From Volume 5, Issue Number 6 of EIR Online, Published Feb. 7, 2006

Ibero-American News Digest

Mexico Wants To Return to Nuclear Power

Sources at Mexico City's Polytechnic Institute told LaRouche organizers that Mexico is revisiting the whole nuclear question—feasibility studies, financing, sites, etc.—because they know there is serious talk in the United States of returning to nuclear power, and should that happen, Mexico wants to be in a position to follow suit. Energy Ministry representatives held a meeting at the Polytechnic Institute a few days ago on the matter, our sources reported.

Energy Minister Fernando Canales announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 28, that Mexico's Vicente Fox government is discussing building a new nuclear plant, in addition to Mexico's one existing plant in Laguna Verde, Veracruz. Canales' remarks were made as a trial balloon to see the reaction, the Polytechnic sources report. The government is keeping nuclear power in the news, as on Feb. 1, Canales opened an International Forum on Renewable Energy Policies in Mexico City with the announcement that the government planned to invest $800 million in upgrading the 25-year-old Laguna Verde plant, which currently produces 2% of the nation's energy, and at the lowest comparative costs of any energy source, Canales pointed out. Last December, General Electric, which designed the LV plant, won the contract for its "second phase," which is to increase its generating capacity by 20% by the year 2009-2010.

Rumsfeld Seeks Confrontation with Venezuela; Chávez Complies

War with one major oil producer is apparently not enough for the Cheney crew in Washington. One day after President Bush surprised Bolivia's new President Evo Morales by calling to congratulate him, and even as Tom Shannon, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, was reiterating on Feb. 2 that the U.S. did not want a quarrel with Venezuela, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was at the National Press Club calling Venezuela's Hugo Chávez a new Hitler, and Evo Morales "worrisome."

Asked about South America, Rumsfeld compared Chávez to Hitler, stating that "was elected legally—just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally—and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others."

As Rumsfeld was rampaging, the Chávez government announced the expulsion of the U.S. Navy attaché in Caracas for spying, as he had been caught fomenting opposition in the ranks of the retired military. The next step will be to expel the entire 22-person U.S. military delegation, Chávez announced.

The next day, at the State Department briefing, spokesman Sean McCormack announced that the Bush government had declared the second-highest official at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington persona non grata, and given her 72 hours to leave the United States. There are no charges against her, McCormack said, but "they initiated this."

Andean Free-Trade Talks Could Go Down the Drain

Although Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru entered into negotiations for a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the United States in early 2004, by the end of 2005, only Peru's President Alejandro Toledo had agreed to the conditions demanded by the U.S., and was "rewarded" with a signed FTA. Now, however, Peruvian agro-economists are denouncing the "asymmetric" terms of that agreement, which they insist will destroy Peru's national production, and CONVEAGRO, the national farmers federation in Peru, is demanding that the negotiated terms of the FTA be submitted to a national referendum before the Presidential elections in April.

Peruvians are not the only ones waking up to the fact that a free-trade agreement with the Bush-Cheney Administration and a disintegrating U.S. economy would mean national suicide. Washington's demand that the six Central American signators to their free-trade accord, CAFTA, make significant legislative changes before the treaty can be implemented has led one Central American government after another to stall on ratification. And, despite the decision to renew bilateral FTA talks with Washington, negotiators for the governments of Colombia and Ecuador are hanging tough against "asymmetric" U.S. demands in such critical areas as agricultural production, intellectual property rights, pharmaceuticals, sanitation issues, and textiles. In late January, Ecuador's chief negotiator returned from pre-negotiation talks in Washington to advise the Palacio government against signing, and the Colombians suspended the FTA talks for two weeks after their negotiators were repeatedly given the cold shoulder by their U.S. counterparts in Washington.

Latest reports are, however, that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Ecuadoran President Alfredo Palacio are considering flying up together to Washington in the immediate period ahead, to meet with Bush and try to salvage a free-trade agreement which, at least in the imagination of Colombia's Uribe, is needed to bolster his reelection bid in this year's elections.

