Ibero-American News Digest
Colombia LYM Gives 'Shylock Award' to IMF Chief
During a high-profile visit to Bogota, Colombia on Feb. 16, the director of the International Monetary Fund, Rodrigo de Rato, was presented with the "Shylock Award for Usury"a "pound of flesh"by the LaRouche Youth Movement (LYM) of Colombia. Present for the unexpected award ceremony were the Fund's Director for the Western Hemisphere, Anoop Singh, and IMF Assistant Director and chief of mission to Colombia Robert Rennhack.
The award was delivered during Rato's final press conference at the Banco de la Republica, Colombia's central bank. As the conference was drawing to a close, LYM member Orlando Munevar walked to the front of the room and, displaying a bag of raw meat, declared: "This is the 'pound of flesh' that the IMF is demanding from our country.... I represent the LaRouche Youth Movement, and we are for a New Bretton Woods, as was carried out in 1945, to enable the world economy to recover. Today, however, it only functions as a system for looting nations. What you represent is the empire of usury!"
The press surrounded Munevar for interviews after he spoke, generating a flurry of media coverage from Colombia to Spain. He told them that the practices of neo-liberalism, globalization, and free trade which the IMF promotes worldwide, are the embodiment of fascism, and gave everyone a leaflet from the Lyndon LaRouche Association of Colombia, entitled: "The IMF Is 100 Times Worse than Hitler." Several journalists came to the LYM organizer's defense, when security sought to run him out.
Outside the central bank, a squad of five LYM members presented a scene from Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice," and picketed with signs reading: "Sustainability of the Debt = Fascism," "IMF Rats Get Out!," "Uribe Protects Us from Terrorism, But Not from IMF Hunger," and the well-known poster, "Stop the Narco-Terrorists," bearing the infamous photo of the FARC's Raul Reyes embracing New York Stock Exchange president Richard Grasso.
Lula Loses Leadership of Chamber of Deputies
Brazilian President Lula da Silva was delivered what is judged his "worst political defeat" in two years in office on Feb. 15, when his Workers Party (PT) candidate for President of the Chamber of Deputies, was defeated, 300 to 195. A majority of the Congressmen, including a large chunk of the PT itself, turned the vote into a de facto plebiscite on Lula's government.
For the first time, the ruling party will not control the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies, which controls which bills go to floor and when they get voted on. The president of the lower house is also third in line in succession, and serves as acting President, if the President and Vice President are out of the country. To make matters worse, the PT, confident in its victory, gave away its candidate for the seven-man leadership body of the Congress which sets its day-to-day agenda, in the horse-trading that proceeded the vote. Thus, the PT now finds itself without any representative in the Congressional leadership at all!
Severino Cavalcanti, from the smaller Progressive Party, will now become president of the Chamber, where he will serve for the next two years. Cavalcanti, a 74-year-old, three-term Congressman from the poor northeastern state of Pernambuco, told Folha de Sao Paulo two days later, that he opposes the bankers' legislation to make the Central Bank autonomous; criticized the latest half-point interest rate hike; and demanded that Treasury Minister Antonio Palocci "stop punishing the population." What message did he want to send to Lula? "Listen, President, we need to do something so that the people, the poor, the miserable ... do not satisfy the hunger of the international market."
Bankers' Policies Feed Rural Violence, Brazilian Leader Charges
On Feb. 17, one day after Brazil's Central Bank raised the benchmark interest rate for the sixth month in a row, to 18.75%, Vice President Jose Alencar once again launched war against the Central Bank's high interest rate policies, despite having been repeatedly ordered to keep silent on this matter. In a meeting with legislators to discuss the recent murder of American nun Dorothy Strang in the impoverished state of Para, Alencar insisted that the real cause of the wave of violence in Brazil, is the economic policy and high interest rates of the federal government. How can it be, he asked, that interest payments consume the largest part of the budget? A quarter of all tax revenue is spent on interest payments! He had his aides pass out copies of a chart prepared by an economic consulting firm, which shows that Brazil has the highest real interest rates of 40 nations studied.
The legislators complained to Alencar, who also serves as Defense Minister, about the lack of government presence in states such as Para, where in the midst of rampant lawlessness and Wild West-type fights over control of land, the Federal Police have no equipment.
