Associated Press | 8 October 2007
Venezuela Mulls Return to CAN
By SANDRA SIERRA
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Venezuela may return to the Andean Community, or CAN, because leftist leaders in Bolivia and Ecuador who have resisted free trade deals with the United States could help to transform the regional trade bloc.
Chavez, who pulled Venezuela out of the five-nation bloc in 2006 after Peru and Colombia signed U.S. free trade deals, said he was studying "the possible path toward a new Andean Community."
"Changes in the CAN are necessary," said Chavez, speaking during his weekly radio and television program.
The Venezuelan leader did not elaborate, but he insisted the bloc should become "Bolivarian" - a term referring to his anti-U.S. political movement named after 19th-cetury independence hero Simon Bolivar.
Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa are outspoken critics of Washington’s economic policies in Latin America, while Colombia and Peru have signed free trade deals with the United States. Chile, a free trade supporter, is an associate member of the group.
The CAN was created in 1969 to help facilitate economic integration between Andean nations.
Many labor and leftist groups say they fear the trade deals will hurt the region’s poor by confronting them with competition from cheaper U.S. products. Supporters say the deals will increase national wealth, expanding export markets and giving local consumers cheaper food and other goods.
Venezuela has established the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, a pact Chavez has championed as an alternative to U.S. free trade pacts. Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua have signed on, along with Iran as an observer.