Ibero-American News Digest
U.S. Neo-Con Demand Alarms Tri-Border Governments
The demand, led by Florida's neo-con Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), that a special task force be created to fight Hezbollah in the area in which the Brazilian, Argentine, and Paraguayan borders converge, is viewed as a threat to national sovereignty, by those three governments. Claiming that Hezbollah "has maintained networks in the tri-border area ... primarily focussing on fundraising and recruitment," Ros-Lehtinen sponsored a "Sense of the Congress" resolution in June which demanded the U.S. get the Organization of American States (OAS) to set up a special task force to investigate and combat Hezbollah's activities in the region. Passed on June 13, the resolution is now before the Senate.
Neither the State nor Treasury Departments have ever produced any credible evidence of "terrorist financing" in the tri-border region. But the resolution, which also demands that OAS members designate Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organizations, claims otherwise. In motivating her resolution from the floor, Ros-Lehtinen also asserted that before his June death, Iraq's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had ordered al-Qaeda members to travel to Brazil, and reach the U.S. via Mexico to launch terror attacks there.
These charges have outraged Brazil, and raised suspicions among other governments that there is a broader geopolitical agenda behind the Florida Congresswoman's rant, involving more lunatic elements in the Bush Administration or the U.S. Southern Command. Folha de Sao Paulo's Washington correspondent warned July 17 that Brazil is the specific target of this operation, because of its refusal to designate any government as "terrorist," and its insistence that any foreign intervention in the region would be a violation of sovereignty.
An "indignant" Brazilian Ambassador Roberto Abdenur officially communicated his government's "profound displeasure" over the issue to the State Department, and sent protest letters to all of the resolution's 27 co-sponsors. Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay have been coordinating closely with the U.S. on any terrorist or other illicit activities going on in the tri-border region, through the "3+1" arrangement, Abdenur pointed out. If there is some new evidence in this regard, it should have been shared with those governments.
Resource Grab Behind Tri-Border Terror Pressure
We would be well to view the heating up of the tri-border region issue in the context of the global scenario, the Mercosur Press Agency (APM) warned Aug. 7. Remember what happened to Africa in the 1980s, when it was assaulted by foreign private corporations that looted its raw materials, APM wrote. Private security companies were deployed to "protect" the looters, and Africa became the "testing ground for a new regime of private corporate appropriation." APM asks: Is the plan to do the same to the tri-border region, and the Amazon, whose natural resources and minerals are coveted by foreign interests?
The press agency revealed that the European Union is pressuring Argentina to lift prohibitions on foreigners purchasing land in the border region, and there are reportedly clauses in WTO/Doha Round documents to this effect.
Argentine Nuclear Program Expands
The Federation of Argentine Energy Workers (FETERA) and the government's Energy Undersecretary have signed a 44-month contract that guarantees jobs for 420 people in the completion of the Atucha II nuclear plant, 100 of which are designated for recent graduates of Buenos Aires's Technical Schools who will be employed in the production of 600 tons of heavy water.
FETERA official Fernando Lisse reported Aug. 3 that the Kirchner government has just disbursed funds from the special trust set up specifically to finance Atucha II's completion. This demonstrates "the national government's clear determination to put an end to dependence on the oil companies." Also, Lisse explained, the "strategic agreement" made with FETERA occurs in the context of accords signed between Argentina's Energy Secretary and Canada's Atomic Energy Commission (AECL), which call for feasibility studies on the construction of a fourth nuclear plant, as a first step toward aggressive reactivation of Argentina's national nuclear energy plan.
Nuclear Energy Push Intensifies in Chile, Uruguay
With Argentina unable to supply its usual quantities of natural gas, due to growing internal demand, officials and experts in Chile and Uruguay are arguing that now is the time to consider nuclear energy as the only sane option. Congressman Marcos Espinosa of Chile's Radical Social Democratic Party (PRSD0) urged President Bachelet on July 24 to consider feasibility studies on the use of nuclear energy, given that she is talking about "broadening our nation's energy grid." Sergio Bitar of the PPD party, which, like the PRSD, is part of the ruling Concertacion coalition, made similar statements.
