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    November 21 2014

    Public Forum

    10 Years of Progress: The Bolivarian Alliance for
    the Peoples of Our America (ALBA)
    Celebrating the Gains, Confronting the Challenges!

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    10 Years of Progress: The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA)
    Celebrating the Gains, Confronting the Challenges!

    “Anxious hands are stretched forth, ready to die for what is theirs, to win those rights which were laughed at by one and all for 500 years. Yes, now history will have to take the poor of America into account, the exploited and spurned of Latin America, who have decided to begin writing history for themselves for all time." Fidel Castro, 1962

    When Cuban Revolutionary Fidel Castro spoke these words over 50 years ago they were the beginning of a battle cry that continues to be answered by governments and people across Latin America today. Over the past decade, ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (La Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra America) has had an important role in forming a counter-balance to US imperialism in Latin America, one that should be discussed, analyzed and understood by people fighting for a better world everywhere.

    On November 21, 2014 the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice held a public forum and discussion in Vancouver, Canada "10 Years of Progress: The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) Celebrating the Gains, Confronting the Challenges!" This forum included multimedia, speakers and a lively and engaged discussion that demonstrated just how much ALBA has changed the political and social landscape not only in Latin America, but around the world.

    The forum, emceed by Alison Bodine, a member of the Editorial Board of the Fire This Time Newspaper, began with a selection of multimedia. This included an account of the beginning of ALBA, which formed in 2004 from the ideas and plan of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and the late Comandante Hugo Chavez, leader of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Other videos included numerous reports that demonstrated the collaboration and cooperation of Latin American countries for the fair distribution of wealth, the social and economic integration between its members, as well as ALBA's international solidarity.

    The first speaker following the videos was Macarena Cataldo Hernandez, member of the Hugo Chavez People's Defense Front in Vancouver. Macarena gave an overview of the structure and goals of the ALBA organization, which formed as an alternative to the imperialist imposed trade agreement: the Free Trade Area of America (FTAA). She explained that today, ALBA has nine member countries which have formed many levels of agreements and cooperative projects in the areas of health, education, culture, sports, communicational sovereignty and new financial structures like the bank of ALBA and a system of regional compensation payments known as the SUCRE.

    Next, Gisela Lara Toro spoke on behalf of the Consulate of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Vancouver. Through her presentation, Gisela explained more about the role of the Comandante Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela in promoting Latin American cooperation and unity through ALBA . She brought many statistics that illustrated the profound impact of ALBA, including "Mission Milagro" (Miracle Mission). This health project has, though the cooperation of Cuba and Venezuela especially, given 3,482,361 people back their sight. Or, the incredible advances made by people of Latin America against illiteracy, in which 3,815,092 people have learned to read, with 4 of the ALBA countries now declared as "illiteracy-free zones."

    The historic leadership role of Cuba in ALBA was presented by Tamara Hansen, the Coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC), and author of "5 Decades of the Cuban Revolution: the Challenges of an Unwavering Leadership" (Battle of Ideas Press, 2010). Tamara put ALBA within the context of the past 56 years of the Cuban Revolution, which has led the way for growing Latin American independence from imperialism and called out for revolutionary internationalism and solidarity between all working and oppressed peoples. She explained further how the formation of ALBA has cemented a great victory for the Cuban people, and given expression to the changing tides in favor of working and oppressed people throughout Latin America, a shift that began with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959. Tamara also spoke about the important role of ALBA and Cuba in combating the Ebola crisis in West Africa. She explained that at the end of October, 2014 Cuba hosted an urgent ALBA meeting to discuss how to aid the fight against Ebola, and that today Cuba has more doctors in West Africa than any other country or aid organization.

    The last to speak was Thomas Davies, Editorial Board member of Fire This Time Newspaper. Thomas had the responsibility of putting the formation of ALBA within the context of Latin America and the international movement for a better world. Thomas contrasted the formation of ALBA with the formation of another organization, becoming every day more irrelevant in politics in Latin America, the Organization of American States (OAS). An energetic audience clapped as he went through some of the recent victories for oppressed people around the world, including the recent election of Venezuela to the United Nations Security Council, and the recent victorious re-election of President Evo Morales in Bolivia. He went on to explain how for decades the US backed organizations like the OAS, and imperialist trade agreements like the FTAA have been used to create US and imperialist hegemony in Latin America, now ALBA has become an alternative to these historic ills. "How amazing it would be if the government, instead of working against people, worked for people, and facilitated people's rights and facilitated people's dreams, and facilitated people's lives, and that is what ALBA is. And it's also showing when countries work together how incredible it can be, because not one country can do anything alone. It was never true that a county could build a society by itself, it's less true today because the world is so connected; countries, people need to work together in order to get anything done. And that is what ALBA, and that is what Latin America, is doing."

    Following the speakers, the tone was set for a lively discussion that continued well into the midnight. The room was full of people from many different countries and backgrounds, many of whom spoke of the necessity to spread the ideas and concrete solidarity of ALBA beyond Latin America. Others brought their own perspective about the challenges facing ALBA as they continue to battle against US imperialism, and the necessity for more education and mobilization in Vancouver and Canada in support of ALBA. In all, people left the energized room in an East Vancouver cafe with the feeling that a better world was both necessary and possible, with ALBA, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, and revolutionary Cuba leading the way.

    This forum was Part 3 of the Fire This Time Forum Series: "A Marxist World View for Today." This forum series has been organized to discuss the important topics which shape the international struggle against capitalism and imperialism for a better world. For more information about the next two forums in this series, please visit: http://www.firethistime.net/materials/FTTForumSeries-2014.pdf

    Fire This Time is a revolutionary socialist organization in that works to promote in action the unity and active solidarity with all poor and working people. For the Fire This Time Basis of Unity: http://www.firethistime.net/aboutus.html