jump to navigation

Clintonians Flock With Vultures Over Argentina July 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Argentina, Congo, Economic Crisis, Latin America, Peru.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: I confess to an intense dislike of the Clintons and their retinue.  Whereas right wing ideologues and bigots make no secret of where they stand, the Clinton crowd pose as progressives as they and their close friends and supporters become millionaires whilst enacting and promoting policies that are damaging to the constituencies they claim to represent.  From Bill the president we had drastic welfare reductions camouflaged as “reforms,” and the deregulation that led to the 2008 economic crisis that resulted in thousands losing their homes.  From Hillary the Secretary of State we had super hawk foreign policy, a continuation of the Monroe Doctrine in Latin America, and support for military coup d’etat in Honduras, Egypt and now the Ukraine —  all in the service of US corporate and geopolitical interests.  A pox on their house.

 

s_500_opednews_com_0_1--jpg_76846_20140724-132

By OpEdNews Op Eds 7/24/2014 at 15:16:53

It is no surprise that right-wing Republican and hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer should be trying to wring hundreds of millions of dollars out of Argentina for a debt that Buenos Aires doesn’t really owe him. He screwed tens of millions of dollars out of poverty-stricken Peru and the Republic of Congo using the same financial sleight of hand. What may surprise people, however, is that key leaders in the administration of former President Bill Clinton are helping him do it.

Singer, who owns Elliot Management, a $17 billion hedge fund, is the leading “vulture investor” — a financial speculator who buys up the bonds of debt strapped nations for pennies on the dollar and then demands payment in full. When Argentina defaulted on its foreign debt in 2001, Singer moved in and bought up $48 million in bonds. He is now demanding that those bonds be paid at full-face value — $1.5 billion — plus interest and fees. It is a move that could derail Argentina’s long climb back into solvency, as well as undermine debt settlements worldwide.

A recent decision by federal District Judge Thomas Griesa in Manhattan may not only force Argentina to pay the vultures, it could unravel a 2006 debt deal between Buenos Aires and other creditors. Under the highly controversial principle of “pari passu” (“equal ranking among creditors”), if the vultures are compensated, so must all the other creditors, even those who settled back in 2006. That bill could reach $15 billion. Given that Argentina has only about $28 billion in foreign reserves, the tab could send Buenos Aires into a recession or force the country into bankruptcy.

The “sleight of hand” involves the fact that the countries the vultures prey on are not really in debt to creditors such as Singer and Eric Hermann of FH International Asset Management LLC. The hedge funds look for distressed countries, then buy their debt at bargain basement prices and sit on it. In the meantime, other creditors cut a deal to take a reduced payment on their bonds, which in turn helps improve the debtor’s economy and allows it to emerge from default.

That’s when the vultures sue, threatening to shut down outside aid programs, seize assets and freeze debtor nations out of international finance if they don’t pay up. Recent examples involving Singer include the Republic of Congo being forced to pay him $90 million on a $10 million investment. Singer’s investment of $48 million in Argentina’s debt would net him a 1,608 percent profit if Buenos Aires pays in full. Peru was similarly plundered.

It is more than dollars and cents at stake in all this. As journalist Greg Palast points out, “In Congo-Brazzaville [the capital of the Republic of Congo] last year, one-fourth of all deaths of children under five were caused by malnutrition.” That $90 million might have made a difference.

Singer’s rap sheet is consistent with hard-nosed vulture tactics. He is a leading Republican fundraiser, and a member — along with former Vice President Dick Cheney and Iraq War designer Richard Perle — of the right-wing Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. He helped bankroll Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and is a bitter critic of “unpayable” social welfare programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But the people who head up the main lobbying organization behind Singer’s current campaign, the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), sit on the high councils of the Democratic Party and would likely be part of any Hillary Clinton administration.

The task force is essentially a front for several vulture funds, conservative and libertarian business groups, and agricultural organizations, like the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which would like to damage Argentina’s cattle export business. And its executive director is Robert Raben, former counsel for liberal Congressman Barney Frank, Democratic counsel for the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration.

