-Implications of Ecuador Joining an Uncertain Alliance
Just at a time that analysts were crossing out Hugo Chávez as a ranking regional player, with the days ago adhesion of Ecuador to the Venezuela-inspired organization, he has managed to propel a new spurt of momentum to the Caracas grouping and its now seven fellow-members (Bolivia, St. Vincent, Dominica, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Honduras, and Cuba). Up to now, Washington has tended to breezily dismiss ALBA as a bizarre, if whimsical ideological caprice on Chávez’s part, in want of an agenda and serious purpose. While ALBA still has to make some practical progress in terms of currency reform, expansion of trade, unified regional actions, and promotion of social progress that express acts of solidarity, and developing as an ancillary IDB type body, ALBA can by no means be considered a lightweight.
Ecuador’s action in joining ALBA also will have profound implications for the balance of economic forces in the region, perhaps further weakening the U.S.-oriented Andean Community (from which Venezuela withdrew several years ago). The possible renewed growth of ALBA, with the conceivable adherence of Peru under the left-leaning Ollanta Humala, and El Salvador’s recently inaugurated Mauricio Funes, could be of some ultimate relevance to the 14 million citizens of Ecuador whose economy is in poor shape, but which a number of other energy rich ALBA societies like Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela possess enormous resources.