From Uruguay, Alvaro Bermudez, former director of Nuclear Energy and Technology at the Industry Ministry, told El Espectador July 27 that, "if you look at the alternatives and regional reality, and see that our neighbors have oil, gas, and even nuclear energy, and we have none, the fact that we're not considering [the nuclear] option is somewhat unrealistic." This is a safe, clean, cheap source of energy, he said. "We have to start thinking 20 to 30 years ahead." National Party Senator Ruperto Long said exactly the same a week earlier, telling the same radio program that, "there is no time to waste" in starting to develop nuclear energy for Uruguay. He decried the fact that current Uruguayan law actually prohibits the development of nuclear energy. The law must be changed, he said, or Uruguay will soon face an unimaginable energy crisis.
Kirchner: Argentina Will Not Submit to a New Empire
Forget about using "the old theories of the Roman Empire" to impose sanctions on Argentina, President Nestor Kirchner declared Aug. 8, in response to the report that George "Nero" Bush intends to impose sanctions on a number of countries that are refusing to liberalize trade without first getting concessions from the U.S. Washington has threatened to exclude countries from the Generalized Preferences System, which allows them to export certain goods to the U.S. free of tariffs, an action that would affect Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela.
If the U.S. wants to punish countries because they disagree with policies like those of the WTO or the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), Kirchner said, "we Argentines, and the world, should be very clear that this country no longer has carnal relations with anyone." ("Carnal relations" is the term former President Carlos Menem used to describe his government's relationship with the U.S. during his 1989-99 Presidency.)
"We are an independent country, and under no circumstances, do we base our decisions on actions we consider to be absolutely out of line, and not very serious," Kirchner emphasized. Any country that wants to do this, can do so, he said. "But with all due respect to other countries, and also to the United States, Argentina knows what it has to do. It already knows what carnal relations were like, and what it meant to be a dependent country. Argentina knows what hunger is; what the collapse of industry, of production, of our exports was, and what it meant to have subordinated ourselves to policies we had no reason to accept. So now, Argentina makes its own decisions. Let that be absolutely clear!"
Kirchner: We Have Done Away with IMF 'Shackles'
In a speech given in the Argentine city of Merlo on Aug. 10, President Nestor Kirchner answered the report issued that week by the International Monetary Fund which criticized the price-control agreements the Kirchner government has struck with Argentine producers, and demanded that Argentina cut back on spending, raise interest rates, and allow for "greater upward flexibility in the exchange rate." Kirchner declared that the country has made huge strides towards economic freedom and social improvement, and will never again be bound to its creditors. "Last December, he said, "when we paid off the IMF, I stood in a corner and silently cried with joy and emotion, because we were saying we had done away with our shackles. And it wasn't a government that paid, but the effort of the Argentine people.
"And now I ask myself, if in one year we have been able to recover the reserves we paid to the IMF, what was done previously with all the resources of the Argentine people, who owed more and more each day?... We renegotiated a debt that allowed us to save $67 billion, something Argentina has never done before; whenever the debt was renegotiated before, we owed four times more. Now we have managed to save $67 billion.... We are improving per-capita income, social inclusion, raising the minimum wage from 150 to 800 pesos in three years, when it was stagnant for 14 years; improving pensions in Argentina, when they were paralyzed for 14 years."
Kirchner said that he is forging a "national project" of Argentina's workers, businessmen, industrialists, and producers, so that the nation can continue to move forward, regardless of whether he is in the government or not, since "political power is transitory." He called upon the Argentine people to hold onto their memory of what things were like before, so that they never again fall prey to those who lived off the backs of the Argentine people in the 1990s.
Likewise, Cabinet chief Alberto Fernandez told a forum of the Council of the Americas that Argentina "rejects the Fund's suggestions," and that "the government has ceased being a spectator, and is now the one to set the rules." He said Argentina today is stable, and "is going to grow a great deal this year. I am not going to say how much, but at any moment, the Chinese are going to say that they are growing at Argentine rates."