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Honduras signs up to Chavez-led trade bloc

 Honduras signs up to Chavez-led trade bloc
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A leftist trade bloc promoted by one of Washington’s fiercest critics has been joined by Honduras, long considered an ally of the US. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has signed up to the ALBA Latin American pact, pushed by his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, a key US foe.

In an impassioned speech, Zelaya said Honduras and its people did not need permission from any “empire” to sign the ALBA. He evoked historic South American independence leaders, among them Simon Bolivar, whose name is celebrated in the alliance. Although seen as a moderate liberal, Zelaya has been drifting towards closer ties with Chavez for some time.

Now with six members, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas or ALBA is being pushed by Chavez as a way to contain US influence. He has used it and Venezuela’s oil wealth to expand his own country’s clout in the impoverished region.

Speaking in Honduras, he accused the US of promoting a “campaign of attacks” against the ALBA pact. But this, he declared, would not stop “a revolution in Latin America” and “a process of change.” “The courage of President Zelaya has no comparison,” he added. Bitterly opposed to President Bush, Chavez said he hoped the next US President would “understand what happens in Latin America.”