From Volume 7, Issue 4 of EIR Online, Published Jan. 22, 2008

Ibero-American News Digest

British Escalate War Plans for Ibero-America

Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—Ibero-America is careening towards war between Venezuela and Colombia, with all their neighbors drawn in, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, an instrument of British policy, squares off against the British-controlled followers of Dick Cheney, to blow up the region.

On Jan. 16, U.S. Southern Command chief, Adm. James Stavridis, gave a threatening speech at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), on the alleged danger of Iran linking up with narcoterrorists in South America, while showing pictures of Chávez with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Bolivia's Evo Morales. As Stavridis spoke, Chávez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega stated in a joint press conference from Managua that the region will rise up against "the U.S. empire," and labeled Colombian President Alvaro Uribe a threat to peace, as an agent of that "empire." Chávez dismissed the Colombian government's protest of his meddling in that country's internal affairs by supporting the FARC narcoterrorists, and reiterated that he intends to ignore the Uribe government, and organize its "people" directly.

In an act that will further exacerbate tensions between the two nations, the Venezuelan National Assembly passed a resolution on Jan. 17 granting "belligerent status" to the Colombian FARC and ELN. This act of lunacy came just a week after Chávez called on the world community to recognize the groups, both guilty of heinous crimes in Colombia, as "belligerents"—that is, as groups whose fight against the government has some legitimacy.

Approved by 161 of the 168 members of Venezuela's Congress, the resolution recognizes the FARC's and ELN's "belligerent status," provocatively characterizing them as "insurgent movements," and arguing that this sign of "good will" is the first step toward dealing with these groups politically and "generating confidence" for future negotiations for hostage releases.

Is Coca Behind Chávez's Drive To Legalize FARC?

Jan. 14 (EIRNS)—"I chew coca every day in the morning, and look at me.... [Bolivian President] Evo [Morales] sends me coca paste. I recommend it."

That remarkable declaration made by President Hugo Chávez in his annual report to the National Assembly on Jan. 11, might explain a few things about his recent drive to convince governments, starting with the Uribe government in Colombia, to grant formal "belligerent" status to Colombia's FARC and ELN narcoterrorists.

Coca leaves are the primary ingredient used for making cocaine, and coca paste is the first step in the process of turning coca into the narcotic. British oligarchs and such speculator allies as George Soros have taken up "defense" of the coca leaf as a "millennarian" tradition today, demanding its widespread cultivation and processing, as a "smart" flank in their new drug-legalization Opium War. The Spanish colonial interests loved coca too, because it allowed them to work the Indians to death in the silver mines with less complaining, since it blocks hunger pangs.

Ecuador Has a Better Idea: Raise Wages, Regulate Banks

Jan. 16 (EIRNS)—Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa issued a statement on Jan. 5, lambasting businessmen in his country who protest that increasing wages is an attack on production, but remain silent about the high interest rates citizens are forced to pay on capital.

"It is immoral to exploit labor. And the salaries paid in Ecuador are immoral. We are not going to return to the days of slavery," on account of some fairytale that wages need to be kept low to generate jobs, he said.

Pointing to the disproportionately high rate of return on capital (through interest rates), as compared to the ridiculous payment for human labor (through salaries) as a source of inequity and inequality, Correa declared that his government will regulate interest rates and finance, and continue to progressively increase the minimum wage.

At the end of 2007, his government decreed a 17.6% increase in the minimum wage, up to $200 from the scandalous $170 a month, which Correa had denounced as "an insult to dignity." But even $200 a month was deemed excessive by Ecuador's large business federations.

Mexican Miners Strike, Peasant Union Denounces NAFTA

Jan. 16 (EIRNS)—Mexico's National Mineworkers Union called a nationwide one-day strike for today, in support of the copper miners of the Cananea mine in northern Sonora, who were violently forced from the premises on Jan. 11 by federal and state police agents, after a five-month strike over demands for better safety and health conditions. The Cananea copper mine is one of Mexico's largest, and the workers there have a fighting tradition dating back to the 1910 Revolution.

The miners' mobilization is part of the growing ferment against the conditions of economic breakdown now sweeping the country—including peasant demonstrations against NAFTA's destruction of domestic corn and bean production; protests over inflation, especially of food staples such as tortillas; and opposition to privatization of the energy sector.

The PRI party's National Peasant Confederation (CNC) condemned the government's attack against the Cananea miners, and warned that such repression against a legal strike sends a clear message to rural workers, who are expressing their rejection of NAFTA. Cruz López Aguilar, the head of the CNC, also announced that electricity workers union leader Martín Esparza Flores has endorsed the CNC's call for a national mobilization against NAFTA on Jan. 31. Esparza explained that the problems in the energy sector are also a result of NAFTA, since government-run electricity plants are being shut down to allow "independent producers" to take their place.

Chile's Pension Reform Leaves Pinochet System Untouched

Jan. 16 (EIRNS)—The much-awaited pension reform that Chilean President Michelle Bachelet had promised when she took office in early 2006, is now about to be approved in Congress and go into effect in four or five months. It falls short of what Bachelet promised, when she correctly charged in 2005 that the private system that had been so brutally imposed by fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1981, had to be reformed in order to protect the "public welfare."

The reform reflects the fact that Bachelet didn't have the backing she needed to take on the financial vultures that control the Pension Fund Administrators (AFPs), as the private system is known. For now, it will remain virtually untouched, except for a palliative basic floor, or "solidarity" pension.

The AFPs will be free to continue to ride roughshod over the population, as they have done for 26 years. There are no restrictions on the commissions they charge; they are exempt from paying a VAT tax, and have been given enormous leeway to invest up to 80% of the $100 billion in their possession, in overseas speculative markets, despite stacking up losses of $6 billion over the past six months.

As EIR exposed in 2004-05, the AFP system was never intended to be anything but an Enron-type swindle, to loot the workforce and the economy, while reaping enormous profits for the financial sharks that run it. This is why George P. Shultz—who helped install Pinochet in power in 1973, with the help of Nazi banker Felix Rohatyn—praised the AFP system so highly, and tried to get his protégé George W. Bush, to impose it on the American people in 2005. Thanks to the LaRouche movement mobilization at the time, they failed.

The AFP system today covers only half of Chile's labor force of 6 million, providing decent pensions for only a tiny percentage of those enrolled. Meanwhile, those who apply for the basic universal pension, or the smaller "welfare" pension, can only qualify after they can prove that they are sufficiently impoverished.

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