Ibero-American News Digest
Rice Tours Americas as Turmoil Explodes
One, two, many governments are on the edge of toppling, as Condoleezza Rice smiles, and speaks of how "democracy" and free markets will secure "governability," during her ongoing visit to four countries in Ibero-America (Brazil, Colombia, Chile and El Salvador).
In Nicaragua, for the past week, thousands of students and people from the poor neighborhoods, protesting fuel and transport prices, paralyzed the capital, as demonstrators pelted President Enrique Bolanos's house with stones, demanding he resign. The Presidents of neighboring countriesGuatemala, Honduras, and El Salvadorwere burning the phone lines on April 27, promising to support Bolanos, and putting themselves "on alert" to ensure constitutional order is maintained.
Well they might be nervous: Unionists in Costa Rica are marching, too, and labor protests in Belizewhich exploded into vandalism, looting, and sabotage of electricity and telephone service in that small Central American nationled Organization of American States (OAS) acting Secretary General Luigi Einaudi to issue a call on April 26 urging "current difficulties" be resolved within the framework of Belize's Constitution. The next day Einaudi was on a plane heading down to Ecuador, where similar "current difficulties" had led to the overthrow of the government less than one week before.
In Ecuador's neighbor, Bolivia, the two-pronged drive to break apart the country is again heating up. Radical Jacobins in the labor movement are organizing for an "indefinite national strike" beginning May 2, and the Mont Pelerinite separatists in the Santa Cruz Civic Committee gave the government until May 2 to secure an adequate supply of diesel fuel for the department and agreed to Aug. 12 as the date for a national referendum on autonomy for the departmentsor they, too, would begin mobilizing people to the streets again.
Ecuador's President: Last Chance To Avoid National Disintegration
"My government is the last chance to prevent Ecuador from self-destruction," Ecuadorian President Alfredo Palacio told an Ibero-American daily on April 26. "We're playing one of our last hands. I deeply love my country, but if we don't make necessary changes, the danger of national dissolution will be great." Palacio rejected calls for early elections and promised to finish out the final two years of his ousted predecessor's term in office. He dismissed suggestions from Europe, the U.S., and other nations of Ibero-America, that his Presidency is illegitimate, and said he would leave office anytime the people wanted him to, since the Presidency "is not my life's goal."
Ecuador's new Economics Minister, Rafael Correa, a leading figure in the leftist "Alternative Ecuador Forum," has been an outspoken opponent of dollarization, but upon being sworn in, Correa said that the government does not have the necessary political power to reverse dollarization, even though to attempt to run the economy under dollarization "is like entering the [boxing] ring with only one arm." He announced that the government will, however, immediately move to change the functioning of the oil stabilization fund known as the FEIREP, which has been channelling 70% of Ecuador's increased revenue from the high price of oil into buying back Ecuador's foreign debt before it comes duean "unethical" scheme which makes our creditors richer, but harms the country, Correa said. He suggested Ecuador needed to renegotiate its foreign debt, along the lines of the Argentine model; called for interest rates to be lowered; and said "more than financial investment, productive investment is needed."
Ecuador needs to create growth and jobs, and foster the well-being of its people. If this "coincides with Wall Street's interests, great; if it doesn't, what a shame. They can get enraged," Correa cheerfully said.
LaRouche, Duhalde Target Dollarization
U.S. statesman Lyndon LaRouche reiterated on April 28, that what brought Ecuador down, is dollarization, and that is what must be faced. LaRouche had warned in 2000, when Ecuador gave up its own currency and adopted the dollar, that the United States was responsible for what would result. Dollarization is "the imposition of slavery.... This is genocide. We've created chaos," and it can "spread in a chain-reaction effect throughout the whole subcontinent," he stated on Jan. 23, 2000.
Former Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde also identified dollarization as the force driving Ecuador's current collapse, in a column in the Argentine daily Clarin on April 25. Duhalde, now president of the Mercosur Representatives Committee, reported that when he visited Ecuador at the end of 2003, it was clear that the initial euphoria over the end of hyperinflation which followed the decision to dollarize in 2000, was long gone. There was no financing available for production, as there was 50% less credit available than in 1998. For every ten barrels of oil which Ecuador sold, six went to pay the debt, he pointed out. This led to cuts in social expenditures, which had fallen to levels below those of the 1980s.
