Ibero-American News Digest
'North American Community' Scheme Boosted at Crawford Summit
At the March 23 NAFTA summit in Texas, Presidents George Bush and Mexico's Vicente Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martins, committed their governments to building a so-called "Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America" (SPP), a nebulous entity which is a step toward the creation of the kind of "North American Community," which a Council on Foreign Relations task force called for on March 14. The guts of the SSP is to integrate security and energy in the region, i.e., turn control of all three countries over to Wall Street, directly.
The gimmick employed to get the agenda adopted, was that the three governmentsMexico, the U.S., and Canadaagreed that they should coordinate tariff, energy, and security policies, and gave themselves a 90-day timetable to come up with how they will do so. The actual specifics of how, and in what areas, sovereignty would be relinquished, is left to be worked out in 12 ministerial-level committees. The committees, to be created immediately, are supposed to establish "specific, measurable, and achievable goals and implementation dates" by the June deadlinein a de facto end-run around their legislatures.
The three argued at their press conference that the SSP was needed "to enhance the competitive position" of North America in the face of the "threat" of the growing economies of India, China, and the rest of Asia.
The SSP document is carefully vague, but targets, in particular, the auto and steel industries, financial and air services, and, of course, "North America's energy markets," for de facto merger. Special interest was expressed in Canada's tar sands and "the tremendous capacity that exists within Mexico," as Martins put it.
Rumsfeld Trip Pushes Standing Military Force Proposal
At each stop on his March 21-24 trip to Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pressed his demand that the Ibero-Americans adopt a collective approach to regional securitythat is, that they create a standing multinational military-police force to police the rubble left of once-strong nation states after more than two decades of IMF looting.
Rumsfeld has been pushing since 2002 for the creation of a standing regional force to deal with what he calls "the anti-social combination" of drugs, terrorism, and organized crime. On his trip, he repeatedly praised the Ibero-American decision to form the United Nations Peacekeeping Force deployed in Haiti, suggesting that a similar approach may be required to deal such crises as Bolivia or Venezuela.
A similar message was delivered by U.S. Southern Command chief Gen. Bantz Craddock, in testimony to the Senate Armed Forces Committee on March 15. Craddock praised the Central Americans for "holding themselves accountable" for "regionalizing their security efforts," and agreeing to "stand up" a Rapid Deployment Force within 30 days. Craddock said he would be co-hosting a Southern Cone Defense Conference in Buenos Aires in May, as part of his effort to develop such "regional security organizations" in each of the regions of the Americas.
Brazil and Russia Buck Rumsfeld's Anti-Chavez Drive
Brazilian Vice President and Defense Minister Jose Alencar refused to endorse the Bush Administration's push for "regime change" in Venezuela, or its campaign to stop Venezuela's planned purchase of Russian weapons, when a reporter at the joint press conference of Alencar and Donald Rumsfeld in Brasilia on March 23, asked both to comment on their governments' concerns over Chavez's "trouble-making" in the region, and Chavez's purchase of 100,000 assault rifles from Russia,
Rumsfeld replied that he didn't know if the sale was firm, or not, but "I just hope, personally hope, that it doesn't happen.... I can't imagine that if it did happen, that it would be good for the hemisphere."
Alencar avoided the question of the arms purchase (Brazil is in the midst of negotiating the sale of fighter airplanes to Venezuela), and stated emphatically: "Brazil has always defended, and will continue defending, the self-determination of peoples, and the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries. Here in Brazil ... we are increasingly interested in deepening our relations with the rest of the countries of Latin America, be they diplomatic, economic, or trade, with the objective of achieving the common good."
Russian Vice Foreign Minister Serguei Kislyak, in Caracas for the III Meeting of the Venezuelan-Russian Political Consultative Mechanism, defended the weapons sale strongly on March 21, and noted that "Venezuela is for Russia a key partner in the continent, and very important in the United Nations and other multilateral bodies where the future of humanity is decided."
