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An Independent Latin America?

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I was reading a few articles about Latin America breaking away from US control and subsequent IMF loans. Also factor in the Washington's attention in the Middle East, and it could be true. But I can't help but believe this is wishful thinking though. The WHISC (aka School of the Americas) is still at large and there have been clandestine operations to remove leaders like Chavez in Venezuela. Obviously its not as bad as the wars on Latin America were in the 80's, but who's to say Washington won't reenact their old policies in five or ten years when more countries become too independent for their liking? Rumsfeld is already comparing Chavez to Hitler.




Latin America and Asia are at last breaking free of Washington's grip


The US-dominated world order is being challenged by a new spirit of independence in the global south


Noam Chomsky

Wednesday March 15, 2006

The Guardian


The prospect that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence has troubled US planners since the second world war. The concerns have only risen as the "tripolar order" - Europe, North America and Asia - has continued to evolve.


Every day Latin America, too, is becoming more independent. Now Asia and the Americas are strengthening their ties while the reigning superpower, the odd man out, consumes itself in misadventures in the Middle East.


Article continues

Regional integration in Asia and Latin America is a crucial and increasingly important issue that, from Washington's perspective, betokens a defiant world gone out of control. Energy, of course, remains a defining factor - the object of contention - everywhere.


China, unlike Europe, refuses to be intimidated by Washington, a primary reason for the fear of China by US planners, which presents a dilemma: steps toward confrontation are inhibited by US corporate reliance on China as an export platform and growing market, as well as by China's financial reserves - reported to be approaching Japan's in scale.


In January, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah visited Beijing, which is expected to lead to a Sino-Saudi memorandum of understanding calling for "increased cooperation and investment between the two countries in oil, natural gas and investment", the Wall Street Journal reports.


Already much of Iran's oil goes to China, and China is providing Iran with weapons that both states presumably regard as deterrent to US designs. India also has options. India may choose to be a US client, or it may prefer to join the more independent Asian bloc that is taking shape, with ever more ties to Middle East oil producers. Siddharth Varadarjan, the deputy editor of the Hindu, observes that "if the 21st century is to be an 'Asian century,' Asia's passivity in the energy sector has to end".


The key is India-China cooperation. In January, an agreement signed in Beijing "cleared the way for India and China to collaborate not only in technology but also in hydrocarbon exploration and production, a partnership that could eventually alter fundamental equations in the world's oil and natural gas sector", Varadarjan points out.


An additional step, already being contemplated, is an Asian oil market trading in euros. The impact on the international financial system and the balance of global power could be significant. It should be no surprise that President Bush paid a recent visit to try to keep India in the fold, offering nuclear cooperation and other inducements as a lure.

Meanwhile, in Latin America left-centre governments prevail from Venezuela to Argentina. The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether.


Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in their SUVs in traffic gridlock.

Venezuela, the leading oil exporter in the hemisphere, has forged probably the closest relations with China of any Latin American country, and is planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China as part of its effort to reduce dependence on the openly hostile US government.


Venezuela has joined Mercosur, the South American customs union - a move described by Nestor Kirchner, the Argentinian president, as "a milestone" in the development of this trading bloc, and welcomed as a "new chapter in our integration" by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president.

Venezuela, apart from supplying Argentina with fuel oil, bought almost a third of Argentinian debt issued in 2005, one element of a region-wide effort to free the countries from the controls of the IMF after two decades of disastrous conformity to the rules imposed by the US-dominated international financial institutions.


Steps toward Southern Cone [the southern states of South America] integration advanced further in December with the election in Bolivia of Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous president. Morales moved quickly to reach a series of energy accords with Venezuela. The Financial Times reported that these "are expected to underpin forthcoming radical reforms to Bolivia's economy and energy sector" with its huge gas reserves, second only to Venezuela's in South America.


Cuba-Venezuela relations are becoming ever closer, each relying on its comparative advantage. Venezuela is providing low-cost oil, while in return Cuba organises literacy and health programmes, sending thousands of highly skilled professionals, teachers and doctors, who work in the poorest and most neglected areas, as they do elsewhere in the third world.


Cuban medical assistance is also being welcomed elsewhere. One of the most horrendous tragedies of recent years was the earthquake in Pakistan last October. Besides the huge death toll, unknown numbers of survivors have to face brutal winter weather with little shelter, food or medical assistance.


"Cuba has provided the largest contingent of doctors and paramedics to Pakistan," paying all the costs (perhaps with Venezuelan funding), writes John Cherian in India's Frontline magazine, citing Dawn, a leading Pakistan daily.


President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan expressed his "deep gratitude" to Fidel Castro for the "spirit and compassion" of the Cuban medical teams - reported to comprise more than 1,000 trained personnel, 44% of them women, who remained to work in remote mountain villages, "living in tents in freezing weather and in an alien culture", after western aid teams had been withdrawn.


Growing popular movements, primarily in the south but with increasing participation in the rich industrial countries, are serving as the bases for many of these developments towards more independence and concern for the needs of the great majority of the population.






