas and the world, emphasizing the lethality of the disease. He highlighted that, on average, more than 11,900 people have died every day, that is, one death every 8 seconds.
Executive Secretary @SachaLlorenti: “The pandemic that humanity is experiencing is not only an issue of the year 2020 but also part of 2021 and the years to come. More than 2 million people dead, every 8 seconds a person dies from #COVID19 “https://t.co/vIZdfmoZUS
– ALBA-TCP (@ALBATCP) January 19, 2021
He highlighted that, although international institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned that only solidarity will guarantee the success of the fight against covid-19, the neoliberal system has attempted to confront the pandemic following the rules of the market.
To this criticism, he added that this is seen particularly starkly in relation to the vaccines already made available to the international community. He described how “95 percent of the vaccines are in the hands of ten countries in the world. Rich countries are hoarding vaccines, up to nine times the number of their citizens. Who decides where the vaccine goes? It is the market that is deciding.”
“Rich countries are hoarding vaccines, up to nine times the number of their citizens. Who decides where the vaccine goes? It is the market that is deciding” points out Executive Secretary @SachaLlorenti https://t.co/vIZdfmoZUS
– ALBA-TCP (@ALBATCP) January 19, 2021
Llorenti outlined the examples of Cuba and Venezuela in the face of this way of acting of the countries in favor of neoliberalism, both countries have provided support with personnel and means to numerous peoples in all regions of the world.
“Whoever pays more gets vaccinated earlier. The richest get vaccinated first. Those who can afford it get vaccinated,” he said, commenting that this shows how neoliberalism works.
“Not even the most vulnerable, the health workers, can be vaccinated first,” he said, criticizing the fact that basic services are turned into merchandise or privileges for those who have more money.
“Are not the same countries that hoard vaccines the ones attacking the World Health Organization (WHO)?” he asked, pointing out that multilateralism is in crisis and under permanent threat of destruction.
For this reason, he assured that only “a strong State, a strengthened multilateral system, with public services understood as human rights” will be able to move forward.
It is worth noting that the United Nations (UN) blamed the rulers of a group of rich countries for ignoring the needs of less developed nations and competing to buy batches of anti-covid-19 vaccines. “Now we see vaccines rushing to rich countries and the poor get none,” warned its secretary general, António Guterres, who called for solidarity and joint global efforts to overcome the pandemic.
Visible Hands of Solidarity: Experiences, Achievements and Challenges
The member countries then shared their experiences, achievements and challenges, among which they highlighted health management and control strategies focused on community participation, technological advances focused on the socioeconomic rights of the population, the sending of international brigades to countries that have requested them to support the fight against the pandemic, and international cooperation mechanisms in which a multipolar vision has prevailed.
The Venezuelan Government, in the voice of its Minister of Health, Carlos Alvarado, shared how early attention, drastic and rapid measures (confinement, use of masks), biosecurity protocols and the creation of sentinel hospitals have defined the success that is reflected in the low contagion and mortality figures. He stated that “It is important to overcome the blockade, Venezuela has more than 30 billion dollars in international banks which we cannot use even for access to the vaccine”, referring to the unilateral coercive measures that the United States and the European Union maintain against Venezuela and which were extended during the first nine months of the pandemic. Alvarado concluded by saying that ALBA-TCP “should be an example of how to face a common threat”.
For their part, Cuban health authorities expressed their willingness to integrate, declaring: “We have not renounced to the principle of solidarity, 56 Henry Reeve brigades have been deployed around the world; despite the blockade, we are committed to bringing health to the peoples”. Likewise, they highlighted the surveillance at the country’s entry points, compliance with the health protocols established by the WHO, centers and health posts prepared for the detection and attention of cases of covid-19.
The Nicaraguan representative pointed out that their model has been based on the role of the family and the organized community, while the Bolivian representative assured that they are working hard to acquire medicines, equipment and vaccines for the care of patients against such a contagious disease.
Raúl Li Causi, president of Banco del Alba, acknowledged and congratulated the decisions taken by the governments of the region that have allowed keeping the pandemic under control, while announcing that the financial entity will support the member states for the purchase of vaccines. He added that “Banco del Alba, in coordination with the Venezuelan airline Conviasa, offers an air bridge for the transfer of vaccines or treatments”.
In this way, the bloc is actively seeking ways to make tools available to the peoples to overcome the stumbling block of a pandemic that has sharpened contradictions and myths such as the “invisible hand of the market”.
Agreements that are strategic steps
The agreements reached during this special meeting are not only decisions to address the conjuncture of the global pandemic, but are strategic steps to move forward in a solid way against a world order imposed by plutocracy. It is an effort to avoid the collapse of strong states in the region, which has been useful for global elites to intensify plunder and plunder and allows them to refloat a decadent system.
