Ibero-American News Digest
Cuba, U.S. Reps Agree: Time for Cuba-U.S. Dialogue
The winds of the change from the Nov. 7 midterm elections are blowing over the Bush-Cheney Administration's insane Cuba policyand that's to the liking of legislators from both parties in the U.S. Congress. In his address to the giant Dec. 2 ceremonies celebrating the 80th birthday of ailing President Fidel Castro, acting head of state and Commander of Cuba's Armed Forces, Gen. Raul Castro, made explicit the Cuban government's recognition that the elections had produced a dramatic change in the U.S., and that the time had arrived to propose discussions.
"On Nov. 7," Castro said, "the people of [the United States] demonstrated at the ballot box their rejection of the strategic concept of preemptive war, the use of lies to justify military interventions, kidnappings, and secret prisons, and the despicable legalization of torture in the so-called war on terrorism." As for Iraq, "nobody dares to predict anymore when it will end. The U.S. government is at a dead-end...."
Therefore, he announced, "We take this opportunity to once again state that we are willing to resolve at the negotiating table the long-standing dispute between the United States and Cuba, of course, provided they accept ... our condition as a country that will not tolerate any blemishes on its independence, and as long as said resolution is based on the principles of equality, reciprocity, non-interference, and mutual respect."
Two weeks later, a ten-person bipartisan Congressional delegation responded to General Castro's offer in a written statement released at the Dec. 17 press conference concluding its three-day visit to Cuba. "We unanimously believe that the United States should respond positively to the proposal made by Raul Castro in his speech of Dec. 2," the delegation stated. The U.S. should consult with Cuba regularly on immigration issues, to protect national security and to save lives, as well as on how to fight drug trafficking, the statement reportedly asserts.
Including four Republicans and six Democrats from the House Cuba Working Group, the U.S. delegation was the largest to visit Cuba since the 1959 Revolution. The group held "cordial and respectful" discussions with the president of the National Assembly, the Foreign Minister, a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee Secretariat, the president of the Central Bank, the Minister of Basic Industry and other officials, according to the government daily Granma. The delegation also met Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
Given the talk spewing from Washington over the "post-Fidel transition" in Cuba, the head of the delegation Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) told the press conferencenot without a certain ironythat everyone will soon witness a "transition" in Washington, adding that there will be hearings on needed policy change. The theme of "transition in the U.S." was echoed by fellow delegation member Jim McGovern (D-Mass), in an interview with NBC. "A majority of people across the United States want a change in our policy. What we're advocating, really, is the mainstream view. The people who are out of the mainstream are in the administration. I mean, they are stuckmarried to this Cold War relic, this policy of embargo and belligerence," he said.
LaRouche: 'I Want to Meet with Fidel'
After being briefed on the bipartisan U.S. Congressional delegation's recent visit to Cuba, Lyndon LaRouche indicated Dec. 19 that he'd like to meet with Fidel Castro. It would be very useful for me to be able to talk with him, LaRouche said, and it would be useful for the whole hemisphere. He recalled that years earlier, the former Foreign Minister of Guyana Fred Wills, had recommended that he speak with Fidel. Now, he added, the time has come to do so. "I think he would enjoy it; I would enjoy itand the American people would enjoy it," LaRouche said. "We'd have some good belly laughs over the whole issue."
LaRouche pointed out that Fidel has a better health-care program in Cuba than the United States does. He said that he might take some friends with him, people who can't get health care in the U.S., because of HMOs and insurance companies. LaRouche said he wanted to talk to Castro because "he's got a good health-care program going down there, and a lot of Americans would like to have access to it. I think we should cooperate with them on this program."
Kirchner to Argentines: Life Much Better After the IMF
Five years after the Dec. 20, 2001 collapse of the Fernando de la Rua government, and the subsequent declaration of debt moratorium, a happy and feisty President Nestor Kirchner drove home the point in two speeches that Argentina is doing very well because it dumped the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Speaking Dec. 20 to inaugurate a low-income housing project in the province of Buenos Aires, Kirchner recalled that five years ago, "terrible things were happening here. Argentina was exploited by governments that weren't up to history's task. But they also imposed neoliberal programs, and followed the policies of the International Monetary Fund and international lending agencies. For those governments, people were just a number. But for us, each person is a brother, of flesh and blood, whom we lovewe love and suffer as they do. We love and feel passion."
The Argentine President also slammed those who argue that investment in infrastructure is unproductive. The people who say that "are the ones who live in comfortable apartments or country homes and the like, and have never lacked for anything. Why don't they come and see now where the money is going that we've protected for Argentines? It goes to the most needy. This is how we are building an Argentina of fairness and justice!"
In this, and in a Dec. 21 speech at the Presidential Palace, Kirchner reviewed Argentina's economic progress: its 9.3% growth rate this year, increased pensions and wages, decrease in unemployment and indigence, and growth of the internal market. Argentina renegotiated the foreign debt, saved the country $70 billion, "and said 'ciao' to the Fund," Kirchner said. When the government paid off the $9 billion it owed the Fund one year ago, "orthodox" economists "told us we were crazy" and that there would be dire consequences. But look what's happened in one year! "We recovered the $9 billion of our reserves! And they had us on our knees for 40 years!" For decades, Kirchner said, "we tolerated these truly mistaken, aggravating, unjust policies, and those unending visits from the IMF. And in just one year, we built our reserves back up."
So, Kirchner concluded, "Can we Argentines do it? Yes, of course we can, with great effort. Argentina is back! It has recovered the instruments of its sovereignty" without the IMF! "A great man once said that reality is the only truth, and that is a clear and true stratagem," Kirchner pointed out. "Governments serve the people when they govern as they should, when they do what they have to do, and when they stay close to their people."
Lavrov: Brazil Seeks Russian Aid To Develop Infrastructure
In a Dec. 18 cabinet meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reported that during his Dec. 14 meeting with Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Lula had asked for Russian assistance to do in Ibero-America "what was done in North America in the 19th Centuryunite the continent economically and link its infrastructure." This would appear to be an implicit reference to the extraordinary development of the United States under the supervision of Abraham Lincoln's chief economist, Henry C. Carey.
Brazilian authorities, Lavrov told Putin, "are interested in our joining in major projects of inter-regional importance, including a transcontinental [natural gas] pipeline, and modernization of railroads on the continent." He emphasized that Lula had used the example of the "majestic" infrastructure development that took place in 19th Century United States, to describe what is needed today in Ibero-America.
Lavrov visited South America's Southern Cone from Dec. 13-17, and signed agreements with both Argentina and Brazil that strongly emphasized cooperation in the areas of science and technology, aerospace, and nuclear energy, as well as investment and trade opportunities.
Bolivia Requests Full Membership in Mercosur
Speaking from Brasilia Dec. 18, Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca announced that the Evo Morales government is requesting full membership in the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), accepting the invitation extended to it earlier this year by the Presidents of Argentina and Brazil. The decision will be announced formally at the next meeting of Mercosur Presidents, Jan. 18-19.
Choquehuanca was in Brasilia along with six other cabinet ministers, for discussions with their Brazilian counterparts on several subjects vital to both nations, including the price that Brazil will pay for Bolivian natural gas, expansion of cooperation and investment in energy and trade, and construction of a gas-chemical industry complex on the border.
Bolivia's entry into Mercosur as a full membercurrently it is an associate memberis seen as an pivotal step in expanding Mercosur westward toward the Andes as well as strengthening regional integration. Full Mercosur membership is also expected to benefit Bolivia economically, and contribute to its political stability, currently threatened by financier allies of Dick Cheney who are behind a separatist movement in four states of eastern Bolivia.