Ibero-American News Digest
Kirchner: Defend Democracy with Justice and Equality
Speaking Sept. 7 at the launching of a literacy program, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner slammed the bogus "public safety" campaign run by right-winger Juan Carlos Blumberg, whose demonstration in Buenos Aires that same day accused the President of being a power-hungry authoritarian who has failed to protect citizens from street crime. The real issue here isn't public safety, Kirchner said. "Democracy and security ... aren't built either with the end of a stick, or with determined attitudes or schemes." Obviously there are things that can complement the state's actions, he added, "but in a society which marginalizes its children, as ours does, which offers education only selectively ... this gives us cause to seriously reflect."
For there to be real democracy, "everyone must have equal opportunity; we must open the doors to everyone, and ensure that everyone has the same rights," Kirchner said. People must be able to have their own homes, and jobs, and family life around the evening dinner table, where each member reviews his or her dayparents and children. That was taken away from people as a result of the 2001 crisis.
Implicitly referencing Blumberg, who is a possible 2007 Presidential contender, Kirchner said some sectors seize on the normal difficulties that democratic processes experience for their own opportunistic aims, because they want a piece of power. But these same forces "get very nervous" about the effort to guarantee the equal rights for all citizens. "They get nervous when we fight impunity, when we seek justice, when we create jobs and open schools' and universities' doors to all Argentines," because these sectors think "that some things should only be offered selectively."
To Solve the Immigration Crisis: Develop Mexico!
Mexico must choose between two diametrically opposed economic policies, Andrés Manuel López Obrador told supporters at his movement's nightly informational assembly in the Zocalo on Saturday, Sept. 9. The economic policy reigning today, which aims to benefit only a few, must be replaced with a policy which fosters productive activities and generates employment, he declared.
López Obrador spoke following a representative of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. who had addressed the rally, and attacked the immigration problem as a product of the lack of jobs. "This is like exile," he said. Under the government of Vicente Fox, "3 million Mexicans, around 500,000 a year, have abandoned the country, have gone into exile, out of necessity. They have abandoned their families, abandoned their peoples, out of necessity and in order to seek work on the other side of the border. That is why we are going to insist that there must be a new economy, which has to set productive activity into motion, and which has to generate jobs."
So, too, the right wing has set out to shut down public education, to give education over to "the market, as if it were a commodity, to see who could acquire it," he continued. We maintain that education is a right of the people, and it cannot be turned into a privilege. A family's economic or social condition must not matter; everyone has this right. But a silent privatization of public education has been going on, carried out by constantly cutting the public education budget. The result is that there aren't enough spaces in the high schools or universities, and thousands of students are being turned away each year. If we don't act, he told his movement, we will condemn thousands of students to a lack of schooling and deny them the opportunity to learn. The only future left for these youth is the street and anti-social behavior. And they wonder why there is so much violence!
"If we want to live in peace, there have to be jobs, there has to be well-being, there has to be education. That is the formula," he reiterated.
Lastly, López Obrador emphasized the necessity of revising the North American Free Trade Accord (NAFTA), to rescind the free import of corn and beans which is scheduled to go into effect in 2008. That would be the final blow for 3 million Mexican families, he exclaimed. Then you'll see emigration!
Renewed Push for Expanding Brazil's Nuclear Program
Brazilian President Lula da Silva told O Estado de Sao Paulo Sept. 7 that he favors cooperation on nuclear power with Venezuela and other nations. "We defend international cooperation in this area and the right of all countries to have access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses, under the supervision of specialized multilateral agencies."
The pro-nuclear faction within Lula's government is still fighting, however, to get construction restarted on Brazil's third reactor, before the nuclear specialists all retire. A decision in favor of the completion, at long last, of the Angra III nuclear plant will be announced after the Oct. 1 Presidential elections, Brazilian Science and Technology Minister Sergio Rezende told Carta Capital magazine (Sept. 8 edition). Rezende has tried repeatedly for more than a year to get President Lula to order work to begin. The Environmental Ministry and the hefty environmentalist wing of Lula's PT party remain adamantly opposed. Reportedly, however, nine of the 11 Cabinet ministers involved in the decision are now in favor, with the latest convert being Mines and Energy Minister Silas Rondeau, who says the "markets" have convinced him the price is now "competitive." Finance Minister Guido Mantega is on board, Electrobras officials reported on Aug. 30.
The contract to build Angra 3 was signed 30 years ago last June, but geopolitical attacks and the environmentalist movement have stalled its completion at an accumulated cost of $1.2 billion. The monetary loss is nothing, compared to its effect on Brazil's scientific community. At least 200 engineers were sent to Germany in the 1970s and 1980s to be trained, a capability that is about to be lost forever, the president of the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Association (Aben), Edson Kuramoto, warns. Kuramoto told Carta Capital that the average age of Brazil's nuclear specialists is now 50, and the majority will retire within the next ten years.
The Mines and Energy Ministry's ten-year plan projects that construction would begin in 2007, and be completed by 2013. The French Areva group has made various financing proposals to the Brazilian government.
Uruguay Seeks 'Fast-Track' Free-Trade Accord with Bush
Despite the fact that his overtures to the U.S. have provoked a brawl inside his Cabinet, and a general strike by the national trade-union federation scheduled for Sept. 21, Uruguay's President Tabare Vasquez has met with his Foreign Trade Committee on pushing forwards a fast-track free-trade agreement with Washington, and may shortly send a delegation to Washington to further explore the matter prior to making a final decision in early October.
Such an accord would threaten the integrity of both the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and South America's informal "Presidents' Club" in the region which has stood up to the Bush Administration's insane policies on several fronts. Right on cue, Paraguay's neocon Vice President Luis Castiglione, one of Dick Cheney's good friends, showed up in Uruguay on Sept. 13 to meet with Vasquez, and to loudly proclaim that "in Paraguay, we are very interested and are closely watching Uruguay's contacts with the U.S.," because "trade accords beyond Mercosur are important for Uruguay's and Paraguay's development."
Brazil and Argentina are seeking to avoid confrontation with Mercosur's two smaller countries, while hurrying to put the $100 million Structural Convergence Fund (FOCEM) into place to offer special credit lines to both nations and begin to address their complaints of unfair trade practices within the customs union. They have even indicated they will be flexible about possible trade deals outside Mercosur, provided that these won't harm Mercosur's fundamental principles and structure. But synarchist financiers are trying to exploit existing tensions to undermine regional unity.