A key decision was the creation of a Humanitarian Fund, initially financed with two million dollars, to set up a Bank of Medicines and Vaccines to help improve access to medical supplies, rapid tests and PCR tests, vital elements in the battle against the pandemic. This resource mobilization would be targeted especially to the Eastern Caribbean countries.
Expedite the exchange of best practices for the fight against covid-19, allowing for the sharing of experiences according to the measures and treatments implemented by the health systems of the member countries.
Strengthen the participation of ALBA-TCP countries in the existing negotiation processes for the development of a more efficient and effective mechanism for joint purchases of vaccines and medicines against the disease.
Promote the search for greater financial and human resources for the fight against the pandemic, as well as to promote the transfer of technology and the dissemination of scientific and technical information among ALBA-TCP countries.
Strengthen coordination between Health and Higher Education for the management of training programs for professionals in various clinical and public health fields.
Strengthen the response capacity of hospital services (…) with the rehabilitation of the infrastructure of hospital networks, with the reorganization and extension of services linked to covid-19.
Advance in the universal and comprehensive coverage of care services for covid-19 cases, focusing on early detection, rapid diagnosis, immediate isolation and timely treatment.
Ensure funding and resource allocation mechanisms to carry out plans and projects related to the pandemic situation, under principles of fair exchange, complementarity, integration and solidarity.
The Social Council of #ALBATCP agreed to strengthen the response capacity of hospital services (…) rehabilitating the infrastructure of hospital networks, with the reorganization and extension of services linked to COVID-19.#19January pic.twitter.com/LHQPT0Rt6K
– ALBA-TCP (@ALBATCP) January 19, 2021
It was also reiterated the need for the imperative support of the WHO so that ALBA-TPC member states have equitable access to the vaccine and highlighted the relevance of building an inventory with the information of public laboratories and biological producers in Latin America and the Caribbean to know the technical capacities for research and production of vaccines.
Strategic steps that are key to multipolarity
The Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Arreaza assured that a joint negotiation will be established with the member countries of the block, pointing out that “We must remember that our alliance is based on solidarity, based on the most sensitive principles of union that may exist” and emphasizing the need to create “a multilateral government that provides the greatest happiness to our peoples. We hope to see the results of this meeting in a very short time”.
The diplomat continued calling on the private sector to join the air bridge to be established with Conviasa for the transfer of vaccines, treatments, patients and other supplies. He also insisted on promoting the search for greater financial and human resources for the fight against the pandemic, stressing the urgency of promoting the transfer of technology as well as scientific and technical information among the ALBA-TCP countries.
The exchange of experiences would allow, as indicated by the Samuel Robinson Institute for Original Thought, the projection of the regional bloc as the only international organization with its own model of virus containment, driven by the successful Venezuelan formula of controlled flexibilization, primary care and case detection using Big Data tools (Sistema Patria), as well as by the progress of Cuba’s four vaccine candidates.
It should be recalled that this bloc was partially destroyed by the global right when its governments dismantled the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) based on ideological artifices. In 2018, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay decided to withdraw from the group, as did Ecuador in 2019 and Uruguay in 2020, driven by plutocratic pressures.
Unasur is a South American integration organization founded in 2008 to “build a South American identity and citizenship and develop an integrated regional space”, but has kept its participation suspended since April 2018 due to the submission of the governments of some of its member countries to the extremist diplomacy of the former Trump administration. Currently only four countries remain as members.
In its internal conception, Unasur comprised different structures such as the South American Institute of Government in Health (ISAGS), which sought to reach consensus on positions, conduct research and permanently advise the health authorities of the twelve member countries.
At the dawn of the other possible geopolitics
ALBA-TCP brings together the countries with the best performance in containing the pandemic on a hemispheric scale, consolidating step by step a model of joint work with global resonance, according to the Samuel Robinson Institute. This contrasts with the performance of other Latin American governments that began to take measures in an asynchronous and heterogeneous manner in each territory, each based on their own epidemiological experiences, on research from other continents or, simply, applying measures in an improvised manner.
The result is plain to see: Brazil has become the second country in the world with the highest number of cases (after the United States), with more than three million cases of the disease. The blockaded Venezuela extended its support in the face of a health crisis caused in the city of Manaus by the lack of oxygen in the hospital network, which provoked the angry sarcasm of the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro.
In addition, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Peru and Bolivia are experiencing dramatic scenes in the face of precarious public health systems and private health services that take advantage of the disease to profit from the lives of the most vulnerable.
A meeting such as that of the Social Council also strengthens the spirit of bloc action with which ALBA-TCP was established in 2004, the basis of which lies in strengthening the region’s power and negotiation capabilities in the face of the geopolitical reordering of the Western powers, where, right now, the vaccine issue has become a strategic battlefield, concluded the Venezuelan think tank.
Translation by Internationalist 360°