Some analysts have suggested that Cuba and Venezuela might even unite, a step towards further integration of Latin America in a bloc that is more independent from the United States. Venezuela has joined Mercosur, the South American customs union, a move described by Argentine president Nestor Kirchner as "a milestone" in the development of this trading bloc, and welcomed as opening "a new chapter in our integration" by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Independent experts say that "adding Venezuela to the bloc furthers its geopolitical vision of eventually spreading Mercosur to the rest of the region."


At a meeting to mark Venezuela's entry into Mercosur, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said, "We cannot allow this to be purely an economic project, one for the elites and for the transnational companies," a not very oblique reference to the US-sponsored "Free Trade Agreement for the Americas," which has aroused strong public opposition. Venezuela also supplied Argentina with fuel oil to help stave off an energy crisis, and bought almost a third of Argentine debt issued in 2005, one element of a region-wide effort to free the countries from the control of the US-dominated IMF after two decades of disastrous effects of conformity to its rules. The IMF has "acted towards our country as a promoter and a vehicle of policies that caused poverty and pain among the Argentine people," President Kirchner said in announcing his decision to pay almost $1 trillion to rid itself of the IMF forever. Radically violating IMF rules, Argentina enjoyed a substantial recovery from the disaster left by IMF policies.


Steps toward independent regional integration advanced further with the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia in December 2005, the first president from the indigenous majority. Morales moved quickly to reach energy accords with Venezuela.


Though Central America was largely disciplined by Reaganite violence and terror, the rest of the hemisphere is falling out of control, particularly from Venezuela to Argentina, which was the poster child of the IMF and the Treasury Department until its economy collapsed under the policies they imposed. Much of the region has left-center governments. The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, both major energy producers, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether. Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies, and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in SUVs in traffic gridlock. Some are even calling for an "Indian nation" in South America. Meanwhile the economic integration that is under way is reversing patterns that trace back to the Spanish conquests, with Latin American elites and economies linked to the imperial powers but not to one another. Along with growing south-south interaction on a broader scale, these developments are strongly influenced by popular organizations that are coming together in the unprecedented international global justice movements, ludicrously called "anti-globalization" because they favor globalization that privileges the interests of people, not investors and financial institutions. For many reasons, the system of US global dominance is fragile, even apart from the damage inflicted by Bush planners.




Latin America Unchained: Will the U.S. Lose its Influence Over Countries That Have Paid Off Their IMF Loans?

By Mark Engler



For decades the International Monetary Fund (IMF) served as one of the key pillars of the "Washington Consensus." Dominated by the White House, the Fund allowed successive administrations to control the economic policy of poorer countries in this hemisphere and beyond. Those nations wishing to buck a U.S. agenda of corporate globalization risked having their access to international loans cut off. The brutish IMF not only handled its own funds but also played gatekeeper for money from other creditors, such as the regional development banks. This power made the institution as hated throughout the global South as it was celebrated inside the Beltway.


Maybe it's not surprising, then, that an increasingly progressive Latin America is starting to say good riddance.


In recent months, major countries in the region have moved to pay off their loans to the IMF ahead of schedule and free themselves of direct oversight from the institution. Announcements in December from Argentina and Brazil, which are paying off $9.8 billion and $15.5 billion respectively, inaugurated the trend in the region. In addition, Bolivia was relieved of its outstanding obligations to the IMF by last year's debt relief agreement at the G8. The country's newly elected president, Evo Morales, has indicated that he may let his standby agreement with the IMF expire at the end of the month.

The motivation for cutting ties has been explicitly political. The Latin American electorate is fed up with policies like privatization and curtailed social spending; these policies, hallmarks of IMF "neoliberalism," have hit the countries' poor majorities hardest.


It would be one thing if the Fund's prescriptions worked in creating economies that served their people. But in country after country, neoliberal economic mandates have produced lackluster growth at best and often have resulted in catastrophe. Argentina was once a poster child of IMF economics; that is, until its economy collapsed in 2001. As voters throughout the region demand change and put left-of-center governments into power, leaders like Argentinean President Néstor Kirchner proclaim that throwing off the chains of IMF debt constitutes an overdue victory--a move toward "political sovereignty and economic independence."


Interestingly, within the domestic political debates of Argentina and Brazil, the left has been critical of the decision to repay. Social movement activists argue that the debts, some of which had been accumulated by past military governments, were unjust and should be renounced outright. In Argentina, critics contend that the IMF should have to pay for a crisis it was largely responsible for creating. Instead, billions of dollars that could have been used for needed social programs are going back into the Fund's coffers.


The activists may have had a solid argument. But now that the deals are going forward, it's time to assess their impact: Will freedom from the IMF lead to a truly independent economic path?


On face, distance from the IMF will provide poor and middle-income countries with room to chart a more autonomous course. Still, there are complicating factors. Remaining debts to institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank can be used to leverage governments to impose neoliberal policies. In Brazil, where Lula da Silva's ostensibly progressive government has mostly adhered to the orthodox economic prescriptions of corporate globalization, political will to change may be lacking. Finally, the IMF will be able to continue giving its recommendations to other creditors.


