Ibero-American News Digest
No Big Industry for Mexico Under Calderón
Agustín Carstens, the University of Chicago-trained former IMF official who is likely to become Finance Minister under a Felipe Calderón Administration, told the Mexican daily El Universal (Oct. 21) that the Calderón government's job creation plan doesn't include industrial complexes, but will focus on tourism and "small businesses." Does that mean government support for informal street corner operations? he was asked. Grinning, he answered that the goal is to turn them into "micro-businesses."
Carstens was just appointed to draft Felipe Calderón's economic program and 2007 budget.
State promotion of such informal mom-and-pop street operations (known as changarros) by the Fox government, which proudly said it was implementing the fascist "self-help" theories of the just-named Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus, provoked ridicule in Mexico. But Carstens insisted, "We don't believe in magic bullets nor miracles.... We won't commit the errors of the past, when Mexico tried to do things "very fast on false premises," and things turned out badly. What he meant was that no large development projects of the kind advocated by former nationalist President José López Portillo, will be permitted.
London Financiers Fear Lula
Will Follow Kirchner
The London Financial Times lead editorial Oct. 23 attacked Argentine President Nestor Kirchner for his refusal to accept that the days of a strong state role in the economy are over. A "news" article in the same issue worried that Brazil's President Lula da Silva might win in the Oct. 29 run-off election by a margin as wide as 20%. (In fact, Lula did win, and apparently, according to early reports, by approximately such a margin.)
What scares London's financiers is that support for Lula zoomed when he began to define the election as battle against privatizations and the neoliberal model, by charging that his opponent Geraldo Alckmin would privatize the state-owned Banco do Brasil and the oil firm Petrobras. Alckmin is from former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's PSDB party, and is advised by many of the top financier agents who ran Cardoso's disastrous eight years of government. The Financial Times can't understand why even Brazilian middle class voters don't want anything to do with those policies of the past. Should Lula be reelected, IMF "reforms" might be out the window in the next administration, the FT lamented.
In recent weeks, Brazilian university professors and intellectuals have mobilized on behalf of Lula's reelection. At least four manifestos signed by prominent figures are circulating, bringing together people from diverse political projects. One, signed by Carlos Lessa, former president of the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), sums up their case:
"Brazil runs the serious risk of an enormous historic reversal. Those who privatized important resources of the public patrimony, who extended private sector education like never before, who turned our country into a docile and subordinate ally of the U.S., who criminalized and repressed the social movements, who aggravated inequality, injustice, and social exclusion even moreseek to return to power. In the face of this threat, Brazilians have to put aside their differences, and join up, to keep those dark times for our country from returning...."
Nuclear Energy on the Agenda
for Second Lula Term
Lula da Silva's Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff announced on Oct. 12 that should the Brazilian President be reelected, his government will take up the plan to build multiple nuclear power plants "in order to reach a level of economic efficiency." Brazil's Science and Technology Minister Sergio Rezende announced last March that Brazil would build seven plants by no later than 2025, but President Lula stalled the project.
At that time, Rousseff, considered one of the most powerful ministers in Lula's cabinet, opposed the plan. Valor Economico reported on Oct. 23, however, that the President's civil cabinet, which Rousseff heads, had just received the final version of a plan to expand Brazil's aging nuclear sector, and this time she told Valor that the National Council on Energy Policy would discuss it the week after the Oct. 29 election. She added that the government intended to finish construction on the Angra 3 plant (started more than 20 years ago), and build a group of nuclear plants along with it.
The plan was prepared by a multi-agency taskforce led by the National Commission on Nuclear Energy (CNPE). CNPE head Odair Dias Goncalves told Valor that they propose that Brazil "attack" its energy shortage, by aiming to meet 5.6% of its power from nuclear plants by 2023 or 2025. Where the other new plants would be built is not decided, he said, but at least one would surely be built in the impoverished Northeast, along the Sao Francisco river. Nuclear power remains controversial in some layers of Lula's base, as seen by the fact that the word "nuclear" was not mentioned once in Lula's electoral program.
Kirchner Pledges 'To End Suffering
of Argentine People'
In an Oct. 22 speech before members of the SUTERH trade union in Buenos Aires, the Argentine President reiterated his commitment to defending the general welfare of his population. Although this principle enrages City of London and Wall Street bankers, Argentines have acknowledged the economic progress made over the past three years, by giving Kirchner a 75% popularity rating.
These facts indicate why.
The growth in consumption resulting from higher wages and greater credit availability produced a 53% growth in "productive expansion" in the first half of 2006, according to the Abeceb consulting firm. Over the past year, the number of registered workersthose working on the books rather than in the informal economyhas increased by 34%, while payment of pension benefits increased by 24% for the same period. Unemployment is now estimated at 9%, down from 26% when Kirchner took office in May of 2003. Analysts are hiking their 2006 growth estimates to well above 8%.
The CCR consulting firm reported in a recent study that supermarket sales for September jumped by 12.2%, compared to September of 2005, the largest inter-annual increase since 2002. This figure is almost triple the 3.8% average increase in sales for all of 2005. Revenue for large supermarket chains increased by 20% in the third quarter. CCR notes that growth is not limited to supermarkets, but extends across all retail sectors.
U.S. Pressure Behind
Argentine Charges Against Iran
On Oct. 25, Argentine special prosecutor Alberto Nisman announced in a splashy press conference in Buenos Aires that he had conclusive evidence that the government of Iran was responsible for the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish social welfare center in that city. The bombing killed 85 people and wounded hundreds more.
Nisman and his collaborator Martinez Burgos presented an 800-page dossier which they said proved that the AMIA bombing was planned "at the highest levels of the Iranian government" during an August 1993 meeting, and that Lebanon's Hezbollah was assigned to carry it out. He then called on Federal Judge Canicoba Corral to issue international arrest warrants for former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and several of his former cabinet ministers and military commanders.
The AMIA case has been fraught with irregularities for years, including conflicting hypotheses, perjured testimony, evidence tampering, and charges by some independent investigators that this was a "false flag" bombing with possible Mossad involvement. Nisman's Oct. 25 statements have divided Argentina's Jewish community, some of whose leaders argue that he has only rehashed old, discredited evidence.
Foreign pressure on President Kirchner has been intense. According to the March 17, 2006 edition of The Forward, the U.S. began putting the screws on Argentina early this year, when Bush Administration officials and Congressional aides met with top Argentine political and judicial officials to pressure them to charge Iran with the crime. When a violent leftist group prevented young Jewish activists from demonstrating in front of the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires some weeks ago, the media screamed that the government was tolerating "anti-Semitism." And, during her most recent trip to New York, First Lady Cristina Kirchner got an earful from the ADL, B'nai B'rith, American Jewish Committee, and World Jewish Congress, all wanting to know why the government was "foot-dragging" on the AMIA case.
Chilean Uproar Over
Pinochet's Gold Fortune
Chile was rocked this week by reports that former dictator Augusto Pinochet had stashed 9,000 kilos of gold ingots at the infamous Hong Kong âÄ†Shanghai Banking Corporation, on top of the multiple secret accounts he had set up at Washington, D.C.'s Riggs Bank, and numerous other foreign banks. The gold, discovered recently, is worth $160 million.
Although there is now a contoversy over the validity of the certificates documenting Pinochet's ownership of the gold, the report is coherent both with Pinochet's sordid history of illegal financial operations, and with his relationship with the synarchist bankers who backed his fascist dictatorship"econoic hit-man" John Train and George P. Shultz. Nor should anyone forget that the Hong Shang Bank has a long association historically with the international drug-trafficking cartel, which was documented in EIR's bestseller, Dope, Inc.