By Garrett St. James
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
March 19, 2007
Now that the angry masses of demonstrators have gone home, clouds of tear-gas have dispersed and that peculiar “sulfuric odor” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez likes to allude to is in the final stages of dissipation, let’s take another look at President George W. Bush’s latest tour of Latin America…
According to the mainstream media, Bush’s week long visit to five separate Latin American nations has been considered at best yet another typically half-assed fast-food episode of Bush diplomacy or a complete failure at its worst. Despite the never ending quagmire of Iraq and the seemingly imminent curtain raising of “Shock and Awe 2” on Iran, the domestically and internationally embattled American President decided it was important to once again head south. On the one hand we were told it was to shore up the Nation’s eroding political and economic influence throughout Latin America, while on the other it was to act as an ideological counter-weight to the ever growing popularity of Hugo Chavez’s Neo-Bolivarian movement.
Unlike the fiasco of “Bush South of the Border Tour ‘05,” “Bush South of the Border Tour ‘07” was going to be different. Gone would be the endless references to the War on Terror and business as usual neo-liberal imperialism mentalities. This tour would be full of compassion and human elevation for the people of the entire Americas. It didn’t matter though.
Everywhere Bush went were angry crowds of demonstrators battling it out with police. The same old same old was happening on the television news and of course street violence always makes great copy! To make things much worse, Bush’s arch-nemesis Hugo Chavez was making an Anti-Imperialist Tour of his own, filling entire football stadiums and public arenas wherever the Venezuelan President spoke. Sadly for Bush it was very clear as to who was winning the hearts and minds of Latin America once again. However, upon a second glance it’s apparent Bush did accomplish a few things and it was quite more than a half-assed success. In fact, it was a spectacular success.
On March 9th, Bush kicked off his “South of the Border ‘07 Tour” in Brazil but I would like to review what he had actually accomplished in the other 4 countries of Uruguay, Columbia, Guatemala and Mexico first…
Uruguay: In a country very few people know about much less heard of, Bush met with President Tabare Vasquez on March 10th. The usual praise and cash was passed around but a door was opened up for Uruguay to begin direct bi-lateral trade with the U.S. With a couple of handshakes and monotonous speeches, the rival Hugo Chavez Mercosur trading block (which includes Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay) had been successfully circumnavigated.
Columbia: On March 11th, Bush traveled to one of the largest receivers of American foreign military and economic aide. Yes, the USA does import a good deal of oil from Columbia but it also imports billions more of illegal narcotics. President Alvaro Uribe was given another cool 600 million because of it. A curious side-event that transpired shortly after the visit was the fine imposed Chiquita Banana Brands International back in Cincinnati, Ohio for paying bribes to right wing paramilitaries back in 2003: a sign that this sort of thing (or for certain unfavorable companies) will no longer be tolerated by the Uribe administration.
Guatemala: Bush only spent 5 hours meeting with a very anxious President Oscar Berger on March 12th. For a country so small both geographically and in political stature, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. What was Senor Berger so nervous about? The continued unhindered “migration” of Guatemala’s extremely impoverished into the United States. Bush no doubt assured President Berger that “the wall” and recent highly publicized crackdowns on illegal immigrants was just for show and Corporate America will continue to value Guatemala’s most valued commodity, CHEAP LABOR. Though it is an unspoken taboo, everyone knows that much of Latin America’s ruling classes are using the United States as a steam valve to alleviate the ever-mounting anger and revolutionary tendencies directed at their respective regimes. The billions of dollars sent back by “the migrants” to their remaining family members also helps.
Mexico: Bush wrapped up his tour by staying a few days visiting newly/nearly elected Mexican President, Felipe Calderon. The secretive but very real North American Union was definitely the supreme topic of importance during the two leaders discussions. Merging the USA along with Canada and Mexico was going to continue on schedule with little regard to the national sovereignties and consent of its peoples. Business is business after all…
Brazil: Bush arrived in South America’s largest and most powerful country following the footsteps of a fresh new highly orchestrated “Green Campaign.” For weeks on end Brazil had been bombarded by heavy doses of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and the various evils of environmental pollution. The Amazon needed saving once again and the Brazilians needed to become much more “eco-sensitive” in their day-to-day lives.
