The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America
Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Spanish)
ALBA is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of social, political, and economic integration between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is associated with socialist and social democratic governments and is an attempt at regional economic integration based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid, rather than trade liberalization as with free trade agreements. ALBA nations are in the process of introducing a new regional currency, the SUCRE. It is intended to be the common virtual currency by 2010 and eventually a hard currency. The name initially contained "Alternative" instead of "Alliance", but was changed on June 24, 2009. ALBA also means "dawn" in Spanish.
It is worth noticing that the ALBA is a reaction to the ALCA (Área de Libre Comercio de Las Américas, or FTAA in English, Free Trade Area of the Americas), which "was a proposed agreement to eliminate or reduce the trade barriers among all countries in the Americas but Cuba. In the last round of negotiations, trade ministers from 34 countries met in Miami, Florida, United States, in November 2003 to discuss the proposal. The proposed agreement was an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico and the United States. Opposing the proposal were Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Dominica, Nicaragua and Honduras, which entered the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas in English) in response, and Argentina, Chile and Brazil.
A vocal critic of the FTAA is Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who has described it as an "annexation plan" and a "tool of imperialism" for the exploitation of Latin America. As a counterproposal to this initiative, Chávez has promoted the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, ALBA), vaguely based on the model of the European Union, which makes emphasis on energy and infrastructure agreements that are gradually extended to other areas finally to include the total economic, political and military integration of the member states. Also, Evo Morales of Bolivia has referred to the US-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas, as "an agreement to legalize the colonization of the Americas.
The FTAA missed the targeted deadline of 2005 as planned. This followed the stalling of useful negotiations of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 2005. Over time, some governments not wanting to lose a chance of hemispheric trade expansion moved in the direction of establishing a series of bilateral trade deals.