Friday, May 31, 2002
"The 48-hour coup": The July World Press Review contains a reprint of an item from The Guardian detailing the back-and-forth within the Venezuelan military that led to the ouster and return of Hugo Chávez.
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Peace talks with ELN off: The government has cut off peace talks with Colombia's second communist guerilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN), reports El Tiempo.
"A peace process without results and without the will of one of the parties...is not viable," concluded (Colombian President Andrés) Pastrana.
"Un proceso de paz sin resultados y sin la voluntad de una de las
The Colombian government has been negotiating with the ELN in Cuba, with Cuban mediation. Colombia's negotiator, Camilo Gómez, said the breakdown occurred because "the ELN would not accept any of the proposals of the government" ("el Eln no aceptó ninguna de las propuestas del Gobierno"), including settling down in specific zones, in order to facilitate international verification.
partes (...) no es viable", finalizó Pastrana.
The ELN decided that it was not able to give up what they call 'military mobility,'" a subject that totally obstructs the truce, because, "one must leave military mobility and commence political mobility," indicated the functionary (Gómez).
“El Eln consideró que no podía perder lo que ellos llaman ‘movilidad militar’”, asunto que entorpece totalmente la tregua, porque “uno tiene que dejar la movilidad militar y entrar en la movilidad política”, aseguró el funcionario.In addition, reports El Espectador, the ELN wanted $40 million to support 10,000 guerillas during the truce. No surprise here. They are communists, after all.
Here's is the ELN's homepage.
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Voter turnout declining:
This week's headlines about the sweeping election victory of Colombia's president-elect, Alvaro Uribe, overshadowed a little-noticed but troubling fact: It confirmed a growing Latin American trend toward voter apathy.Or did it? The Miami Herald's columnist Andres Oppenheimer considers the question.
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U.S. AND LATIN AMERICA
Leading by example: In today's "Americas" column in The Wall Street Journal (sorry, no link), Santiago Millan, the former chief Latin America economist for HSBC, warns of a dangerous turn toward protectionism, populism and economic nationalism in Latin America. Encouraging the new direction, he says, is the U.S., whose own protectionist policies justify, excuse and encourage Latin opponents of trade, globalization and economic freedom. This wouldn't be the first time the U.S. made this mistake, Millan says: In 1930 the U.S. adopted the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, raising taxes on imported goods, in an attempt to revitalize domestic industry by eliminating foreign competition. In response, countries all over the world did the same and world trade collapsed.
In 1930 and the year following, 12 Latin American countries changed governments, 10 by military coup. Some of the governments were replaced by left-wing regimes, while others fell to the right. But there was one thing in common: Latin America's new leadership was nationalist and populist.If this kind of destruction can't occur so easily today by military coups (Venezuela, perhaps, will be an exception), it can still occur by the ballot box. A populist was elected in Venezuela in 1998; a self-described socialist is way ahead in Brazilian presidential polls; Argentina's next elections--early or not--are likely to strengthen the anti-market left.
More than a half a century of misguided policies has created economies dramatically unprepared to compete in today's global economy. Latin America's exports have little value-added and are among the world's smallest...with respect to the size of the economies...Only Chile, which began unilaterally opening its own markets in the 1970s, and continues today, has a robust export market and steady prospects for growth.Latin America's economic malaise is only bad news for the U.S. and the world. Prosperity south of the border would greatly expand markets for U.S. products and allow for the U.S. economy to add value where it is most efficient, increasing the wealfare of all...
In the U.S., as in the rest of the world, the recent economic downturn has heightened calls for protection from sectors of the economy that are far from competitive...
Further moves toward protectionism in the U.S. only risk more backlash from its neighbors and inspire anti-American sentiment. The Bush administration can help prevent another era of economic nationalism in this hemisphere and the world with leadership by example....Otherwise, it's deja vu all over again.
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Thursday, May 30, 2002
Economic subversion law repealed: Last week the National Assembly refused to repeal the law of economic subversion, this week the Senate reversed that decision, reports La Nacion. Passed while the military was fighting urban guerillas in the 1970s, this law has been used against bankers and businessmen accused of such things as facilitating the movement of capital off-shore. Repeal is a key demand of the IMF.
In an agonizing vote, and after several hours of tension and uncertainty, the Senate approved this afternoon the repeal of the law of economic subversion, that was demanded on the insistence of the IMF and the government of Eduardo Duhalde.
The Justicialist (Peronist) Party harvested 34 votes, while the opposition totalled 34 votes consisting of the Radicals, provincial parties, 8 PJ dissidents and one a provincial party, which obliged the President of the Senate Juan Carlos Maqueda to break the tie.
The fate of the voting stayed definitively sealed in favor of the government thanks to what the Radical senator for Río Negro Amanda Isidori, announced that she would withdraw from the arena in order to comply with a request of her governor, Pablo Verani.
En una agónica votación, y después de varias horas de mucha tensión e incertidumbre, el Senado aprobó esta tarde la derogación de la ley de subversión económica, que reclamaba con insistencia el FMI y el gobierno de Eduardo Duhalde.
This is a big victory for Duhalde, but still a tactical one. Defeat meant disaster, with resignation following quickly. Still, Duhalde has more to do before an agreement with the IMF can be signed, bringing the promise of aid. Then he faces his biggest problem: what to do when IMF aid causes little or no immediate improvement. After putting so much effort and doing so much damage to get aid, the letdown will be enormous.
El justicialismo cosechó 34 sufragios, mientras que la oposición sumó 34 votos conformados por el radicalismo, partidos provinciales, 8 disidentes del PJ y uno de un partido provincial, lo cual obligó a desempatar al presidente del Senado Juan Carlos Maqueda.
La suerte de la votación quedó definitivamente sellada a favor del oficialismo gracias a que la senadora radical por Río Negro Amanda Isidori, anunció que se retiraría del recinto para cumplir con un pedido de su gobernador, Pablo Verani.
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Agricultural prospects: Argentina's economic and financial turmoil has not, and will not, be good for agriculture, says AgReportEnglish.
According to the report presented by Reinaldo Muñoz, an expert with Argentine agricultural organization INTA--Department of Social and Economic Studies, located in the city of Pergamino, "The Argentine role in the exportation market will be threatened because of a simple fact: lower production implicates lower exportations."
As it seems, the devaluation of the local currency (the Argentine peso) and its announced reactivating power for exportations, could not counteract the negative effects of the current economic crisis, and producers will feel the consequences when evaluating what and when to sow.
Meanwhile, USDA technicians also considered a depressed scenario and projected that the national production of wheat and corn will reach 16.5 and 11 million tons, respectively.
If these estimates are reached, the lack of liquidity of national economy will not be reverted. This year, the main source of income for Argentina will be centered on the dollars obtained from sales to foreign countries. If exportations fall, the consequences will be very harsh for the national economy in general, not only for agricultural producers.
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Military ferment: Economic troubles aren't the only problems Hugo Chávez faces. The Venezuelan military remains divided, discontented and capable of trying to overthrow him, according to an extended analysis in the Financial Times. One of the major causes of continued dissention, paradoxically, is Chávez's effort to ensure loyalty by promoting loyalists.
Army generals and navy vice-admirals deemed to be anti-Chávez or "institutional" have been replaced by colonels and navy captains seen as loyalists - a process that led to two reported incidents of insubordination this month. Tensions could explode in July, analysts fear, when annual promotions are scheduled.
Several quick points:
"Chávez has to tread very lightly. He might gain a better position in the short term, but in the longer term foment resentment that could lead to his downfall," says Colonel Joe Nuñez, a professor of national security and strategy at the US Army War College.
Military sources say the purge is shifting the balance of sentiment among middle-ranking officers against discredited generals that remain in the reshuffled military high command.
* Among those predicting an early second coup, John Sweeney of Stratfor, the private intelligence provider, who says he has seen proof the snipers who fired on demonstrators on April 11 were Chávez loyalists.
* Analysts regularly point to Chile, in 1973, as precedent in suggesting that a follow-up coup can succeed after an initial coup fails.
* A follow-up coup, if there is one, would likely be more violent.
* A successful anti-Chávez coup might be in the best interest of...Chávez. Why? Others, not he, would have to deal with the economic mess he made. Others would have to cope with Bolivarian Circles. He could look forward to a triumphant return some day. Think Peron.
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Economic adjustment plan coming: El Universal reports that the government is reviewing a new economic plan.
The government wants to stabilize its finances in order to cover a deficit of around $7 or $8 billion; moreover, to adopt measures to reactivate the economy that fall 4.2 per cent during the first quarter of the year.
El Gobierno deberá equilibrar sus finanzas para cubrir un déficit que se ubica entre 7 y 8 millardos de dólares; además, espera adoptar medidas para reactivar la economía que cayó 4,2 por ciento durante el primer trimestre del año.Government ministers involved in developing the plan spoke on the plan, in a very conciliatory manner, as quoted in a second article in El Universal:
Felipe Pérez, planning minister: We have been working in a coordinated manner. "There is room for consensus because there are known theories and practical realities.