For 23 hours the massive metropolis of Sao Paulo was virtually brought to a standstill the day Bush met with President Ignacio “Lula” da Silva. From the very outset, violence erupted along Avenida Paulista between thousands of anti-Bush protesters and Military Policemen clad in riot gear. Slogans were chanted, rocks and bottles were soon thrown and then the police moved into to administer extremely vicious ritualized beatings to whomever was unfortunate enough to be caught during the ensuing hours long melee.
As the well-televised street clashes raged, Bush and Lula were celebrating a new bio-fuels deal between the two countries and drinking champagne. The word of the day was ethanol. An interesting side-event was the same day indictment of the notoriously corrupt Brazilian politician, Paulo Maluf, in New York City. Perhaps his arrest symbolized an act of good faith on the part of the Bush Administration at the bargaining table. Then came the grandiose boasting of “an energy revolution” and “the beginning of a brand new civilization.”
These were no ordinary quotes and it was no ordinary deal, either. Ethanol is not only going to make Lula’s Oligarch buddies very rich but with the help of the United States, Brazil is also going to become very powerful. The ramifications run very deep as well as they are wide. If people begin to think the days of unrestrained First World exploitation upon Latin America are the things of a forgettable past then they are also sadly mistaken. When one begins to look at what actually transpired on March 9th, they’ll begin to realize this was the culmination of a deal at least 30 years in making and could last for another 30 years into the future.
Brazil’s notorious and brutally oppressive Military Government first introduced ethanol production during the 1970’s as an experiment to find cheaper and more efficient forms of alternative energy. Throughout Brazil’s transformation into a democracy during the 1980’s and up to the turbulence caused by corrupt administrations and market crashes of the 1990’s, the ethanol industry steadily and successfully flourished. By the time President Lula was first inaugurated in January 2003, ethanol was the most commonly used fuel for Brazilian automobiles. For Brazil, the future was looking rosy and, after decades of struggle, the PT (Workers Party) had at long last taken power.
However, almost from the very instant of Lula’s New Year’s Day inauguration things began to get a little strange in the capital, Brasilia. People were surprised by Lula’s new fashionable appearance. Gone were the red tee shirts and blue jeans often worn by the self-made leader of trabalhadoros e campahneiros, only to be replaced by super expensive Italian suits. Oh well, Lula was President after all so he had to look Presidential didn’t he?
People must also remember that Lula was the leader of probably the most radical and powerful political party in the western hemisphere if not in the world. The PT was a tough as nails and well organized coalition comprising labor unions, student groups, land reformers and intellectuals. The traditional ruling oligarchs had a lot to fear and began to brace themselves for the inevitable onslaught of socio-economic reforms sure to follow a PT Presidential victory. The Party of the People had arrived and those gringos up north were definitely going to take notice. So everyone waited, January rolled into February and then March, April, June, July but nothing happened.
There was of course Lula’s highly touted “Zero Fome” program aimed at eliminating the starvation of millions of impoverished Brazilians (Nordestinos) living in the arid North Eastern regions of the country. Upon closer look even this seemed odd considering Lula might have been possibly wasting millions of reais transporting truck loads of rice and beans rather than looking for more pragmatic approaches to arid weather farming. The mass migration of hundreds of thousands of Nordestinos to southern Brazil continued unabated which further eroded and over taxed the already decrepitating social infrastructures of major cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. For these particular cities, the already insanely violent crime kept increasing. The Favelas that had absorbed the overwhelming majority of these displaced Nordestinos kept growing and growing. It was obvious to everyone that all of these new migrants were adding to the gross over-population of metropolitan centers. Everything was affected. Everything was falling apart faster and faster. Nothing had really changed except for the worst.
What was also equally strange was Lula’s bizarre approach to international diplomacy. One example was when he quickly went to Libya attempting to open trade agreements between the two countries primarily with oil. Just days later the international pariah Colonel Qadafi became the new darling of the West’s Big Oil Companies which soon moved in to enjoy Libya’s world famous super-lite sweet crude. Then there was the Aristide Coup in Haiti. Lula was more than eager to supply the bulk of UN Peace Keeping forces much to the chagrin of his own government and people. Wasn’t Aristide and Haiti an American problem? Lula insisted and even today Brazilian soldiers are policing the streets of Port au Prince. Odd?
Then came wave after wave of corruption scandals, which have virtually destroyed much of the PT’s political infrastructure. Party Big Wigs and luminaries were falling like rain. It looked as if everyone in the PT was involved in some scandal or another: everyone that is except Lula. In spite of it all, Lula went on to comfortably win another four-year term in office in October of ‘06.
