I n early March, Venezuela gathered the leaders of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in Caracas to pay tribute to Hugo Chávez on the fourth anniversary of his death.
Founded by Mr. Chávez and Fidel Castro in 2004, ALBA was intended as a counterweight to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) - a US proposal that would have formed a pan-American trade bloc, excluding Cuba.
"It is not only to say no to the FTAA, but to plan and build an alternative path,” Mr. Chávez told a devoted crowd in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 2005. ALBA, he said, was an anti-capitalist project that would add economic dynamism to his ‘Bolivarian Revolution’.
Since then, ALBA has swelled from two to 11 member states and launched several ambitious projects: the media conglomerate TeleSur, the energy alliances PetroCaribe and PETROSUR, the intergovernmental organisation UNASUR and a virtual currency called Sucre. This last initiative aimed to displace the dollar as the region’s go-to currency. Use peaked in 2012 with 2,646 transactions and fell to 752 in 2015.
Mr. Chávez’s death in 2013 left the Bolivarian revolution fatherless and raised doubts about its future. So has the ongoing political and economic turmoil within Venezuela.
“ALBA itself hasn't changed much since the death of former President Hugo Chávez, but conditions within Venezuela have certainly changed,” says Tim Gill, a researcher at Tulane University in the US. “These changes affect the Venezuelan government's ability to bolster ALBA-related initiatives.”
Mr. Gill explained that even if Venezuela keeps the PetroCaribe programme going and occasionally rewards smaller members, it has cut most of the money it used to send around the region.
ALBA is yet to find a inspirational successor to its founder and driving force. At the summit in Caracas, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he would like to tell Mr. Chávez: “We have not surrendered”.