BY CHRONICLE STAFF
Last week, Nicaragua's national assembly approved a government proposal to formally join ALBA - a Latin American political-economic alliance initiated by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as an alternative to the US-initiated Free trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Nicaragua becomes the fourth member of ALBA, which consists of Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela. The Nicaragua membership marks the latest international victory for Chavez, who has become a major player in Latin America and increasingly outside of the region as well.
In two weeks, Chavez will host the South American Energy Summit, which is expected to gather leaders from throughout South America.
"From the outset of his rule, it has been clear that Venezuela is too small a stage for Chávez’s ambitions and appetites," Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at the Inter-American Dialogue, said in a recent report on Chavez. "Increasingly, there is little question that even Latin America is too small a region for his huge, anti-U.S. agenda."
While the ALBA countries appear closely aligned with Chavez, he has also forged close relations with Argentina and Brazil - two countries that eagerly welcomed him into the Mercosur trade pact they had dominated since its creation in 1991.
However, thanks to oil programs and bank development finance, Chavez is...