Leftist LatAm bloc to use own currency

HAVANA: Members of a leftist bloc of nine Latin American nations have said they plan to use a new currency dubbed the sucre for trade among themselves starting in January.

No sucres will be printed or coined, but the virtual currency will be used to manage debts between governments while reducing reliance on the US dollar and on Washington in general.

Cuba signed an agreement yesterday to pay for a shipment of Venezuelan rice in sucres, according to Rogelio Sierra, the island’s deputy foreign minister. He declined to say what the shipment was worth.

That agreement was made even as ever cash-strapped Cuba has fallen behind on its debt to nations and multinational corporations amid the global recession.

The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas trade group is holding a two-day summit that started here today.

The group was formed by Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, as an alternative to US-backed free-trade consortiums. Members are Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador, Bolivia, Antigua and Barbuda, San Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica.

Honduras remains part of the bloc despite a June

coup that toppled leftist President Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya’s deposed foreign minister is attending the summit, but the acting government in Honduras will almost certainly not abide by any agreements made.

Chavez was greeted on Friday as he arrived in

Cuba by President Raul Castro. Cuba and Venezuela signed “agreements of cooperation” on 285 bilateral projects in 2010.