[Marxism] Mar del Plata spin cycle

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Sun Nov 6 07:33:44 MST 2005

	That whirring sound you hear are the spinmeisters of the Bush
administration trying to prettify the outcome of the Mar del Plata
Summit of the Americas into something suitable for U.S. public

	To briefly recap: Argentina, which was hosting the summit, set
(as Lula put it) a 3-point agenda: "jobs, jobs and more jobs." Or as the
official conference slogan had it: "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and
Strengthen Democratic Governance"

	Bush went to Argentina empty-handed on this score and
nevertheless wanted to get the Free Trade Area of the Americas
negotiations, which had basically crashed and burned at a Miami
ministerial level meeting two years ago, restarted. 

	Bush was met with a week-long alternate summit, a mass march and
rally of tens of thousands on Friday morning and violent street protests
in the afternoon while President Nestor Kirchner welcomed the summiteers
with a brief speech where he said Argentina wasn't about to go down the
road of "economic growth" without job growth. Been there, done that, and
at the end people didn't even have enough money to buy the T-shirt. It's
time to find another road.

	The event was marked by an unusual amount of tension, reflected
in the cancellation of multiple press briefings and even a banquet.
Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela took a firm position
that the conditions did not exist that would make it possible to have a
fair FTAA. And thus no matter how many ways the Bushites and their Latin
American acolytes tried to square that circle, and get the five to
accept at least some nice-sounding noises about the FTAA in the final
communiqué, the five wouldn't budge.

	But it also pissed them and lots of other folks off that Bush
basically hijacked the meeting away from a discussion of job creation to
a fruitless two-day wrangle over setting the date to negotiate over the
FTAA, which was basically the U.S. demand.

	That's because Brazil has been very clear. It's not going to let
the Americans do to its agricultural sector what was done to Mexico,
where Mexico dropped its tariffs and was invaded by an ocean of
ultra-subsidized U.S. agricultural products. The U.S. said to Brazil and
others in the FTAA, so sorry, we're going to talk about subsidies in the
Doha round of the WTO negotiations. Not here. So Brazil said, well, then
there's really no point in talking about an FTAA right now until we see
what happens in the WTO with these subsidies. That's basically
Argentina's position, too. 

	In the end, a "compromise" was reached -- the position of both
the pro and anti FTAA camps would be in the final statement. In other
words, the United States was forced to accept having the final
communiqué record the position of the five that until and unless the
imperialist countries do something about their agricultural subsidies
and other trade-distorting swindles, not only wasn't there going to be a
deal, they weren't even going to waste their time talking about it.

	This position is entirely reasonable. The United States has
refused to engage on its monstrous subsidies to agribusinesses in the
framework of FTAA talks. It claims it can't on account of it is already
negotiating about the same thing in the Doha round of world trade talks.

	But the U.S. still wants countries like Brazil and Argentina to
eliminate their tariffs so that the ultra-subsidized U.S. corn, wheat,
soybeans, etc., can nuke their rural economies, just as they have
already done to Mexico and are now doing to Central America. In other
words, areas in which the U.S. wants concessions from Latin America are
on the table; but even in the same sectors of the economy and even the
same specific commodities, the U.S. isn't even willing to talk about
what it might give.

	In Latin America there is a rather vulgar description of such a
deal which involves bending over and the lack of a use of Vaseline. And,
not unreasonably, these five Latin American countries, with the clear
sympathy of the majority of people in the region, invited the United
States to apply that procedure to itself.

	Comes now the Washington Post, to describe how *well* Bush did
in Mar del Plata.

	"In Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's version of Latin America,
the leaders who concluded a two-day summit Saturday are poised to ignite
a unified, region-wide socialist revolution that rejects U.S.-style
capitalism outright.

	"But if the summit proved anything, it was that there is more to
Latin America than Chavez."

	That's the LEAD of the article -- I kid you not. That dastardly
dude Hugo Chávez, was on the verge of having folks like Vicente Fox join
him on the barricades in a revolutionary overturn more earth-shaking
than any since the October Revolution. But St. George the Bush slew that

	"Instead of backing their Venezuelan counterpart's rallying cry
to bury a U.S.-backed proposal that would link markets throughout the
Western Hemisphere, the leaders reluctantly agreed to discuss the
proposal again during future talks. Cautious skepticism -- not Chavez's
tone of enraged dismissal -- emerged as the strongest unifying force in
a region exploring the possibility of greater independence from U.S.