Brazil To Host Summit of South American and Arab Heads of State
The first-ever South American-Arab Heads of State summit, organized by Brazil, is now scheduled for May 10-11 in Brasilia. Foreign Minister Celso Amorim visited ten Arab countriesJordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Tunisia, and AlgeriaFeb. 17-26, to deliver formal invitations from President Lula da Silva. Egyptian and Brazilian officials met separately at the same time, and a ministerial-level preparatory meeting is to be held in Morocco at the end of March.
Addressing the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 20, Amorim pointed to the historic nature of the summit, calling it "probably the first encounter between heads of state of two major regions of the developing world, with the possible exception of the Asian-African Conferences which gave birth to the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1950s." Not only should it pave the way for concrete projects to the benefit of peoples in both our regions, but it should provide a forum for political dialogue on our common fight against poverty and hunger, and for development, he said.
The Bush Administration was undoubtedly not pleased with Amorim's friendly meeting with Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad on Feb. 20. Assad informed Amorim that he will attend the May meeting, and wished to convey to Lula that the Brazilian President is well-liked in Syria, and the region in general. Syria considers Brazil "the ideal choice" for membership on the expanded United Nations Security Council which both nations seek, he added. Amorim also laid a wreath on the grave of Yasser Arafat, during his stop in Palestine for meetings with President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Qurei, on Feb. 17.
In a press conference in Syria on Feb. 19, Amorim emphasized that Brazil has friendly relations with all nations in the area, including Israel, and seeks to help the peace process. He suggested India and South Africa, which have forced the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) group with Brazil, might join in this effort.
Narco-Terrorists Promise 'Hot Summer' in March for Peru
Cocaleros (coca-growers) have pledged to make March their "month of resistance" in Peru, against a backdrop of multiple strikes and protest actions by farmers and trade unionists against President Alejandro Toledo's intolerable misgovernment. This, as Bolivian cocalero leader Evo Morales began formalizing his international apparatus, with the founding of a party of his followers in Peru, known as MAS-Peru.
More Peruvian cocaleros are reported to be processing their coca directly into cocaine, instead of shipping the raw paste to Colombia as in the past, raising fears that Peru is heading toward becoming a war zone again. Several areas of the country where coca is grown are now under tight control of the cocaleros, comparable to FARC control over portions of Colombia, and the cocaleros are reportedly striking alliances with a revived Shining Path and receiving weapons shipments. Yet, the Bush Administration decided to reduce anti-drug aid to Peru by $18 million this year, an act which is expected to gut the "crop substitution" program of the Toledo government.
Analysts are predicting that upcoming cocalero protests will be more violent than before. In announcing a Feb. 24-25 national strike by Peruvian cocaleros, Elsa Malpartida, secretary of the National Confederation of the Coca Basin Agricultural Producers of Peru (CONPACCP) and an open supporter of the New Year's uprising by the nazi-communist Humala movement (see Indepth, EIR Online #5, 2005), dramatically promised that the cocaleros "are prepared to give our lives to defend our families."
The 'Pinochet Factor' in Honduras's Upcoming Elections
A leading candidate for the November 2005 Presidential elections in Honduras, is the ruling National Party's president of the parliament, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, whose top PR adviser is the favored consultant of Chile's Pinochetista candidate, Mark Klugmann. Under Klugmann's impetus, Lobo Sosa has been playing for some time to the growing popular fear over the maras (gangs) and their violence, by promising to impose the death penalty. Now, he's made prohibiting gay marriage another issuein a country where informed sources estimate 80% of the people are unemployed. Honduras's sizeable evangelical population is now mobilized around stopping gay marriage.
Klugmann, an American, served as a PR man for Reagan, Bush, Sr., and Phil Gramm, before moving to Chile in 1989, where he set up his consulting firm, and advised various Pinochetista candidates for office. That included Gen. Pinochet's notorious labor and pension destroyer, Jose Pinera. When Pinera's 1993 Presidential bid failed, the two set up the International Center for Pension Reform, as their basis of operations.
Klugmann has been active in Central American politics for several years, making a scandalous amount of money from advising former Salvadoran President Francisco Floresthe Bush Administration's current favored candidate to head the Organization of the American Stateswhile he was in office.