"The doctrine this government proclaims is a doctrine that has been applied with success in the European countries during the post-war and explains the economic miracle of South East Asia."
"We are in a very difficult situation and the only way out is to obtain the support of all Venezuelans."
"The Middle class and the businessmen need to play a very important role in the construction of what we want to make. The private sector that is open to debate this proposal from here on, we will be able to arrive at a consensus. We are going to make an appeal to their understanding and good sense."
Felipe Pérez, ministro de planificación: 'Hemos estados trabajando de manera conjunta. Hay espacio para un consenso porque hay conocimientos teóricos y realidades prácticas"
This almost pleading discourse stands in stark contrast with Hugo Chávez's usual bullying. This government is in economic trouble, and at least some officials know it. Still, few in the middle class and business community are likely to believe that Felipe Pérez, not Hugo Chávez, expresses the nature soul of this government.
'La doctrina que pregona este gobierno es una doctrina que ha sido aplicada con éxito en los países europeos después de la postguerra y explica el milagro de la economía del sudeste asiático'
'Estamos en una situación muy difícil y la única forma de salir es lograr todas la voluntades de los venezolanos' 'La clase media y los empresarios deben jugar un papel muy importante en la construcción de lo que queremos hacer. El sector privado que se abra el debate a partir de esta propuesta y podamos llegar a un consenso. Venimos a hacer un llamado a la comprensión y a la sensatez'.
One minister, in a comment, hit on an important, underlying attitudinal problem:
Tobías Nóbrega, finance minister: "In Venezuela always we have lived with the illusion that oil revenues will always save our life."
Tobías Nóbrega, ministro de finanzas: "En Venezuela siempre hemos vivido bajo la ilusión de que el ingreso petrolero siempre nos salva la vida".Bloomberg.com reports that the plan will include increasing the value-added tax from 14.5 to 15.5 per cent and a financial transaction tax from .75 per cent to 1 per cent.
The proposed economic adjustment program is not a solution to Venezuela's economic problems. It could help the country cope, while problems are dealt with in a more fundamental way. This is not a probable outcome, given Hugo Chávez's stated belief that free-market capitalism ("neo-liberalism") is "the road to hell" (El Sur) .
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Cheating: Venezuela is exceeding its OPEC production target, reports Bloomberg.com
"Traders suspect that President Chavez is trying to bolster oil revenues to underpin his fragile hold on the country,'' said Lawrence Eagles, an analyst at GNI Ltd.Venezuela increased shipments by 200,000 barrels a day in May, to 2.68 million barrels. This is 7.3 percent more than its OPEC target, Bloomberg reports, citing Conrad Gerber of PetroLogistics Ltd., which tracks oil shipments. Ali Rodriguez, the head of Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), Venezuela's state oil company, denied that the country is breaking its quota.
Meanwhile, El Nacional reports that Cuba has not been receiving Venezuelan oil since about the time of the temporary ouster of Hugo Chávez. The Cuban government denies shipments were halted for non-payment. Cuba is supposed to buy Venezuelan oil at market rates but with concessionary terms, under a contract signed in October 2000.
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Bush: "Viva Cuba Libre": Columnist Jeff Jacoby reviews George W. Bush's speech on the anniversary of Cuban independence, and its critics, in the Boston Globe. He finds Bush inspiring, his critics shallow and mercenary.
President Bush spoke out in support of a nation suffering under tyranny. He declared that its people are entitled to liberty, democracy, and dignity, and he condemned the dictator ''who jails and tortures and exiles his political opponents.'' He called for free elections and free speech. And he promised that the United States would continue to press this odious regime to ''finally begin respecting the human rights of its people.'' In response,
Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota sneered that the president's stand was ''driven by politics, not policy.'' USA Today brushed it off as ''an anachronistic failure'' and even pooh-poohed Bush's proposal to direct more philanthropic and educational aid to Cuban citizens. Over at the Council on Foreign Relations, a font of conventional wisdom, Walter Russell Mead poured scorn on a ''do-nothing speech'' that was ''not ... very convincing or effective.''So, what's going on? Jacoby thinks money: He recalls a congressional Cuba Working Group press conference just before Bush's speech:
Oh, there was a passing reference now and then to democracy or human rights, but on the whole the Cuba Working Group seemed to get passionate only when the topic turned to the quantities of dried beans and chicken legs that Cuba is supposedly keen to import.So, Jacoby questioned Rep. Jim McGovern, one of its members from Massachusetts, who said promotion of democracy and human rights was fundamental to the group.
Perhaps so. But while he and his colleagues persist in talking about the embargo, Bush is reminding the world that the real issue is freedom. The polestar of his Cuba policy is liberty, not chicken legs. When the Cuban people are free at last, they will not forget his steadfastness.The text of Bush's speech is available from the White House website.
The members of the Cuba Working Group are:
William Delahunt - MA,
Tim Roemer - IN,
Neil Abercrombie - HI,
Howard Berman - CA,
Marion Berry - AR,
William Clay - MO,
Peter DeFazio - OR,
Sam Farr - CA,
Nick Lampson - TX,
Stephen Lynch - MA,
Jim McGovern - MA,
Collin Peterson - MN,
Charles Rangel - NY,
Vic Snyder - AR,
Hilda Solis - CA,
Mike Thompson - CA,
Charlie Stenholm - TX,
Mike Ross - AR,
Cal Dooley - CA,
John Tanner - TN;
George Nethercutt- WA,
Jo Ann Emerson - MO,
Jeff Flake - AZ,
John Boozman - AR,
Kevin Brady - TX,
Ray LaHood - IL,
Jim Leach - IA,
Jerry Moran - KS,
Tom Osborne - NE,
Butch Otter - ID,
Ron Paul - TX,
Jim Ramstad - MN,
Dennis Rehberg - MT,
Chris Shays - CT,
Nick Smith - MI,
John Thune - SD,
Wally Herger - CA,
Sam Graves - MO,
Tim Johnson - IL,
John Shimkus - IL.
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Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Market-oriented pension reform: Mexico seems likely to approve a major pension intended to improve participants' returns and to spread an investment culture. The reforms, which are about to be voted on by Mexico's lower house and will be considered by the Senate in July, are thoroughly reviewed in The Financial Times.
Understanding of pensions is still low. Many savers were burnt by the last financial crisis and do not trust providers. "More than 90 per cent of people don't know how much they are paying or what they are getting in interest," said Gerardo Serrador, head of marketing for Banco Santander Mexicano, one of the most successful Afores (approved pension plans). "It's a problem of culture. Right now, people think that this is money they will never see again."
Now, regulators want to move Afores towards the investment freedom enjoyed by 401(k) pension plans in the US, which can invest in an almost unfettered range of securities, but will continue to move slowly. Thus the bar on Afores investing in equities will stay in place, for now.
Aggressive rules to protect the consumer will be strengthened. Unlike in the US, where 401(k) providers make their pitch to corporate treasurers and human resources departments, who then allow one provider to offer pensions to all their employees, Mexico requires pension plans to market direct to employees.Strong, pension systems with broad participation serve two important purposes in countries like Mexico that are approaching membership in the first world. First, they stabilize politics; people with ownership through pension systems are less likely to respond favorably to the politics of confiscation and redistribution. Second, they are a necessary precondition for population stabilization; the pension instead of children provide for old age.
Given the success of Mexico and Chile (see post just below), Latin American governments should be sending delegation after delegation to learn how its done. Instead, major countries remain in thrall to a dead fascist (Argentina), a bearded thug (Venezuela; Cuba knows better) and a member of the generation of '68, who's learned nothing since (Brazil), or are held hostage by communist--amazingly, people still believe in it--guerillas (Colombia). A lot of the problem stems from Europe and the United States, where the chattering classes still peddle populist nostrums and from where Sandalistas still trek in to support the worst political elements and governmental and non-governmental organizations alike excuse abject failure and stupid brutality--providing they are done by the left.
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Chilean Champion: This week's Latin Business Chronicle reviews South America's success story.
Amidst political and economic uncertainty in Latin America, Chile continues to be a Latin American business superstar. "Its strength and attractiveness lie not in its size (population of 15 million people), but in the energy and professionalism of its entrepreneurs, the transparency of its regulation, and the predictability of its decision-makers," the U.S. Department of Commerce says in its 2002 country report on Chile.The Chronicle finds little about Chile with which to quarrel, except the country's high marginal income tax rate. Otherwise,
Chile's economy, the sixth-largest in Latin America, grew an annual average of 5.7 percent in the ten-year period 1992-2001. This year, GDP is expected to grow by 3 percent and twice that next year, predicts the International Monetary Fund.
Much needed, however, according to the Chronicle is a free trade agreement with the United States, like that Chile just signed with the European Union. The publication indicates that the fault for failure to achieve such an agreement--promised by President Bill Clinton in 1994--lies squarely with the United States.
"Market-led reforms over 25 years and an increasingly diversified economy with strong ties to buyers and suppliers in the Americas, Europe and Asia have given Chile a wide range of options for further growth," the U.S. Commerce Department says in its report. "Prudent economic policy-making has secured long-term stability unknown elsewhere in Latin America."
