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Venezuela Hosts ALBA Summit

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hosted leftist allies in Caracas Monday for a summit of the Boliviarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) - a Latin American trade alliance.

The presidents of Bolivia, Evo Morales, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, Honduras' Manuel Zelaya, and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega took part in the meeting, along with Cuba's first vice president, Jose Ramon Machado, and the prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit.

Leaders signed two agreements on food security, pledging to contribute a total of $49 million to boost food production. They also discussed ways to confront the global economic crisis.

Venezuela and communist-led Cuba created the ALBA alliance in 2004 to counter U.S. influence in the region. The ALBA also aims to advance regional integration to confront the U.S.-backed free trade deal.

The summit coincided with the 10th anniversary of Mr. Chavez's first day in power.

The Venezuelan leader and his Ecuadorian counterpart, Rafael Correa, are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss cooperation between the two nations. They are expected to visit Cumana, the birthplace of independence leader Antonio Jose de Sucre.