Ibero-American News Digest
Bipartisan Senate Delegation to Andes Promotes Friendship
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) is leading a bipartisan delegation of six U.S. Senators to the Andean countries of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. The visit, from Dec. 27-Jan. 2, aims to reaffirm the friendship between the U.S. and a region of the Americas which was beginning to give up any hope for sanity from Washington. The trip is another example of how the new Democratic majority began organizing bipartisan intervention to counter the madness of the Bush-Cheney Administration's foreign policy, before the new Congress is even sworn in. Other members of the delegation are Democrats Kent Conrad, Richard Durbin and Ken Salazar, and Republicans Judd Gregg and Robert Bennet.
"We are here to show how much we care for Bolivia, Bolivians and their culture," Reid declared upon arriving in Bolivia. "When we leave, we want to make it clear that we came as friends, to learn from you." Salazar told Bolivian TV that the presence of the soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader "points to a different direction" in U.S. policy toward Ibero-America in coming years. "I think we all want the same thing, which is to lift Latin-America's people," he said.
After meeting with President Evo Morales on Dec. 28, Reid said that his first foreign visit as incoming head of the Senate was not random, but that he deliberately chose to come to Bolivia in order to strengthen its ties with the United States. He said he is eager to return to his country's Senate, to let them know how well they were treated in Bolivia. "We came as friends, and we leave becoming even closer friends," he said. Reid said they discussed many things, including drug trafficking, on which they agreed that it harms societies, and that Bolivia will eradicate all "excess" coca production. Salazar, speaking in Spanish, pledged that the U.S. government will "work for Bolivia."
On Dec. 30, the delegation held an hour-long meeting Ecuador's anti-free-trade President-elect Rafael Correa, after which Reid said that the U.S. wants to strengthen relations with Correa, and respects his intention to not extend the U.S.'s right to use the military base at Manta for U.S. military anti-drug operations when the agreement runs out in 2009. "We respect the sovereignty of Ecuador," said Reid. Asked specifically about Correa's friendship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Reid said that Ecuadorians have the right to choose their leader, and in his view, the U.S. has now opened a dialogue with Ecuador. Correa, for his part, told a news conference that he had had a cordial and respectful meeting with the U.S. delegation.
Push for National Development Bank in Argentina
Talk is underway in Argentina about transforming the state-run Banco de la Nacion (BNA) into a National Development Bank, modelled on Brazil's National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), La Nacion reported Dec. 22. BNA's Vice President Roberto Feletti indicates that the bank, founded by nationalist President Carlos Pellegrini in 1891, is well situated to play the role of a development bank, given its current high liquidity and low interest rates. The year 2007 is going to be the "year of credit for investment, because many companies need to capitalize themselves and expand, and the sums they need to do this can't be obtained from their own cash reserves or from financing via suppliers."
Argentina's Industrial Union (UIA) is one of the entities promoting this initiative, Feletti said, to promote investment and prevent national companies from being taken over by foreign financial interests. Founded in the mid-1870s, the UIA was at its inception a strong backer of protectionism, and a great admirer of the American System of political economy. Although it is factionalized today, there remains within it a strong current that favors national industrial developmentsomething that President Nestor Kirchner has encouraged.
Feletti indicated that some changes in BNA's statutes would be required, to allow it to offer larger credit lines than are now stipulated, but that this would be relatively simple to do once a political decision were made. A division dealing with these types of credit operations could be established. "It makes no sense to create a new bank, with the bureaucracy that would be required, when the nation can easily handle that task," he said.
Not All Billionaires Are Equal, World Bank Tells Mexico
The World Bank released a curious study on Nov. 7, which demanded that "unequal structures of wealth and influence"such as trade unionsbe busted up, but not "self-made" billionaires. The study, titled "The Inequality Trap and Its Links to Low Growth in Mexico," marshals statistical mumbo-jumbo to make its case that Mexico can only become competitive, when the "inequality" created by "corporatist groups" is eliminated. Who are the "corporatist groups"? First and foremost, the state-sector unions (specifically: teachers, and oil, social security, and electricity workers) and telecom unions. You see, those union members make more money than other workers, and they block needed post-NAFTA reforms. But farmers who use irrigation methods are also categorized by the World Bank as "wealthy," and deemed part of the "structures of inequality" to be eliminated, because they use water, whose price is subsidized by the government.
However, while the World Bank does express concern over Mexico's notorious "concentrated business wealth" and high number of billionaires (up to as many as 20 billionaires in a country where at least half the population is unemployed), the study asserts that not all billionaires are equal, writing: "international evidence finds self-made billionaire wealth to be associated with higher growth, but inherited billionaire wealth to be associated with lower growth."
Not surprising, then, that they also are pleased that the Mexican banking system is no longer owned by a small group of families, but by a small group of foreigners, who, they admit, don't lend to anybody!
EIR Rep Brings Classical Music to Panama
EIR's Carlos Wesley organized a Christmas Day broadcast of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on a national AM radio station in Panama, a country in which there is not a single Classical music station, and Classical music is virtually unknown outside of the elites. The broadcast was a tremendous success.
To create an audience, the station promoted the Christmas Day Beethoven performance during the week leading up to it, by playing a fragment of the "Ode to Joy" (Beethoven's setting of Schiller's poem), and announcing the program several times a day. To measure the reaction, the station announced a raffle, with a CD of Beethoven Symphonies as the prize, for those who called the station during the program. The program was inundated with calls, and nearly every person who called said, "Thank you so much. You have transported me to a very beautiful place," or comments of that sort.
The program began with the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. Then, Wesley was introduced as representing Lyndon LaRouche's EIR, explaining to listeners that the LaRouche Youth Movement has taken up the idea of German poet Friedrich Schiller as it own, with the argument that it is not enough to educate the reason, but one must concern oneself with the aesthetic education of man, and educate one's emotions so as to prevent a repetition of the French Revolution, where a great moment found a little people. Wesley asked the audience to reflect: "Can you imagine a meeting where instead of getting a speech from the barricades, the meeting instead begins with a piece of Classical music, or a group of youth distributes leaflet, while singing a Bach motet?" The LYM's rendition of Bach's "Jesu, meine Freude" was then played, explaining to people that this was part of a CD prepared by the LYM to announce LaRouche's Jan. 11 webcast, whose date and time was repeated throughout the broadcast.
After a few other pieces and discussion of Beethoven's Ninth and Schiller's poem, the Ninth Symphony was played in its entirety.