Monday, April 11, 2016

The political right on the move in Brazil, Argentina and Peru

The "soft coup" against left-leaning Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff moved a step forward today: Brazil congressional committee recommends impeaching Rousseff by Maria Carolina Marcello Reuters 04/11/2016. Reuters reports:

The goal of the Brazilian opposition and oligarchy want to remove Rouseff's elected government and replace it with a rightist government committed to the kind of neoliberal economic policies and aggressive posture against the democratic left that the government of Mauricio Macri in neighboring Brazil is taking.

The latest moves in Brazil's political crisis have the country on edge as it faces not only a government meltdown but its worst recession in decades. The political chaos in the capital, Brasilia, is also playing out less than 100 days before the nation plays host to the first Olympic Games to be held in South America - an event that will cast the world's eyes on Brazil.

The battle over Rousseff's impeachment has polarized the nation of 200 million people and brought the government of Latin America's largest economy to a virtual standstill.

The proposed impeachment is also taking place as Brazil faces its largest corruption investigation, targeting a sprawling kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Prosecutors say billions in bribes were paid over several years and have implicated not only members of Rousseff's Workers' Party but members of the opposition leading the charge to impeach her.
Whatevber we eventually find out is happening behind the scenes, this "soft coup" approach against the democratic left is broadly favored by the conservative policy the Obama Administration takes in Latin America, the pragmatic easing of tensions with Cuba notwithstanding.

Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina and sometime director of a Panamanian company

Jennifer Adair sketches the record of the Macri Administration in Argentina that took power in December in Argentina Turns North NACLA 03/30/2016, giving this background:

Throughout the 1990s, Argentina was a shining example of the Washington Consensus and [Argentine mPresident Carlos] Menem its most enthusiastic booster. His government courted foreign investment and introduced austerity measures that led to a punishing rise in inequality and sovereign debt. And while selling public utilities and state enterprises to the highest bidder, Menem also pardoned previously convicted military officers, citing national reconciliation and the dawn of a new age of prosperity.

The era of illicit U.S.-Argentine relations took a nosedive at the start of this century. In 2005, George W. Bush arrived at the Summit of the Americas in the seaside town of Mar del Plata with plans to finalize the details of the FTAA. As was widely reported at the time, his presence sparked massive protests against the free-market recipes of the previous decade. The host of the summit, Néstor Kirchner, who assumed the Argentine presidency in the aftermath of the country’s 2001 economic crisis, delivered a succinct message: US-backed economic policies had produced nothing but “misery, poverty, and democratic instability.” Negotiations for the FTAA tanked, and Bush left Argentina in a fury. It was a stunning turn of events, and a defining moment in the broader regional move away from neoliberal experiments.

Last week, Obama came to inaugurate a new chapter in bilateral relations, bearing the same free-market recipes as his predecessors. The visit confirmed Argentina as a principal ally in the midst of the continental retreat of the “pink tide [i.e., governments of the democratic left];” it also underscored the Macri administration’s role in leading a rightward shift across South America. [my emphasis]
And those Menem-era neoliberal policies are exactly what Macri's government is bringing back:

In his first 100 days in office, Macri has quickly set out to undo the policies of the Kirchner years through the elimination of agricultural export taxes, the end of energy subsidies, massive layoffs in the public sector, and a devaluation of the currency. During their talks, Macri and Obama fortified commitments to increase commercial ties between the two nations. While the initial agreements remain shrouded in mystery, the meetings pointed to future deals in agribusiness, telecommunications, and energy. Further details will likely emerge over the coming weeks. But as an immediate outcome, the agreements move Argentina one step closer towards greater participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while bolstering Macri’s related desire for closer economic ties with the European Union.

The final piece in realigning Argentina back toward world markets involves the issue of debt. In early March, the Macri government reached an agreement to pay the remaining “vulture fund” holdout creditors. Obama’s visit coincided with ongoing congressional debates surrounding the decision to settle the 15-year dispute, a legal battle that has played out dramatically in a New York federal court and which includes a silent-movie-worthy villain in the figure of Judge Thomas Griesa. Asked to make a statement on the ongoing case, Obama demurred: “I have to be careful not to comment because of the nature of our legal system. These are judges that I appoint.” He nonetheless offered a clear verdict on the implications of the impending settlement, which totals over $4.6 billion dollars in payments to U.S. creditors. “Today in a show of confidence in Argentina’s new direction, many U.S. businesses are announcing tens of millions of investments here in Argentina,” Obama stated. [my emphasis]
On Macri's model, see also: Claudio Scaletta, Restauración neoliberal a la argentina CELAG 02/05/2016.

CELAG also has a guide to some of the leading rightist, neoliberal politicians in Latin America, The Right’s Power. Los nombres de la derecha regional (accessed 04/11/2016). Like this profile by Bárbara Ester of Keiko Fujimori, a hardline conservative leader who just came in first place in the first round of Presidential elections in Peru. (Sepa qué proponen los candidatos a segunda vuelta en Perú TeleSUR 11.04.2016; Peru election: Keiko Fujimori leads in first round BBC News 04/11/2016) As the BBC News story hints, Fujimori is a nasty piece of work:

Ms Fujimori, the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, says tackling crime is her priority.

She is also supported by some Peruvians who credit her father with defeating the country's Maoist Shining Path rebel group.

However, other Peruvians have said they would never support anyone associated with her father, who is currently serving 25 years in prison for ordering death squads to massacre civilians during his attempts to end the insurgency.
Euronews reports, Keiko Fujimori 'wins Peru's presidential first round' 04/10/2016:

Later results than the Euronews report show that her challenger in the second round will be Pedro Kuczynski.

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