From Volume 6, Issue 34 of EIR Online, Published August 21, 2007

Ibero-American News Digest

BAE Stench Behind Scandal Aimed at Argentine President

Aug. 11 (EIRNS)—A scandal that has erupted in Argentina, and is targetting President Néstor Kirchner and his wife, and Presidential candidate Sen. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, carries the unmistakable stench of the same Anglo-Dutch financier interests behind the BAE weapons-trafficking cartel. For them, Kirchner is anathema, because of his continental leadership in forging the anti-IMF Bank of the South, and independent regional integration initiatives.

At the center of the scandal, which also involves Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, is a murky Miami-based Venezuelan "businessman," Guido Antonini Wilson, one of whose associates is the arms dealer Pedro Guerrero, "who has very intimate relations with Armor Holdings," according to the Argentine daily Infobae. Armor is the U.S. arms firm recently acquired by BAE.

The scandal erupted on Aug. 4, just prior to Chávez's scheduled visit to Argentina, after Antonini Wilson apparently talked his way onto a private plane chartered by the Argentine state oil firm Enarsa to transport three government officials, and four others from the Venezuelan oil firm PDVSA, from Caracas to Buenos Aires. When Antonini arrived in Buenos Aires, customs officials discovered that he was carrying a suitcase filled with $800,000. Some sources suspect that Antonini may have been traveling to Argentina on behalf of Armor, and that the funds were related to arms deals. He reportedly had traveled to Argentina several times in the past, always for very brief stays.

Although none of the Argentine government officials knew Antonini, one of them, Claudio Uberti, who is in charge of the government's relations with the Chávez government, and is also a very close collaborator of Planning Minister Julio De Vido, has been forced to resign. Antonini was not arrested; he quickly left the country and is now back home in Miami.

All of this occurs just two months before the Oct. 28 Presidential elections, in which Senator Fernández de Kirchner is the leading contender. Tensions between Argentina and Venezuela have heightened as a result of the incident, while the local political opposition—especially that linked to neoliberal foreign banking interests—are screaming "corruption," charging that the cooperation between Kirchner and Chávez was clearly based on "dirty" financial machinations, and arguing that this will continue should Fernández be elected.

Kirchner Again Endorses Nuclear Energy for Development

Aug. 15 (EIRNS)—Speaking Aug. 15 in Zarate, Buenos Aires to inaugurate a key component of the Atucha II nuclear reactor, Argentine President Néstor Kirchner debunked the argument, put forward even by some members of his own government, that completing Atucha II, whose construction was halted for 17 years, was an "unproductive" investment.

Nonsense, Kirchner said. In announcing the reactivation of Argentina's nuclear program in 2006, the President recalled, "Thank God I stuck to my convictions, and to my belief that work, production, national industry, and nuclear energy are elements of development!"

In 1974, Gen. Juan Perón inaugurated Argentina's first nuclear reactor, Atucha I, Kirchner recalled. Atucha II was begun, but was shut down. By whom? "It was former Minister [Domingo] Cavallo who halted Atucha II's construction," Kirchner explained. The free-market ideologue who served throughout most of the 1990s as Finance Minister for IMF poster-child President Carlos Menem, and dismantled Argentina's productive economy, Cavallo threw away the $1.8 billion that had already been invested in Atucha II and just shut it down.

"Never forget that!" Kirchner admonished, "because it will remind you of what the decade of the 1990s meant for all Argentines." Only because there were 100 skilled workers who lovingly watched over it, and protected it, during all those years construction was halted, Kirchner reported, can Atucha II now go forward, with Argentine capital, and be part of the program to improve the lives of millions of citizens.

Venezuela Financing Energy Projects in Ibero-America

Aug. 12 (EIRNS)—In an Aug. 4-8 tour of four Ibero-American nations, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced a series of investments in energy infrastructure projects, intended to contribute to the process of regional energy cooperation and integration.

In Argentina on Aug. 7, Chávez and President Néstor Kirchner signed an energy security treaty, by which Argentina's state oil firm Enarsa and its Venezuelan counterpart PDVSA will form a joint venture called Petrosuramerica. Among other things, the new company will be involved in refining oil, producing petrochemicals, and developing transportation and other infrastructure. Venezuela will also be investing $400 million in the construction of a natural gas plant in Bahia Blanca.

Chávez also signed an energy security treaty with Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez, one of the central aspects of which involves the agreement between Uruguay's state energy firm Ancap and Venezuela's PDVSA, to expand capacity at the La Teja oil refinery. During Chávez's visit, President Vásquez also publicly endorsed Venezuela's entry into the Common Market of the South, Mercosur, which is opposed by some members of his own cabinet.

In Ecuador, Venezuela will invest $5 billion to assist that country in building the Manabi oil refinery, which will be the largest in South America when it is finished. Then in Bolivia, Chávez joined President Kirchner in Tarija, to sign a series of cooperation agreements for natural gas production, and the creation of joint ventures for oil exploitation and electricity generation. PDVSA has signed a joint venture with Bolivia's state oil firm, YPFB, to create PetroAndina, which will begin oil exploration north of the capital of La Paz, and in Tarija and Chuquisaca. Argentina's Enarsa will also sign a joint venture with YPFB, which includes financing from Argentina to build a gas separation plant in the Gran Chaco.

As We Warned: Chile's Private Pension Funds Are Crashing

Aug. 15 (EIRNS)—In an article published in Cronica Digital Aug. 14 under headline, "Hold Onto Your Pants: The International Financial System Is Crashing," Chilean economist Manuel Riesco revealed that the country's private pension funds, or AFPs, as they are known, have suffered huge losses just over the past few weeks. These losses have come from their speculative investments on international markets that are now crashing.

In the mid-1990s, Executive Intelligence Review exposed Chile's private pension system as a fascist looting scheme, imposed by force on the country by the brutal 1973-1990 Pinochet dictatorship. Reflecting the thinking of Pinochet's sponsors, Felix "The Fixer" Rohatyn and George P. Shultz, the AFP system was never intended to benefit Chilean workers. It was designed for the foreign banks and insurance companies—Banco Santander, BBVA and Citigroup among them—that control most of the system's assets, and threw them into the speculative international derivatives and hedge fund apparatus that is now crumbling.

George Shultz tried to get his protégé George W. Bush to ram through a Chilean-style privatized Social Security system in the U.S. in 2005, but was prevented from doing so thanks to the LaRouche movement's mobilization.

Look at this great Chilean "success story" today: Out of the AFPs total assets of $104 billion, they lost $2.5 billion between July 25 and Aug. 12 alone. About half of their assets, according to Riesco, are invested in the local, as well as international stock markets, and in the stock of such banks as Bear Stearns and the crisis-ridden French insurance giant AXA. As of March 2006, the AFPs had $435 million invested in AXA. Legislation recently approved in Chile will allow the AFPs to invest 40% of their assets abroad, up from 30%.

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