Ibero-American News Digest
Hyperinflation Slams Ibero-America, Auguring Mass Protest
Jan. 14 (EIRNS)As is the case internationally, hyperinflation, seen in the rising commodity prices globally, is hitting Ibero-American nations, auguring social protest and upheaval that have already begun in some countries. Look at the following:
* Mexico: The annual pace of food inflation more than tripled in November, compared to two months earlier. The flashpoint for social explosion is the rising price of the main staple in the Mexican diet, tortillas, being driven up by the 50% rise in the price of corn globally. Earlier this month, tortilla producers threatened a 50% price increase, and a panicked Calderon government, recalling that the 50% tortilla price increase in 2007 had sparked riots, opted to purchase corn futures to hedge against a possible shortage and further price increases, the first time a country, rather than a private company, has resorted to derivatives to "secure" food.
* Brazil: Food prices rose by 9% in 2010 (through November), well above the 5.9% inflation rate, which in any case, was the highest since 2004. And this is before the Central Bank is expected to raise interest rates, already the highest in the world, when it meets on Jan. 18-19. How high is high? The current benchmark rate is 10.75%, but the average interest rate for consumers in 2010 was 120%, and for businesses, over 56%!
* Bolivia: During the last week of December, President Evo Morales lifted subsidies on gasoline and diesel, causing those prices to soar by 73% and 83% respectively, and provoking similar increases in food and transportation costs. But the riots that ensued in several cities, including a general strike, and marches of miners and indigenous groups, forced Morales to rescind his decree on Dec. 31. In 2010, consumer prices rose by nearly 8%.
* Chile: Violent protests erupted this past week in the country's southernmost region of Magallanes, after free-marketeer President Sebastian Piñera ordered the elimination of subsidies on natural gas, increasing the price by nearly 17% in a frigid region which consumes large amounts of gas for heat. In the violent protest that ensued in Punta Arenas, two people were killed, and community and civic leaders shut down the region, including blockading all roads into and out of its cities. Piñera says the price hike stands, because sometimes governments "just have to do hard things."
Colombia: A Study in How Floods Become 'Unnatural' Disasters
Jan. 16 (EIRNS)The official death toll in Brazil from floods and mudslides in the state of Rio de Janeiro now nears 650 people, with many still missing. In Colombia, 2.2 million people were displaced from their homes in December by severe flooding which wiped whole towns off the map. A dangerous portion of the world's food supply has been flooded in Australia. But the rains did not cause these disasters; responsibility lies with the monetarist policies of globalization, which treat human life as expendable.
Take the case of Colombia, which is privileged to be one of the richest nations in the world in water resources, with an average rainfall of 3,000 mm a year, as compared to the 900 mm global average. It has more than 1,000 permanent rivers (the entire African continent has under 100), and because of its mountainous terrain, its hydroelectric capacity is huge.
In 1970, only 40% of Colombia's population had access to electricity; 20 years later, by 1990, 80% were enjoying its benefits. In a period of 20 years, public investments in great hydroelectric complexes and an extensive system of reservoirs in the departments of Antioquia, Valle, Cundinamarca, and Boyacá, among others, had increased electricity generation by four and a half times, simultaneously fostering the development of private Colombian engineering companies participating in the public projects into world-class capabilities.
In this period, investment in electricity reached 30% of total public investment. Had that dynamic been continued, Colombia today would be a regional supplier of energy. And this Winter's millions of displaced would be safely living in their own homes.
Instead, the IMF, World Bank, et al., took charge in the 1990s. Foreign debt payments took priority over investment in hydroelectrical projects. New investment stopped, and the profitable sectors were auctioned off to multinational interests for a song, while the state absorbed the debts and kept unprofitable areas. Two decades worth of planned projects, many with their feasibility studies already done, were scrapped.
Merely typical of the projects ready to go under a new global credit system, is the multipurpose (electricity and irrigation) Upí river project in western Boyacá, which would provide 2 million kilowatts of installed capacity, create the country's largest reservoir (9.9 billion cubic meters), and irrigate 225,000 hectares in the Colombia's rich agricultural frontier, its eastern plains.
Argentina's Nuclear Program Has Bright Future
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)In remarks made Jan. 9, Norma Boero, president of Argentina's National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), proudly reported that the country's nuclear program is making enormous strides, thanks to the political support and increased funding provided by the government of current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and by her predecessor and late husband, President Néstor Kirchner.
In 2005, Néstor Kirchner announced his plan to revitalize Argentina's nuclear program, the oldest in South America, which had come under vicious assault in the 1980s and 1990s, especially from the 1989-99 government of President Carlos Menem and his Finance Minister Domingo Cavallo. IMF toady Cavallo literally told CNEA's physicists and engineers to find jobs as dishwashers, as the country had no need of their skills.
Today, Boero reported, it is precisely that older generation of experts denigrated by Cavallo, which is guiding and supporting the CNEA's younger scientists and engineers as they work together to advance and consolidate the country's scientific achievements. Through efforts to dismantle the nuclear program, when it was denied funding and support, those older patriots never gave up. Often without pay, they cared for the machinery and technology that had been mothballed, looking toward a day when itand theymight be needed again.
That day has come, Boero said, and Argentina's long-held insistence on its technological independence has paid off. It has reopened the Pilcaniyeu uranium enrichment plant, closed for 15 years, which will allow the country to enrich and reprocess uranium for current and future plants. Its nuclear medicine program is growing, such that it has been able to increase the production and export of radio-isotopes, while providing state-of-the-art imaging technology for Argentine patients.
Moreover, on Jan. 6, the CNEA announced that it had just completed the design and production of the first fuel element for the Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR). This is another key step toward the completion of the CAREM reactor, a modular reactor designed and produced entirely in Argentina. Currently, the Atucha I and II nuclear reactors use imported fuel elements, but all future reactors, including the CAREM, will use the nationally-produced fuel elements.
Today, students from all around South America, as well as from Europe, Asia, and Africa, are studying at Argentina's three top-notch scientific institutesBalseiro, Sabato, and Beninsonall with a long history of scientific achievement.
Haiti One Year Later: Obama's Genocide
Jan. 12 (EIRNS)On the one-year anniversary of the horrific Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which killed 316,000 people, according to the latest estimates, the media are filled with stories of how slow the post-earthquake reconstruction has been, how millions are still homeless, sick, and suffering, facing a spreading cholera epidemic, and "several more years" before real improvement will be seen.
The culprits blamed for what everyone chooses to call a "challenging" situation, varycorrupt government, corrupt NGOs, unwieldy international bureaucracies, etc., etc., but what no one dares say, is that the person most responsible for the genocide against the Haitian people is President Barack Obama. Very soon after the earthquake, Obama was presented with a policy for Haiti that would have workeda deployment of the Army Corps of Engineers and affiliated agencies to help relocate the homeless and displaced out of hellish camps, to higher ground. Obama rejected that proposal and opted instead for genocide.
The result is well-known: At least 1 million people still "live" in wretched tent cities in Port-au-Prince, unprotected from the elements, lacking clean water, sanitation facilities, and food, and dependent on handouts for their survival, as an epidemic of that classic Malthusian disease, cholera, continues to increase, not slow down.