Today Brazil is still South America’s most powerful country. No one including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez can do much without the support of Lula and Brazil. To the casual observer, It looks as if Lula rides the fence between the forces of radical socialist change led by Chavez and neoliberal free market capitalism from the imperialist giant up north. On March 9th, this all changed and Lula, despite what many experts are saying, is definitively now in the so-called neoliberal camp.
Not only will both Brazil and the USA become kings of the new worldwide ethanol fuels industry, but the very company running everything will be the Miami Florida based Inter-American Ethanol Commission. The former Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, and now agri-business tycoon, Roberto Rodrigues, created this newly formed company just last December. Who are his two principle partners? Luis Alberto Moreno from Columbia and Jeb Bush!
Now if people really begin to consider all the strange goings on emanating out of Brasilia from the Lula administration and the history of ethanol bio-fuels in general, things begin to make a lot more sense. Why was nothing of any importance done to stem the human tide of Nordestinos heading south year after year? Why would Lula turn his back on his Leftist past and do nothing to reform the crushing grip the oligarchs still have on the Brazilian economy? Why was the PT systematically gutted with scandal after scandal? Why was Lula so eager to commit troops after the anti-Aristide Coup in Haiti? Why was Lula running around “liberating” oil markets from previously pariah regimes like Libya and later Angola? Don’t forget that green and eco-friendly “Save the Amazon” campaign, either. Finally, what does the new ethanol bio-fuels pact between Brazil and the USA (Bush Family) really mean?
The answers are that the newly displaced Nordestino populations will make excellent slave labor for the expected ethanol producing sugarcane fields and sugar processing mills. The oligarchs as usual will be running and profiting from the enterprise. The PT has been effectively neutralized to keep anyone from getting in the way. Haiti is where the processed sugarcane will be refined into the new E10 ethanol based fuels which can be readily consumed by the American auto owners soon to be weaned off of fossil fuels coming out of the Middle East and Venezuela for starters. Lula has been an active agent promoting Big Oil’s interest in emerging third world markets and petroleum fields.
The Brazilian Amazon looks like the perfect place to plant ever larger sugarcane crops for the soon to be exponentially growing worldwide ethanol demand. Brazil plans on doubling its ethanol production in five years to 30 billion liters. They’ll eventually have to quadruple this number once serious American ethanol consumption begins. In less than twenty years 300 billion liters are planned to be produced to feed other world markets such as China and India. Serious acreage is going to be needed to pull this off and take a big guess as to where this acreage can be found?
Finally, the Bush Family is re-diversifying its worldwide energy investments. Perhaps the sheiks of the Mid-East aren’t going to be such good close friends in the years to come? The Brazilian Oligarchs look much more interesting? Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. The Bush Family has recently bought massive amounts of real estate in nearby Paraguay’s Chaco Region: an excellent geographical area to reside if you’re also interested in other energy industries and markets such as natural gas and hydroelectric Power. In the North it’s Bolivia, to the South is Argentina, to the West are Chile and Peru and to the East is Brazil. Well done.
Of course many people aren’t going to like these new arrangements. Lula and his eventual predecessors will have to continue to sell the idea that destroying much of Brazil’s world famous nature preserves is in the best interest of it’s economy. Bush (Hillary Clinton???) will have to convince the American Congress to strike down the unfair protectionist tariffs concerning Brazilian ethanol. Both Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska are strongly backed by the fledgling American ethanol industry that supports these tariffs. It’s very interesting if you consider that both men are now running for President.
What does this all mean for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his visions of Neo-Bolivarism throughout Latin America? He too is being out-flanked like the rest of us. Eventually the United States is going to become less and less dependent upon his oil in the years to come. What about the Middle East? Everyone has been so distracted by what is going on over there that many of us have failed to notice what is going on below our noses.
Most of us know very well that the continued exploitation and needless deaths of thousands of people are going to continue in South America if Bush and friends are allowed to get away with this out-flanking maneuver: A new war on terra. Nothing ever changes with these guys…
***We read this article a while ago on the show, but I recently found it online again and wanted us to redirect focus and prayer to this region. Let the light of our awareness and consciousness shine upon this region to prevent any corruption and oppression from getting out of hand.