	One of the curious things about this "agreement" that the
Washington Post talks about is that they don't quote it. There is
literally no reference anywhere in the story to the official document
that issued from the event. Instead there is a recapitulation of some of
the reasons why Latin Americans hate U.S. imperialism in general and
George W. Bush in particular, all as a way of saying that given this,
Bush did OK.

	The Miami Herald takes a similar tack: "Bush is bruised but not
beaten in talks. President Bush faced harsh criticism from Latin
American presidents over a free-trade proposal, but no clear winners and
losers emerged."

	Remember, these are the imperialist-inspired "hemispheric
summits" that Clinton launched under the aegis of "the Washington
Consensus" for neoliberal globalization a decade ago in Miami. "The
Spirit of Miami" would lead by 2005 to the biggest and most powerful
trade block the world had ever seen. 

	And here we are, in 2005, and not only is there no free trade
area of the Americas, but the "Spirit of Mar del Plata" has replaced the
spirit of Miami. That spirit was expressed in the alternative summit and
the big demonstration of tens of thousands of people repudiating Bush's
visit. But it was also clearly echoed in the official summit itself --
and not just by Hugo Chávez.

	"U.S. policy not only generated misery and poverty but also a
great social tragedy that added to institutional instability in the
region, provoking the fall of democratically elected governments,"
Kirchner said at the summit Friday. "We must create a kind of
globalization that works for everyone, and not just for a few."

	Compare that to the halcyon days of the mid-1990's when TINA
--There Is No Alterative-- was the watchword. Faith in the "free market"
religion has collapsed throughout Latin America as working people have
seen what it means in practice. And even bourgeois politicians (well, at
least some of them) are smart enough not to parade before the people
mounted on a horse that's dead.

	The Herald quoted with a straight face this official U.S.
assessment: "It turned out well," said U.S. assistant of state for Latin
American affairs Tom Shannon. "Chávez came to Mar del Plata to bury
FTAA. Instead he resurrected it. He provoked a very deep debate among
the leaders about FTAA," he told The Herald.

	Sure. I believe it. The U.S. *really* wants a big debate about
the FTAA. That's why they're always inviting Fidel to these summits.

	All of the bourgeois press emphasized that the division was
between the big majority (29 countries) and a small minority (5). None
even mention that the five are really six, because Cuba is excluded from
the talks but it is part of the hemisphere and there ain't no way it's
going to join the FTAA. Nor that together the six represent 275 million
of the 580 million Latin Americans (excluding colonial subjects) which
is 47% of the region's population and in  reality the bulk of its
economic muscle.

	You can contrast the U.S. press coverage to the way it was
covered elsewhere. "Bush faces Latin fury as popularity sinks at home."
is the headline in the Independent. The FT says, "Bush is single target
of multiple complaints." The BBC reports flatly, "No trade deal at
Americas summit."

	The BBC quotes the typical U.S. spin (basically, that it was
really good because no one torched copies of previous pro-FTAA summit
declarations, at least not during the official sessions): 

	"The US National Security Adviser, Steven Hadley, spoke of 'real

	"'We went from a summit which was supposed to bury FTAA to a
summit in which all 34 countries actually talk in terms of enhanced
trade ... recognizing there are challenges,' he said."

	The Spanish news agency EFE, however, had a very different take:

"The 'Spirit of Miami' failed in Mar del Plata

	"Eleven years and successive fruitless meetings had to pass
before the so-called 'Spirit of Miami,' which promised an Americas
united by free trade, would fail in Mar del Plata, 11,500 kilometers to
the south of the place where the 'integrationist dream' was born.

	"Miami and Mar del Plata, hosts of the First and Fourth Summit
of the Americas, close the circle of a process that was initiated in
1994 when the political stage of the hemisphere looked very different
from what it does today."

	We'll see now what happens today in Brazil where Bush will
attend a barbecue thrown by Lula.


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