Leftist Latin American bloc to stop using dollars in trade
October 15, 2009 - AFP

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia -- The leftist Latin American ALBA trade bloc is scheduled Friday to approve measures that would replace US dollars with a new virtual currency for regional commerce, an official said here.

Bolivian Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade Pablo Guzman told reporters that members of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) "will replace the dollar in commercial exchanges" between members with the Unified Regional Compensation System, or sucre.

The new monetary system was adopted in principle at an ALBA summit in April by organization members, which include Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, Saint Vincent, Antigua and Barbuda.

Initially the sucre system -- the acronym comes from the Spanish name Sistema Unificado de Compensacion de Pagos Reciprocos -- will be a virtual currency used in commercial exchanges between ALBA countries.

An agreement on the value of the sucre relative to regional currencies is 90 percent complete, according to La Paz.

The sucre was also Ecuador's currency until it was replaced by the US dollar in 2000.

It was named after Jose Antonio de Sucre, who fought for independence from Spain alongside Venezuelan hero Simon Bolivar in the early 19th century.

ALBA's long-term goal is to establish a unified regional currency, which Bolivia has already suggested could be named "Pacha" for the Quecha Indian word for Earth, Guzman said.

Bolivian authorities said Thursday that four of Latin America's most prominent leftist heads of state had confirmed they would attend the Cochabamba summit -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and Bolivian President Evo Morales.

The Cochabamba summit is also expected to lay the groundwork for a regional arbitrage mechanism to replace the International Center for Settlement of Regional Disputes, a World Bank organization.

Most ALBA members have already withdrawn from the organization, with Ecuador announcing last July that it would pull out of the group.