Ibero-American News Digest
Mexico's Calderon Sworn In as Back-Door President
In a harbinger of inability to govern, Felipe Calderon held a spurious "swearing in" ceremony at one minute after midnight Dec. 1 at the Mexican Presidential residence, because he and his staff were unsure whether he would be able to enter the Congress the next day for the constitutionally required ceremony. No such midnight "swearing in" ceremony ever occurred before in Mexican history, as Calderon acknowledged in a brief message to the nation at that hour, in which he made the ludicrous statement that "in receiving the Presidential office from President Vicente Fox, the process of inauguration as President of the Republic begins. Later, I will appear before the Congress of the Republic to be constitutionally sworn in as is required in Article 87 of the Constitution."
Several days of shouting, pushing, punching and chair-throwing inside the Congress, where pro-Calderon and pro-Lopez Obrador legislators were sleeping in and jockeying for control of the entrances and podium, made it unclear whether Calderon could appear Dec. 1.
In the end, Calderon succeeded in meeting the formalities required by the Constitution, in name only. With military troops occupying the galleries, Calderon, surrounded by bodyguards, used the distraction caused by the entrance of California's "girly-man" governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as his opportunity to sneak in through a back entrance. In a ceremony at the back of the Congress which lasted all of four minutes, he whipped on the Presidential sash, smiled, and then fled, with cries of "traitor" and "get out" ringing in his ears. Only two heads of state were present for this "ceremony": those of Panama and Honduras.
As that show was held, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was leading over 200,000 supporters in a rally in the Zocalo Plaza and a march through downtown Mexico City. Lopez Obrador warned that Calderon's swearing-in amounted to a "coup d'etat" by a "neofascist oligarchy." We are "not rebels without a cause," as the media likes to portray us, he warned. Somehow, he said, they forget that the Presidential election was stolen! "They have to understand once and for all, we are going to defend the democracy of this country."
Brazil Launches Fusion Research, To Train Youth
The Brazilian government is creating a National Fusion Network (RNF), and a National Fusion Laboratory, to carry out research and development of nuclear fusion as a means of meeting its future energy needs. Speaking Nov. 7, at an event organized by the Brazilian Physics Society, Science and Technology Minister Sergio Rezende announced this initiative, which will be overseen by Brazil's National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN), and will initially incorporate 70 researchers and 14 national scientific institutions to carry out the research. The Physics Institutes of several universities, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and the Aeronautics Technological Institute are among the entities participating.
In announcing this initiative, Minister Rezende emphasized that it will focus particularly on attracting youth, even though the starting budget is relatively small$450,000. "The Network will stimulate and awaken in youth an interest in the nuclear sector," he said. "Today, due to lack of funding, that interest has declined. But as the funding increases, we shall attract more students."
Brazil currently possesses three small Tokamak magnetic plasma confinement reactors, and last year European scientists visited the Associated Plasma Laboratory located at the INPE, where pioneering work has been done in developing a Tokamak with a spherical toroidal geometry. Also under discussion is possible Brazilian participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which will be built in France.
Brazilian Youth Jump Into Economic Fight
Brazil's National Student Union (UNE) is calling on students to intervene to change economic policy, away from the monetarism associated with Central Bank president Henrique Meirelles. The UNE has invited several prominent economists, including former BNDES president Carlos Lessa, to participate in a debate it has organized next week in Sao Paulo, and underscores the need to unite with other social movements to demand a pro-growth economic policy, Vermelho reported on Nov. 30.
Brazil's Fin Min Turns to Development Crowd for Inputs
Only state investment in infrastructure development can resolve Brazil's infrastructure deficit, economists are telling the Lula government, whose infrastructure program, thus far pivoted on the British "public-private partnership" fraud, has gone nowhere.
At the request of Finance Minister Guido Mantega, a group of self-described "developmentalists" from Rio de Janeiro, including former president of Brazil's Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) Carlos Lessa, prepared a document for him on requirements for resolving Brazil's infrastructure crisis, particularly energy and logistics. Mantega met with the economists Nov. 28, to receive their written proposals.
According to media accounts, the Rio group argues that the state has to invest more in infrastructure, because it will not be possible to mobilize sufficient private capital to address Brazil's accumulated deficit. "The suggestion is that the state have a much more defined, firm, strong, intervention," one of the authors explained. Otherwise, we will keep "chasing our tail," as has been happening for a long time. Apparently, the document either is in the form of a proposed bill, or includes a proposed bill, which would speed up release of resources for key projects.
Mantega, who replaced Lessa at the BNDES when Lessa was forced out by his financier enemies, was named Finance Minister, when monetarist Antonio Palocci was dumped. Although he has yet to show Lessa's willingness to take on the financiers frontally, Mantega is a pro-growth nationalist, and the financier interests were not pleased when Lula said he would continue on as Finance Minister in the President's second term.
Argentines Tell Soros and His Speculator Pals: 'Go Home'
The announced purchase of Argentina's second-largest dairy cooperative, Sancor, by the George Soros-controlled Adecoagro company, has caused such an uproar in the country, that Soros is reportedly contemplating pulling out of the whole deal. His company was to have put up $120 million to buy 63% of Sancor's stock and help restructure its large debts. But when it became clear that the deal was a purely speculative oneit was effectively a hostile buyout and asset-stripping operationand that the Argentine Petersen Group had a made an offer as good as, or better than, Adecoagro's, the opposition to the buyout escalated dramatically.
Provincial government, farm and business leaders, and even some Congressmen, demanded that the Kirchner government act to stop the Soros grab of the 1,600-member cooperative. Cordoba Governor Jose Manuel de la Sota pointed out that Sancor was basically being bought out by an investment fund, "and you never even know very well where their headquarters are." He said he hoped a local Argentine group would invest in Sancor, since "we don't know who the investor Soros represents."
Earlier, one of President Nestor Kirchner's close aides revealed that the President would far prefer Sancor to be bought by "national capital" than by Soros's Adecoagro. The head of the National Stock Commission has already begun an investigation into the deal, and has submitted a list of questions that he wants Adecoagro to answer.
One of Soros's partners in Adecoagro is the Wabash, Indiana-based Halderman Farm Management Services, whose speciality appears to be helping financially strapped American farmers buy up cheap land in South America that bankrupt farmers there have been forced to abandon. Adecoagro began gobbling up land in Argentina after the explosion of that country's financial crisis in 2001-2002.
Another is Buenos Aires Capital Partners (BAC), an outfit with a history of involvement in hostile takeovers of Argentine companies by speculative vulture funds.
Another Free-Trade Deal Collapses
The Peruvian government has now "indefinitely" postponed negotiations on a bilateral free-trade accord with the United States, in the wake of the anti-free-trade fervor of the U.S. midterm elections. Alan Garcia's government announced this week that it was cancelling its plans to send seven cabinet ministers up to Washington to lobby for quick passage of the Free Trade Accord, opting to wait "until the right time."