ATFA’s two co-chairs are Clinton’s former undersecretary of commerce, Robert Shapiro, and Clinton appointee to the United Nations Nancy Soderberg. Shapiro was an adviser to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and a senior adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 run for the White House. Soderberg, who served as a senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. Edward Kennedy, was also a member of Clinton’s National Security Council and an alternative representative to the U.N. with the title of ambassador. She is currently a Democratic Party activist in Florida and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Raben, Soderberg and Shapiro have written numerous opinion pieces on Argentina using their Clinton administration credentials and, depending on the publication, have not always disclosed their lobbying ties. The three snookered the progressive Huffington Post into running opinion pieces until journalists Christina Wilkie and Ryan Grim uncovered their ties to ATFA. HuffPo subsequently removed the articles from its website.

Because of the huge debt burdens borne by nations from Latin America to Europe, the Griesa decision has opened up a Pandora’s box of trouble. A number of financial institutions and countries — including the International Monetary Fund and organizations representing 133 nations — have condemned the vultures or filed amici curiae briefs on behalf of Argentina, fearing that the decision could chill future debt negotiations and threaten economies trying to work themselves out of the red.

Given the ongoing hangover from the 2007-08 international meltdown, there is a lot of vulture food out there.

The key role being played by important Democratic Party activists in this cruel business — for there is no other word to describe taking money from countries struggling to emerge from debt and recession — may seem contradictory. And yet it was the Clinton administration that deregulated national and international finance and fought so hard for policies that ended up impoverishing some of the countries the vultures are now preying on.

In the 1990s, the Clinton administration pushed Argentina to privatize its state-owned industries, tie its currency to the dollar and institute the “Washington Consensus” of combining tax cuts with austerity. The result was economic disaster. From 1998 to 2002 Argentina’s economy shrank 20 percent and half the population fell below the poverty line.

Buenos Aires defaulted on its $100 billion debt in order to staunch the hemorrhage and pull the country out of an economic death spiral. In 2006, it negotiated a deal with 92.4 percent of its debt holders to pay 30 and 50 cents on the dollar. It was that deal that drew the vultures, which swooped in, scooped up some of the debt and then refused to accept the settlement.

The 2001 default blocked Argentina from tapping into international finance to tide it over until the economy recovered, but policies to end austerity and increase government spending eventually did the job. The economy grew at an average rate of 6 percent from 2002 to 2012 and Argentina paid off the IMF in 2006 and the Paris Club countries (representing the world’s 20 largest economies) in 2014.

But the vultures now threaten to undo much of this.

The Obama administration has come down on the side of Argentina because it is worried that financial institutions will shift their business to London if “pari passu” is allowed to stand. Hillary Clinton, however, has been quiet on the subject of international debt and Argentina. Given that her husband’s administration helped push Argentina off the cliff, that is hardly a surprise.

What is disquieting is that Clinton and people such as Raben, Shapiro and Soderberg have an economic philosophy that many times marches in step with that of Wall Street.

According to The New York Times, the financial sector was the second largest contributor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run for the White House. She is also close to the center-right Third Way think tank that advocates cutting Social Security and tends to be allergic to financial regulations. It is hard to imagine a Hillary Clinton administration stacked with Wall Street insiders and hedge fund lobbyists coming down on the vultures.

Clinton’s most recent comment on the debt crisis was to complain that she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001, rhetorically putting herself in the same boat as tens of millions of indebted people in the U.S. and around the world. “Dead broke” in Chappaqua, N.Y., is not quite the same as “dead broke” in Brazzaville, or in the growing number of homeless encampments around the U.S.

Argentina is currently negotiating a compromise with the vultures, who have Buenos Aires over a barrel. The country desperately needs outside financing to exploit its huge Vaca Muerta gas reserves and to underwrite agricultural exports. “These hedge funds are equipped with an instrument [the New York court decision] that forces struggling countries into submission,” saysEric LeCompte, executive director of the anti-poverty religious organization Jubilee USA Network.

Countries are wising up to the hedge funds. Many of them now require that a debt agreement include a collective action clause (CAC), in which a majority or two-thirds vote by creditors is binding on all and would block a handful of vultures from tying up agreements. Because they signal economic fragility however, the CACs will string out negotiations and may result in higher interest rates.

