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News ::
Argentina: An Anti-IMF Revolution
08 Jan 2002
Perhaps this too is the fault of Osama bin Laden?
The final act of Argentina's former president, Fernando de la Rua, was to flee Buenos Aires in a helicopter on December 20, two years into his four-year term.

http://eatthestate.org

The streets below, as in cities throughout the country, were filled with hundreds of thousands of protesting citizens, clouds of tear gas and rubber bullets, and the bodies of those shot dead by the police.

With the vice president and the entire cabinet having fled as well, one of the first acts of interim president Adolfo Rodriguez Saa was to suspend payments on Argentina's $132 billion foreign debt.

It was this debt and the decade-long austerity program imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that destroyed Argentina's economy. Since taking office, de la Rua's government had ruthlessly privatized essential services, slashed the salaries and pensions of government workers and raised taxes, finally driving fully 30% of the population below the poverty line.

It wasn't enough to satisfy the IMF.

What finally brought the nation's middle class into the streets to join the popular rebellion already underway among the underclass was the imposition of a $250 a week limit on bank withdrawals. This limit was ordered after $2 billion was pulled from the banks in a single day on November 30 by people fearful of losing their life's savings. Most have now given up all hope of ever seeing their money again.

Defending the limit on access of people to their own money, even in the face of obvious mishandling, de la Rua's finance minister said simply, "No banking system in the world can pay out in cash all its deposits." At least not and have some left over for the bankers.

Latin America's third largest economy (after Brazil and Mexico) began its quick slide into oblivion in 1991 when its Peso was pegged to the US dollar. Dollarization, while fiercely defended by neoliberal strategists, priced Argentina's exports out of competitiveness with its neighbors. And priced money out of reach of the country's poor.

The country's unbelievable foreign debt, largely incurred by past US-backed military dictators, is borne on the backs of the ordinary people. It was expanded further to fill the bank accounts of the previous president, Carlos Menem, and his cronies in the early 1990s.

The bulk of the money (what wasn't simply looted from the treasury) was used to subsidize the privatization of public industries and services at fire sale rates to a favored few.

Rodriquez Saa, in announcing the suspension of payments, called the IMF-sponsored debt "the murkiest business that has existed in the history of this country." It was contracted behind closed doors, enriching the oligarchy and leaving the citizenry to foot the bill. In the parlance of the IMF (and its largest shareholder, the USA) this is known as responsible behavior.

In an effort to inject some semblance of cash into the economy and allow people to buy things like bread, the new president has announced the creation of a new currency, the argentino. This currency will join the peso and the dollar in January as the third form of legal tender circulating in Argentina.

The new currency will be free floating, raising the almost certain prospect of currency devaluation, wiping out people's savings while vastly increasing their personal debts, with massive inflation to follow. Lacking foreign reserves, the government has announced it will back this new money by mortgaging all government property including the capitol building, the presidential residence, and its embassies and consulates.

The old government didn't fall easily. In the face of universal outrage and days of street protests, somebody ordered the police to respond with live ammunition. The two dozen shooting deaths initially reported as being by shopkeepers defending their property from looters are now known to have been caused by police-issue bullets. And rather than firing against looters it appears the guns were turned upon peacefully demonstrating protesters. No one will admit to giving the order in which unarmed people were shot in the back by policemen in clear view of witnesses.

One ugly episode saw police mounted on horses charging an assembly of The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who continue to seek answers to the fate of their loved ones, the disappeared of Argentina's military dictatorship of 1976-83.

The specter of a new dictatorship to once again "rescue" Argentina looms on the horizon. While ordinary Argentinians see their net worth evaporate, and the possibility of new rounds of privation and oppression, the bankers and financiers who, through the IMF, are responsible for their misery, once again evade any accountability for their actions. And Argentina is only the first of what is sure to be a string of defaults in the next few years as the Ponzi scheme known as the IMF runs out of new shills to bilk.

Perhaps this too is the fault of Osama bin Laden?
See also:
egroups.com/group/cea-usa
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