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IW 04

Latin America

MAR DEL PLATA

The Summit of Crisis


Is it true that the Summit of American presidents, held in Mar del Plata, was a political defeat for Bush (“a disastrous visit,” said The New York Times) or a rebirth for Latin American nationalism?

From the point of view of the continent's exploited, nothing changed. In spite of the “rebirth of Latin American nationalism” the policies of falling wages and salaries, flexibilization, payment of the foreign debts, and the attacks against the living standards and working conditions of the working masses continue.

A summit crisis

The summit of Mar del Plata gathered the representatives of a group of political regimes in crisis.

Lula, who heads the government of a party in dissolution. The president of Ecuador, where the political crisis has deepened with the victory of the oil strike of last August against Occidental Petroleum. Nicaragua, where president Bolaños faces, if not impleachment, then sure defeat at the polls. Fox was there, the head of a massively repudiated government in Mexico. Eduardo Rodríguez, el “interim” president of Bolivia.

The most important crisis, it goes without saying, es that of the US political regime itself, as a consequence of the failure of the invasion of Iraq. What was made manifest in Mar del Plata were the divergences around which policy with which to confront the continental crisis.

Anti-terrorism”

The verbal sparks among one or another of the presidents served to leave the fundamental agreements in the background. The first of them was the commitment to Bush's “war against terrorism.” The statement approved in Mar del Plata says that “we will take all necessary measures to prevent and combat terrorism and its financing.”

This is no minor agreement. The “anti-terrorism” category signifies the setting up of a common clandestine repressive apparatus —with secret jails, kidnapping (detentions without charges being presented in a court of law), and with the systematic use of torture.

Some of the governments, such as the Argentine, play a key role here. Argentina was “congratulated” in the annual report of the State Department for its “cooperation” on surveillance of the “triple border” (Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay). In the light of the facts which became known after this report became public (that the yanquis have established secret jails and bases for “covert” operations in some thirty countries), it can be seen that one of these installations is to be found on Argentine territory. The Federal Aviation Administration of the United States has elevated Ezeiza airport to the category of “maximum security”. Imperialism “recategorized” the airport because it has attained absolute control over the Argentine skies and has completely infiltrated its intelligence services. This is how Kirchner has paid for Bush's “support” in the renegotiation of the foreign debt.

He is not the only one. Brazil leads the occupation of Haiti. Uruguay has just approved —with the vote of the Frente Amplio legislators-- its participation in the “Unitas Operation”, with the US navy. Paraguay, for its part, has just authorized the installation of an air base on its territory, from which the US can intervene in the “triple border,” in southern Brazil, in northern Argentina and, above all, in Bolivia. So, the countries of the Mercosur, presented as the nucleus of the “resistance” to Bush at the “summit” (“the five musketeers” referred to by Hugo Chavez, referring also to himself), are solidly incorporated into Bush's “anti-terrorist” policies... even at a time when those policies have come under criticism in the United States itself.

On this point, Bush's political victory is beyond discussion.

Bolivia

The Bolivian crisis and the upcoming elections in the country of the Altiplano (high plains) were at the center of the debate at the summit. Argentina and Brazil again committed themselves to intervene actively so that a victory for Morales does not affect the main imperialist interests in Bolivia.

Both Lula and Kirchner are particularly interested in the question. The former, due to the particpation of Petrobras in the exploitation of Bolivian hydrocarbons; the latter, due to the participation of Repsol (in the exploitation) and of Techint (in the sale of pipelines for perforations). 40% of Petrobras' stocks are in private hands, and are sold on the Sao Paolo and New York stock exchanges; 50% of Repsol's stocks are in the hands of US investment funds. The main trusts —Petrobras, Repsol y Techint— are in partnership with the state-owned PDVSA in the exploitation of Venezuelan crude oil.

Imperialist interests in Bolivia will not be defended with Bush's policies (or his political person) but instead with the policies (and the political person) of Messrs. Lula, Kirchner and Chavez. But this is nothing new: this became clear in the insurrection of October, 2003.

Venezuela

One of the “spicy elements” of the summit was the presence, in the same hall, of Bush and Chávez, two declared political enemies. But Venezuela is the main provider of US strategic oil reserves.

The Venezuelan government maintains close relations with European imperialism, as has become clear with the support of the EU in the sale of Spanish weapons to Venezuela, even against US government opposition. Repsol has been the first international oil company to accept the forming of a “mixed company” with the state-owned PDVSA. It also maintains close ties with Bush's Latin American allies, such as the Colombian Alvaro Uribe. Venezuela and Colombia have signed an “anti-terrorist agreement” and have embarked on oil deals in common, such as the construction of an oil pipeline between the Colombian Pacific and the Venezuelan Atlantic, which will allow the export of crude oil to China. Chevron-Texaco is involved in the pipeline on both sides of the border: directly in Colombia, and as a partner of Repsol in Venezuela.

The insurmountable limitations of Chavez nationalism made themselves manifest once again soon after the summit, with the Venezuelan commitment to purchase debt bonds from Argentina... who will use the funds it receives for the payment of its foreign debt.

Disputes

The clashes over Ftaa were transformed into a fetish which served to hide the reality of what was going on at the summit. Kirchner's refusal to include any mention of Ftaa laid bare the US refusal to back the Argentine government in the negotiations with the IMF.

But the Argentine bourgeoisie favors entering the Ftaa. Techint, the trust considered a “model” by the government of the national bourgeoisie, has been demanding for some time the formation of an “iron and steel Ftaa,” which would guarantee access to the US market for Latin American iron and steel, to the detriment of Europe and Asia. Lula himself signed with Bush a pro-Ftaa statement immediately after the Mar del Plata summit. Uruguay has just signed a “bilateral investment treaty” with the United States.

To say that the Mercosur constitutes an “alternative” to Ftaa is a fantasy, unless the place of yanqui imperialism is occupied by European imperialism.

Balance sheet

The summit showed Bush's international weakness. Kirchner, who sought to seek shelter under the wings of the yanqui president in his negotiations with the IMF, also failed.

But, above all, the summit placed in evidence the insurmountable limitations of bourgeois nationalism and of the center-left, which, in the framework of an exceptional political crisis of the dominant imperialism in the region, are revealed as incapable of providing an independent solution for the continent. On the contrary, their aim is to appear —in the face of the revolutionary tendencies agitating the region-- as the guarantors of the imperialist order.

By Luis Oviedo