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Denials: Defense Minister Lucas Rincón Romero has denied that Chávez supporters, led by former police intelligence official Eliézer Otaiza, shot into protesting crowds during April 11 anti-government demonstrations, reports El Universal.
Rincón affirmed that these officials were not found in the country during the events of April 11. It is the answer that Otaiza is giving to the television channels where these officials are tied to the activity that they were not found here, they were out of the country." Also he affirmed that proof exists that can clarify such an assertion.
For his part, Tarek William Saab (a leader of Chávez's party in the legislature) also spoke on the report of the U.S. firm Stratfor that related some members of the government with the snipers of April. The member of parliament said that he gives it no credibility because the author is a member of a private firm that, hypothetically, works for foreign intelligence organizations.
"Rincón afirmó que estos oficiales no se encontraban en el país durante los sucesos del 11 A. ''Es una respuesta que está dando Otaiza en los canales de televisión donde se menciona a estos oficiales que están ligando a la actividad que se realizó el día 11 de abril, y resulta que estos oficiales no se encontraban aquí, ellos estaban en el exterior''. También aseguró que existen pruebas que pueden aclarar tal aseveración.
It is important to note that this story has not been picked up beyond El Universal and Bloomberg.com, including in the other papers in Caracas or neighboring Colombia. It is also important to note that Stratfor is a recognized private provider of global intelligence.
A su vez, Tarek William Saab se pronunció sobre el informe de la firma estadounidense Stratfor que relaciona a algunos miembros del Gobierno con los francotiradores de abril. El parlamentario dijo que no le da credibilidad porque incumbe a una empresa privada que, hipotéticamente, trabaja para organismos de inteligencia extranjeros.
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Tuesday, May 28, 2002
4/11 snipers Chávez allies: El Universal has a lengthy report on the report that the April 11 snipers were allies of President Hugo Chávez (see also post immediately below). Among other things, the paper names names:
Sweeney (the Stratfor analyst making the charge) said to the emissary of Union Radio that the officials (shooters) are the major Adilán Díaz, the police inspector Rodríguez Orta, the major Suárez Chourio and the lieutenant colonel Alejandro Maya Silva.
The reporter said his confidence in his sources is 99.9 per cent. He was said to be investigating the possibility that other snipers were linked to Pérez Recao. "What are clearly identified are these men directed by Otaiza," said the emissary.
In accord with the information provided by the reporter, the proofs include tape recordings that reveal that the officials are shooting actively.
He assured that tape and documentary proofs exist. "The government has known of the existence of this operation since almost six weeks ago and has not wanted to respond and to bring it to light.
The reporter said that these officials are not institutional military, but "persons that were carried away by some political ideology and other reasons. It have this confirmed by five distinct sources, none of which are familiar with each other. I have direct knowledge that there exists a tape recorcing confirming it in all respects.
Sweeney assured that he has conversed "with security officials of the government who are directly familiar with these officials and have recognized the voices on the tape recordings, have trained with them. But I have not wanted to bring this to light publicly in order to protect the life of these persons. Their own government has wanted to conceal it," he explained.
Sweeney did not know if there some of these officers were linked with the Bolivarian Circles. "The truth is that no, I don't believe that this exists. Although evidently Otaiza recognized in a interview that when when he passed through the DISIP (political police) he used this body to recruit young national university students, something that is not a function of the DISIP."
For his part, Otaiza admitted that he is familiar with the officials named in the report, but accused Sweeney of working indirectly for the CIA. He said that "this enterprise (Stratfor), supposedly private, reproduced intelligence analysis after the 16th of April, has had two or three reports. The purpose of these is to wash the face of the American government."
To this defense of Otiaza's, Sweeney said that "Otiaza is a liar, ignorant and poorly informed. I have not seen proof that implicates the CIA and the government of the United States in the events. Although I recognize that the acts of some officials of the Department of State were imprudent and incompetent to issue declarations during these days, without knowing exactly what was occurring in Caracas."
Sweeney dijo a la emisora Unión Radio que los funcionarios son el mayor Adilán Díaz, el comisario Rodríguez Orta, el mayor Suárez Chourio y el teniente coronel Alejandro Maya Silva.
Meanwhile, El Mundo reports that the official investigation is languishing for lack of money.
El periodista dijo confiar en la veracidad de sus fuentes en un 99,9 por ciento. Dijo estar investigando la posibilidad de que otros francotiradores estuvieran ligados a Pérez Recao. "Los que están plenamente identificados son estos hombres manejados por Otaiza", dijo a la emisora.
De acuerdo a la información manejada por el periodista, las pruebas incluyen grabaciones donde se revela que los funcionarios estaban disparando activamente.
Aseguró que existen pruebas grabadas y documentos. "El Gobierno ha sabido de la existencia de esta operación desde hace casi seis semanas y no han querido responder y sacar a la luz pública".
El periodista dijo que estos funcionarios no son militares institucionales, sino "personas que se han dejado llevar por alguna ideología política y algunas otras razones. Tengo esto confirmado de cinco fuentes distintas, ninguna de las cuales se conocen entre sí. Tengo conocimiento directo de que sí existe una grabación al respecto confirmándolo".
Sweeney asegura haber conversado "con funcionarios de seguridad del Gobierno que conocen a estos funcionarios directamente y han reconocido las voces de las grabaciones, han entrenado con ellos. Pero no se ha querido sacar esto a la luz pública para proteger la vida de estas personas. El propio Gobierno lo ha querido esconder", explicó.
Sweeney desconoce si hay algún vínculo de estos funcionarios con los círculos bolivarianos. "La verdad que no, no creo que lo estén. Aunque evidentemente Otaiza reconoció en una entrevista que cuando pasó por la Disip utilizó ese cuerpo para reclutar a jóvenes de las universidades nacionales, cosa que no es función de la Disip".
Por su parte, Otaiza reconoció que conoce a los funcionarios indicados en el informe, pero acusó a Sweeney de trabajar indirectamente para la CIA. Dijo que "esa empresa, supuestamente privada, que reproduce análisis de inteligencia desde el 16 de abril, ha hecho dos o tres informes. El primero de ellos lo hizo tratando de lavarle la cara al gobierno americano".
A la defensa de Otaiza, Sweeney dijo que "Otaiza es un mentiroso, ignorante y mal informado. No he visto pruebas que comprometan a la CIA y al gobierno de los Estados Unidos en los hechos. Aunque sí reconozco que las acciones de algunos funcionarios del Departamento de Estado fueron imprudentes e incompetentes al emitir declaraciones durante esos días, sin saber bien lo que estaba aconteciendo en Caracas".
The three delegates designated by the Ministerio Publico to supervise the investigation intended to explain the deaths and the violent events that occurred between the 11th and the 14th of April, approached the Minister of the Interior and Justice and the Fiscalía General (Attorney General), with the purpose of soliciting more resources for the officials that are investigating the assassinations that occurred between the Avenue Baralt and Puente LLaguno.
The commission, composed of the ex-director general of the Defensoría del Pueblo, Juan Navarrete, and the priests Juan Vives Suria and Ignacio Arrieta, have evidence that the officers of the División contra Homicidios del Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas Penales y Criminalísticas are working in reduced circumstances, without space to take declarations from the witnesses who appear.
The agents informed the delegates that they don't possess sufficient vehicles to perform their duties, nor the equipment needed to make rigorous ballistic tests. Equally, the lack of air conditioning in the laboratories has made the investigations difficult as a special microscope cannot be used.
Los tres delegados que designó el Ministerio Público para supervisar las averiguaciones destinadas a esclarecer las muertes y los hechos de violencia ocurridos entre el 11 y el 14 de abril, acudirán al Ministerio del Interior y Justicia y a la Fiscalía General, con el propósito de solicitar mayores recursos a los funcionarios que investigan los asesinatos ocurridos entre la avenida Baralt y Puente Llaguno.
La comisión, integrada por el ex director general de la Defensoría del Pueblo, Juan Navarrete, y los sacerdotes Juan Vives Suria e Ignacio Arrieta, consta tó que los efectivos de la División contra Homicidios del Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas Penales y Criminalísticas trabajan en un sitio reducido, sin espacio para tomar las declaraciones a los testigos que acuden a diario a dicha sede.
Los agentes informaron a los delegados que no poseen vehículos suficientes para realizar las diligencias, ni los equipos necesarios para realizar las experticias balísticas de rigor. Igualmente, la falta de aire acondicionado en los laboratorios ha dificultado las investigaciones al no poderse utilizar un mi croscopio especial.
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Chávez allies shot protestors: Bloomberg.com reports that it was allies of President Hugo Chávez who shot and killed protestors during demonstrations on April 11, leading to the short-lived ouster of Chávez. Bloomberg copies a Union Radio report, which cites an analyst with Stratfor.com (a pricey subscription required for most information).
Five employees at the country's state security office confirmed the existence of a tape proving the men were pro-government military officers and police personnel coordinated by Eliezer Otaiza, the former head of Venezuela's intelligence-gathering police, John Sweeney, an analyst at the Austin, Texas-based company said in a radio interview.
The government has supposedly been investigating the sniper shootings since the event. The opposition is unimpressed with the results.
