Ibero-American News Digest
Kirchner Challenges Brazil: Take Up Debt Fight
In a May 31 meeting with leaders of the Organization of Ibero-American Political Parties, COPPAL, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner delivered a hard-hitting message to the Brazilian government, which hasn't broken with neoliberalism, and whose support for Kirchner in his battle with the IMF has been almost non-existent. Although Kirchner never mentioned Brazil directly, there was no mistaking for whom the message was intended.
Kirchner made the point that there can't be integration, and the building of regional organizations, if everyone isn't on the same page. The world, and the region, "have to face reality.... [W]e can't continue to keep ignoring what's going on around us." There is a dichotomy, he said, between what is said and what is done.
Our nations are burdened with problems of poverty, unemployment, underdevelopment, and indigence, Kirchner said. Therefore, "we have to have an absolutely clear approach, and not be fearful of multilateral lending agencies and those who globally lead and are a reference point for the world." People "many times choose neoliberal options or options that have little to do with transformation and change because those who have to make the change ... many times became too prudent, too calculating about their own future or destiny."
Huge debts and lack of protection for our people is such that "it truly harms public morale," the Argentine President underscored. Yet "some seek individual solutions above collective ones that the region must carry out...." Then, in an undisguised reference to Lula's original Presidential campaign in 2002, Kirchner explained: "The same thing happens when we present ourselves as an alternative to lead our different states: We have one speech during the electoral campaign, but then when we go to lead, the criteria of prudence, fear and rationality take over, ...'rationality' means always to bend ... [and that] it is always impossible to do battle against those elements which have so tremendously damaged our region."
"That is why we can't fail to take advantage of moments in history.... When you have the historic responsibility of having ... to lead a country, you have to try to carry out the things you dreamed, the visions you had, and the convictions, and not have one speech when you're out of government, and then have a totally different action when you're in it...."
Kirchner Mocks Financier's 'Courtesans' Attacking Him
"Every time I defend our national interest, there are some political and press sectors that get very nervous," Argentine President Nestor Kirchner told a La Pampa audience on May 31. Referring to Mont Pelerinite Ricardo Lopez Murphy, a darling of the Washington, D.C. neo-con apparatus, and candidate for the Senate, the Argentine President explained that the origin of such nervousness is that, "instead of being Argentines, for many years they got used to being courtesans of those interests who had nothing to do with our country." Kirchner reminded his audience that it was Lopez Murphy, Finance Minister briefly in the Fernando de la Rua government, "who said that the first thing we had to do was pay the Fund, and slash wages of professors, workers, cut the education budget, take money from the provinces, and resources from those who had least."
Kirchner has announced that he intends to use the October Congressional elections as a plebiscite on his policies, and will organize around the country in the coming months. This has provoked a wave of attacks from such "courtesans" as the off-the-wall Elisa Carrio, a candidate of the ARI party, who accused Kirchner of being a "neo-fascist" following in the footsteps of Mussolini and Hitler, all because he goes directly to the people, which she called a perversion of "republican institutions."
Top advisers to the sleazy former President Carlos Menem, who wrecked the country at the behest of the IMF in the 1990s, have joined the "center-right" electoral alliance of Lopez Murphy and co-thinker Maurio Macri which hopes to defeat Kirchner's candidates in the October elections. This includes Ecuadorean Jaime Duran Barba, who helped run Menem's failed 2003 Presidential campaign, after playing a key role as one of ousted Ecuadoran President Jamil Mahuad's cabinet ministers in imposing dollarization on Ecuador in 2001. Duran Barba helped run Menem's failed 2003 Presidential campaign.
It is with good reason that Kirchner responded to the official launching of the Lopez Murphy/Macri alliance with the remark that "those that brought us decadence" in the 1990s are once again seeking power. "God help us," should they succeed, he said.
Ecuador Rebuffs IMF
Ecuadoran Finance Minister Rafeal Correa repeated on May 31 that Ecuador is no "colony" of the IMF, after an IMF delegation finished an inspection at the end of May. Correa called media worries about the lack of support from the IMF for the new government's economic program "psychological warfare," and reminded people that when IMF chief Rodrigo Rato had visited Ecuador in February, he called the previous government's economic program a success. "This, in a country with 12% unemployment!... If Rodrigo Rato doesn't comment favorably on my program, I consider that an incentive," said Correa.
Earlier, on May 25, Correa warned that if the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank did not release $350 million in promised loans to Ecuador, Ecuador would be unable to pay $800 million owed international creditors in debt service. "If they don't meet their commitment, I don't see why I should meet ours." Asked if this meant a debt moratorium, Correa answered: "Call it what you like."
