‘Keep Almagro Out’: Interview with ALBA-TCP Secretary General

Kawsachun News spoke to Sacha Llorenti, General Secretary of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP) on the 19th anniversary of Bolivarian Venezuela’s defeat of the 2002 coup against Commander Hugo Chavez. LLorenti discusses the Alliance’s solidarity efforts in Saint Vincent in the Grenadines, social movements in the region, and the threat of OAS head Luis Almagro.

This interview was conducted by Camila Escalante (CE) and Oliver Vargas.

CE: We heard about everything that’s gone on in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and of course Venezuela, Cuba and ALBA were the first to pledge their support as well as the Banco de ALBA. Tell us what the roll of ALBA will be in trying to support the efforts there in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

SL: We were of course shocked by the news of the eruption of this volcano and immediately the first two countries that showed up, in terms of solidarity were Cuba and Venezuela. They sent a lot of supplies as well as personnel to help the government there with the evacuation of nearly 20,000 people. Right now, the President of ALBA Bank is in Saint Vincent, in Kingstown. We have already circulated a list of requirements and I’m sure that the rest of the members of ALBA will also help to achieve the goal of receiving different kinds of supplies that are needed. Most of all, water. That’s one of our main concerns there. So things are improving. Besides ALBA, many of the other Caribbean countries have also helped. They are receiving some of the people evacuated. We are in close contact with the authorities, in terms of trying to do the best we can.

CE: ALBA Heads of State met in December, and then there was the Political Council of the Foreign Ministers. Now the Alliance has come together to meet on women and gender and communication. We know that part of what Chavez and leaders in the last 15 or so years have impulsed, has been this articulation of social movements. What does ALBA have in store for trying to bring together social movements of the different countries?

SL: That’s a very important question because there are two ways in which ALBA is working with social movements. One of them is called ALBA Movimientos and that’s not part of the structure of ALBA itself but we coordinate a lot with them. So there are many social movements, not just part of the countries which have a membership in our Alliance. So you might find social organizations from Argentina, from Peru, from Brazil and all over Latin America and the Caribbean and even the United States. So that’s one part, and the other one is that there’s a social movements council as well of ALBA and that’s in close relationship with the governments which are part of the Alliance. We’re planning on having a meeting of the two branches. That will be in October of this year, it will be held here in Bolivia, in Cochabamba. I know that President Evo is very enthusiastic about this idea and I think that it would be a very important meeting in which we’ll try to set the goals, not just for Latin America and the Caribbean but also for the whole world in terms of what we can learn from the pandemic and what are the most important things that we can do, not just as social movements or as ALBA but as a family of the same species.

CE: We had elections here in Bolivia on Sunday and we heard from President Luis Arce outside of his polling station and he said that he rejects the presence of the Organization of American States (OAS), which participated in these elections as observers. What has been the overall response to everything that went on here, on the part of ALBA states?

SL: We have issued many statements in relation to the participation of the OAS and particularly its Secretary General Luis Almagro. It’s not just elections here in Bolivia but also in the ways he deals with the issues related to Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. Luis Almagro is a threat to democracy, he’s a threat to integration, he was one of the closest allies to Donald Trump, not just in terms of the coup d’etat here in Bolivia but also the attempts against Venezuelan democracy and also the Cuban Revolution. So one of the main lessons that we have to learn from the really difficult time that Bolivia has been through, is to keep Almagro as far as possible from all the things that matter to us. I mean democracy, I mean independence, respect for our sovereignty, etc. We need to understand that the role of Luis Almagro and the OAS is to be the riding horse for the application of the Monroe Doctrine that many U.S. officials have openly talked about, saying that that’s their goal. From ALBA’s perspective, from member states of our Alliance, we have stated clearly that we are no one’s backyard and that we will defend our sovereignty as we have proved to do.

CE: One last question. Do you recall the failed coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002? What are your memories of that?

SL: Well it was 2002, 19 years ago. At that time, Hugo Chavez was already one of the biggest figures of Latin America and the Caribbean. I remember that we demonstrated in the streets of La Paz and what I can say is that the way in which the Venezuelan Armed Forces recovered democracy during those three difficult days is a beautiful lesson. I remember the worlds of Hugo Chavez, even under those circumstances, he talked about reconciliation. The very same people he forgave at the time were the ones that orchestrated so many attempts against the Venezuelan Revolution. I think there are lessons to be learned as well but what I can say is that Hugo Chavez lives in every single meeting, every single statement that our Alliance delivers.