Volume 43, Number 169,
April-June 2012
The alba-tcp: Looking with Keen Eyes
Christopher David Absell
A BRIEF OUTLINE OF THE alba-tcp ( ...continuation )

The institutional make-up of the alba-tcp developed alongside the expansion of its membership. Around the Council of Presidents, the main decision-making body, a comprehensive institutional structure emerged which includes the following: the Council of Ministers, uniting the ministers of each member country according to their areas of specialization (political, social or economic); the Council of Social Movements, composed of representatives from different social movements in each member country; as well as a number of Committees which examine special issues. These groups fall under the direction of the Permanent Coordination of the alba-tcp (Secretaría Ejecutiva) which coordinates the organization's “cooperation and integration activities” (alba-tcp, 2010; Romero G., 2010). Central to the alba-tcp's institutional framework is the concept of “grand-national projects” (alba-tcp, 2008), comprised of a group of pan-national organizations –“grand-national companies”– which address technical aspects of regional integration such as building infrastructure, training and communication. A number of projects have already commenced under this concept, including the “Grand-national Project on Literacy and Post-Literacy” which seeks to reduce illiteracy and the “Grand-national Fair Trade Project” which seeks to expand fair trade and economic integration. 4

Outside reactions to the consolidation of the alba-tcp were, at first, quite muted. In 2008, the United States Senate Armed Services Committee issued a “threat assessment” which implicitly referred to the alba-tcp when it observed,

“...leaders in Bolivia, Nicaragua and –more tentatively– Ecuador, are pursuing agendas that emphasize ... economic nationalism at the expense of market-based approaches... Each of these governments, to varying degrees, has engaged in sharply anti-US rhetoric aligned with Venezuela and Cuba... and advocated for measures that directly clash with US initiatives (Backer et al., 2009: 106).

Early in 2010, the newly elected president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, reflected these concerns when he officially withdrew from the alba-tcp observing that, “For me, it would be impossible to be part of an alliance that aims to attack the United States” (El Heraldo, February 2, 2010).5 However, these negative reactions are exceptions to the rule. The alba-tcp's determination to diversify the nature of its trading partners –in a quantitative and qualitative sense– has yielded valuable relationships with countries such as India, China, Russia and Iran, as well as a concerted attempt to increase cooperation between Latin America and Africa (alba-tcp, 2009c).

The alba-tcp represents an important development not only for politics in Latin America but also internationally. It is vital, therefore, to understand its nature: its ideology, its institutional framework and how it has implemented its development projects. Nevertheless, generally speaking, study of the alba-tcp is largely underdeveloped to date. The following section will review the contents of academic research regarding the alba-tcp in order to determine which areas require further investigation.


Literature regarding the alba-tcp is characterized by two principal traits: a) a scarcity of material focused mainly on the alba-tcp and b) a descriptive methodological approach which lacks empirical verification. Although this organization is mentioned frequently in Latin American studies, political science and international relations literature, scholarly work focused specifically on alba-tcp is rare. Furthermore, the methodological nature of this scholarly work is almost completely descriptive. Historical narrative reconstruction and political analysis are restricted predominantly to official alba-tcp documents and secondary sources. With a small number of exceptions, no original field research has been conducted. This situation exposes the key weakness of existing literature: critiques are based largely on primary source document analysis rather than empirical investigation, thus reflecting a certain ideological bias. Regardless of the critical nature of many of the articles reviewed here, most of them view the alba-tcp through rose-colored glasses, that is to say the emergence of this organization is regarded as a positive development, no matter its shortcomings. The following section will review this literature, the range of definitions offered by its authors, and the main criticisms of the alba-tcp.

4 See alba-tcp 2009a for a comprehensive list of the grand-national projects.

5 Evidently, this move was driven not only by external pressure but by domestic opposition to the alba-tcp by centrist and right-wing political parties and members of the business community (El Tiempo, 2010). Trade continues between Honduras and members of the alba-tcp.

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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