Fw: For Sale: Argentina

 Via Workers World News Service Reprinted from the May 30, 2002
 issue of Workers World newspaper
 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 
 virtually nothing.
 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 
 international institution.

 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 
 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.]