But of course it all comes at a price. Chavez will open a bank in Nicaragua within a month. The third load of discounted diesel is about to arrive at Nicaraguan harbors. Plus a whole bunch of stuff, some listed in the rather not impressed Guardian: electric plant, new refinery, forgiving 30 millions in debt, 100 000 oil barrels, 20 million USD loan with little or no interest, plus 10 million for "social projects", and even a few tractors given by Chavez to a few peasants that happened to be there to cheer. In exchange the Herald Tribune also tells us that Chavez received an honoris causa doctorate from some Nicaraguan college. He was also allowed to arrive two hours late, having Ortega wait for his inauguration. Priceless (1).
I mean with such a piñata in front Ortega would be a fool to say no to ALBA. He certainly will get a juicy commission somewhere along the way to refurbish the nice mansions that Sandinistas "got" when they were in power. Though even the BBC notes a certain reticence from Ortega (though I wonder how can the BBC write that Ortega got a "convincing victory" with barely 40% of the vote; must be the BBC writer celebrating too much with Nicaraguan spirits).
So there we are, Chavez buying his third country where he is feted like some national hero, where even the Venezuelan TV through VTV showed us a Nicaraguan peasant leader (?) tell us that Chavez represented "ethnic socialism". Huh!? Yes, that is right, etnosocialismo is the word he used. I thought that socialism was a way to get above ethnic barriers but since now I am told that Jesus Christ was a socialo communist, what do I know anymore...
Seriously now. ALBA is such a crackpot idea. Look at the countries: Cuba, a bankrupt terrorist totalitarian state who cannot even decently feed its people and who thrives on US embargo to justify the unjustifiable; Nicaragua, the poorest American state after Haiti, a country which is dangerously close to failed state status, where it is difficult to chose between Sandinistas and Opposition which is the most corrupt and most incompetent (does anyone sees a difference between Aleman and Ortega?); Bolivia, teetering on the edge of desintegration, landlocked, unproductive except for one area that the governemt is trying to fetter to make sure all its rent goes to maintain an Altiplano that has only some coca leaves to offer; and Venezuela of course, where a now certifiable leader has transfomed the national treasury into his personal purse to buy himslef a little empire of failed states (Ecuador next? It fits perfectly the description of near failed states). And you want to compare this to the CAN, Mercosur or even FTAA? Gimme a break...
Meanwhile my hard earned tax dollar paid to Chavez will serve to pay for tractors and houses in Nicaragua while the workers of Yaracuy cannot even get decent housing form the local authorities. But you know what? They voted for these authorities a few weeks ago, and now I have no sympathy when I see them screwed by Chavez; if they are masochist, the better for them.
1) even the title of the Herald article is ironic: "Nicaragua's Ortega spends first day in office accepting aid package from Venezuela"