Ibero-American News Digest
Argentine-Asian Talks on Financial Mechanisms
Argentine Finance Minister Felisa Miceli is consulting with India, Malaysia, and Indonesia on how to create a regional financing mechanism, unattached to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While attending the IMF's annual meeting in Singapore Sept. 18-20, Miceli met with her Indian counterpart, Palaniappan Chidanbaran, to discuss how the Asian nations weathered the 1997 financial meltdown, and built regional facilities to issue credit outside the IMF system.
At the Singapore meeting, Miceli announced that the Kirchner government will aggressively pursue alternate financing options. The Common Market of the South (Mercosur) is already debating setting up a regional development bank and other financing options, but Miceli indicated that the Asia experience could be particularly useful to look at for Mercosur as well. Her technical staff is studying what Asian nations did in the late 1990s, focussing on such operations as issuance of bonds that neighboring countries could buy to provide a nation hit by financial crisis with immediate cash.
This discussion, and talk of more intense cooperation with Asia generally, doesn't please Anoop Singh, head of the Fund's Western Hemisphere Division, who insists that regional mechanisms will be useless in the event a financial crisis spreads quickly and affects a whole region at the same time. But as one Argentine Finance Ministry official remarked, "In the face of the failure of IMF policy, the tendency now is to organize along continental lines," creating a form of "regional IMFs," without the IMF.
Argentina Pressured To Break Relations with Iran
Argentina is under pressure to break off relations with Iran, under the pretext of ongoing investigations of the 1992 and 1994 bombings of Jewish targets in Buenos Aires. As President Kirchner and First Lady Cristina Kirchner arrived in New York on Sept. 17 to attend the UN General Assembly and hold a series of meetings, an American Jewish Committee spokeswoman challenged the Argentine prosecutor in charge of the case to issue a resolution stating that Iran was behind both incidents. Washington wants this to help bolster its case against Iran, although numerous independent analysts and investigative reporters have repudiated the charge that Iran and Hezbollah were behind these bombings, and have compiled evidence of possible Mossad involvement instead.
Lula at UN: Globalize Justice, or Face Global War
Brazilian President Lula da Silva ripped into those who delude themselves that power will protect them in an unjust, hungry world, in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 19, stating:
"Around 840 million human beings, almost one out of seven people on this planet, do not have enough to eat.... All of us here also know that the second Gulf War cost various hundreds of billions of dollars. With much less, we would have been able to ... alleviate the suffering of these people, pull them out of indigence, and save millions and millions of lives.
"Let the rich countries not delude themselves, for as strong as they are today, no one is safe in a world of injustices. War will never bring security; war only generates monsters, rancour, intolerance, fundamentalism, and the destructive negation of current hegemonies.
"It is necessary to give the poor reasons to live, not to kill or die. The greatness of peoples lies not in their militarism, but in their humanism. And there is no true humanism without respect for the other, for one who is, yes, different from us, but no less worthy, less precious for that, nor with less right to happiness, creatures as we all are of the same Creator. There will only be security in a world if everyone has the right to economic and social development.
"The path to peace is shared development. If we don't wish to globalize war, it is necessary to globalize justice."
Bolivian Oil Nationalization Hits Brazilian Snag
Bolivia's Hydrocarbons and Energy Minister Andres Soliz Rada resigned on Sept. 15, after Brazilian President Lula da Silva threatened to cut Bolivia off, should La Paz not back down from its announced takeover of Petrobras's refineries in that country. The refineries decree was the latest attempt by Bolivia to pick up the pace of its re-nationalization of the oil and gas industry.
Since the nationalization was proclaimed on May 1, Brazil's nominally state-directed oil company, Petrobras, the largest oil company operating in Bolivia, has refused to accept Bolivia's re-nationalization, and instead sided with other oil multis in refusing to negotiate new contracts on more just terms for Bolivia. That Brazilian posture has left Bolivia in an untenable situation, because without assistance from its neighbors, it does not have the technical and financial resources to rebuild its national industry. Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim have pressed Petrobras to accommodate Bolivia's development needs, but they are under enormous pressure from Brazilian circles who would be willing to go so far as to wage war against Bolivia, to "defend" the status quo of Petrobras's operations there.
Unable to silence Brazilian interests demanding Petrobras's refineries remain untouched, however, President Lula threatened retaliation on Sept. 14, and Bolivian President Evo Morales accepted Soliz Rada's resignation, to avoid a total break in negotiations with Brazil.
Bachelet Denounces Washington-Protected Terrorism
The Bush Administration received a rude shock on Sept. 20, when Chilean President Michelle Bachelet made an emotional appeal in her address to the UN General Assembly, for the U.S. administration to end the impunity it is providing for terrorists. Although Bachelet did not mention by name the Cuban-born terrorists Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carrilles, who are being protected in the United States, despite being wanted in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, these were clearly on everyone's mind when she brought up the 1976 assassination in Washington, D.C. of her country's former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier, along with an American colleaguea deed that had been contracted to Cuban-born terrorists associated with Bosch and Posada, by George Shultz's Pinochet dictatorship.
Bachelet and her cabinet have been under ugly pressure from the Bush team to vote against Venezuela's bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Although Bachelet has not taken sides yet in that dispute, she apparently did not appreciate being threatened by the likes of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the dire consequences for U.S.-Chile relations if she should vote the "wrong" way. In her UN address, Bachelet made a point of declaring that "Chile does not accept pressure from any side and of any type. Chile has had an independent foreign policy in the past, it has it in the present, and it will have it in the future."
Bush Team Lays Groundwork for Border Crisis with Mexico
There is a security problem along the U.S.-Mexican border, Gen. John Craddock, Commander of U.S. Southern Command, declared in response to questions after his keynote address to the Miami Herald's Sept. 14 conference on "How Will Latin America Compete in a Global Economy?" "Money will not go where there is danger," Craddock proclaimed, and the U.S.-Mexican border is overrun by drug trafficking and illegal immigrants trafficking. He called the border an "under-governed or uncontrolled space," because there is a lack of national or public security. That's why the U.S. government is planning to deploy troops on the U.S. side of the border, he said, hinting that Mexico should do likewise.
On the same day, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza, a close personal friend of George Bush, issued a warning to U.S. citizens travelling through "unknown areas" of Mexico, charging that the violence in those areas is threatening bilateral relations, tourism, investment, and the business environment. He called upon the Fox government "to do more" to reduce violence in some areas of the border where there is an almost complete absence of law enforcement.
Talk of "ungoverned areas" by the Bush league has dangerous connotations. Craddock buddy Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been pressing for the creation of a supranational regional strikeforceunder U.S. commandto intervene in "ungoverned areas" in the region.
Make that a supranational mercenary force, it would appear. On Sept. 21, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff handed over the job of establishing high-tech surveillance technology along the U.S. borders to a private consortium headed by Boeing Corp. Chertoff declared they would build "a 21st-Century, virtual fence." Boeing's proposal to build a network of 1,800 towers equipped with sensors, cameras, and heat and motion detectors, plus unmanned drones, first along the border with Mexico, and later, the border with Canada, won out.
Not only are private interests in charge of this Swiftian scheme, but private foreign interests are in on it. Included in the Boeing consortium is the Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems.
The consortium is to build a system of towers along 28 miles of the Arizona border, within the next eight months. The contract for the whole border is to be doled out piece by piece, supposedly to ensure quality control, since previous stabs at motion-detector-style border surveillance generated too many false alarms to be effective. For his part, the president of National Border Control Council (representing the border patrol agents) pointed out that unless more people are assigned to acting upon the information received, what difference does it make how many images are produced?