Contact details

Dr Asa Cusack
BA [University of Hull]; MA [University of Sheffield]; PhD [University of Sheffield]
Stipendiary Fellow
Institute of Latin American Studies
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Globalization & Development, International Relations, Politics
Research keywords:
ALBA, regionalism, regional integration, Venezuela, Ecuador, Caribbean, political economy
South America
Summary of research interests and expertise:

My research focuses on the latest wave of regionalism in Latin America and the Caribbean, often characterised as "post(neo)liberal", questioning the role that regional integration plays in the New Left development models of the more radical leftist governments to have come to power since 1998 (such as Venezuela under Chávez and Ecuador under Correa).  Specifically, I focus on the implementation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), examining what its achievements and travails reveal about the nature both of its constituent national political economies and of the global political economy within which it seeks to establish itself.

- Andrew Gamble Prize for an Outstanding PhD Thesis (2013-14), Department of Politics, University of Sheffield, Oct. 2014, with nominations for PSA Lord Bryce Prize for Best PhD (2014) and BISA Michael Nicholson Thesis Prize (2014)
- Round Table Commonwealth Award for Young Scholars, July 2009

Huffington PostThe ConversationVenezuela Analysis, Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI)

Social Media:
Twitter: @AsaCusack

Spoken Written
French Fluent Fluent
Spanish Fluent Fluent
Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
01-Jun-2014 Protests, Polarisation, and Instability in Venezuela: Why Should the Caribbean Care?

Journal articles

Owing to generalised participation in Petrocaribe and increasingly also the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the destinies of certain Caribbean states have rarely been so intertwined. Yet, with Venezuela -the undeniable lynchpin of these schemes- shaken by violent unrest, there is a real threat to continuation of the generous funding that it provides. Indeed, because ALBA and Petrocaribe funding is channelled largely through parallel governance structures centred on the state oil company PDVSA, this threat is even more significant than many realise, albeit not as imminent as suggested by foreign media. With few alternative donors or investors lining up to replace the support offered by Venezuela, Caribbean recipients of Venezuela's special and differential treatment must think carefully of about how to respond to the current crisis.

18-Apr-2014 ALBA, the Unified System of Regional Compensation (SUCRE), and the Limits of Regionalised Endogenous Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

Conference papers

Canadian Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 2014, Université Laval, Canada

14-Apr-2010 Pragmatism Left, Right, and Centre?: Smallness, Dependent Development, and International Cooperation in ALBA Member-States of the Anglophone Caribbean

Conference papers

Society of Latin American Studies Conference 2012, University of Sheffield

Research Projects & Supervisions

Research projects:

Implementing the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA): The Limits of Regionalised Endogenous Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

PhD Research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council at the University of Sheffield's Department of Politics.  Winner of the department's Andrew Gamble Prize for an Outstanding Thesis submitted 2013-14 and nominee for the Political Studies Association's Lord Bryce Prize for International Relations (result pending).

Despite its importance to understandings of the contemporary political economy of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) remains largely misunderstood. Faced with opaque national and regional institutions, the existing literature of ALBA conflates this regional project’s discourse and design with its implementation and practice. Aided by extensive primary research, this work tackles these deficiencies through a comprehensive, systematic analysis of the implementation of the three initiatives central to ALBA’s efforts to create an “economic zone of shared development”: the People’s Trade Agreement (TCP), the Unified Regional Compensation System (SUCRE), and Petrocaribe.

Key concepts of endogenous development, autonomy, and legitimacy are drawn from existing accounts, with the latter split into its input (participation), output (problem solving), and control (accountability) aspects and implementation added as a measure and moderator of impact. This analytical framework is then applied not only the states-led “regionalism” of ALBA, but also to the unguided “regionalisation” with which it interacts to produce effects both integrative and disintegrative.

This research reveals an uneven and somewhat incoherent ALBA, whose more impactful mechanisms institutionalise secular benefits (SUCRE, Petrocaribe) while more radical and potentially transformative initiatives become bogged down both within and across member-states (the TCP). Close analysis shows that a focus on conscious, states-led regionalisation of endogenous-development strategies overlooks the influence of structural and inherited characteristics of hybrid national political economies. Sovereignty has been ceded to regional and international institutions with their own binding obligations, and while ALBA does promote autonomy, these institutions also circumscribe it. Contrary to the ALBA literature, input legitimacy from participatory democratic reforms is secondary to issues of output and control. Output legitimacy is crucial to broad-based support that facilitates implementation, whereas deficient control incubates practices noxious to ALBA’s stated goals. Though the influence of Ecuador and Anglophone member-states has been misrepresented by omission, Venezuela’s central role has consistently been misinterpreted. Being ALBA’s founder, funder, and father, its own stuttering advance towards Twenty-First Century Socialism has been characterised by tensions in its society, economy, and governance. In Venezuela particularly – though not exclusively – the regional effects of contradictory and negative aspects of national political economy hamper implementation of ALBA’s states-led “regionalism”, frustrating in turn its intended impacts on development, autonomy, and legitimacy. Ultimately, this undermines ALBA’s more transformative elements, leaving the future role of the organisation uncertain.

Consultancy & Media
Media experience:
Back to top