Wednesday 13 January 2010
Honduran congress votes to leave ALBA
by Paul Haste
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has joined legitimate Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in condemning the Honduras coup regime’s withdrawal from a trade treaty uniting Latin America’s most progressive countries.
The Honduran Congress, which is dominated by supporters of self-styled "interim president" Roberto Micheletti, voted 123 to five late on Tuesday to end co-operation with Cuba and Venezuela under the the ALBA Peoples’ Trade Treaty.
Mr Zelaya, who was deposed by the military in a coup last June, but secretly returned from exile to take up residency in the Brazilian embassy in Honduras’ capital Tegucigalpa, slated the withdrawal from ALBA as "part of Micheletti’s right-wing agenda."
Mr Chavez declared that the de facto regime had "had already left ALBA and turned its backs on the poorest in Honduras the day the coup took place."
ALBA, or Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, unites Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and several Caribbean island nations with an alternative trade agreement that prioritises social welfare and solidarity over free trade.
The agreement emphasises barter and exchange, such as Venezuela’s offer to swap oil in return for the help of Cuban doctors in its health service, and prioritises support for social welfare programmes that have been credited with eradicating illiteracy in Bolivia in just three years.
But the Honduras opposition National Resistance Front vowed to continue with the massive street demonstrations that have rocked Tegucigalpa since the coup, and pledged to defy a police crackdown to protest at the inauguration of a new president, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, on 27 January.
Mr Lobo Sosa, a supporter of the coup who won presidential elections held under the gun last November, has suggested that he will give an amnesty to the soldiers who arrested Mr Zelaya, and has not opposed Mr Micheletti’s demand that Honduras withdraw from ALBA.
No member of ALBA has recognised Mr Lobo Sosa’s election, but Brazil is planning to send a high-level delegation to Honduras in February in an attempt to ensure Mr Zelaya’s safety once he returns to being a private citizen at the end of his presidential term.