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US think tank queries future of ALBA, Petrocaribe without Chávez

Monday, March 11, 2013 | 7:49 AM    

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WASHINGTON (CMC) — With the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a major United States think tank is querying the future of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) and the Petrocaribe oil agreement with Caribbean countries.

The Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) noted that the ALBA bloc is made up of a number of Caribbean and Latin American states, whose leaders were “friendly to Chávez, such as Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

“President Correa recently said that the revolution was larger than one man and would continue even in the event of Chavez’s death,” COHA said.

“Nevertheless, it is debatable whether any of ALBA’s heads of state, (including Venezuela interim president Nicolas Maduro) are charismatic enough and have the same interest in the alliance to keep it afloat,” it added.

COHA noted that Correa was re-elected last month, and Morales is scheduled to run for a new presidential term in 2014.

“It remains to be seen whether anyone will be able to carry out Chavez’s vision,” it said.

On Petrocaribe, COHA said that Chávez “used oil recourses to not only improve the quality of life of poor Venezuelans, but also as an integral part of his foreign policy.

“After coming to power, he expelled Western oil companies operating in the country and replaced them with Chinese and Russian based companies. In addition, Venezuela donated millions of barrels of oil to needy Caribbean states, particularly Cuba, but also to countries like Trinidad and Tobago.

“Without Chávez, it is questionable how Venezuela’s oil will be extracted. Should elections be called for and Capriles Radonski comes to power, would he accept, once again, Western oil companies.

“Furthermore, even if Maduro continues to govern, will Venezuela continue to provide such high quantities of oil, essentially as gifts, to Cuba and other regional states,”  COHA said, adding that a “critical aspect of Venezuela’s post Chávez government is how its foreign policy will be structured”.

Venezuelans will go to the polls to a elect a new president in mid-April and while Maduro, will run for the presidency, Chavez’s rivals will rally around a single candidate, Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition alliance, known as the Democratic Unity Table, said in a statement.

Capriles lost by 11 percentage points in the October 2012 election, which was the closest presidential campaign of Chavez’s 14 years in power.

Chávez died last week after a long struggle with cancer.

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