[Marxism] Chávez and Argentina
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 9 06:53:47 MDT 2007
Guardian, Thursday August 9, 2007
Chávez opens his wallet wider to boost Latin American influence
· £1.4bn for Buenos Aires as regional tour starts
· Socialist leader strives to break IMF's grip on area
Rory Carroll in Caracas and Uki Goni in Buenos Aires
President Hugo Chávez has launched an intensive tour of South America to
shore up Venezuela's influence over the region and to loosen the grip of
western creditors. The socialist leader promised to buy up to $1bn
(£500m) of Argentinian bonds and to help fund a $400m gas plant,
bolstering his reputation as a benefactor of Buenos Aires's economic
Mr Chávez was expected to announce other economic and energy deals
during visits to Uruguay, Ecuador and Bolivia, underlining his ambition
to forge a common Latin American front under his leadership.
"We need to unite and the north American empire doesn't want us to
unite," the president told reporters in Buenos Aires. "It is a battle of
interests, but we will win this battle."
The four-nation tour, which started on Tuesday, is an attempt to flex
Venezuela's muscle after a series of setbacks in South America,
including stalled or diluted initiatives by Caracas for a pan-regional
bank and a gas pipeline.
Flush with oil revenues, Mr Chávez said his government had bought $500m
of Argentinian bonds and would buy $500m more in coming months, bringing
to more than $5bn the amount of Argentinian bonds bought by Venezuela in
It confirms Venezuela's position as one of Argentina's prime lenders and
will permit Buenos Aires to meet its foreign commitments this month,
which total $2.5bn, just when it was having difficulty attracting
foreign investment and credit.
The deal will also help Mr Chávez to soak up some of the liquidity in
Venezuela, which has pushed the country's inflation rate close to 20%,
the region's highest.
It has also cast Mr Chávez as the man who helped a proud ally recover
from a 2002 economic crash which had threatened to make Argentina a
basket case at the mercy of organisations such as the World Bank and
International Monetary Fund, both widely loathed in Latin America as
instruments of western domination.
"This is a big effort for Venezuela, but we are doing it because we know
what is at stake. Argentina is freeing itself from Dracula, it is
cutting ties with the IMF," said Mr Chávez.
In January 2006, Argentina repaid its entire remaining $9.6bn debt to
the IMF, giving President Néstor Kirchner kudos at home for restoring
national pride and sovereignty.
Mr Chávez's latest cash injection was a reminder to Mr Kirchner's
politician wife, Cristina, that she too will owe Caracas if she wins the
presidency in October's election after her husband steps down.
Some critics say the first couple have merely swapped one master, the
IMF, for a more radical and controversial one. Argentina was now
"Chávez-dependent", said Joaquín Morales Solá, a columnist with the
daily La Nación.
Critics in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have made similar accusations
against their own governments.
Mr Chávez's oil diplomacy has also earned him influence in Cuba.
However, Michael Shifter, of the Inter-American Dialogue thinktank, said
the Venezuelan leader might be disappointed if he expected unquestioning
loyalty from Argentina and other beneficiaries.
"It is doubtful if he will be able to solidify his anti-US coalition in
South America through his largesse," Mr Shifter said. "There are
questions about how much he can actually deliver on so many promises to
his allies. And there are signs that countries like Argentina, driven by
pragmatism, are looking increasingly to expand and diversify their
economic and political relationships."
In setbacks for Mr Chávez, his dreams of building a gas pipeline from
the Caribbean to the South Atlantic have stalled, Brazil is dragging its
feet over his plan for a Bank of the South, to rival the World Bank, and
Venezuela's bid to join Mercosur, a regional trade bloc, has run into
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, a friend but also rival
of Mr Chávez, is touring the region this week to promote his country's
leadership in biofuels.
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