Chavez Prepares for 'Asymmetric Warfare' Against U.S.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez let his belligerent rhetoric rip, in his March 20 "Hello, President!" television program: "To avoid war, we must prepare ourselves for an asymmetric war, and make our enemy see that he would regret attacking us," he told Venezuelans. "If Bush interferes in Venezuela, the gringos can forget Venezuelan oil. I am sure that the people in the [eastern] plains would not permit oil to flow in these pipelines, nor would they let the oil wells function in the west, or that gasoline be distributed."
He announced that he had named Gen. Julio Ramon Quintero Viloria to head a "national mobilization and military reserves," reporting directly to him. Thus, the reserve, with 100,000-plus members, would be a parallel military structure, under Chavez's direct command, outside of the institutional military hierarchy. The Bolivarian Revolution "is an armed one," and it is prepared to use its arms to defend sovereignty, he said. Everyone should participate in national defense: officials, common citizens, womenonly children are exempt.
Soros's Morales Threatens To Imitate FARC, Sendero
Bolivian coca-grower leader Evo Morales, head of the MAS party, is threatening to unleash armed race war in Bolivia, if the government does not buckle to his demands. The threats were delivered in an interview published in Colombia's El Tiempo on March 22. Morales charged that President Carlos Mesa's efforts to stop the MAS's tactic of blockading roads any time they disagree with a policy, was motivated by racism, lying that the anti-blockade mobilization was a cover for keeping "us Indians" from governing. Then came the not-so-subtle threat: The MAS, Morales asserted, has prevented the development of a Sendero Luminoso or the FARC in Bolivia. "But, instead of valuing and respecting this position taken by the peasant movement to avoid armed struggle, they satanize it. What are they asking then: that we arm ourselves?"
One of Evo's biggest problems, however, is that EIR's 1998 articles identifying his ties to George Soros's narco-lobby and to the FARC, are still circulating in Bolivia. Bolivian Congressman Johnny Torrez Terzo (with whom EIR has never been in touch) charged on March 18 that George Soros was financing the social conflicts in Bolivia, because he wanted to drive out the competition, so he could buy up oil companies at the price of "a dead chicken." Torrez never mentioned EIR, but just a few days before, on March 15, the U.S.-based "Narconews" Internet service (which is what its name would imply: run by the drug lobby) went ballistic over the fact that a Bolivian magazine Datos published that "classified documents" existed which confirm that Evo Morales and his buddy, Felipe Quispe, were financed by Soros. Datos, says Narconews, also cited EIR's report on the Soros-Evo Morales ties. This is Lyndon LaRouche, Narconews complained, repeating the usual slanders from this crowd, but the narco lobby defensively reported that "trusted sources" assured Narconews that "Evo and Soros have never had contact, not even indirectly."
Chilean Lawmakers Charge Pinochet In-Law Stole Millions
Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's former son-in-law, Julio Ponce Lerou, has long been a subject of scrutiny by the Congressional committee investigating the sordid history of economic looting that went on under the Pinochet regime; he headed the government's CONAF agency, which was given the task of privatizing hundreds of state-sector companies. Ponce Lerou started out as a mediocre, low-level official at CONAF, climbing to become its director, and came away a millionaire.
It is conservatively estimated that the Chilean state lost $1 billion in the sell-off of productive companies by the "Chicago Boy" vultures, and it is expected that the actual amount will turn out to be much larger, once the Congressional investigation is complete. Manuel Riesco, director of the CENDA thinktank, points to the link between the privatization process, in which companies were sold off at half their book value, and the large number of secret accounts that Pinochet held at Washington, D.C.'s Riggs Bank and others, as just revealed by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Riesco was quoted in the March 23 Chilean press, charging that "the amount of public resources transferred to the private sector was immense," and Ponce Lerou and energy magnate Jose Yuraszeck were two of the biggest beneficiaries of the privatizations, not to mention Pinochet himself.
On March 22, Socialist Party Congressman Fidel Espinoza presented evidence to Judge Dobra Lusic, and demanded that Ponce Lerou be investigated for "illicit enrichment," for his role in selling off the largest and most productive agricultural cooperative in Chile, Hacienda Rupanco, in 1978. Ponce Lerou reportedly took 10,000 hectares of the cooperative's 47,000 hectares, and may have made as much as $3 million off these very productive lands.