Venezuela, leftist allies create regional currency
CARACAS, April 16 (Reuters) - An alliance of Latin American and Caribbean governments led by Venezuela will create a regional electronic currency that is expected to circulate by 2010, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Thursday.
The leftist Chavez, who has called the global financial crisis the end of capitalism, has frequently urged allies to stop storing currency reserves in dollars and recently proposed creating an international currency backed by oil reserves.
Member nations of the ALBA, a trade bloc of Venezuela's allies including Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba, meet on Thursday to sign an accord creating the currency called the "sucre."
"Today the Sucre will be born," said Chavez, speaking on live television with Cuban President Raul Castro.
"In September, we should be ready to begin some pilot projects for exchange with that virtual currency ... by the first of January of 2010 we should have the system functioning," he said.
He did not offer more details on how the currency would work. In the past, Chavez has said the Sucre could one day become a physical currency.
The OPEC nation's finance ministry on Thursday said it hopes countries outside the ALBA trade bloc, including other nations in South and Central America and the Caribbean, will later join in using the currency.
Most Latin American countries store their reserves in U.S. dollars, though the greenback's steady decline in recent years and China's growing influence in the region have left countries seeking new ways to store cash.
Chavez has also championed the use of alternative "social currencies" used in barter-style markets of small Venezuelan communities as part of his self-styled socialist revolution he calls an alternative to global capitalism.
(Reporting by Patricia Rondon; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Jan Paschal)