From Volume 5, Issue Number 32 of EIR Online, Published Aug. 8, 2006

Ibero-American News Digest

Mexican Electoral Court Orders Partial Recount

On Saturday, Aug. 5, Mexico's Federal Electoral Court threw out Coalition for the Good of All candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador's petition for a "vote-by-vote, polling station by polling station" recount of the July 2 Presidential election. The court opted to order a recount of a mere 9.07% of the polling stations. A rapid escalation of the revolutionary mass strike process we report on in this week's InDepth section ("Mexicans Seize the Streets, History," by Gretchen Small) is to be expected, in response.

Proposed Panama Canal Expansion and Economic Hit-Men

In his July 20 Webcast, Lyndon LaRouche said in response to a question, that Nazi Felix Rohatyn's infrastructure plan fit the mold described by John Perkins in his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, where "projects based on good ideas of infrastructure as such" were "used to indebt the country, to wreck it, and to conquer it, and ruin it, which was done to various countries in South and Central America, Asia, and so forth." Panama was one of the countries that Perkins, a former top financial consultant, says he was supposed to target, but decided not to because of his admiration and friendship with the late head of government Omar Torrijos.

The country is once again a target for destruction by the economic hit-men. When President Martin Torrijos, son of the late Gen. Omar Torrijos, announced earlier this year, that the Panama Canal would be expanded, and another set of locks added to handle ships of up to 100,000 tons, as opposed to the current 60,000-odd-ton maximum, EIR saw this as a generally positive development, although it fell far short of what is really needed: a new, sea-level canal, capable of handling the world's largest ships. There were, however, some nagging doubts arising from the fact that the projected cost of $5.3 billion seemed too low, and that the expansion was to be paid for entirely out of Canal tolls. Furthermore, some former opponents of the project, such as Alberto and Carlos Vallarino and Roberto Eisenmann, "Mr. Project Democracy" in Panama, who had opposed General Torrijos's efforts to gain control of the Canal, had now become ardent "nationalist" boosters.

There was also the question if whether the lead bank for the project, Banco del Istmo, owned primarily by the Vallarino family, among whose members was a self-proclaimed Club of Rome wannabe, was large enough to handle it, despite all the Colombian drug-money in its vaults.

Indeed, independent studies show that the government's cost estimates are half of what the expansion will really cost; in any case, even by the government's own estimates, if the project's costs go over $6 billion, the Canal will become a money-loser. Carlos Vallarino, from the Banco del Istmo crowd, was just made Finance Minister, and promptly lowered the capital-gains tax from 10-20%, to 5%. Among the immediate beneficiaries are the members of the Vallarino family, who have just sold their bank to HSBC.

Thus, if the Oct. 22 referendum on the Canal expansion is approved, the waterway is likely soon to be headed for bankruptcy, with privatization being next on the agenda, to pay off the lead creditor: the old Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. of Opium Wars infamy.

Argentine Congressman: Right May Unleash Assassinations

Congressman Edgar DePetri, who describes himself as a "militant Kirchnerista," told the DYN press agency Aug. 1 that there is no one who has a chance of winning the 2007 Presidential elections against Argentine President Néstor Kirchner, whose popularity stands at 75%. The right-wing opposition's only option is to try to "level the field" by "creating political and economic chaos"—with the "acquiescence of the United States," he charged—in hopes of destabilizing the President.

Don't rule out the possibility that "mafioso" interests such as those associated with former President Carlos Menem, could hire hit-men to murder or kidnap people for ransom, and then charge that Kirchner has done nothing against crime, he warned. Sabotage of energy supplies, price speculation, and military protests in defense of the 1970s "dirty war," are all tactics these financial interests can be expected to use as well, DePetri added.

Bachelet Reiterates: Chile Does Not Fear Integration

Chile is in for the long haul as an advocate of regional integration and member of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), President Michelle Bachelet underscored in her July 21 speech to the Mercosur summit. Chile's "national mission and development cannot be understood apart from its integration with the world, and with the region." The results of regional integration have been uneven, she said, and balancing democracy with the market has led to a search for alternatives and new proposals." But, she added, "we must recognize the progress we've made,... deepen our economic integration,... and intraregional trade." The process takes work, patience and perseverance," and we shall persist in this integration effort ... especially privileging the search for share solutions to common challenges." She made special reference to the need to speed up infrastructure development related to the South American Regional Infrastructure Initiative (IIRSA), "to accelerate South American connectivity."

The Chilean President is under intense pressure from globalization advocates who demand that Chile disassociate itself from Mercosur, and most particularly from Argentine President Néstor Kirchner. These traitors insist that Chile needs to look for new alliances with more "responsible" and "reliable" partners. The latest problem seized upon by the globalists is Argentina's most recent increase in the price of natural gas which it exports to Chile, which is higher than what Kirchner and Michelle Bachelet reportedly discussed during their July 21 bilateral meeting at the Mercosur summit.

Argentina raised its price, after accepting an increase in the price it would pay for Bolivian natural gas. Absent a broader integration accord involving South America as a whole, such bilateral problems will continue to crop up.

The right-wing Alliance for Chile has called on Bachelet to re-evaluate Chile's membership in Mercosur, arguing that group is moving sharply to the left under Hugo Chavez's influence, and offers few economic benefits. The country would be better off associating with Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil, and dumping Argentina, the Alliance said.

So, too, Bachelet's Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley, a former IMF official, publicly complained that Argentina had failed to keep its promise on natural gas prices, in contrast to the "very constructive and successful policy we are developing with our other neighbor Peru"—now governed by free-trade advocate Alan Garcia. As an alternative, Foxley suggested that all Ibero-American nations on the Pacific Coast associate informally into a new group that he said would benefit more from "projecting ourselves toward Asia" than to Ibero-America. He boasted July 26 that he agreed with former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's assessment that Ibero-America is undergoing "disintegration," not integration.

President Bachelet, however, responded to these provocations with circumspection. After she wrote a letter to Kirchner expressing her "disappointment" over the gas price issue, her spokesman announced that it is not the government's place to make ultimatums to Argentina, and stated her view that "the best thing for us to do now is to work together with Argentina to rebuild confidence between us. That takes time, and we set no deadlines," he said.

Fox Government Tries Again To Bust Regional Integration

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez recommended in a July 27 press conference that Ibero-American nations restart negotiations for a "hemispheric trade pact"—the Free Trade Area of the Americas—given the collapse of the Doha Round of WTO talks. Such a hemispheric mechanism would be far more efficient than any "regional or subregional pact," he said. So much for the actual intentions lying behind the alleged eagerness expressed by the PAN government and the PAN's Presidential candidate, Felipe Calderón, that Mexico should join Mercosur.

Mexico has become irrelevant to South America's advancing integration, and should Calderón prevail in the election race, that irrelevance can be expected to continue.

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