Ibero-American News Digest
Another Hotspot Fabricated, This Time on the Argentine-Chilean Border
Barrick Gold (infamous for its ravaging of Africa) is in the middle of the latest attempt to create conflicts among the nations of South America. Barrick is moving to get operations underway at its open-pit Pascua Lama gold mine, a binational project straddling the border between Argentina and Chile. The Mining Integration Treaty approved by both nations in the late 1990s, in whose formulation Barrick had significant input, allows the multinational corporation to operate in the strategically sensitive border area.
Media outlets and other observers are already comparing the situation here with the orchestrated dispute taking place on the border of Argentina and Uruguay, involving Argentine environmental opposition to Uruguay's building of two cellulose plants. Chilean environmental groups, including local branches of Greenpeace and Oceana, are demanding the Pascua Lama project be halted, charging that cyanide used in the production process will pollute the environment and harm farmers and vineyards operating in the region. Argentine groups are also protesting, and there is talk of blockading roads that cross the border.
On Feb. 15, a regional office of Chile's state environmental agency, Corema, approved the project with some restrictions, although opponents charged that Barrick placed "undue pressure" on that agency, by promising farmers $60 million in assistance, to offset any possible environmental damage. The final decision on the project will rest in the hands of incoming President Michelle Bachelet, although Argentina's provincial government of San Juan must also approve it.
Mining Deaths in Mexico Expose Slave-Labor Conditions
On Feb. 25, the Grupo Mexico mining company admitted that 65 miners trapped in the company's northern Pasto de Conchos coal mine since a Feb. 19 explosion had no chance of being rescued. PRI Sen. Roque Villanueva charged on Feb. 27 that the company had refused to announce the miners had died from Feb. 19 Feb. 25, in order to keep their stock from collapsing on the stock market. Grupo Mexico is no small "Mexican" company, but owns mining giants Asarco and the Southern Peru Copper Company, and is the world's third-largest copper producer, fourth-largest silver producer, and fifth-largest producer of zinc and molybdenum, as well as having gold mines.
One prime target in the national uproar which has followed the deaths, is Fox's Interior Minister, Carlos Abascal, who had been the Secretary of Labor for the first four years of the Fox government. Abascal is the loyal son of Adolf Hitler-loving Synarchist leader Salvador Abascal, for systematically ignoring the abysmal conditions in Mexico's mines.
The head of the Mining and Metalworkers Union, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, charged that the conditions in Pasta de Conchos typify the conditions in Mexican mines generally today: The miners had recycled used equipment, lamps which wouldn't last even an hour, enough oxygen for only six hours, dysfunctional rescue equipment, etc. Of the miners killed, only 25 were union members, who had some training for the job; the rest were temporary, untrained contract labor. The weekly salary of union as well as contract labor is 700 pesosthat is, just over $66.
On Feb. 28, the union issued a statement charging the government that the government is out to change the union leadership, exposing itself as what it is: "a feudal and elitist government.... This repressive policy against national, democratic trade unionism is typical of the old synarchism, today transformed into fascism."
Colombia Signs Free-Trade Pact with Washington
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe gave a six-hour televised address Feb. 27, in which he defended his government's decision to sign a bilateral free-trade pact with the U.S., which took two years to negotiate and which, the Colombian media openly acknowledges, is opposed by the majority of Colombians. Uribe went personally to Washington last month to break the stalemate on negotiations, and it is well known that the imminent expiration of a preferential tariff arrangement that the U.S. had granted the Andean nations, was the bludgeon U.S. negotiators used to get the Free Trade Pact rammed down Colombia's throat.
The U.S. buys 40% of Colombia's exports, to the tune of $8.5 billion a year.
"Colombia will be able to export more products to the U.S., attract more investment," and get rich and prosperous, was the tenor of Uribe's address, which nonetheless admitted that the government was creating a special fund, called "Agriculture, Assured Income," which would provide up to $222 million a year in subsidies, low-cost loans, crop substitution and other programs to help agricultural producers who will be wiped out by the free-trade agreement. Uribe also promised that the government would be a buyer of last resort, if domestic producers were unable to sell their products because of U.S. "competition." In other words, the government will be absorbing the cost of free-trade devastation of Colombia's economy. While promising not to impose new taxes to finance these new subsidies, Uribe did not say where the money would come from. Social services are expected to be the likely victims.
Uribe's promises notwithstanding, the signing of the FTA was immediately met with furious denunciations by some of the leading agro-producer federations, such as rice, corn, and poultry, together with pharmaceutical industry leaders, all of whom charged that the FTA would prove disastrous for the national economy, and that 2.5 million jobs in the rural sector alone are in jeopardy. With the surge in unemployment that new free-trade pact will cause, will come a surge also in both narcotics production and membership in the ranks of the FARC narcoterrorists.
FARC Terrorizes Colombia on Eve of Elections
Wall Street's business partner, the FARC drug cartel, has declared all public officials and candidates in Colombia's March 12 legislative elections to be military targets, and dramatically escalated its terror rampages throughout the country. In addition to dynamiting electricity pylons and fuel pipelines, and ambushing police and military forces, they have declared "armed strikes" in at least eight provinces, turning any unprotected vehicles caught on the highways into death targets. One civilian bus which became separated from its police escort in southern Caqueta province Feb. 25, was machine-gunned and then set on fire, killing nine people. Two days later, terrorists burst into a city council meeting in the southern province of Huila, murdering nine of the 11 local officials there.
Meanwhile, government efforts to manually eradicate thousands of hectares of illegal coca crops in the huge Macarena National Park are being met with bloody resistance from the FARC. Scores of police and hired workers have been wounded and killed in FARC ambushes and by booby-traps in the fields, and many more are quitting in fear for their lives. The government has attempted to bomb the FARC out of the park, but thus far to no avail.
In a speech this week formally launching his re-election bid, President Alvaro Uribe declared that "the snake is still alive," referring to the FARC, and said he needed a second term to complete the job of purging Colombia of drug trafficking, paramilitaries, and narcoterrorism. Two hundred thousand soldiers are being deployed into the most violence-ravaged areas, to try to protect the citizenry in this pre-election period, but it is broadly acknowledged thatUribe's hard-line anti-terrorism stance notwithstandinghis administration has thus far proven incapable of taking back the Colombian countryside from the FARC.