Monday, October 17, 2005

Loan-sharks, coups, and other 'democratic reforms'

I was going to entitle this post "News from Latin America" but that didn't do justice to the real theme connecting the following stories. As you'll see, these stories have as much to do with events and forces outside Latin America, as they do with the region itself. Perhaps more.

Remember how Cuba offered doctors and assistance to the suffering people of the Gulf Coast, post-Katrina? Turns out that America has yet to return their call [thanks to my lovely sister for the link!]:
""The United States government still hasn't responded," said Cuba's foreign minister, Felipe Perez Roque, who was in Canada for several days this month to mark 60 years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Havana. "There are two things that Mr. Bush cannot seem to do. One is to normalize relations with Cuba. The other is to protect poor people in a hurricane. He is helpless to do it.""

So why no courtesy-call? Funny story... [click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
"After all, even as Hurricane Dennis was spinning over Cuba, Washington was proceeding with elaborate preparations for a change of government on the island, ruled since 1959 by Fidel Castro. In July, the U.S. State Department established an office called the "Cuba Transition Co-ordinator," responsible for hastening a change of government in Cuba and for overseeing the U.S. response. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice picked Caleb McCarry, a former staff member of the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations, to fill the new post. She described the appointment as "the keystone of our strategy ... to accelerate the demise of Castro's tyranny.""

Obviously it's not a secret that Americans want Castro gone--that is so 60s, man. And 70s, and 80s, and ...you get the idea. But riling Americans up about a communist dictator is too easy. What happens when you want to remove a democratically elected leader (oh, and P.S., that guy has a lot of oil that he wants to keep for his citizens)? Link him with the commie guy! Just ask Hugo Chávez of Venezuala. He's pretty sure the Yanks are coming from him. Check out his interview with ABC, last month. Of course, the U.S. won't confirm the existence of this "Operation Balboa" plan to oust Chávez. Shhhh....Dude, it's supposed to be a surprise!

And it thickens: apparently Hugo Chávez is the new Castro. Being linked with "Chávez-like" policies to nationalize oil assets is the new jailing-dissidents. At least that's what I've gleaned from recent reports out of Ecuador. Did you catch this weekend's wire-report about Ecuador's former president returning from exile in Colombia? Former President Lucio Gutierrez has returned to Ecuador and he has vowed to work aggressively for his own reinstatement as president. This is despite a July order for his arrest. What's this all about? I referred back to an article in the May 11, 2005 Nation magazine about this ("Ecuador Gets Chávez'd" by Greg Palast). Lucio Gutierrez, the former President of Ecuador (elected in 2002 on a platform of screw the World Bank's austerity plan), fled the country in spring 2005 after renegging on his anti-World Bank promises. Alfredo Palacio was Gutierrez's V.P., so the congress gave him the promotion to prez this past spring.

Here's where it gets really interesting. Like Venezuala, Ecuador belongs to the South American oil club. In IMF/World Bank terms, that means that Ecuador is America's bitch. Palast obtained a copy of the World Bank's 2003 Structural Adjustment Program Loan viz Ecuador:
"The secret loan terms require Ecuador to pay bondholders 70 percent of the revenue received from any spike in the price of oil. The result: Ecuador must give up the big bucks from the Iraq War oil price surge. Another 20 percent of the oil windfall is set aside for "contingencies" (i.e., later payments to bondholders). The document specifies that Ecuador may keep only 10 percent of new oil revenue for expenditures on social services. I showed President Palacio the World Bank documents. He knew their terms well. "If we pay that amount of debt," he told me, "we're dead. We have to survive." He argued, with logic, "If we die, who is going to pay them?" [...]"It is impossible that they condemn us not to have health, not to have education," he told me. He made it clear that handing over 90 percent of his nation's new oil wealth would not stand."

Well, Condi Rice went nuts. Palacio's committment to place the health and education of his countrymen above the bondholders was just too much. A little too "Chávez"-esque if you will. Watch your back, Ecuador. BTW, if you want to see a great documentary about the IMF & "neoliberal" loan-sharking in Latin America (particularly in post-collapse Argentina), *please* treat yourself and see "The Take." If you want to read more on the looooooong history of loan-sharking-then coup-then kill-then invasion strategy of hegemony, read John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hitman." It reads like a freakin Graham Greene novel and there's loads of stuff on 70s/80s coups, CIA killings in Ecuador, Panama etc.

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