Spanish Bank Profits, Big Time, Off Mexican Poverty

The Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), one of the filthiest international looting operations calling itself a bank, released a report at the end of January revealing that 1.192 billion euros, constituting nearly one-third of its worldwide profits in 2005, came from Mexico. BBVA's global earnings were up by 30% in 2005, but the profits earned from their Mexican subsidiary, the old Bancomer, rose by a whopping 56% last year.

BBVA reports that the majority of its earnings in Mexico came from "expanding banking operations in consumer, small and medium business needs, and in mortgage loans." In fact, that "expansion" is directly proportional to its heavy involvement in "securitization"—i.e. looting—of the approximately $20 billion in remittances sent back home from Mexican laborers in the United States.

Offensive Against Pinochetismo To Accelerate in Chile

Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet announced Jan. 31 that immediately after her inauguration in March, she will propose reforms to, or do away altogether with, the binomial election system, which was enshrined in the Chilean Constitution by the Pinochet regime in 1980, and only slightly amended since. The extreme limitations the binomial system imposes make it impossible for anyone from a third party or smaller political coalition to win a seat in Congress. This change will be fiercely resisted by the right wing, but it has long been a demand of the labor movement and others excluded under the restricted "democracy" which George Shultz's Pinochet project imposed, in an effort to secure its free-trade model long after Gen. Augusto Pinochet himself had to step aside.

The incoming President's efforts may be aided by the difficulties the Cheney-Bush crowd have at the moment in defending the Pinochet family, which is facing multiple trials on charges ranging from embezzlement and money-laundering, to torture and genocide. On Jan. 25, Lucia Pinochet Hiriart, the eldest daughter of Augusto Pinochet, flew into Washington's Dulles International Airport, requesting political asylum in the United States on the grounds that she and her family are victims of "political persecution." Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker, on Jan. 26, called the pleas of "persecution" by the former Nazi dictator's family "surreal," with "zero credibility": "To say: 'I am being persecuted politically.' By whom? By Chile? Please! What on earth are we talking about?"

Facing a nadir in relations with South America nations already, and with the LaRouche movement's year-long saturation of the United States with pamphlets detailing the Bush-Cheney-Hitler-Pinochet ties as one Synarchist project, the Bush Administration could ill afford to defend its assets. On Jan. 27, after being held in a jail cell while her asylum case was being heard, Pinochet's daughter withdrew her asylum request, and was packed on a plane back to South America. Once back in Chile, she was arrested on tax fraud and evasion charges. The rest of her family is already under house arrest on the same charges, related to the more than $27 million the family had illegally squirreled away in a Riggs Bank account.

Chilean Labor Mobilizes Against Private Pension System

In a message to President-elect Michelle Bachelet, Chile's CUT labor federation has joined with other trade union and social organizations to create a broad front to radically reform the private pension system, known as the AFPs. Launching the "Pro-Reform Committee" Jan. 29 in Santiago, CUT Secretary General Arturo Martinez stated that "the existing non-transparent system, which is an oligopoly, has led to high levels of poverty" and can no longer exist in its current form. It is time to put an end to the "unacceptable injustices in social security repeated daily in our country," Martinez said, "which in the end only create enormous social unrest."

The new movement intends to hold Bachelet to her word to reform the private system imposed in 1981 by Pinochet's fascist Labor Minister José Piñera. Among the proposals being made is the demand that the private sector and the state contribute to a tripartite fund to cover pension costs—currently private employers pay nothing, and the state in any case has been forced to take up the slack where the private system has failed. Labor leaders also want coverage to extend to all workers—only about 50% of the workforce now receives any pension at all—with pensions that are enough to live on. The head of the teachers' federation, Jorge Pavez, made the correct point that the private system is totally illegitimate because it was imposed by a dictatorship, and has never fulfilled the promises made in 1981.

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