"I've seen transcripts of the tape,'' Sweeney said. "The government has known of this operation for six weeks and has tried to hide it.'
Otaiza said in a radio interview that "a sector'' of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was behind the killings.Now, that is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
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Go it alone: Martin Feldstein, Harvard professor and chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors, believes Argentina doesn't need the IMF, he writes in an op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal (no link).
Much of the press commentary and policy discussion assumes that Argentina desperately needs outside funding and that such fund would have a substantially favorable effect on the outlook for the Argentine economy. I disagree. I can see no way in which an IMF loan of $10 billion--the amount that is widely mooted--would help Argentina deal with its fundamental problems or its short-term crisis.
Feldstein believes that the IMF's practice of contitioning aid on the adoption of certain policies damages Argentina, as well. He doesn't believe the IMF recommendations always make sense. And even when they do, he says, conditioning IMF aide on agreeing with IMF conditions weakens the public's confidence in their own government and the public's support for whatever measures are taken. It would be much better, he says, for Argentines to work things out for themselves.
If there is no good economic reason for the IMF to lend money to Argentina, why is it so eager to do so? One reason is that Argentina has interest and principal payments of $4.9 billion that are due to the IMF this year. By withholding that amount from any gross loan that it now makes, the IMF could maintain the fiction that its borrowers do not default on their loans...Since lending just $5 billion to Argentina wouldmake this slight of hand obvious, the IMF wants to lend more. Putting the extra funds into Argentina's central-bank reserves would also make it easier for Argentina to repay the $4.2 billion that is due to the fund in 2003.
. . .
What Uribe is up to: El Tiempo explains why Álvaro Uribe Vélez issued a surprise call for UN-mediated negotiation with the FARC.
The country, accustomed to the strength of the president elect against the guerillas, anticipated hearing him, as president elect, speaking of a strong hand against them.
But this same Sunday they heard him say that he would ask the mediation of the UN for a dialog.
This, analysts say, does not signify a "reversal" in his hard hand.
"He is trying to gain time. He wants to familiarize himself with the position of the FARC before he begins governing, in order to know if he has, or not, to use force," affirmed Fernando Giraldo, dean of the Faculty of Political Science of the University Javeriana.
"If the guerilla accepts the proposal he will gain time. If not, the will be able to say that he extended the hand, that it was not taken and that he has reason to work with force," says Giraldo.
El país, acostumbrado a la dureza del presidente electo con la guerrilla, esperaba oírlo, como presidente electo, hablando de mano firme contra ella.
El Tiempo also reports that the United Nations is studying Uribe's request for mediation.
Pero el mismo domingo lo oyó decir que pediría la mediación de la ONU para un diálogo.
Eso, dicen analistas, no significa un 'reversazo' en su política de mano dura.
"Está tratando de ganar tiempo. Quiere conocer la posición de las Farc antes de comenzar su gobierno, para saber si tiene o no que usar la fuerza", afirma Fernando Giraldo, decano de la Facultad de Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad Javeriana.
"Si la guerrilla acepta la propuesta habrá ganado tiempo. Si no, puede decir que le extendió la mano, que ella no la tomó y que tiene razones para obrar por la fuerza", dice Giraldo.
El Colombiano (Medellin) notes another effect (perhaps intended, perhaps not) of Uribe's proposal--the inclusion of the self-defense forces (autodefensas) in negotiations.
The proposal, that he detailed yester, in his first press conference as president elect, included the AUC (self-defense forces), that until now have been exclused from every peace dialog in Colombia. "With the illegal self-defense forces we are searching for them to compromise to not assassinate one Colombian more, to cease hostilities in order to facilitate a process of conversations with them," he assured.
La propuesta, que detalló ayer, en su primera conferencia de prensa como mandatario electo, incluye a las Auc, que hasta el momento habían sido excluidas de cualquier diálogo de paz en Colombia.
On one level, inclusion of the AUC is obvious and necessary; they are the second largest of three illegal armed forces in the country; it is unreasonable to talk with the other two while refusing to talk with them alone. On the other hand, inclusion of the AUC in talks tends to give it the same status as the other two groups, the FARC and ELN (National Liberation Army). This the international left will find it difficult to abide. Undoubtedly it is this aspect of Uribe's proposal that has the UN saying "it will examine with care and interest the proposal...with respect to the future role of the organization in the new peace efforts" ("examinará con cuidado e interés las propuestas...respecto al futuro papel de la organización en los nuevos esfuerzos de paz"), rather than congratulating Uribe for growing and leaping to accept his invitation.
"Con las autodefensas ilegales buscaremos que se comprometan a no asesinar un colombiano más, a entrar en ese cese de hostilidades para facilitar un proceso de conversaciones con ellos", aseguró.
. . .
Purge protested: Fifteen high military officials publicly protested the possible elimination from the military of officers involved with the brief overthrow of President Hugo Chávez, reports El Nacional. The officers say their cases are being handled administratively, while the national constitution requires that they be judged by the Supreme Court of Justice. Although this is striking--it is not usual to see admirals and generals in full uniform engaged in public protest--this is just a one vignette in an on-going purge, win which Chávez seeks to ensure the loyalty of Venezuela's armed forces.
. . .
Peronist governors meeting: President Edurado Duhalde received the support of the country's Peronist governors yesterday, La Nacion reports. Support came in the form of a reaffirmation of the 14-point agreement of April.
So, Duhalde obtained the political oxyten that was needed to stay in power, after the past week during which he had threatened to resign if he did not receive concrete support from the governors of his party.
Así, Duhalde obtuvo el oxígeno político que necesitaba para mantenerse en el poder, luego de que la semana pasada había amenazado con renunciar si no recibía un apoyo concreto de los gobernadores de su partido.The governors' help also became necessary after the National Assembly defeated one of the IMF's key damands, repeal of the economic subversion law. With the governors backing, it is now more likely that the Senate will reverse the Assembly's action.
With respect to the repeal of the law of economic subversion, Duhalde the governors and the leader of the bloc of Peronist senators, José Luis Gioja, reviewed the numbers needed to approve the law today in the Senate. "We are assured of having the votes of the PJ in the Senate," said (Juan Carlos) Romero (Governor of Salta) to La Nacion.
Respecto de la derogación de la ley de subversión económica, Duhalde, los gobernadores y el jefe del bloque de senadores del PJ, José Luis Gioja, repasaron los números para aprobarla hoy en el Senado. "Tenemos asegurados los votos del PJ en el Senado", dijo Romero a LA NACION.In return, the paper says, the governors asked two things: 1) the national government move quickly to an agreement with the IMF; 2) elections be advanced to March, from September, 2003. Elections for public offices will be preceded, under the agreement reached at this meeting, by internal elections in all parties in October or November of this year. This schedule appears to have been designed to head off growing demand for early elections--from the public and some governors--by creating a series of interim elections that are as far off as possible, without being discouragingly distant. The subject of early elections consumed a great deal of time at the governors' meeting, which is not the best news for Duhalde if he wishes to finish out the term to which he was appointed.
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Monday, May 27, 2002
Magnitude of the disaster: Clarin reported Monday that real pay in Argentina is at the lowest level in the last 50 years. That would be since 1952, just about the time Juan Peron had finished redistributing away the nation's wealth.
With an inflation averaging 21.1%, between January and April, and with a climb of 35.2% in the basic food basket--after severalyears of nominal deflation in salaries--specialists admit that the real salaries of Argentine workers is found in reality at the lowest point in the last 50 years.
Con una inflación promedio del 21,1% entre enero y abril, y con una suba del 35,2% en la canasta básica de alimentos--tras varios años de deflación nominal en los sueldos--los especialistas admiten que el salario real de los trabajadores argentinos se encuentra en la actualidad en el punto más bajo de los últimos 50 años.In detail:
The average real monthly salary is 535 pesos. But in October is was 570 pesos. Due to price increases, this does not have the same purchasing powr as before: Between October and April average inflation was 20%. That is to say that in order to purchase the same as six months ago, today the average salary would have to be 684 pesos. If one considers only the basket of basic foods and services for lower income people, inflation was 30%, with which the 570 pesos of October would be equivalent today to 741 pesos. So in order to have the same real salary as in October, one would have to increase salaries 38.5%.
"A devaluation of this magnitude with high unemployment, provokes a very rapid fall in salaries. Already last year in the private sector there has been a fall of the nominal salary, on average of 5%, to which is added the reduction of extra hours, premiums and allowances," admitted Ernesto Kritz, of the Society of Labor Studies. And he added: "Now, due to the increase of prices, the fall in the real salary is about 30%. The intensity of pay deterioration is greater than in the hyperinflation of 1989 because of the meagre negotiating ability of the worker because of high unemployment."
El sueldo promedio actual es de 535 pesos mensuales . Pero en octubre estaba en 570 pesos. Por el aumento de precios, esa suma hoy no tiene el mismo poder de compra que antes: entre octubre de 2001 y abril la inflación promedio fue del 20%. Es decir que para comprar lo mismo que 6 meses atrás, hoy el sueldo promedio debería situarse en 684 pesos. Si se considera sólo la canasta básica de alimentos y servicios de la gente de menos recursos, la inflación fue del 30%, con lo que los 570 pesos de octubre equivaldrían hoy a 741 pesos. Así para tener el mismo salario real que en octubre, habría que aumentar un 38,5% los sueldos.