In the meantime, the vultures have backed Buenos Aires against the wall. At a minimum, Democratic candidates for the presidency should make it clear that they stand with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. One way would be to endorse campaigns by organizations such as Oxfam and Jubilee to forgive foreign debt, and to make it clear they will also press for financial regulations to block vulture speculation.

In the world, vultures are estimable creatures. There is a “yuck” factor, but at least they wait until their prey are dead before making a meal of them, and they do clean up after themselves. The vultures of Wall Street prey on the living and leave behind an unspeakable mess.

Read more of independent journalist Conn Hallinan’s work at his blog, Dispatches from the Edge.

Conn M. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, “A Think Tank Without Walls, and an independent journalist. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. He oversaw the (more…)

Keeping “Secrets and Lies” on Argentina’s Past May 24, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Human Rights, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Published on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

For a relatively slight margin, the US Congress rejected an amendment by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D) to declassify files on Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The refusal to declassify files on Argentina is likely to have momentous consequences on the fate of hundreds of babies stolen or “disappeared” during those years. Many of those babies were born in clandestine torture centers, while others were adopted or given in adoption by the same members of the military or police personnel responsible for their parents’ disappearance.

It is not altogether clear whose interests are sought to be protected, but one can hardly imagine that national security, or the work of US spies fighting Al Qaeda, as suggested by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R), may be put in jeopardy by keeping these files in secret. It is not even clear whether President Cristina Kirchner’s administration is interested in having these files in the open. However, if an official request from the Argentine government were submitted, the U.S. government would be hard pressed, as a matter of international comity, not to reveal at least a redacted text of those files.

Aside from governmental interests and politicians’ desires to keep secrets, what is at stake are human lives, victims, and the administration of justice. In 1999, during the Clinton administration, Rep. Hinchey presented a similar amendment for declassifying documents related to General Augusto Pinochet’s administration.  Declassification resulted in the publication of 24,000 documents that proved to be crucial in the prosecution of crimes committed during the Chilean dictatorship.  It provided clear evidence of Pinochet’s connections to the 1976 assassination, in Washington, D.C., of Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier, along with his secretary Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Also disclosed was Pinochet secret police’s plans to assassinate former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin, the presidential candidate of the coalition that ultimately defeated General Pinochet in 1988.

In December of 2009,  President  Obama signed an executive order entitled “Classified National Security Information”, stating:  “I expect that the order will produce measurable progress towards greater openness and transparency in the Government’s classification and declassification programs while protecting the Government’s legitimate interests, and I will closely monitor the results.” Failure to disclose information on Argentina’s brutal reign of terror cannot be in the interest of the U.S. Government and, to the extent that it may in the interest of some members of the Argentine Government, it is unlikely that those interests may qualify as “legitimate”.

Both the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo and the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have been searching for decades for their disappeared children and grandchildren. This decision by the U.S. Congress only adds to their difficulties in finding their loved ones. As Representative Hinchey stated, “The United States can play a vital role in lifting the veil of secrecy that has shrouded the terrible human rights abuses of the despotic military regime that ruled Argentina.”  It is about time.

<!–

–>

César Chelala

César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).

Alejandro Garro

Alejandro M. Garro teaches Comparative Law at Columbia Law School and sits at advisory board of Human Rights Watch/Americas, the Center for Justice and International Law, and the Due Process of Law Foundation.