With 80% of Ecuadorans living in poverty in this oil-exporting country, the situation remains as explosive as that of neighboring Bolivia. At the end of May, the president of the Ecuadoran Bishops Conference, Nestor Herrera, warned that increasing misery in the country "is a time bomb, and at any moment we could find ourselves faced with an uprising that no one and nothing can stop."
New Nuclear Program Being Prepared in Brazil
The Lula government is debating adoption of a Brazilian Nuclear Program (PNB), the most ambitious version of which would involve the construction of seven new nuclear reactors between now and 2022, including four small ones built entirely with Brazilian technology, O Estado de Sao Paulo revealed on May 29. President Lula da Silva mandated a PNB be drawn up following his May 2004 visit to China, in which the Chinese government asked the Brazilians to sell them enriched uranium, when its enrichment program reaches commercial scale.
Three scenarios are being considered, the most modest of which would only complete Angra III (the last of the three nuclear plants planned in the Brazilian-German deal of the 1970s), and the construction of only one other 100 MW reactor, to be located in the Northeast, Brazil's poorest region. Under the most aggressive version, Brazil would finish ANGRA II, build two others of equal generating capacity (1.3 GW), and build four 300 MW reactors, all to be located in the Northeast.
The head of the National Nuclear Energy Commission, Odair Dias Goncalves, revealed on May 31 that the 300 MW reactor under discussion would be a slightly modified version of the 60 MW reactor built by the Navy, as part of its nuclear submarine project.
The Lula government is sharply divided over what direction to head in, with the Ministry of Mines and Energy, in particular, opposed to even completing Angra III, even though Brazil bought most of the needed machinery and equipment for the plant years ago. The Brazilian Association for the Development of Technical and Industrial Applications of Nuclear Energy (ABDAN) issued a study over the May 29-30 weekend, demonstrating that the Energy and Mines Ministry wildly exaggerates the cost of finishing Angra III. ABDAN, like others in the nuclear field, warns that Brazil is in danger of losing three decades of work in nuclear energy, if it does not advance its program. The generation of scientists who built the Angras are now reaching retirement age, and new programs are needed to train the next generation.
Pinera Brother Enters Chile's Presidential Race
The surprise entry of millionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera, brother of the infamous Social Security privatizer Jose Pinera, into the Chilean Presidential race, has shocked the political establishment. Sebastian, who, like brother Jose, made his millions during the Pinochet dictatorship, announced on May 14 that he will run as the Presidential candidate of the National Renovation (RN) party, in the elections scheduled for December. The RN joins the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) in the "Alliance for Chile," and it was assumed that Pinochetista, former Santiago Mayor Joaquin Lavin, would be the right wing's sole candidate.
The real issue for Chile in these elections is whether the free-market model that has remained intact since its imposition through the 1973 Pinochet coup, will be finally overturned. There is already considerable political ferment, from trade union and other layers, who are demanding a different economic policy. But the Pinera surprise announcement underscores what's at stake. Although he represents the same "Chicago Boys" outlook as his brother Jose, and helped finance the failed past Presidential candidacy of Mont Pelerinite fascist Hernan Buchi, Pinochet's Finance Minister, Pinera passes himself off as a person of great social and environmental conscience who cares about "the people."
His announced candidacy was perceived as an immediate threat to "centrist" Christian Democrat (CD) Soledad Alvear, one of the two pre-candidates of the ruling Concertacion coalition, who was trailing badly behind her popular rival, Socialist Michelle Bachelet. Alvear withdrew her candidacy a few days later, in the midst of rumors that the CD was split in two, and that sections of the party might defect to Pinera, who claims to now represent the "center-right." The Concertacion is now scrambling to figure out how to confront the Pinera threat, but it will have to confront the reality that, like the world economy, the Chilean "model" is finished.
LaRouche's Ideas Debated in Guatemala
LaRouche's April 7 webcast, "A New Bretton Woods: It's Time to Reverse Shultz's Destruction of Exchange Controls," was shown to about 100 economists and others on May 12, at the Italian Cultural Institute in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The event was sponsored by the Economic Analysis Committee of the Association of Economic Science Professionals, and included a lengthy discussion period following the video, led by journalist Carlos Wer and by Jorge Roberto Cancino Toledo, head of the national studies department of the Autonomous University of San Carlos. While Cancino Toledo undertook to bring out the uniqueness of LaRouche's thinking from an academic standpoint, journalist Carlos Wer went into detail on LaRouche's nine forecasts, and the proposal for a New Bretton Woods.