Ecuador’s exit from ALBA, a blow to efforts for regional integration in Latin America

Experts have pointed out that the move is part of a larger strategy to isolate the government of Venezuela in the region.

August 27, 2018 by Muhammed Shabeer

On August 23,  Jose Valencia, the foreign affairs minister of Ecuador, announced the withdrawal of his country from the Bolivarian Alliance for our America (ALBA). He said that the country had decided to do so in order to ratify the independence of the country in its general action and regional policy.

ALBA was founded in 2004 by the then Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro and was conceived as a platform for the social, political and cultural integration of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean as envisaged by Simon Bolivar. It was an effort to counter the political and economic domination of the US in the region through the Organisation of American States (OAS) and trade deals such as Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). Ecuador joined ALBA in 2009 under the leadership of Rafael Correa. Apart from Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador, other permanent members in the alliance were Antigua & Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

The move from Ecuador has to be seen in the light of the current regime’s ongoing policy of distancing itself from the socialist government in Venezuela. Lenin Moreno, the president of Ecuador, who came to power promising to continue Correa’s  policies, has been gradually shifting towards the right and has reversed the progressive moves initiated by his predecessor Rafael Correa.

Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, criticised Ecuador’s move in a tweet, accusing it of turning its back on the integration of the great homeland and thereby betraying the mandate of the people of the country. He also added that ALBA would continue its fight for the unity and sovereignty of Latin America. The executive secretary of ALBA, David Choquehuanca Cespedes, said that while he respected Ecuador’s decision, the move would affect the process of regional integration. He also added that by taking such a position, Ecuador was aligning with other countries in the region that were trying to oust the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

In April, six countries – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Paraguay – had suspended their membership of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) over difference of opinions about its administration. Eventually, Colombia had withdrawn from the union. There have been reports of severe political differences between the states with right-wing governments and those with left-wing governments in the body. The countries who are looking at withdrawing from UNASUR are already members of another regional bloc called the Lima group which was formed on August 2017. According to reports, isolation of the socialist government of Venezuela in the region is one of the major agenda points of the Lima group. Observers have pointed out that the exit of these countries from the UNASUR and the Ecuadorian exit from ALBA are part of a larger strategy to not only isolate Venezuela but to also reverse the advances made by the left wing governments in the continent.

Ecuador’s growing proximity to the US has been met with massive protests in the country, as has the judiciary’s decision to initiate legal action against Correa. The protests have denounced unemployment and the rise in prices, as well as Moreno’s betrayal of Correa’s legacy. The country’s willingness to sacrifice Julian Assange to the US is also increasingly becoming clear. In April, the government of Lenin Moreno signed a security agreement with the United States.