Fw: For Sale: Argentina
- Subject: Fw: For Sale: Argentina
- From: "Nello Margiotta" <animarg at tin.it>
- Date: Wed, 29 May 2002 10:12:18 +0200
Via Workers World News Service Reprinted from the May 30, 2002
issue of Workers World newspaper
AS MISERY GROWS UNBEARABLE:
ARGENTINE WORKERS SEEK TO SHAKE OFF IMF
By Alicia Jrapko
Argentina is on an economic death row. Latin America's third-
largest economy was put there not by judges, but by
International Monetary Fund and World Bank bankers and
Despite concession after concession, the only hope for a
stay of execution for the government-by-default of President
Eduardo Duhalde is an economic bailout by the very robber
barons that put them $141 billion into debt in the first
place. It has been months since Argentina has been able to
make any payments on the debt due to the economic collapse
that began in December.
The financial pages in the U.S. corporate media have been
conspicuously silent as the situation for millions of
Argentine workers grows worse daily. Some Argentines are now
charging that the strategy of the Wall Street vultures is to
do nothing until the crisis is so great that they can come
in and take over the vast resources of Argentina for
SELLING OFF THE COUNTRY--LITERALLY?
Juan Gabriel Labak, a former union leader and member of
Duhalde's Justicialist Party, presented a complaint this
month in a Buenos Aires court alleging that some lenders
were raising the possibility of exchanging Argentine
territories to pay off the foreign debt. He charges that the
IMF, the World Bank and the U.S. government want to collect
or retrieve their debt this way.
The text of the complaint alleges the existence of a
campaign initiated by the U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul
O'Neill to allow the crisis to continue with the purpose of
making the "Argentines believe that they are incapable of
governing themselves." He charged the "permanent insinuation
of methods that will allow to pay off the foreign debt in
exchange for territories and ecological reserves," including
the province of Chabut and areas of Antarctica currently
part of Argentina.
Residents in the Patagonia region recently protested a
survey being circulated by the consulting firm Giacobbe and
Associates in Chubut and three other provinces. The survey
polled people's willingness to pay the Argentine foreign
debt with some of the country's territories.
The president of the company was vague when asked who hired
his firm. The questionnaire not only asked about paying the
foreign debt with sovereign land, but also probed people's
reaction to a suggestion that Argentina be administered
economically by a functionary of the IMF or other
At the same time, the IMF is demanding that the Argentine
government modify the Bankruptcy Law and eliminate the
Economic Subversion Law as a condition for disbursing
millions of dollars in loan payments.
The international bankers are demanding that the Bankruptcy
Law include a mechanism known as "cram down" that allows a
lender or a third person to appropriate a bankrupt
enterprise or business to pay their debt. According to local
experts, this maneuver will allow U.S. capital to take
advantage of the depreciation of the Argentine currency to
take over national and European enterprises.
To protest this law, legislator Alicia Castro in mid-May
planted a U.S. flag over the table of the legislature's
The Economic Subversion Law, which the IMF wants to see
repealed, was created under popular pressure in the wake of
the December collapse to punish owners of enterprises,
executives, managers and administrators who were responsible
for wrongdoing. It was particularly aimed at the banks,
under suspicion for having shipped millions of dollars out
of the country before the implementation of the freeze on
bank accounts known as the "corralito."
A number of former government officials were arrested under
this law. Its elimination could lead to their release,
including that of former economy minister Domingo Cavallo.
His name has become synonymous with the massive corruption
of previous governments, beginning with the regime of Carlos
> Menem in the 1990s.
The Bush administration advises the Argentine government to
bow down to IMF demands, which have brought an ever-
increasing desperation for the workers and unemployed, who
make up the great majority of Argentines.
Half of the 36 million Argentines now live under the poverty
level. The percent of poor people grew faster than ever
before in April, when the cost of goods increased by almost
18 percent. The crisis is greatest in the north of the
country, in provinces like Corrientes, Formosa, Misiones and
Chaco, where two of every three inhabitants are poor.
While the consumption of food and medicine is decreasing,
unemployment has spiraled to an official rate of 30 percent.
Malnutrition and hunger are rampant, with six of 10 children
in Argentina living in poverty. These children were born in
a country with great natural and industrial resources to
provide food and basic needs for the entire population.
Instead, they are suffering from the strangulation of
neoliberal policies demanded by the IMF and World Bank.
One of the greatest ironies of neoliberalism can be seen
every night at 2 a.m. in front of the McDonalds on the
popular Corrientes Street in Buenos Aires. Young children
fight for leftover thrown-out food from this hated U.S. food
MOUNTING MASS PRESSURE
The Duhalde government is grasping for ways to respond to
the IMF demands while at the same time deflecting the
pressure from the masses. They know very well that if they
comply with all the IMF demands, they may face the same fate
as their predecessors. Duhalde himself took power after
angry masses of workers, unemployed, and wide sectors of the
middle class toppled the previous government. Millions are
still trying to access their frozen bank accounts.
One stopgap solution Duhalde is considering is to compensate
savers with state properties.
The only real force that is preventing the Argentine
government from beginning a fire sale of the country to
foreign capitalists is the current struggle being waged by
the workers, unemployed and all the progressive forces.
These forces are organizing themselves into mass Popular
On May 20, tens of thousands of workers took to the streets
in Buenos Aires and across the country to demand food and
jobs. On May 23, thousands of picketers are scheduled to
block roads and stage rallies across the country.
These protests are leading to a general strike called by the
Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA) for May 29. The 24-
hour general strike, the first since Duhalde took power, is
meant to protest against hunger, unemployment and the
economic policy of the current government.
The solution to the problems of the great majority of people
in Argentina is not renegotiating the debt with the IMF. It
is a government where workers are in power and where the
wealth of this rich South American country is distributed to
everyone and not just to a rich few.
[Jrapko recently returned from an extensive trip to Argentina.]