By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Abril 16.— Cuban President Raul Castro arrived in Cumana, Venezuela on Thursday for a meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA), called by President Hugo Chavez.
The date is to analyze the regional and global impact of the current international economic crisis and get ready for the Americas Summit to take place in Trinidad and Tobago over the weekend.
The ALBA is a regional integration effort that stresses social development, cooperation and mutually beneficial trade. The members of the body founded in 2004 are Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
The six nations are expected to seek out common positions for the Trinidad and Tobago meeting that starts Friday and will include leaders including US President Obama and all Latin American and Caribbean countries (34) except Cuba.
The exclusion of Cuba from gatherings like the Americas Summit is a point that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez promised to address head on. He has repeatedly stated the importance of Cuba and its contribution to the region and rejected US pressure to ostracize it for opting for a socialist system.
“I hope the president of the United States is going to listen” at the Americas Summit, Chavez was quoted as saying on Thursday. Chavez like Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have advised Obama that the key to a fresh start for the deteriorated US relations with Latin America is rapprochement with Cuba and ending the nearly half-century blockade on the island.
Lula and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said they will propose at the Americas Summit in Trinidad and Tobago that Cuba be included in future gatherings, said Lula’s international relations advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia.
Raul Castro has repeatedly stated that he is willing to dialogue on any and all subjects with the US on equal terms. The Caribbean island believes the ball is in the US court to mend relations since for decades Washington has been the aggressor.
The Americas Summit will coincidently take place on the anniversary of the April 17-19, 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion that tried to cut short the 1959 Cuban Revolution.