"Una devaluación de la magnitud de la actual con alto desempleo, provoca una caída muy rápida del salario. Ya el año pasado en el sector privado hubo una baja del salario nominal, en promedio del 5%, a lo que se agregó la reducción de horas extras, premios y bonificaciones", admite Ernesto Kritz, de la Sociedad de Estudios Laborales. Y agrega: "Ahora, por la suba de los precios, la caída real salarial es del 30% . La intensidad del deterioro salarial es superior a la de la hiperinflación de 1989 por la escasa capacidad de negociación del trabajador por el alto desempleo".
. . .
Carmona to exile: El Nacional reports that Hugo Chávez has agreed to let Pedro Carmona, the short-lived interim president, go into exile in Colombia. Carmona will be assured safe conduct from the Colombian embassy in Caracas to Bogata. The circumstances of Carmona's decision to seek asylum in the embassy were noted on Thursday, May 23, in El Sur.
El Nacional also reports that an admiral involved in the attempted ouster of Hugo Chávez has sought asylum in the El Salvador embassy.
. . .
Uribe victory roundup: Links to various articles on the presidential election victory of Alvaro Uribe Vélez, who vowed to fight communist guerillas and who survived three assassination attempts:
* The Miami Herald;
* Washington Post;
* El Espectador:
The legitimacy achieved in the ballot box by Uribe is simply the result of his political strategy, which consisted of proposing as priorities thost things that citizens believe are necessary: peace security and development.
* Diario El Pais (Cali): In something of a surprise,
The president elect should know that the social and political situation, his electoral legitimacy and promises made during the campaign, give him paradoxically, a narrow time period in which to maneuver. The guerilla and the paramilitaries are not designing for him an idyllic rustic scene.
La legitimidad lograda en las urnas por Uribe es sencillamente el resultado de su estrategia política, la cual consistió en proponer prioritariamente aquello que los ciudadanos creen necesitar: paz, seguridad y desarrollo.
El Presidente electo debe saber que la situación social y política, su legitimidad electoral y las promesas hechas durante la campaña, le dan paradójicamente un margen de maniobra estrecho en el tiempo. La guerrilla y los paramilitares no le diseñan un panorama folclórico.;
The president elect of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, said today that he will seek to reestablish a dialog witht he guerilla groups with mediation of the United Nations, United States, European Union and neighboring countires.
In this proposal the role of the United Nations will be "fundamental," Uribe stated, when he declared on Radio Bogata "RCN" that the government will formally ask the international organization that it mediate in the almost 40-year old armed conflict.
The president elect admitted that on Sunday evening he presented the initiative to the deputies of the European Parlaiment that acted as observers of the Colombian electora process and that he then visited them in the hotel in central Bogotá that housed his political campaign.
El presidente electo de Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, dijo hoy que buscará el restablecimiento del diálogo con los grupos guerrilleros por mediación de la ONU, Estados Unidos, la Unión Europea (UE) y los países vecinos.
En este propósito será "fundamental" el papel de Naciones Unidas, precisó Uribe, quien declaró a la radio bogotana "RCN" que su gobierno pedirá formalmente al organismo internacional que asuma la mediación en el conflicto armado interno de casi cuarenta años. El presidente electo agregó que el domingo por la noche presentó los alcances de la iniciativa a los diputados del Parlamento Europeo (UE) que actuaron como observadores del proceso electoral colombiano y que entonces le visitaron en el hotel del centro de Bogotá que concentró su campaña política.
* Bloomberg.com also notes Uribe's willingness to negotiate.
. . .
Sunday, May 26, 2002
Deadbeat dad: Hugo Chávez sees Fidel Castro as a mentor and friend, a father figure, perhaps. Because of their friendship, Chávez has had the Venezuelan state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), sell oil to Cuba at concessionary rates. Recently, in something of a mystery, Venezuelan shipments stopped. Saturday's Miami Herald explains why. Cuba isn't paying.
. . .
Sophist to the rescue: Blogger T.L. Wilson, an American in the Paris of South America, reports that U.S. economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has published just in time (Washington Post, Sunday, May 12, 2002) to rescue Argentina's politicos from change.
To the surprise and delight of Argentina's politicians the economist J. Stiglitz has absolved them of any responsibility for the mess that the country is in.
Wilson says: Nonsense:
Even before Mr. Stiglitz begins his article one finds two huge fallacies: (1) Argentina was not shortchanged. It received huge sums of money. (2) Argentina did not follow the rules. He goes on to quote extensively from the Buenos Aires Herald's deconstruction of Stiglitz piece, which he finds much more persuasive than Stiglitz. From the Herald:
In a sense though Stiglitz is right: there can be no doubt that the IMF has made a big contribution to Argentina's plight. It has done so not because it was too permissive when it should have been severe, because its recommendations have been woefully wrongheaded or excessively inhuman but just by being there. The notion, encouraged by people like Stiglitz, that when all is said and done the IMF is responsible for the fate of ramshackle economies like Argentina's has been so widespread here for so long that most politicians have forgotten that in the last resort almost everything depends on them. The very words used both by critics and supporters of whatever government happens to be in power show just how strong their fixation with the IMF is. Like schoolboys, they talk of doing their homework or, when they fail to do that, of bamboozling teacher by cheating and then attributing their misdeeds to dad being out of work and mum is a bit too fond of the gin.On becoming president in January, Duhalde said that Argentina was seeking $20 to $25 billion in new loans; more recently a figure of around $8 billion and $9 billion has come into common use. Argentina will almost certainly get some money. Recently, Argentina was allowed to defer a $130 million loan payment, because this is in the IMF's own interest; either the IMF rolls these payments into new loans, or it recognizes them as bad loans, which it doesn't want to do.
But amounts of this size do Argentina little good. Even if Duhalde got the $20-25 billion he requested, it would only add to the $140 billion the country already owes and can't pay. Worse, it would be a fraction of the amount destroyed since the first of the year. At the end of January, economist Steve Hanke estimated that government actions had already destroyed between $54.4 and $90 billion in accumulated capital (for details and a link,see El Sur). The total capital destroyed is today almost certainly a multiple of that. To repeat, the government of Argentina has managed to destroy more of the country's owned capital in this year to obtain a loan than the face amount of the loan. This is truly bad policy.
In Wilson's view,
Argentina was shortchanged... but not by the IMF. The country needs to accomplish many things in order to put itself on the path of joining the first world. Chief among them:
* It needs to reform the justice system so that it is truely just.
* It needs to create an independent financial entity.
* It needs to reform the electoral system so that some of Argentina's best and brightest are enticed into public service and so that the average Argentine feels represented in the Capitol.
* It needs to reform the tax laws so that taxes are equitable and collectible.
* It needs to reform property laws so that both real and intellectual property rights are respected.
. . .
Uribe wins Álvaro Uribe Vélez was elected the new president of Colombia, without a runoff, reports El Tiempo.
The sweeping triumph of Uribe validated his proposal of a hard hand to confront the guerillas of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), after the failure of three years of a peace effort by the government of President Andrés Pastrana, which aborted on the 20th of February past.
But moreover, Uribe--who has as his vice president the newspaperman Francisco Santos--has promised a frontal fight against corruption, a problem that undermines Colombia.
El arrollador triunfo de Uribe convalida sus propuestas de mano dura para enfrentar a la guerrilla de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc), después del fracaso de tres años de esfuerzo de paz del gobierno del presidente Andrés Pastrana, que abortó el 20 de febrero pasado.
The paper also noted approvingly that election day came off with few problems.
Pero además Uribe -quien tiene como formula vicepresidencial al periodista Francisco Santos- ha prometido una lucha frontal contra la corrupción, un problema que carcome a Colombia.
The ministerof the interior, Armando Estrada Villa, celebrated that fact that more considerable breaches of the peace had not been presented in the country.
(E)l ministro del Interior, Armando Estrada Villa, celebró que no se hubieran presentado mayores alteraciones considerables del orden público en el país.Apparently there were problems in only 11 municipalities, only five of which impeded the process.
. . .
Saturday, May 25, 2002
Final pre-election poll: El Tiempo's last poll, published election eve, shows Alvaro Uribe maintaining his lead. Uribe has 48.2%, Horacio Serpa has 27.4%. These results are almost unchanged from the previous poll.
. . .
Resign? Who me? Pagina12/WEB reports today that President Duhalde says he never intended to resign and that his allies are minimizing the magnitude of the government's defeat in the National Assembly (see yesterday's Argentina posts).
Throughout all yesterday morning, the ministers repeated without stopping that what happened in the chamber was not a display of presidential weakness. "All is well, those that say this is a defeat for Duhalde are operating against the government," assured a close presidential collaborator.