Obama and Clinton Nix Change in Honduras July 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Published on Monday, July 27, 2009 by CommonDreams.org by Roger Burbach
The situation in Honduras and Central America is growing increasingly tumultuous with each passing day as deposed President Manuel Zelaya confronts the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti with thousands of partisans mobilizing in the border areas. While Honduran army officers in Washington and the capital of Tegucigalpa issue statements indicating they may accept Zelaya’s return—if the civilian coup leaders concur–military and police units continue to fire on and even murder demonstrators. It is impossible to predict the outcome of this confrontation. But one thing is increasing clear–the growing conflict represents a failure of the Obama administration to reshape US policy towards Latin America in spite of its early rhetoric directed at the leaders of the region.
On June 29, the day after the coup, Barack Obama declared it “not legal” and said “we don’t want to go back to a dark past.” This was in keeping with his remarks at the Summit of the Americas in April when, in alluding to the US history of backing military regimes, he stated, “The United States will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made.”
But US policy towards Honduras since the coup indicates that the Obama administration does not represent “change you can believe in.” Rather it is bent on imposing its will and propping up the status quo in Latin America, just as previous US administrations did.
Over the past decade a popular upsurge has swept Latin America comprised of indigenous movements, impoverished urban dwellers, peasants, environmentalists, feminists, and human rights advocates. They are demanding a more equitable distribution of the wealth of their countries and an end to political systems dominated by oligarchs, corrupt politicians and business interests allied with the United States. A string of New Left governments has emerged beginning with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1999 followed by Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva in Brazil in 2003. They have been joined by the election of left of center presidents in Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Paraguay and El Salvador.
This block of progressive forces spearheaded the international opposition to the coup in Honduras. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, reflecting the common sentiment around the continent, noted that the coup was a throwback to “the worst years in Latin America’s history.” The Organization of American States, which has historically been dominated by the United States, voted 34 to 0 to call for the restoration of Manuel Zelaya as president.
This unified opposition in Latin America left the Obama administration with no alternative but to call for the resignation of the de facto government. However, what it has done in the aftermath of the coup is to search for a way to undermine the reformist agenda advocated by Zelaya and to prop up the traditional interests aligned with the United States both within Honduras and in Latin America at large. This commitment to the old order is symbolized by the fact that Alvaro Uribe, the conservative president of Colombia, was in the White House meeting with Obama on June 29 as he issued his statement opposing the coup in Honduras. One of the points Uribe and Obama discussed was US access to three airfields and two naval bases in Colombia. Allegedly for use in the drug war in the Andean region, they are also aimed at counteracting the growing influence of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela who called the expanded US military presence “a threat against us” that could even lead “to a war.”
The US obsession with Venezuela is at the heart of its policy towards Zelaya. Philip Crowley, Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the US State Department, stated that the coup should serve as a “lesson” for the deposed president who had signed trade and petroleum accords with Venezuela: “We certainly think that if we were choosing a model government and a model leader for countries of the region to follow, that the current leadership in Venezuela would not be a particular model. If that is the lesson that President Zelaya has learned from this episode, that would be a good lesson.”
Even before the coup, the Obama administration made known its opposition to the reformist policies of the Zelaya government. At a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in early June in Tegucigalpa Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Zelaya in a private meeting that he should back off from trying to put a referendum on the ballot that would provide for the convening of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution for the country. The election of constituent assemblies was the vehicle used by Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador to overturn entrenched interests and to “refound” their political institutions.
The main diplomatic gambit used by the Obama administration in an effort to reign in Manuel Zelaya was to get President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica to broker an agreement with the coup leaders in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Arias had served US interests well in the 1980s during his first presidential term, using regional negotiations to undermine the revolutionary government of Nicaragua and the guerrilla movements in El Salvador and Guatemala while nurturing pseudo-democratic governments that adopted the neo-liberal economic policies then coming into vogue with the “Washington Consensus.” This time however, Arias failed, primarily because the OAS and most of the governments of Latin America made it clear that they would not recognize any government in Tegucigalpa other than one led by Zelaya. As President Luis Inacio da Silva of Brazil declared, “we cannot compromise” on the restoration of Zelaya.
In the end Arias issued a mediation proposal that called for the restitution of Zelaya as head of a national government of reconciliation with weakened executive powers. Micheletti’s de facto regime rejected the proposal. It is worth noting that one of the clauses in the proposed accord calls for Zelaya to refrain from promoting a constituent assembly, a clause that has been angrily denounced by leaders of the social movements in Honduras.
U.S. efforts to restore Zelaya have been quite tepid compared to other countries. While many ambassadors have been withdrawn, the US head diplomat Hugo Llorens, appointed by George W. Bush, remains in place. There are reports that he may have even given the green light to the coup plotters, or at least did nothing to stop them. And while the World Bank has suspended assistance, the State Department merely warns that $180 million in US economic aid may be in jeopardy. Most importantly the United States refuses to freeze the bank accounts and cancel the visas of the coup leaders, measures that Zelaya and other Latin American governments have urged Washington to do.
The Obama presidency probably hoped that like the years of the Bush administration Latin America would require only marginal attention in the grand scheme of world affairs. This may turn out not to be the case however if Honduras, the last of the banana republics, erupts in a civil conflict that draws in neighboring countries. “Change” may be the catch word for the new administration, but here an old French phrase may be more indicative of what is really occurring: “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose,” the more things change the more they remain the same.
Roger Burbach is the author of “The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice,” and the Director of the Center for the Study of the Americas based in Berkeley, CA

