Leftist Latin American trade alliance opens development bank in Cuba
By Andrea Rodriguez | The Associated Press
7:47 AM EDT, April 10, 2008
Havana , Cuba – Cuba and its leftist allies in Latin America on
Wednesday opened the first branch of a development bank designed to
break the region's dependence on the World Bank and other U.S.-backed
The bank is the financial arm of the Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas, or ALBA, a trade alliance funded by Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez and his country's oil profits. Its other members are Cuba,
Nicaragua and Bolivia, which are among the region's poorest nations.
The ALBA bank will start with about $1 billion in assets and could offer
up to twice that in loans and aid for development projects in Latin
America and the Caribbean, Venezuelan Finance Minister Rafael Isea said.
ALBA, an acronym that means “dawn'' in Spanish, is intended to offer a
socialist path to economic integration while snubbing U.S.-backed,
The inaugural branch opened for business in communist Cuba in a
fourth-floor office in the Miramar Trade Center, a gleaming, high-rise
enclave of shops and business suites in one of Havana's most exclusive
“ALBA is filling a void … financing productive projects to give more
employment and (serving as) an instrument to fight against poverty,''
said Cuban Central Bank President Francisco Soberon, flanked by a dozen
bank employees in blue suits.
Chavez has urged Latin American leaders to withdraw billions of dollars
in international reserves from U.S. banks, warning of a looming American
economic crisis. Soberon repeated those concerns Wednesday, saying “we
are living in very risky moments.''
Venezuela pledged about $700 million to start the bank, while Cuba put
up nearly $118 million. Bolivia offered around $60 million and Nicaragua
about $20 million, according to Isea.
He said the ALBA Bank is considering dozens of proposed development
projects including some that focus on regional infrastructure, but has
yet to begin work on any. It plans to open at least one branch in the
capitals of the other three ALBA member countries in coming months.
Eventually, officials see ALBA Bank funds going toward social programs,
farming projects and oil ventures.
The ALBA Bank will work with another Chavez project, the Bank of the
South, which the Venezuelan president launched with the leaders of six
other South American countries in December.
That institution is projected to have as much as $7 billion in startup
capital and also offer loans that might otherwise come from the World
Bank or the International Monetary Fund, Washington, D.C.-based
institutions that loan money to developing countries.
Venezuela quit both organizations in 2007, and Cuba does not accept
money from either.