Interview with Ing. Francisco López Centeno, Vice President of ALBANISA

Tortilla con Sal, july 14th 2011

Tortilla con Sal : Nicaragua's political opposition insist on their criticisms of ALBA on the issue of regulation. Can you comment?

Francisco López Centeno : That anguished questioning and wailing from the right-wing, those laments from the oligarchy in their stricken neo-liberal system, their capitalist system will always deprecate the noble model implemented by Comandante Daniel Ortega. They are not just deprecating ALBA, they're also trying to criticise the humanitarian, noble, Christian solidarity based    government of our Comandante and the Frente Sandinista, criticise the clear and transparent idea our coordinator Rosario constantly elucidates in terms of Christian solidarity based principles.

The regulatory framework for this business in commercial terms is the controlled by the norms, procedures and laws of the Republic of Nicaragua. This business complies with a thorough process. Every gallon of fuel that arrives in this country is logged by the Customs Office. There's a record in the National Taxation Office. There are reports. ALBA's Internal Audit constantly operates as in any other company. But additionally, and here I want to ask you to check with KPMG which is an external audit company used by PDVSA internationally and which in Nicaragua permanently audits our systems, as much of hydrocarbon related products as of exports, the use and application of funds – so in this way we have already expressed, presented clear and categorical documentation.

Also, recently, here's something we can tell you. Here's a document from the Controller General of the Republic of Nicaragua. Here are the procedures of verification and of oversight. Here's the signature of Dr. Guillermo Argüello Poessy, of Lic. Luis Angel Montenegro, of Dr. José Pasos Marciacq, all the Controllers, carrying out an audit not just of PETRONIC , but of ALBALINISA, ALBANISA, the funds administered by ALBA-CARUNA related to ALBA's development cooperation in Nicaragua. We have explained this in the National Assembly and the International Monetary Fund can confirm this from the presentations we have given them and too the Central Bank. We are not autonomous. We are regulated.

So the anguish, the desperation, the wailing are going to continue because we are going to continue this process . In November we'll see the ratification of this project of the people, of the impoverished, of all Nicaraguans, which is ALBA. The transparency is there in education, in agriculture, in cattle farming, in all the benefits that ALBA represents in Nicaragua.

TcS : What part do the principles of economic justice and redistribution play in the development of ALBA's programmes?

Francisco López : That is the soul and nerve of ALBA, the peoples' alternative, the hope of the people, the social impact of each one of the ALBA projects. Just to mention one. Today thousands of small rural producers are benefiting from the CRISSOL programme. This is the CRISSOL programme initiated by our Comandante Daniel together with the Ministry of Agriculture which facilitates finance for small producers. And look how important that is. Small farmers are offered a fair price for their future production which allows them to use that future sale to fund inputs and make the land productive.

Here you're talking about programmes to restore the rights of children, of old people, of the people in general in terms of access to free health care and education and up till now it's important to mention the impact on electricity costs which even with the increase in hydrocarbon prices, today energy prices are the same as last year, despite an increase of more than 25% in hydrocarbon prices.

That is the decision of a President concerned to maintain fair prices for the basic basket of goods so that impoverished people can continue getting access to rice, beans and tortillas, cooking all, all the basics of life. Education continues to be free. On transport you will find that in Managua, the classic example, fares remain at two córdobas and fifty cents on brand new buses...a total transformation, complete satisfaction for families today, from the creation of new values and new commitments.

People have hope. That's what ALBA taken altogether means, solidarity, humanitarian action, Christian action that expresses society itself  in a new context, one of hope and a new way of life. We are going to bequeath to our children and grandchildren a new satisfaction, a new contentment, a new peace, a happiness as Rosario always describes it. That's what we're talking about. That's ALBA.

TcS : What are the most important programmes?

Francisco López : The most important programmes in humanitarian terms, because all the programmes are important but the most important in humanitarian terms are those related to food supply, to people's food sovereignty, those related to agriculture and cattle production, those that guarantee distribution of basic grains via the National Basic Foods Company (ENABAS). They are credit programmes.

ALBA's large credit programme for developing food supply is fundamental. That is its humanitarian aspect. Then there are the education and especially the health care programmes which also have credit terms and concessionary financial aspects which a capitalist viewpoint will never understand because those terms are concessionary. They are loans.

With Usura Zero, with interest rates of 3% or 4%, you know you're helping a family get ahead. These are programmes whose impact guarantees a family's stability vis-a-vis food, health, education and transport. They are highly sensitive programmes. A family of four or five children only pay fares of just two córdobas and fifty cents which in practice should be twice that. And that's without mentioning a really important programme for more than 150,000 families which is the Solidarity Bonus implemented by our Comandante and made possible by the mechanisms of ALBA.

These three programmes together with the commercial barter programme which as I told you now exceeds more than US$500 million throughout this period enabling producers to get a fair price for their beans and meat , for their coffee, for their oils, for everything we are exporting to Venezuela.

And then too we have programmes of technology and development that have to do with the oil refinery which are major investments, ALBA solidarity programmes like the construction of highways throughout Nicaragua, ensuring people's property rights via a programme of the Attorney General's office and the Property Superintendent. These are programmes that bring people hope.

And that is the Sandinista government, Comandante Daniel's government. Those are the instructions we receive within ALBA from Rosario, our coordinator and all of us working on this project work on those very same lines for the people, for the People as President.

TcS : What is your current vision of ALBA's regional development?

Francisco López : This is a genuine alternative model, not one in theory but one in practice, one that's in process. It is one of Latin America's integration components where the concept of economic, cultural and social asymmetries  offer our peoples the chance of development with greater justice, independence and sovereignty, fairness with a just restitution of peoples' rights and values so as to create a society in which we all enjoy rights, adn we all have access to education and health care.

It's a model that transcends the traditional model . Two centuries under the traditional imperial schemas impoverished the peoples of Latin America more and more each day, limiting their aspirations more and more each day. And it you think otherwise then look at the model now operating in Nicaragua  which is the Central American country with the highest growth, most stability and most security including that of its citizens. Here we have one of the country's with the best guarantee of organizational security.

Here we are consciously working to develop restitution of human rights to impoverished people that have been restricted under previous governments. That's what we're talking about, a new alternative model. And we are convinced, and clear that we are a government based on principles of socialism, Christianity and solidarity. These principles that lead us under this model to treat each other with the highly Christian principle of love for one's neighbour, a new model of hope, of contentment for families, of confidence in the  tomorrow of our children.