Durante toda la mañana de ayer, los ministros repitieron sin cesar que lo sucedido en la Cámara no era una muestra de debilitamiento presidencial. "Está todo bien, los que dicen que es una derrota para Duhalde están operando en contra del Gobierno", aseguró un estrecho colaborador presidencial.Ever skeptical, Pagina/12 sees a less rosy scenario:
Duhalde and his people dream, hope, desire and plead that the meeting with the governors will serve to strengthen his administration. Nevertheless, it is much more probable that he will listen to strong recriminations about his insulting coalition with the Buenos Aires Radicals, they will demand of him the breaking of this agreement and better adherence to the decisions that the governors adopt. The President has little margin for error. He has even less to dissemble.
Duhalde y su gente sueñan, esperan, desean y ruegan que el encuentro con los gobernadores sirva para fortalecer su administración. Sin embargo, es mucho más probable que escuche fuertes recriminaciones sobre su tan mentada coalición con los radicales bonaerenses, le exijan la ruptura de ese acuerdo y un mayor encolumnamiento a las decisiones que adopte el pleno de los gobernadores. El Presidente tiene poco margen para evitarlo. Ni siquiera para disimularlo.
. . .
Friday, May 24, 2002
Blejer to leave after all: Pagina12/WEB says that Central Bank President Mario Blejer is going to resign after all. Blejer attempted to resign earlier this week, but agreed to stay for patriotic reasons on President Eduardo Duhalde's personal request. The paper says he will stay about two more weeks. According to the Buenos Aires Herald,
What Blejer's continuation does achieve is to maintain bridges with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for whom he worked during two decades prior to his current post, but if the government sends out the cynical message that they will hang onto Blejer for as long as it takes to sew up an IMF loan and then throw him out along with any promises made, this will do nothing to improve the outside world's tattered confidence in Argentina.Pagina/12 takes the view that Blejer's upcoming departure is just the beginning:
In New York and in Washington, nevertheless, they continue feeling skeptical. Two recognized experts from Wall Street agreed that the most probable scenario is that, behind the departure of Blejer, would follow the chief of state's. And they forsee a quick ending, one that would be produced in the next weeks.
En Nueva York y en Washington, sin embargo, siguen siendo escépticos. Dos reconocidos expertos de Wall Street coincidieron en que el escenario más probable es que detrás de la partida de Blejer sobrevendría la del propio jefe de Estado. Y auguran un desenlace rápido, que se produciría en las próximas semanas.An earlier item from Pagina/12 about Blejer's attempted resignation was noted in El Sur yesterday.
. . .
U.S. AND LATIN AMERICA
Free trade A column in the Financial Times counts the cost of recent U.S. protectionist meaures--steel tarrifs and agricultural subsidies--and finds them primarily political.
Lost export opportunities for competitive agricultural producers like Brazil and Argentina are part of the problem. But the real damage could be political. Whatever the narrow electoral logic, the willingness of Mr Bush to appease the interests of US steelworkers or farmers has done no favours for those Latin American politicians struggling to win popular support for continued trade liberalisation.
"It undermines those who are in favour of open policies because it creates a feeling that the United States preaches one thing and does the opposite," says Rubens Barbosa, Brazil's ambassador in Washington. "Brazil laid off 100,000 steelworkers and now we find the US is taking measures to protect its steel industry. The media, business and the opposition are starting to pick up on this kind of thing."
The outburst of protectionism has been accompanied by what might be described as a kind of malign neglect of the region. In the wake of the September 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, neither the economic melt down in Argentina nor even the political crisis in Venezuela (notwithstanding the controversy surrounding the administration's position during last month's unsuccessful coup against President Hugo Chávez) have excited much interest either within the administration or in congress.With Argentina's government poised for failure, Venezuela's population increasingly polarized, left-right, and Colombia (preparing to ratchet up a war) needing every dollar it can get, the U.S. needs to do everything possible to ensure the economic health of those Latin American countries that haven't succumbed to populism and remain relatively prosperous. That would be Mexico and Chile, principally.
. . .
Post-elections, wider war? Presidential candidate Alvaro Uribe is almost certain to have a big lead over his nearest challenger in Sunday's first round of voting, and may receive the 50 per cent needed to avoid a run-off. In "The Americas" column in today's The Wall Street Journal (no link), Mary Anastasia O'Grady sees Colombia guerilla war widening in two directions, once the election is over.
The first way is into neighboring countries. Already the war has spilled over into Venezuela, Peru and, lately, Brazil, a problem raised recently in The Miami Herald (linked to yesterday by El Sur).
Less obviously, O'Grady expects a renewed assault on the Colombian government from Western apologists for communist terror in the United States and Western Europe. She cites, as an example of what's to come, the reaction among American leftists to killing of 119 civilians by a FARC missile in Bojayá.
One might expect such an atrocity to provoke outrage against the FARC guerillas...But 22 U.S. congressmen--including John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Donald Payne and Carrie Meek--seem to see the incident as a chance to continue prosecuting the Clinton State Department's war against the colombian military, the only protection Colombians have against FARC depredations. During the Clinton years. U.S. policy not only refused to help Colombia make its military more effective, but it pressured the government to remove the institution's best leaders whenever FARC sympathizers made charges against them.
O'Grady points out--also as previously noted in El Sur--that:
Now Mr. Conyers et al have sent a letter to Colombian president Andres Pastrana asking for "explanations" for the military's "lamentable inaction" in the massacre. They also complain that when the military did arrive, it engaged in "indiscriminately bombing," even though only one death was reported.
The United Nations...is making similar noises.This being the case, O'Grady continues:
In running the war, Mr. Uribe will also have to defend against the FARC's propaganda campaign. The military will be under constant international assault from the likes of California Congresswoman Waters--a fan of Fidel Castro and a defender of Lori Berenson, convicted in a Peruvian court of helping "Shining Path" terrorists. The question remains as to whether Mr. uribe is smart enough and tough enough to outfight and outpropagandize the left and keep Colombians united behind the struggle. The Bojayá incident is a good example of the challenges he'll face...
"The Uribe campaign has been inept at dealing with the foreign press. It doesn't return phone calls and has bungled responses to unsubstantiated accusations. If Mr. Uribe is elected he'll have to do better. Othersise, the FARC, with the complicity of the U.S. and Europe, will run the war outside Colombia, and may well defeat him.
. . .
Another believer: Also seeing early elections is bogger T.L. Wilson (treasaigh.com), an American living in Argentina. He says:
The candidates are out of their blocks! Judging by the internet sites that have recently popped up the jockeying has started. He then provides links to several potential candidates. They are believers too.
. . .
Coming apart II: President Eduardo Duhalde's problems continue to multiply. Having just lost a vote to repeal Argentina's law of economic subversion (see immediately preceding post), Duhalde now faces a summit with the Peronist governors on Monday, reports Clarin. The governors quoted by the paper, Juan Carlos Romero of Salta and Felipe Solá of Buenos Aires, expressed support for the government and rejected the possibility of early elections. But what's important is that they found it necessary to reiterate their support--only just given in April, in another summit--and reject early elections.
For his part, the Buenos Aires governor, Felipe Solá, expected that next monday the Peronists will give "their support" to President Eduardo Duhalde, although he recognized that "a difficult moment" will be experienced.
Even as he admitted that possibly, in the meeting in Santa Rosa, the subject of elections will be raised, he said "I believe that this (the decision to advance elections) would not emerge from there."
The governor recognized the demand from a growing part of society since they anticipate presidential elections, but said that those who have the responsibility to govern should weigh if really "this can make things better."
Por su parte, el gobernador bonaerense, Felipe Solá, anticipó que el próximo lunes los mandatarios justicialistas darán "su respaldo" al presidente Eduardo Duhalde, aunque reconoció que éste atraviesa "un momento difícil".
Meanwhile, the interior minister, Jorge Matzkin,
Si bien admitió que posiblemente, en la reunión de Santa Rosa, se hable sobre el tema electoral, dijo que "creo que no saldría de allí" la decisión de adelantar los comicios.
El gobernador reconoció el reclamo de un amplio sector de la sociedad por que se anticipen los comicios presidenciales, pero dijo que quienes tienen la responsabilidad de gobernar deben sopesar si realmente "eso puede mejorar las cosas".
...assured that "in no way" will the meeting President Eduardo Duhalde will have next Monday in La Pampa with the Peronist governors, "convert itself into a Chapadmalal," an allusion to the setback suffered by his predecessor, Adolfo Rodríguez Saa, in this spa, when he was not supported by the leaders and had to resign.
...aseguró que "de ninguna manera" la reunión que el presidente Eduardo Duhalde mantendrá el lunes próximo en La Pampa con los gobernadores justicialistas, se "convertirá en un Chapadmalal", en alusión al revés que sufrió su antecesor, Adolfo Rodríguez Saa, en ese balneario, cuando al no ser respaldado por los mandatarios tuvo que renunciar.Matzkin also told the news agency Télam that Duhalde would not resign. He also told Télam that he expects the Senate to definitively repeal the law of subversion on Tuesday.
. . .
