ALBA military school opened in Bolivia

Santa Cruz, Bolivia (Reuters) - Bolivia's president Evo Morales inaugurated a military school on Tuesday (May 31) to train soldiers from ALBA bloc countries.

Military officials from ALBA countries were also present for the inauguration ceremony in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz.

Addressing military officials, Morales called for unity in the face of the "imperial power," a reference to the United States.

"Because of this, it is imperative that we unite to defend ourselves and integrate in order to be stronger. We need to prepare ourselves in order to defend our people and our natural resources," he added.

The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is a trade pact between Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Vincente and the Grenadines. It aims to rival U.S.-sponsored free-trade agreements, stressing solidarity and cooperation above profit-seeking economic activities.

ALBA was born in 2004 as an initiative of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Cuba's leader Fidel Castro, both critics of U.S. influence in Latin America and beyond. It was intended to be an alternative to a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) that Washington was promoting at the time.

The ALBA bloc's combined population is more than 66 million people.

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