Ibero-American News Digest
Noose Tightening on Shultz's Chilean Dictator Pinochet
"Pinochet was the head of the DINA," charged retired Gen. Manuel Contreras, former head of Chile's secret police agency, the DINA. Contreras, who was carted off to prison on Jan. 28 to begin serving a 12-year term, appeared determined to take Augusto Pinochet with him. He told the state news agency TVN, "There's a lot of talk about the leadership of DINA, but its leadership was the President of the Republic"namely, Pinochet"according to Decree 521, dated June 14, 1974 and not the majors and captains who are being convicted [of human rights violations]. I carried out my mission according to the orders that [Pinochet] gave me." Calling Pinochet a traitor, Contreras said that the former dictator should have long ago gone before the courts and stated, "I take responsibility for everything that happened in Chile." Instead, he is violating the code of honor which exists for all military officers.
Chile's DINA, now disbanded, was the central agency involved in coordinating the hunter-killer squads known as Operation Condor in the 1970s and '80s in six Ibero-American nations.
Contreras's sudden eagerness to go after Pinochet does not signal repentance on his own part, however. Continuing to assert that all he ever did as head of the DINA was hunt down communists and terrorists, he charged that the judge now handling his case, Judge Alejandro Solis, is acting out of "vengeance," because he belongs to those "whom we defeated years ago as terrorists."
Contreras received his 12-year sentence for the 1975 kidnapping and disappearance of a member of the leftist MIR, the first time in Chile that anyone has been convicted on "disappearance" charges. Three other former DINA agents were also convicted and sentenced to similar prison terms. Contreras had previously served a seven-year term for his role in the 1976 assassination in Washington, D.C. of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier.
Costs Continue To Soar on Chile's Privatized Pension System
The cost of Chile's privatized pension system to the taxpayer continues to rise, a Chilean government official who has documented the failure of the looting scheme imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship in 1981, reported to EIR in a discussion at the end of January. Nor, the official added, is there any hope of the costs going down any time in the future. The system was designed for a person who would have stable employment for 40 years and earn a decent wage. But aside from the flawed philosophy behind the system"everything has become individualized ... there is no solidarity"those conditions don't exist in Chile, she said. Poverty is growing, and workers have no job stability.
The primary motivating factor behind Chile's privatization was "the expropriation of capital ... it was theft," she emphasized. Even a year ago, few would say publicly that the private system was a failure. Today, everyone is saying it.
This official explained that given the poverty in Chile today, the role of the state in covering those people left out of the private system continues to grow. The Institute for Pension Normalization (INP) was supposed to manage 22 small state pension plans which existed in 1981, with the idea of gradually phasing them out as people retired. Instead, INP is increasingly playing a greater role, such as managing subsistence pensions for the indigent. There are only 400,000 of these available and they are for people who live in extreme poverty. Any possessiona TV, radio, etc.becomes grounds for disqualification. A subsistence pension is about enough to purchase a kilo (2.2 pounds) of bread daily.
Colombia and Venezuela Brought Back From Brink of War
As of Feb. 4, the crisis between Colombia and Venezuela over the case of FARC terrorist Rodrigo Granda, a crisis provoked behind the scenes and encouraged publicly by the Bush-Cheney government, continued to subside, after an agreement was reached on a diplomatic settlement. (See "Synarchists Promote Andean-Wide Violence" in last week's Indepth section for background.) Venezuela announced that the distribution of oil on the western border with Colombia would be resumed on Feb. 4.
News of the diplomatic settlement broke on the evening of Jan. 28, when Colombian President Alvaro Uribe issued an official communiqué which declared the crisis between the two countries "has been overcome." The statement announced that Uribe was to travel to Caracas to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Feb. 3, and that if, in a joint examination with Venezuela, the incident surrounding the capture of FARC leader Rodrigo Granda appeared to have been "inappropriate in Venezuela's opinion, it won't be repeated." The statement also reported that the two Presidents would review cooperation against terrorism, drug running, and other common problems, and discuss ending Venezuela's punitive economic sanctions against Colombia.
Uribe said the next day, while visiting the terrorism-riddled border state of Arauca, that he will seek ways the two countries, "together, harmoniously, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of our countries ... can shut the door on terrorism, kidnapping, and the drug traffic that finances them." He added that he dreamed of a free border, one "full of possibilities, in which there will be no kidnapping on either side of the river that separates [Colombia and Venezuela], and in which we can take advantage of all the possibilities for economic growth in the region."
For his part, Chavez, speaking in Porto Alegre on Jan. 30, Brazilwhere he, in his red Che Guevara shirt, was received as a hero by the 15,000-plus attendees at the World Social Forumthanked the Ibero-American countries of Peru, Brazil, and Cuba, in particular, for intervening. Chavez reported that Fidel Castro had sent his Deputy Foreign Minister to Caracas to meet with him, after Colombian President Uribe had called Castro to request his good offices. Chavez announced that he took Uribe's communiqué as a de facto apology for the incident, but that everything would depend on what the two Presidents work out concretely on Feb. 3.
Sounding an unusual-for-him note of sanity, Chavez said that the Ibero-American countries agreed that we did not want a conflict "which had been a provocation by the U.S. government." Washington was seeking an escalation, because it is seeking an excuse to intervene in Venezuela. "It would love a violent conflict between Colombia and Venezuela.... But we in Latin America have been capable of taking a step towards a solution of the crisis."
The Feb. 3 meeting was postponed at the last minute, when President Uribe was hospitalized for an inner-ear ailment. Doctors ordered him to remain hospitalized for four days. Uribe's Feb. 7-11 trip to Europe was also cancelled.
Brazil's Workers' Party Fractures Over Lula Pandering to IMF
One hundred and twelve founding members of Brazil's ruling Workers' Party (PT) used the occasion of the World Social Forum meeting in Porto Alegre to announce their departure from the party, citing betrayal by Brazilian President Lula da Silva of the party's founding principles, and his decision to make the PT "subordinate to the IMF." Among those departing are well-known economist Plinio de Arruda Sampaio, Jr., Jorge Martins, a member of the executive of the CUT labor federation, and a number of other trade unionists, intellectuals, and economists.
Sampaio was particularly harsh in explaining why he and the others were leaving: "Lula's government has wiped out the hopes of the Brazilian left," he said, and has ceased to fight for serious social change. He warned that he is calling on at least 400 more PTers to leave the party. In a recent interview, Sampaio stated that the party has degenerated so badly, that there is no possibility of turning it around. "There is no Plan B," he said.
After taking power Jan. 1, 2003 and making clear he intended to follow the IMF's policy dictates, Lula da Silva attempted to stifle any dissent within the PT. In December of 2003, one senator and three deputies were expelled from the party for opposing the IMF-dictated austerity "reforms" that Lula had sent to Congress. Lula's increasing insistence that he represents a "responsible" economic policyin contrast to Argentina's Nestor Kirchner, for examplehas caused disgust among many PT members, and there will no doubt be more departures coming soon.