Coming apart: Argentina's National Assembly has defeated a key piece of legislation, reports Bloomberg.com. What the National Assembly rejected is repeal of the law of economic subversion, originally enacted in 1974 as a way of defunding communist urban guerillas, and used since to prosecute--really persecute--bankers and businessmen in order to appease the mob.
Lawmakers instead approved early today an opposition-led proposal that increases penalties and makes it easier to prosecute bankers, businessmen and former government officials for the country's economy crisis. Duhalde threatened to resign if Congress failed to scrap the law or restrict its reach, a condition of IMF aid.According to La Nacion, the defeat surprised Chief of Cabinet Alfredo Atanasof and Interior Minister Jorge Matzkin who came to observe the vote. La Nacion attributes the result to the opposition of UCR (Radical Civic Union) and a bloc of Peronists. Excerpts from the debate:
Margarita Stolbizer (Radical Civic Union, Buenos Aires):
"The road of the executive in responding to the extortion of the IMF is a mistaken direction. Even those who point out in good faith that the law is not for impunity cannot deny the disturbance that this change is generating," she specified.
“El camino del Ejecutivo para responder a la extorsión del FMI es el rumbo equivocado. Incluso quienes plantean de buena fe que la ley no es impunidad no pueden negar la perturbación que genera este cambio”, puntualizó.Mario Cafiero (Alternative for a Republic of Equals, Buenos Aires):
"Today we have the ultimate act of treason to our people and our history," (he added) after reviewing a report that was presented last week about the emptying out of the financial system.
“Hoy hacemos el último acto de traición a nuestro pueblo y a nuestra memoria”, (añadió) después de reiterar un informe que presentó la semana pasada sobre el vaciamiento del sistema financiero.Nilda Garré (FREPASO, Federal Capital):
We are going to vote in favor of legal convictions, but we reject the unfriendly pressure of the IMF, whose motives turn out to be, at least, suspicious."
“Vamos a votar en favor por convicciones legales, pero rechazamos la inamisible presión del FMI, cuyos motivos resultan, por lo menos, sospechosos”.Beyond the left-wing agitprop, politics is central here. President Edurado Duhalde's Peronists lack a majority in the National Assembly. The Peronists have a majority in the upper house, which can reverse the decision. But before they do, they have to worry about the price; the opposition clearly believes scapegoating is a winning strategy in Argentina today.
Facing the government, opposition leaders smell failure and forsee resignation. They clearly believe that, even if they can't stimulate the latter, they can advance the former. Adding political chaos to economic isn't difficult, since Duhalde has made bad economic move after bad economic move since his first day in office.
Since the beginning, Duhalde has been promising an IMF agreement and an infusion of cash, always just about a month or a month and a half in the future. Most recently, the government has been publicly promising an agreement in July. At this point, it seems more likely that there will be a new government by July.
The government, which is spending about 10 percent of its foreign reserves a month to slow the slide of the peso, needs an IMF agreement to restore confidence, analysts said. Duhalde told legislators and provincial governors Wednesday he would quit if Congress failed to meet IMF loan conditions. The government had sought to narrow the definition of the so- called economic subversion law and exclude actions that were deemed negligent or imprudent, as opposed to malicious. Duhalde bet legislators and governors would respond to his threats because they have no candidate to replace him, newspapers said.This becomes a bad bet at the point at which Duhalde threatens to drag his party down with him. Then Peronist party leaders have to consider taking their chances with someone new--and there are ambitious men among the party's governors--while the party retains popular support. The ebb and flow at Duhalde's April summit with the Peronist governors--the search for a replacement for Economic Minister Jorge Remes Lenicov, the cabinet re-shuffle, the week it took--suggests Peronist leaders were already considering their options then. Things are definitely coming to a head in Argentina.
Finally, La Nacion reports that Chief of Cabinet Atanasof denied that Duhalde is considering resigning.
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Thursday, May 23, 2002
Demonstration: Even as police intelligence officers were allowing Pedro Carmona to escape--after the Attorney General (Fiscal General) had requested, and a court had granted, revocation of Carmona's house-arrest privilege--thousands marched to demand the resignation of that self-same Attorney General, Isaías Rodríguez.
Opposition leaders and supporters charge that the Attorney General's investigation of the shootings that took place during anti-Chávez demonstration April 11 is biased, El Nacional reports.
More then 20 groups sponsored the demonstration. Rodríguez said the demonstration was legitimate, but refused to resign.
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Carmona seeks political asylum: Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman who was Venezuela's interim president for less than one weekend in April has taken refuge in the Colombian embassy in Caracas, reports El Universal.
The story in El Nacional contains the following paragraph:
According to declarations of Luis Penzini Fleury, friend of the ex-president of Fedecámaras, a service employee declared that Carmona had been taken from his house, together with his wife and son, by functionaries of the DISIP (Dirección de Servicios de Inteligencia Policial, police intelligence) with the purpose of carrying out an interrogation.
Según declaraciones de Luis Penzini Fleury, amigo del ex presidente de Fedecámaras, una empleada de servicio declaró que Carmona habría sido sacado de su casa, junto a su esposa e hijo, por funcionarios de la Disip con la finalidad de practicarle un interrogatorio.The Yahoo! News - AP story contains this paragraph:
Police vehicles had been posted outside Carmona's apartment building and it was not immediately clear how he escaped.In sequence, it seems likely that the Chávez government pushed Carmona into taking this step, to discredit him and get him out of the way. Consider: Carmona was placed in house arrest on April 16; the prosecuting authorities (Fiscala) just requested the house arrest privilege be revoked (saying, if convicted, Carmona could get 70 years); a Venezuelan appellate court yesterday revoked Carmona's house arrest privilege. Then, instead of taking him into custody and sending him to jail, the police, prosecutors and judicial authorities left him free enough to flee to the Colombian embassy. Very convenient; very suspicious.
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Looking past the election: Will the expected election of Alvaro Uribe bring about a wider war, one that spills over into neighboring countries, asks The Miami Herald?
The answer by most Colombia watchers in the United States is yes. Many predict an intensification of the war no matter who wins in Colombia, or in a second-round election that would be held in June if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote.
But most U.S. analysts I spoke with agree that Uribe's long-overdue military offensive to force the FARC to negotiate a serious peace treaty -- and not fool the government the way it did with Pastrana -- will make things worse before they get better. It will most likely result in an increase of Colombian refugees and a rise in kidnappings, violence and drug production by FARC rebels in neighboring countries, they say.Already, The Heraldsays, there have been FARC incursions into Brazil, Peru and Venezuela. Making things worse, the armies of at least two of these countries, Venezuela and Peru, face major internal political problems. Still,
The Colombian people seem to agree that things may have to worsen in the short run to improve in the long run, and there is no way Colombia's neighbors will escape the consequences.
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Talk of resignation:
1. Is President Eduardo Duhalde thinking of resigning? For the first time since Duhalde took office at the beginning of the year, the press is writing about his possible resignation--and about the denials that immediately follow. There has been talk in the past about elections, especially during the Peronist summit in April. In fact, the threat of early elections was one of the things that brought Argentina's Peronist governors back into line. But resignation is new. In the end, resignation would almost certainly lead to early elections, but only after once again giving the Peronist panjandrums the opportunity to display selfishness, fecklessness and childishness in the search for another appointee, which is what makes it a bigger threat than early elections alone. Although it is clear that Duhalde never really considered resigning, the subject is now farther out in the open.
Duhalde is just returned from the European Union-Latin American summit in Spain, where he was told that aid from anywhere in the European Union depends on achieving agreement with the IMF. After the summit, he went to Italy, where he was told the same thing. Apparently the Spaniards and Italians (each with companies with big losses due to Argentina's financial follies) brought Duhalde to religion: "For the first time," reports Pagina/12
Eduardo Duhalde threatened yesterday to present his resignation if the Congress and the governors did not comply with the compromises made with the International Monetary Funds. The president gave an ultimatum to verify not only the willingness of the Radical Party caucus to vote the Law of Subversion. Also the same of the provincial leaders to carry forward the adjustment in their districts. In the Casa Rosada they worried that without the support of the UCR the parlaimentary coalition would break up, which would obligate Duhalde to step aside.
Por primera vez, Eduardo Duhalde amenazó ayer con presentar su renuncia si el Congreso y los gobernadores no cumplen con los compromisos asumidos ante el Fondo Monetario Internacional. El Presidente dio un ultimátum al comprobar no sólo la resistencia de la bancada de legisladores radicales a votar la Ley de Subversión Económica. También la de los mandatarios provinciales a llevar adelante el ajuste en sus distritos. En la Casa Rosada se preocuparon en remarcar que sin el respaldo de la UCR se rompería la coalición parlamentaria, lo que obligaría a Duhalde a dar un paso al costado.Taking note of yesterday's Buenos Aires papers, Bloomberg.com suggests that Duhalde's resignation threat was a way to get governors and legislators to meet the IMF's conditions for a loan.
Today, La Nacion reports, quoting Chief of Cabinet Alfredo Atanasof, that "Duhalde "at no time" thought of resigning" (Duhalde "en ningún momento" pensó en renunciar).
Nevertheless, he recognized that Duhalde "demanded of the parlaiment that it comply with the firm accords in order to go forward with the plan to permit Argentina to emerge from its crisis, with more delay."
