Ibero-American News Digest
Colombian President Proposes Strategic Alliance with China
President Alvaro Uribe Velez left for Asia on April 4, accompanied by a delegation of 170 businessmen, to visit China and Japan. Before leaving, Foreign Minister Carolina Barco reported that the President planned to discuss with the Chinese, how Colombia could be developed as a transshipment center for Chinese exports heading to North America or elsewhere in Ibero-America. The director of Colombia's National Planning Department, Santiago Montenegro, who is also accompanying the President, reported on April 5 that the Colombian government had prepared a package of potential investments for China and Japan, in five sectors deemed strategic for the development of the country over the next 14 years: hydrocarbons and mining, trade, telecommunications, transport, and agriculture.
"We are looking with great anticipation to this trip, because ... the Chinese economy is already the second economy in the world, and within 15 years it will be the first in the world," Montenegro said. The Chinese will need more and more raw materials for this economic expansion, and Colombia would like to export coal, nickel, gas, manganese, gold, and other products to China.
On his second day of discussions in Beijing, President Uribe expanded the agenda. Colombia, he said on April 7, wants to form an alliance with China on fighting terrorism, similar to its alliance with the United States around Plan Colombia. "We want an alliance with China, a permanent one, so that this great people helps us in defeating the drug-trafficking terrorism which has done such damage to Colombia."
Colombian 'Godfather' Calls for Anti-Uribe Movement
In the wake of the historic March 29 four-party summit (see "South America Summit: Infrastructure Is the New Name of Peace," in this week's Indepth), rats have emerged from the sewers, crying for war against the Presidents of Colombia and Brazil.
First, the case of Colombia: On April 2, Alfonso "The Godfather" Lopez Michelsen, the former President of Colombia who turned the country over to the drug trade in the 1970s and defends the narco interests to this day, arranged a lengthy interview to leading national daily El Tiempo in which he called upon all political forces in Colombia to join together in a great "anti-Uribe movement," to defeat Uribe Velez's bid for reelection as President in 2006. That this 90-something evil Benthamite is looking for action against Colombia's current President before the elections, was made evident in his lie that Uribe Velez's reelection campaign will be based on the deployment of the paramilitaries against his oppositiona statement tantamount to calling the President a narcoterrorist. Immediately after issuing his call, Lopez Michelsen began meeting with trade-union and leftwing leaders, to coordinate on dumping Uribe.
Lopez Michelsen did not mention the March 29 summit between Uribe, Hugo Chavez, Lula da Silva, and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, but the neoconservative war-party is reeling over Uribe's eager participation in the summit, one of the high points of which was his beautiful map briefing on how South America must integrate its three great waterways, as it looks to cooperate with Asia.
Neocons Demand Brazil Be Added to Bush's 'Axis of Evil'
On April 5, Paul Weyrich the ultra-rightwing Catholic who helped found the Heritage Foundation, the fascist hotbed of Northern Virginia's Christendom College, and the Moral Majority, among other groupscalled for the Bush Administration to declare the Brazilian government of Lula da Silva a "significant threat to our security in our own backyard." Writing in the Internet publication National Ledger, Weyrich hyperventilated that Administration officials are focussed on Cuba's Castro and Venezuela's Chavez, when "we need to be equally concerned about Brazil under its leftist President," who is not the moderate he makes himself out to be. Weyrich expressed particular concern over the Lula government's organizing of the May 10-11 South American-Arab heads-of-state summit.
U.S. pressure on the Lula government is stepping up. On April 1three days after the March 29 summit where Lula issued a public "No!" to Bush's war on Venezuelathe Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo reported that a trip to Brazil by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is being finalized for the end of April. Two items lead the agenda, it reports: Venezuela, and the reform of the UN Security Council. Brazil wants a permanent seat on the Council, and it would not be the first time that the Bush Administration has told the Brazilians, that they must back the Bush provocations in the Americas, to get U.S. support for that.
The same day, Tribuna da Imprensa reported from Geneva, Switzerland, that U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mark Lagon, preparing for the annual UN Human Rights Commission meeting, threatened Brazil over Venezuela. "Brazil must help promote democracy where it doesn't exist, and avoid backsliding. It will be Brazil's sovereign decision how it does this. But there still is no evidence that the role of Brazil with Venezuela is that of persuading President Chavez to return to the path of democracy," Lagon stated.