Duhalde wrote: "It was foreseeable that this economic model threatened to bring about an implosion, and that would bring the Ecuadorans to the brink of civil war. The fragility of democracy, the weakening of the institutions, and the discrediting of politics, were similar to the panorama in the collapsed Argentina."
Ecuador needs the help of its neighbors to resolve its conflicts, and find an alternative path in which it can recover peace, institutions, and growth, he wrote.
Association with Bush Brings Down Mexico's Fox
Mexican President Vicente Fox went on national TV April 27 to express his total, utter dedication to democracy and dialogue; to say he understood his job was to promote the unity of the nation, not divide it; and to promise that he, as President, would guarantee that the 2006 Presidential election would be "legitimate," ensuring due respect for every party. Making his backdown complete, Fox announced that he had accepted the resignation of his Attorney General, Gen. Rafael Macedo de la Concha, and ordered an "exhaustive review" of the case which the Attorney General's office had brought against Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. For background on what led to this spectacle, see "Mexican Right Readies Its Own Funeral," in the InDepth section of this issue.
Will Bush and Rumsfeld Be Arrested in Argentina?
Could George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld be arrested when they attend the Summit of the Americas in Argentina next November? This is reportedly the reason for intensifying U.S. pressures on Argentina's Kirchner government, with the U.S. demanding that Argentina grant immunity to U.S. troops and other government officials operating in the country. On April 18, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Steven Rademaker met with Argentine legislators at the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires to repeat this demand, as he has apparently done more than once in the past. Individuals who participated in the meeting, which also included Ambassador Lino Gutierrez, told Pagina 12 that the U.S. fears that without the immunity, some Argentine judge might order the arrest of Bush or Rumsfeld when they attend the scheduled Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata next November. One of the legislators pointedly told Rademaker that the Argentine Congress had no intention of changing its opposition to granting special immunity to foreign troops.
Rademaker, whose area of specialty is arms control, reportedly also made noises about Russian weapons export to "sensitive zones" (i.e., Venezuela).
Some Chileans Say 'Go Nuclear!' To Solve Energy Crisis
Nuclear energy can be a long-term solution to Chile's energy crisis, officials at the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (Cchen) propose. Although posing this as something that won't happen for another ten to 15 years, Commission chairman Roberto Hojman said on April 26 that the time has come for government authorities to decide to build a nuclear plant to generate the electricity the country needs.
Two days after a blackout left more than 7 million Chileans without electricity on March 21, another member of the Cchen, Gonzalo Torres, had told the Chilean daily El Mostrador: "Chile cannot miss the opportunity of obtaining electricity through nuclear energy generation." Nuclear energy represents the best option to resolve the country's energy crisis, he said. Chile faces the likelihood of electricity rationing over the next three years, and "the nuclear energy option and [building] a nuclear plant, must be carefully evaluated" by the Chilean government.
Chile is currently dependent on imports of natural gas from Argentina, which the Kirchner government has been forced to curtail in order to meet internal demand. When the blackout occurred on March 21, free-marketeers from the Pinochetista UDI immediately blamed Argentina for failing to supply Chile with enough gaseven after the Lagos government of Chile documented that the one-hour blackout was due to problems on the 500-kW transmission line between Charrua and Ancoa. Almost half the country was affected, including the capital of Santiago, where 70% of the population resides.
Natural gas shortages, inadequate infrastructure, and manipulation by foreign multinationals are fuelling all manner of geopolitical conflicts throughout the Southern Cone. The solution, says Ricardo de Dicco of the Social Sciences Research Institute (Idicso) at Argentina's Salvador University, is for Chile and Argentina to jointly develop nuclear energy. Both nations will run out of oil well before industrialized nations, and won't have money to import energy. De Dicco points out that there are sizable uranium deposits along the Andean cordillera that could be exploited to contribute to a joint nuclear energy effort.