Ibero-American News Digest
Brazil Bucks U.S. Pressure To Assist Cuba's 'Transition to Democracy'
On Aug. 15, Assistant. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Tom Shannon told Brazilian journalists that Fidel Castro's illness poses a unique opportunity for Brazil to demonstrate its "democratic solidarity with the Cuban people." Speaking by video-conference to reporters gathered at the U.S. consulate in Sao Paulo, Shannon promised that "consultations would continue to guarantee that the U.S. and Brazil act in a complementary fashion, and reflect our political values and common agenda."
Former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, an obsessed globalist, applauded the idea, stating that the foreign policy of the government of President Lula da Silvawhich has given priority to fostering regional integration and deepening ties with other developing-sector regions (Asia, Africa, etc.)is Brazil's "great vulnerability." Perhaps entering senility, Cardoso proposed that hooking up with the Bush Administration on this Cuba policy could restore "the important regional leadership that [Brazil] has traditionally exercised."
Foreign Minister Celso Amorim set him straight. "There is no post-Fidel Castro plan," he said, "because as far as we can see, Fidel Castro is alive, and were anyone to make a plan, it would be the Cubans, not the Americans, not the Brazilians." Brazil is always willing to cooperate through dialogue, Amorim added, but not to devise a plan on what the Cuban government should look like. That's a matter for the Cubans.
Adding to the general unease in the region over Bush Administration intentions, was the appointment by National Intelligence Director John Negroponte of a new acting mission manager for Cuba and Venezuela, J. Patrick Maher, with the assignment of collecting "timely and accurate intelligence" to be used by U.S. policy-makers, in making decisions on those two countries. The announcement of the new post asserted that this is a "critical" effort because both countries pose challenges to U.S. foreign policy. Maher is currently the national intelligence officer for Western Hemisphere, and 32-year intelligence veteran.
Brazil and Argentina Refuse To Join Lebanon Force
In a coordinated move, the governments of Brazil and Argentina declined to participate in the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon, despite fierce U.S. pressure to do so. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim stated his country's position Aug. 15 from Beirut, where he was visiting. One day later, Argentina's Deputy Foreign Minister Roberto Garcia Moritan made a similar announcement.
Chile has also refused to become involved.
Amorim pointed out that Brazil's participation could complicate matters, given that there are 10 million residents of Lebanese and Syrian descent living in the country, as well as a powerful Jewish community. Speaking Aug. 16 from Beirut, he stated that Brazil would not hesitate to participate in the context of a "clear disposition for peace." However, he added, "one thing is a ceasefire, but it's also crucial that dialogue be resumed." Brazil has every desire to maintain good relations with Israel, he said, but "we also want to persuade them to resume dialogue, because that is where hope lies."
Argentina feels strongly that since two Israeli targets have been bombed in the countrythe Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA social welfare center in 1994any government involvement in the Middle East could pose new risks for it.
Synarchist efforts to heat up the tri-border region (where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet), were no doubt a factor in both governments' decisions. The Bush Administration has demanded that they act more aggressively against what it says is a major Hezbollah fundraising operation among the tri-border region's large Arab populationa claim for which there is no evidence. The official line on the two Argentine bombingsone disputed by several investigatorsis that they were orchestrated by Hezbollah from the tri-border region. There are widely circulating rumors and reports that the tri-border region, which also happens to be rich in natural resources, could become a new front in the U.S. "war on terror."
Argentines Target Lies Behind Tri-Border Terror Hype
"A sector of the U.S. government" is responsible for "raising the specter" of Islamic terrorism in the Paraguay-Brazil-Argentina tri-border region, charged a former analyst with the Argentine state intelligence Service. In statements to the Buenos Aires daily Pagina 12, reported Aug. 20, the unnamed official was responding to charges that Hezbollah has fundraising activities in this region, including in Argentina. "The truth is," he said, "that no terrorist, no bomb, or training camp of any fundamentalist organization have ever been detected in the tri-border region." It is only "one sector of the U.S. government" that keeps harping on the issue, he said.
A SIDE (State Intelligence Service) spokesman recalled that in the last two meetings held by the "3+1" group (the three tri-border countries plus the U.S.) in Brasilia and Washington, "the State Department put in writing that there is no terrorist activity on the triple border."
In Asuncion, Paraguay Aug. 24, Brazilian Defense Minister Walter Pires responded likewise to a question on the same issue, asserting that "there is nothing, nothing at all, proven" on the existence of Islamic terrorists in the region. There is rampant corruption, and contraband which must be combatted, he said. But that is a far cry from any terrorist operation.
Alert Over Hedge Fund Target of Argentine Power Grid
The purchase by an Enron-linked hedge fund of 50% of the company that manages Argentina's national power grid, has set off alarm bells in the country. The Argentine Committee for the Defense of Competition this week began to evaluate the recent purchase by the U.S. hedge fund Eton Park of 50% of Transener, the company which manages the country's interconnected power grid nationwide. In early August, Eton Park paid $54 million to Brazil's Petrobras, to buy up its shares in Transener.
The Argentine firm Electroingenieria is demanding scrutiny of Eton Park's purchase, charging that it is for "speculative" purposes only, and that it has no intention of making the investments required to expand and maintain infrastructure.
Electroingenieria has reason to be concerned. In May of this year, the London-based Ashmore Investment Management hedge-fund consortium, of which Eton Park is a part, purchased for $2.1 billion, all of the assets that the Enron Corp. had owned in Ibero-America under the name of Prisma Energy. These include a vast array of utility companies, pipelines, energy plants, distributors, and transmission lines, in several Central and South American countries.
Should Eton Park intend only to continue Enron's looting policies, Electroingenieria warns, there is no reason to approve its purchase of behalf of Transener.