Ibero-American News Digest
Argentina, Venezuela Forge Path to Ibero-American Unity
After signing a series of agreements with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner in the Venezuelan city of Puerto Ordaz on Feb. 21, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez underscored that both nations are called on to forge the path toward Ibero-American unity and integration. It was Kirchner's fourth trip to Venezuela, during which he and Chavez also signed a bilateral memorandum of understanding to create a Bank of the South, as the kernel of a new regional financing mechanism to counter the bankrupt International Monetary Fund (see InDepth: "Bush Biofuel Junket to Ibero-America Aims To Ensnare Region in Insanity," by Cynthia R. Rush).
The two Presidents inaugurated a new bloc of wells in the Orinoco oil belt, where Argentina's new state-owned energy company, Enarsa, will participate jointly with Venezuela's PDVSA oil company. Aside from several other agreements by which Argentina will invest in, and help to develop, Venezuela's agro-industrial capabilities, the two governments also issued the second series of 'Bonds of the South' worth $1.5 billion. These joint bonds have allowed Argentina to enter international financial markets, much to the chagrin of those creditorsmore aptly called financial vultureswho refused to participate in Argentina's 2005 debt restructuring, and want to punish the Kirchner government for failing to respect their demands that they be paid in full. They now hold approximately $20 billion in defaulted debt.
According to the Bloomberg news service, Morgan Stanley Investments, among other predators, have been betting that Argentina will be forced to go to the IMF to gain access to "international markets" and put a stop to creditor lawsuits against it. They should be prepared to be disappointed. Recently, the IMF meddled in Argentina's attempt to renegotiate the debt it owes to the Club of Paris group of creditors, telling the Kirchner government that the renegotiation would be conditioned on Argentina signing an agreement with the IMF. "This is the general norm" for such renegotiations, the Fund asserted on Feb. 16. President Kirchner's Chief of Staff Alberto Fernandez shot back the next day: "We have nothing to negotiate with the Fund." Argentina "owes it nothing," as it paid off the $9 billion owed the Fund in January 2006. "It is outrageous that they place such conditions on us," he told Radio Mitre. "We paid off the Fund to have autonomy," not to take orders from it.
Bolivia: Brazil, Argentina Key in Preventing Civil War
Eduardo Gamarra, Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, told EIR that both Brazil and Argentina have a key mediating role to play in preventing Bolivia from plunging into civil strife and social upheaval. Gamarra made these remarks during a Feb. 21 press conference sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
Gamarra has just released a report entitled "Bolivia on the Brink," where he states that Bolivia is on the verge of either refounding itself as a nation or falling into the chaos of a resource war fought along racial lines. He warned that there is no mediating influence within Bolivia between the government of President Evo Morales and its indigenous base of support on the one hand, and the "opposition" led by separatist governors from the resource-rich eastern provinces of Santa Cruz, Tarija, and Cochabamba.
Asked by EIR's David Ramonet about the new economic relations that both Brazil and Argentina have established with Bolivia, Gamarra said that this was positive, but added that those countries aren't anxious to get involved in Bolivia's internal affairs. Also, he warned that it's important that the United States not intervene, and would do well to even "de-cocainize" its relationship with the Morales government.
He further explained that Morales' nationalization plans are not intended to be outright expropriation, but rather "joint ventures." Morales is strictly a Bolivian phenomenon, Gamarra underscored, and has nothing to do with Cuba or Venezuela, despite the close current relationship with both governments. Morales wants to "dismantle neoliberalism," but is not against private property, Gamarra said. Even more, contrary to what every analyst forecast, foreign investment didn't flee Bolivia last year, but increased instead.
No Evidence of Hezbollah 'Threat' in South America
On Feb. 20 and 22, the U.S.-based Spanish-language television network Telemundo ran a special entitled "Hezbollah: Terrorist Threat in Latin America." The program claimed that the threat of radical Islamic terrorism "is in our own Latin America and could reach U.S. territory." This charge is particularly aimed at Iran, and, among other things, intended to bolster the November 2006 charge by Argentine prosecutors that Iran and Hezbollah were behind the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish social center in Buenos Aires.
During his early-February trip to Brazil and Argentina, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez repeated the unsubstantiated claim that there are Islamic terrorists fundraising from the tri-border regionParaguay/Brazil/Argentinaand sending those funds to their allies in the Mideast. He then offered to "help" those countries intensify their collaboration in the war on terror. Brazil isn't interested in such "help." But that hasn't stopped the Bush Administration. Following an alleged mid-February threat by al-Qaeda to blow up oil installations in Venezuela, Mexico, and Canada, because those countries supply oil to the U.S., the State Department's USINFO news agency upped the pressure, stating on Feb. 22 that "there is continuing concern over the tri-border area ... due not only to Hezbollah activity, but to Hamas and al-Qaeda conspiracies as well." When Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns visited Argentina Feb. 8-9, he also suggested that al-Qaeda was running operations in South America.
Nuclear Issue Hot in Brazil, Despite Biofools Craze
Members of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's cabinet openly admit that there's a "lack of consensus" over whether to approve the proposal to invest in the nuclear sector, to both complete the unfinished Angra 3 nuclear plant, and build six to eight new plants between now and 2030. Science and Technology Minister Sergio Rezende strongly backs the program, and points out that renewable energy sources (biofuels) haven't proved themselves "viable" on a large scale to meet the country's energy needs.
The Program for Growth Acceleration (PAC), announced Jan. 22 by President Lula, includes an appendix providing for financing for Angra 3's completion, and the French government has already indicated great interest in having its Areva company participate in the project. But Environment Minister Marina Silva has declared herself "completely opposed" to completing Angra 3, while Lula's Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff stated on Feb. 12 that the discussion on Angra 3 "hasn't yet matured," and that there is no fixed date on when a decision might be made. Rousseff is in fact the point person for negotiations with the Bush Administration on signing a "strategic alliance" for joint biofuel development.