From Volume 38, Issue 6 of EIR Online, Published Feb. 11, 2011

Ibero-American News Digest

Protests Erupt in Mexico Over Food Prices, Shortages

Feb. 1 (EIRNS)—The time for building Mexico's Northwest Hydraulic Plan (PLHINO) and the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) is now! Because of soaring food, fuel, and electricity prices, reporters are button-holing any politician they can, to ask whether Mexico will be "the next Egypt"—with riots and mass protest. The price of corn has shot up by 50% in less than two months, and is putting the country's basic staple—tortillas—out of reach. The price of lime, another staple in the Mexican diet, is also soaring.

The National Food and Energy Sovereignty Movement held a protest in Mexico City on Jan. 31, attracting 20,000 people from trade unions, the National Peasants Confederation (CNC), legislators, and social organizations. But LaRouche Youth Movement organizers present there reported that no one offered any solutions to the crisis.

So, there is talk of "national collapse," and food shortages affecting millions. The National Millers and Tortilla Producers Union (UNIMTAC) charges that the Cargill grain cartel is speculating on corn prices and has driven the cost up to 4,000 pesos a ton from 3,150 pesos just a short time ago. This, says UNIMTAC, has forced 5,000 tortilla producers into bankruptcy.

Just as food price inflation was taking off in December, the Mexican Senate was preparing to lift the national ban on using maize to make ethanol! Legislation authorizing this was passed in committee and presented to the Senate on Dec. 9. Once the protests began against the 50% increase in the price of corn and tortillas, the legislation was put on "temporary" hold.

Not Just in Mexico

Feb. 1 (EIRNS)—Around Central and South America, food price increases and shortages are also creating crises. Last week, members of the regional Central American Agricultural Council (CAC) met in emergency session in Guatemala to discuss the severe shortage of basic grains in the region. Charging that speculation was the culprit in forcing grain prices up, the attendees agreed to keep their borders open to grain import and export, as a guard against speculation.

Horror stories abound. In Honduras, the price of propane gas, used for cooking in homes and small eateries, has risen by nearly 39%; electricity prices are also rising.

In Bolivia, mass demonstrations and lootings of food warehouses in protest against severe shortages and high prices of staples such as sugar, have shaken the government of President Evo Morales. Observers report long lines in front of state-run food distribution centers, as people try to obtain staples just to survive. On Jan. 31, the state-run marketing entity, EMAPA, began selling sugar imported from Brazil, but at a 40% price mark-up, which enraged buyers. The government has been forced to import food on an emergency basis to counter shortages.

Brazilian Lives Keep a Dead Bank Afloat

Feb. 4 (EIRNS)—Emilio Botín, the president of Spain's Banco Santander, on Feb. 2 performed a public autopsy on his own cadaver, in the form of presenting Santander's annual report for 2010. Santander is the largest bank in Europe, and is a key member of the British Empire's Inter-Alpha Group of banks, which Lyndon LaRouche pronounced de facto bankrupt more than a year ago.

According to Botín, the bank's "attributable profits" for 2010 were down 8.5% from 2009, principally as a result of a 39% plunge in profits from its Spain-based operations, where it is heavily involved in the disintegrating real estate bubble. Santander reported EU27 billion in Spanish real estate loans, of which EU4.6 billion (17%) are in arrears, and another EU4.9 billion (18%) are deemed "substandard" or have a risk of defaulting. In addition to that, Santander has already taken over some EU7.5 billion in properties where loans have already been defaulted on. This makes Santander, along with sister-bank BBVA, one of the largest feudal landholders in the country.

Santander might more truthfully be reclassified as a Brazilian bank. Botín's bank is weathering this collapse of its Spanish speculation, by relying on even more speculative investments in Brazil and its carry trade, where Santander's 2010 profits rose by 24%. Brazil is by far the single largest profit center for Santander, now accounting for 25% of its total profits.

Clinton Rejects UN Ambassador Rice's Threats Against Haiti

Jan. 31 (EIRNS)—U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rebuffed threats made by U.S. UN Ambassador Susan Rice recently, that "sustained support" for Haiti from the U.S. would be cut off unless the Préval government complied with demands by the Organization of American States (OAS) to overturn the results of the Nov. 28, 2010 Presidential elections. Rice made these threats during a Jan. 20 meeting of the UN Security Council.

During Clinton's Jan. 30 visit to Port-au-Prince, Haitian leaders specifically asked her about Rice's threats, and whether the U.S. intended to cut off aid or embargo Haiti. She replied sharply, "We're not talking about any of that.... We have a deep commitment to the people of Haiti, that goes to humanitarian aid; that goes to governance and democracy programs, that will be going to a cholera treatment center."

When asked if there were any circumstances under which the U.S. would ever cut off aid, she replied, "No."

Reviving Historic Ties of Ireland and Argentina

Feb. 6 (EIRNS)—Argentina and Ireland have a long history of friendship, cemented by the deep-rooted recognition in both national cultures that they have a common enemy in the British Empire. Thus, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has supported Ireland's right to defend itself from destruction by its British creditors, and the Irish have kept alive the history of the British empire's recent war against Argentina.

British crimes during the 1982 Malvinas War were spelled out in graphic detail in an Irish Times feature of Nov. 11, 2010 on "The Ghosts of the Belgrano." The feature documents the May 2, 1982 torpedo attack by a British submarine on the Argentine Navy cruiser General Belgrano, personally ordered by then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the horrors suffered by the veterans of that attack who survived, and by all veterans who subsequently received no treatment or recognition for what they did. Successive Argentine governments abetted the "de-Malvinization" policy which ignored veterans, and told them never to discuss what happened during the war.

A total of 649 Argentines were killed in the war, but another 640 have since committed suicide, with many more suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and a range of other psychological illnesses, alcoholism, and depression.

Adding insult to injury, British oil firms are now drilling for oil in the very same waters in which the sunken Belgrano lies, which President Fernández has called "an illegal act." Veterans are outraged that the British colony on the Malvinas, and the U.K. itself, may reap vast economic gains from any oil finds, spitting on the graves of those Argentines—many of them young conscripts—who fought in the war.

Recently declassified British government documents also reveal "Iron Lady" Thatcher's appeal at the time to all British Commonwealth governments to help "destroy" the Argentine economy, through economic and trade sanctions. "Measures to limit their access to markets and to credit will hit [Argentina] hard," she wrote. She told the Irish Prime Minister at the time, Charles Haughey, that while the Irish economy might also be hurt (Argentina was an important trade partner), it would be worth the pain, if it brought Argentines "to their senses" and forced them to withdraw troops from the islands.

Ireland refused to directly impose financial or trade sanctions on Argentina, and there was enormous sympathy among the Irish people for Argentina, as they knew all too well what it meant to be on the receiving end of British vindictiveness and cruelty.

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