IMF, Bush Administration Hammer Argentina
International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato demanded to know what the Argentine government intended to do to "help" those bondholders who refused to participate in the debt restructuring, when he spoke at the conference of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) in Madrid on April 1. The Fund insists that until Argentina "helps out" the speculative vulture funds, the country will still be considered to be in default.
The day before, one of the first issues that Condoleezza Rice raised in her meeting with Argentine Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa in Washington, was "concern" over the plight of vulture funds and bondholders who had rejected Argentina's debt-restructuring offer.
Lyndon LaRouche commented that the most appropriate response to Rice by Minister Bielsa would have been: "Are you speaking as an official of the Bush Administration, or as an agent of financial interests?"
The week before, Argentine Finance Minister Roberto Lavagna told U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow categorically that the swap is closed, and the bondholders who refused to participate will be left out in the cold. The IMF intends to use this issue as a bargaining chip in negotiating any new agreement, but Clarin reported April 4 that Finance Ministry sources say that this is the line in the sand which the Kirchner government will not crosseven if it means not signing an agreement with the IMF. Argentina is hoping for a new agreement to refinance existing loans ($4 billion comes due to the Fund between April and July), and to get funds the IMF was supposed to reimburse it last year. To avoid the IMF's blackmail, the government opted on April 1 to issue 6 billion pesos worth of new debt, to raise cash and indicate it's not in any hurry for an agreement.
The IMF is demanding the Argentine government agree to run a primary budget surplusthe amount set aside to pay debtof 4.5% of GDP as a conditionality for a new stand-by agreement. This is far above the 3% established in the 2005 budget, and even more than the 4.25% of GDP which Brazil accepted in its last agreement with the IMF.
Pinochet's Destruction of Chile's Labor Force Never Ended
A report issued at the end of March by Chile's Chamber of Deputies reveals that Chilean companies widely practice outsourcing to fake companies they create for the purpose of denying workers their rightful benefits, while mechanisms allowing workers to appeal these practices are ineffective. Nor are financial resources available from the government to help enforce workers' rights, even though "labor reform" in recent years has supposedly eliminated some of the worst abuses of the Pinochet dictatorship. Anti-trade-union practices remain widespread, and only 5% of the country's 3.5 million salaried workers are covered by collective-bargaining.
The Congressional report pointed to numerous cases of "hiding the identity of the employer through apparent outsourcing," which leaves workers totally unprotected. Often workers who have accumulated significant benefits will be fired by one company, to be rehired by a subcontractor of the same firmwhich is actually owned by the second firmwith no benefits and lower wages.
According to a recent Central Bank report, Chile has the most unequal income distribution in Ibero-America, after Brazil. Income distribution is even worse today, under the Socialist Party government of Ricardo Lagos, than it was under the Pinochet dictatorship.
Legal Prosecution of Pinochet and Collaborators Tightens
On April 4, the leadership of the Socialist Party filed suit against ex-Nazi Paul Schaefer, whose Colonia Dignidad cult was a key part of Pinochet's Operation Condor death squads of the 1970s, and Gen. Manuel Contreras, former head (under the Pinochet dictatorship) of the Chilean secret police, the DINA; the suit charges Schaefer and Contreras with being the authors of or accomplices in the crimes of "permanent kidnapping," illicit association, and disappearances of three Socialist Party members in 1975.
Horrific information has surfaced in recent weeks on the role that Schaefer and Colonia Dignidad played during the Pinochet dictatorship. Schaefer, a former member of the Nazi SS who took refuge in Chile in 1961, personally oversaw savage torture of prisoners detained by the DINA and held at Colonia Dignidad, prisoners who were later killed and "disappeared." He used poison on prisoners, developed at the Army Bacteriological Warfare Laboratory by Nazi scientist Eugenio Berrios, a collaborator of former DINA agent Michael Townleyreplicating the ghastly "Nazi Doctor" medical experimentation and torture used in Nazi concentration camps in Europe during World War II.
Colonia Dignidad is now the subject of intense scrutiny by Judge Jorge Zepeda, who visited there on April 4, and interrogated some of the residents. On April 1, Pinochet and Schaefer were also charged with the crime of kidnapping. Schaefer is charged with sexual abuse of 26 minors at Colonia Dignidad, and last week five of his closest collaborators were indicted on charges of attempted cover-up of that sexual abuse.