Sin embargo, reconoció que Duhalde "exigió al Parlamento que se cumpla con los acuerdos firmados para avanzar con el plan que permita sacar a la Argentina de la crisis, sin más dilaciones".Atanasof also denied that there has been any new discussion of early elections.
2. The possibility of another resignation has also been much in the Argentine press this week, that of Central Bank head Mario Blejer. After going to meet with Duhalde, resignation in hand, reports Pagina/12, Blejer agreed to stay.
"I ask an effort for the country," the chief of state suggested to him, and Blejer was not able to deny him. "I am not the kind of person who is going to disregard such a request from a president," he said to his most intimate collaborators...But he also made one thing clear: he does not want to go into history as the head of the Central Bank in the middle of hyperinflation.
“Le pido un esfuerzo por la Patria”, le sugirió el jefe de Estado, y Blejer no pudo negarse. “No soy de las personas que vaya a desairar semejante pedido de un Presidente”, les dijo a sus colaboradores más íntimos...Pero que también tiene en claro una cosa: no quiere pasar a la historia como el titular del Banco Central en medio de una hiperinflación.Pagina/12 gives two reasons for Blejer's flirtation with retirement--conflict with the economic ministry over ways releasing frozen bank accounts and the absence of a legal framework (and, so, legal protection) for the restructuring of the financial system, which is taking place piecemeal as banks fail. In the first case, Blejer wants to convert frozen savings into bonds, which protects the banks, while Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna wants to permit the release at least part of the funds for economically productive purposes. Lavagna believes this will stimulate the economy, Blejer believes it will generate capital flight and stimulate inflation. In the second case, Blejer appears to believe that, in the absence of a legal structure, he subjects both the bank and himself to eventual legal proceedings, when the bank involves itself in restructurings.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2002
OPEC scofflaw?: Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), the Venezuelan state oil company, has denied a report that it is exceeding its OPEC production quota, under government orders, reports Bloomberg.com.
The government is running a deficit. Oil revenues are down from a year ago. The easy way to quick money is increased oil production. But, Venezuela, under Hugo Chávez, has been a strong supporter of OPEC productions limits. Could Venezuela be cheating?
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Tuesday, May 21, 2002
FARC's IRA-trained bombers newly lethal: The Miami Herald reports on new sophistication among the FARC's assassins and bombers, which it attributes to lessons taught by the IRA.
In the early hours of April 9, peasants found an abandoned green pick-up truck with a dead body in it alongside a road in Sibate, 20 miles outside Bogotá.
Other resources on the FARC-IRA connection include:
They called police, who noticed the car was rigged. Police and peasants waited all night for the bomb squad, which arrived at daybreak to work with the advantage of daylight. Ruíz, who dismantled 200 bombs during his 10-year career, approached the car with an assistant.
They started snipping at wires when the truck exploded; it was set off by remote control. Someone in town was watching and killed the captain on purpose.
''A uniformed officer goes by, nothing, a citizen goes by, nothing,'' Calán said. "It's when the bomb technician arrives that the bomb goes off.''
According to a U.S. House International Relations Committee report, the advanced techniques and targeting of police are the direct result of IRA influence.
* A newspaper preview from the Washington Times of the House committee's April 200 hearings on FARC-IRA cooperation.
This international cooperation is largely commercial in character, oddly, since all the groups involved are more or less Marxist. The FARC is awash in drug money; the IRA (among others, like the Basque ETA) have first-world expertise. One buys what the other sells. Simplicity itself.
* A report, Summary of Investigation of Ira Links to Narco-Terrorists in Colombia, prepared by the majority staff of the House Committee on International Relations, April 24, 2002, from The Center for International Policy ("a nonprofit educational and research organization promoting a U.S. foreign policy based on international cooperation, demilitarization and respect for basic human rights");
* A newspsper report on IRA leader Gerry Adams' visit to Cuba December, in The St. Petersburg Times (Florida).
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U.S. AND CUBA
Bush's remarks: The The Miami Herald has the text of President Bush's remarks on the 100th anniversary of Cuban independence.
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UN fixes blame: The FARC may have lobbed a gas canister filled with high explosives into a church filled with civilians, killing 119, but in the United Nations' eyes it's equally the fault of the Self-Defense Forces (AUC) and the government too, reports El Espectador.
In a document of 27 pages that was delivered to the President of the Republic, the office of the United Nations remained clear that the FARC has responsibility in the violent death of more than 100 civilians, and that the authorship of those events was accepted publicly by the rebel organization. With their conduct they denied all the international norms for the regulation of armed conflict.
In equal manner, the United Nations named as responsible the AUC for having exposed the population to the danger of military action, with which it reduced to the minimum the defense options of the population to armed conflicts.
Finally, the United Nations named as responsible the government for not tending to its obligations with respect to the protection of the civil population, hence there were multiple early alerts and calls to attention about the iminent tragedy that was later unleashed in Bojayá.
En un documento de 27 páginas que fue entregado al Presidente de la República, la oficina de la ONU dejó claro que las Farc tienen responsabilidad en la muerte violenta de más de 100 civiles, y que la autoría de los hechos fue reconocida públicamente por esta organización alzada en armas. Con su conducta desconocieron toda la normatividad internacional para la regulación de los conflictos armados.
There are no innocents here. But the blame is hardly equal, certainly between the illegal armies and the Colombian army. The Colombian army is hard pressed at best and Bojayá is out of the way to say the least. Stories the weekend of the atrocity made much of the difficulty residents had getting out and the military and officials had getting in after the event. It's doubtful the UN would have been at all even-handed had the AUC lobbed the cannister.
De igual modo, la ONU responsabilizó a las Auc de haber expuesto a la población a los peligros de las acciones bélicas, y de ubicarse en cercanías de los lugares y edificaciones en que se refugiaron los civiles, con lo cual se redujo al mínimo la opción de defensa de la población ajena a las confrontaciones armadas.
Finalmente, la ONU responsabilizó al Estado de no atender sus obligaciones en materia de protección a la población civil, por cuanto existieron múltiples alertas tempranas y llamados de atención sobre la inminente tragedia que posteriormente se desató en Bojayá.
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Contrast: According to The Washington Post anti-Americanism is on the rise throughout Latin America, especially in Argentina.
A series of perceived gaffes by Bush administration officials has also raised public ire. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in a May 6 speech that Argentina needed to overcome "institutional flaws" such as "corruption" to regain its economic course.
That angered Argentines, who wondered where the tough talk was in the 1990s, when the United States and IMF gave unyielding support to then-President Carlos Menem -- a personal friend of President George H.W. Bush but a reviled figure here.Historical note: Menem is undoubtedly reviled today, but couldn't have been while George H.W. Bush was president. Bush's last year in office was 1992; Menem was elected to a second term in 1995 with no major-party opposition.
Argentina's two leading newsmagazines, Noticias and Veintitres, published cover stories on speculations that Washington was conspiring to worsen Argentina's crisis, hoping to topple the country's fifth president in five months and further devalue the peso so that U.S. companies could move in and pick off farmlands on the vast, fertile Pampas.Cultural note: As in Venezuela, where people wonder why the oil hasn't automatically made them all rich, in Argentina people wonder why the Pampas haven't automatically made them all rich.
U.S. interests "have already taken most of what we have -- and now, they are coming for our lands," said Elisa Carrio, a fiery, left-leaning member of Congress and leading candidate to replace caretaker President Eduardo Duhalde if he were forced to call early elections.That's the Post's take on Argentina. It is cited and quoted at much greater length by Blogger T.L. Wilson, treasaigh.com, an American living and working in Buenos Aires. But is this Wilson's experience as a resident?
As an American living "off of the Economy" I have not seen the anti-Americanism this article speaks of. The anti-American comments come from the totally discredited political and union leaders--they are, of course, looking to place blame anywhere except where it belongs. If anything I have heard nothing but praise for the organization and orderliness that Argentine's see in the U.S. and a desire to have the same here. No one here wants to be American, but everyone would like for things to function the way they do in the U.S. Argentines are not ignorant to the cause of their present problems...They know where the blame lies. They know that Collin Powell is right. If anything most wonder why the Secretary of State needs to state the obvious.Indeed, re-examining the Post' article with just one of Wilson's conclusions in view--that the "anti-American comments come from the totally discredited political and union leaders"--the negative comments come from, in order:
* Jorge Yoma, a senator from Argentina's governing Peronist party;
as well as others of the same sort unnamed. The pollster may know something; the rest are, as Wilson says "looking to place blame anywhere except where it belongs."
* Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue research organization;
* Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, Brazil's left-wing Labor Party candidate for president;
* Argentine pollster Ricardo Rouvier;
* Argentina's two leading newsmagazines, Noticias and Veintitres;
* Elisa Carrio, a fiery, left-leaning member of Congress (quoted above),
The two items just below this in Wilson's blog, also published today, are also excellent. One is on the banking crisis, the other on the unwillingness of the Buenor Aires provincial government to cut spending, as was agreed at the Peronist governors summit with President Duhalde in April.
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