A View from the South: Amy Goodman on Bolivia’s Morales November 25, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Posted on Nov 19, 2008

By Amy Goodman

 

Evo Morales knows about “change you can believe in.” He also knows what happens when a powerful elite is forced to make changes it doesn’t want.

 

Morales is the first indigenous president of Bolivia, the poorest country in South America. He was inaugurated in January 2006. Against tremendous internal opposition, he nationalized Bolivia’s natural-gas fields, transforming the country’s economic stability and, interestingly, enriching the very elite that originally criticized the move.

 

Yet last September, the backlash came to a peak. In an interview in New York this week, Morales told me: “The opposition, the right-wing parties … decided to do a violent coup. … They couldn’t do it.”

 

In response, presidents from South American nations met in Chile for an emergency summit, led by the two women presidents, Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina. The group issued a statement condemning the violence and supporting Morales.

 

Morales continued in our interview: “The reason why I’m here in the U.S.: I want to express my respect to the international community, because everybody condemned the coup against democracy to the rule of law—everybody but the U.S., but the ambassador of the U.S. It’s incredible.”

 

After the attempted coup, Morales ejected U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, declaring, “He is conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia.” Morales went on: “He used to call me the Andean bin Laden. And the coca growers, he used to call them Taliban. … Permanently, from the State Department of the U.S., I have been accused of being a drug trafficker and a terrorist. And even now that I’m president, that continues on the part of the embassy. I know it does not come from the American people.”

 

Morales has now given the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration three months to leave the country, and announced at the United Nations Monday that the DEA will not be allowed back. Morales was a “cocalero,” a coca grower. Coca is central to Bolivian indigenous culture and the local economy. As Roger Burbach, director of the Center for the Study of the Americas, writes, “Morales advocated ‘Coca Yes, Cocaine No,’ and called for an end to violent U.S.-sponsored coca eradication raids, and for the right of Bolivian peasants to grow coca for domestic consumption, medicinal uses and even for export as an herb in tea and other products.”

 

Morales aims to preserve the Bolivian heritage of coca growing, while eliminating the scourge of drug trafficking. He says the U.S. uses the war on drugs as a cover to destabilize his country: “If they really fought against drug trafficking, it would be very different.” He said the South American leaders are finally organizing amongst themselves: “We are actually setting up a national intelligence in collaboration with our neighbors Argentina, Chile, Brazil. And that way, the fight against drug trafficking is going to be more effective, but it’s going to be something that has a political element in it. If we don’t permit the DEA to come back, that doesn’t mean we’ll break relationships with the U.S.”

 

The resurgent democracies in Latin America are hoping for better relations with an Obama administration. On the election of the first African-American U.S. president, the first indigenous president of Bolivia told me, “Maybe we can complement each other to look for equality among people, people who are here on Mother Earth.” After we spoke, Morales headed off to Washington to visit the Lincoln Memorial and to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “I want to honor my brothers, the movement, the Afro-American movement. I have the obligation to honor the people who preceded us, the ones who fought for the respect of human rights and rights in general.”

 

Thousands are gathering outside Fort Benning, Ga., this weekend for the annual mass protest and civil disobedience against the U.S. School of the Americas (now called WHINSEC), a military training facility that is alleged to have trained hundreds of Latin American soldiers who have gone home to commit human-rights violations. The wounds of U.S. intervention in Latin America are still raw. President-elect Obama has an opportunity to reach out and grab the extended olive branch being offered by President Morales.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and will receive the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

© 2008 Amy Goodman

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 227 other followers