By Caribbean News Now contributor
HAVANA, Cuba -- Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis have both announced that they will join the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of the Americas, known by its Spanish acronym ALBA.
ALBA is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of the social, political and economic integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said that the Grenada government has formally put in its application to become a member.
The Grenadian leader said he expects the process to take up to a month to finalise.
St Kitts and Nevis announced on Tuesday that it is also joining ALBA.
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member countries Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines are currently members of the organization.
Mitchell said that the decision will help strengthen regional co-operation and integration.
“My feeling is the more cooperation we can get among the countries in the region, in particular in the context of the available of resources we can use to facilitate our development, to me is better,” he said in Havana on Wednesday.
“My own view is that we have nothing lose in joining ALBA,” he said.
However, former Grenadian prime minister, Tillman Thomas, said the ideological slant of ALBA was one of the reasons his administration stayed away from the grouping. He suggested that Mitchell’s actions in joining ALBA is evidence that the current government in St George’s is struggling to survive.
“I am not surprised, because a government that is somewhat desperate for financial assistance, I guess the government feels it might be able to get some financial assistance from ALBA, so they choose to go that way,” he told WINN FM in St Kitts.
According to Thomas, Grenadians do not understand what ALBA stands for, and the government should embark on an educational process to help them better understand the regional bloc.
Mitchell, on the other hand, rejected the notion that ALBA is largely an ideological organization.
“While we are members of many organisations, regional and international, we reserve the right as a country to take our own individual positions on issues,” he said.
“Being a member of ALBA does not prevent us taking any initiative as seen fit,” the Grenadian leader said.
Trade Minister Oliver Joseph said that the decision “is an important foreign policy development, as countries in the region more to ensure greater south-south co-operation.”
Joseph noted that Grenada is looking increasingly to such countries as Brazil to develop stronger trading ties.
Former foreign affairs minister Peter David, who for years had advocated Grenada joining the organization, congratulated the government “on its bold decision.”
“This is a clear declaration of what vision and leadership can do,” he said.