The power of such advice, however, is not what it once was. The IMF has lost a lot of clout in recent years, due in no small part to Argentina. Since taking power in the wake of the country's economic crisis, Kirchner has played hardball in negotiations with the IMF and private creditors. The strategy worked, allowing his government to negotiate a very favorable restructuring of its loans. Argentina standing up to the IMF was like an underdog knocking down the schoolyard bully. The aura of invincibility surrounding the Fund was dispelled, and the institution will likely never again inspire the same begrudging awe. Furthermore, as the failures of neoliberalism grow increasingly evident, creditors like the World Bank have been compelled to moderate their once-stringent conditions on loans.

In a final critical development, the oil-rich government of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela has stepped forward to provide other Latin American leaders with financing they might otherwise have needed to beg from Washington. Venezuela already bought up $2.4 billion worth of Argentina's debt to help the country break free of the IMF, and Chávez has expressed a willingness to do more. This source of backup funds makes the governments of the Latin American New Left considerably less susceptible than before to threats of capital flight.


Cutting ties with the IMF is not just a regional phenomenon. Russia and Thailand have pursued strategies of early debt repayment, and Indonesia and Pakistan are among those now contemplating the move. Asian countries that were burned by the region's neoliberal financial crisis in 1997 are building up large cash reserves so that they will not have to go back to the Fund in times of economic downturn.


These policy trends are producing funding shortfalls for the IMF. Since Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia represent three of the Fund's four largest clients, a lack of interest payments from these countries will make a serious dent in the institution's operating budget. Currently, the IMF expects to be $116 million short in fiscal 2006. Not that the Fund is going broke. Among other assets, the institution sits on more than $56 billion worth of gold. Nevertheless, Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato has initiated a strategic review of the IMF's activity, and the institution is contemplating a future of reduced global influence.


The bigger trial may be for the United States. As the administration's command over its Southern neighbors declines, its rhetoric will be put to the test. The White House has long proclaimed that promoting democracy and reducing poverty are key foreign policy goals, even while it has limited its support to governments willing to tow the neoliberal line. Democratically elected leaders in Latin America are calling the bluff. They are refusing to defer to self-serving U.S. prerogatives, and instead they are seeking economic policies that can reverse the failures of corporate globalization.


Washington now has a choice: It can redefine its sense of national interest, cheer democratic renewal in the region, and acknowledge that the rigid economic program once forced into place by the IMF cannot fit all countries. Or it can become an ever-more-despised adversary for citizens throughout the Americas.

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Not looking too hopeful in Nicaragua




Ortega says US aims to block return


Sat Jun 10, 6:48 AM ET


MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega told regional observers on Friday the U.S. and Nicaraguan governments were working together to try to disqualify him from November's presidential election.



Ortega, a former president and leader of Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista revolution, is seeking to return to power and has clashed in recent months with the U.S. envoy and the country's main right-wing parties.


"We see a coordinated action between the United States government and the government of President (Enrique) Bolanos, both of whom want to disqualify the Sandinistas," Ortega said after a meeting with Organization of American States observers.


A spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Managua declined to comment on Ortega's remarks. Nicaraguan government officials were not immediately available for comment.


U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli has repeatedly criticized Ortega, who many think could return to power and end the 16 years of pro-Washington government that followed his 1990 defeat. In April, Trivelli met with right-wing parties to discuss forming an alliance to oppose Ortega in the November 5 election.


The United States has a controversial history of involvement in Nicaragua, although Trivelli said he was merely concerned with promoting democracy in the Central American nation.


Recent polls have shown solid support for the Sandinistas, which in the 1980s led a Soviet- and Cuban-backed government that battled U.S.-funded Contra rebels.


"The United States government will have to understand that it is Nicaraguans that will decide who our national authorities will be," Ortega added.


He is making his fourth bid to regain the presidency. Many voters say they are tired of U.S.-backed administrations that have failed to raise living standards.

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What worries me about this new Latin American independence movement being led by the likes of Chavez is that it's not exactly stable. What is going to happen when the oil revenues Chavez has been using to finance his movement throughout the region and promote social services in his country (which have also not been functioning as well as people had hoped for...look at housing as an example) dry up? It's going to wreck the Venezuelan economy and considering that many economies are now falling into dependence on Chavez to break free of the West it could wreck the entire region again.


I have no problem with countries like Bolivia renouncing the West and wanting to go it alone because I'll be the first to admit that they have been messed up by TERRIBLE policy making at the IMF and World Bank. However, if they screw themselves up just don't come back to us looking for aid.

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I don't really care if Latin America wants to break away from the US, but if they get themselves in trouble, they better not want our help. They should make their own decisions.


So basically, the same as above.

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Guest Vitamin X

And of course, the catalyst for Chavez being there in the first place (Castro's regime in Cuba) won't be taken care of like the Middle East, despite the fact it affects so much more people and is much closer to our shores.


If things were better in Latin America, then maybe we wouldn't get ALL DEM DAMN ILLEGALS like people are complaining about here. Of course, that doesn't seem to occur to anyone in the administration.


Remember when Bush said he was forming A COMMITTEE on Cuba back in 2004? What, did they go out for chips and salsa and never come back?

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