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Africans Deflect Biden’s Demand To End Fossil Fuel Use

By Duggan Flanakin ~ PA Pundits – International ~ April 17, 2021

As the merger of climate change and COVID panic materializes in front of our eyes, “global leaders” have found plenty developing world voices to join the crusade to “save the planet” from carbon (dioxide) “pollution.” But like their Chinese and Indian counterparts, many Africans, from heads of state to captains of industry and beyond, intend to expand, not shrink, reliance on fossil fuels to build their economies.

According to Oxford University researcher Galina Alova, “Africa’s electricity demand is set to increase significantly as the continent strives to industrialise and improve the well-being of its people,” but those who hope for rapid decarbonization in Africa will likely be disappointed.

Alova’s research found that Africa is likely to double its electricity generation by 2030, with fossil fuels providing two-thirds of the total, hydroelectric another 18 percent, and non-hydro renewables providing less than 10 percent.

Such an energy mix flies in the face of the firm commitment from the fledgling Biden Administration to demand an end to all international financing of fossil fuel based energy projects. Biden climate envoy John Kerry won a strong endorsement from 450 organizations worldwide after telling World Economic Forum members of the “plan for ending international finance of fossil fuel projects with public money.”

The Biden plan, which comports with the Paris climate agreement, echos the call by European Union foreign ministers for an end to financing fossil fuel projects abroad (which means in Africa). Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained that “development finance is a powerful tool for addressing the climate crisis” that the U.S. will use to “help drive investment toward climate solutions.” [Translation: “We intend to ram decarbonization down their throats!”]

Many Africans feel the need to placate their self-appointed betters and accept the climate change tenets.

World Bank veteran Ede Ijjasz and Africa Growth Initiative Director Aloysius Ordu claim that Africans must take advantage of the COVID pandemic to initiate a “great reset” of Africa’s economies according to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the Paris agreement. The world, they claim, cannot afford to give Africa a pass on decarbonization (though China and India get a pass).

Others prefer a more temperate approach.

In late March, investment professional Tariye Gbadegesin challenged President Biden to prioritize African nations as part of his global climate initiative. While admitting that Africa’s urban centers are swelling, “threatening more emissions,” she asserted that striking a balance between this ongoing development and its climate impact must be a global priority. For example, Nigeria could build a hybrid grid using plentiful natural gas and solar energy. But, Gbadegesin implied, such a hybrid grid would not meet the Biden-EU financing guidelines.

In early April, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Global Center for Adaptation, and the Africa Adaptation Initiative held a virtual Leaders Dialogue in response to the State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report. Over 30 heads of state and other global leaders committed to prioritize actions that will help African countries both adapt to the presumed impacts of “climate change” and overcome widespread energy poverty. African Union chair Felix Tshisekedi listed “nature-based solutions, energy transition, an enhanced transparency framework, technology transfer, and climate finance” as critical areas for adaptation.

During the meeting, AfDB president Dr. Akinwumi Adesina noted the group intends to mobilize $25 billion in financing for the success of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program. “It is time,” he affirmed, “for developed countries to meet their promise of providing $100 billion annually for climate finance. And a greater share of this should go to climate adaptation.”

This African response to the Biden-EU decarbonization initiative – relying on adaptation and balance, not prohibition and eternal poverty, to achieve sustainability — reflects on the 1987 Brundtland Commission report, “Our Common Future.” In the report, the World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development” as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Commission Chair Gro Harlem Brundtland acknowledged that, “A world in which poverty is endemic will always be prone to ecological and other catastrophe.” In her view, “Meeting essential needs requires not only a new era of economic growth for nations in which the majority are poor, but an assurance that those poor get their fair share of the resources required to sustain that growth.”

Sadly, U.S. and EU (and the UN) climate “monarchs” have long ignored Brundtland’s promises. The UN’s 20-year assessment of the document did not even mention “poverty” or “Africa.” CFACT reported that year that sub-Saharan Africa was “in very short supply of energy and power, especially electricity, and overland trade [was] greatly hindered by an almost total lack of infrastructure.” Worse. curable diseases ran rampant as people relied on toxic dung and wood for heating and cooking.

At the 2011 UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa, nuclear physicist (and CFACT advisor) Kelvin Kemm reported that the African representatives were not happy. “Their general feeling,” he recounted, “was that the First World is trying to push Africa around, bully African countries into accepting its opinions, and, even worse, adopting its supposed ‘solutions’.”

That feeling remains. Responding to the Biden-EU renewables-only energy financing plan, W. Gyude Moore, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and former Liberian minister of public works, mused that, “There’s this idea that because Africa is lacking in legacy infrastructure, it’s a good canvas to paint the energy future. But no African country has volunteered itself for that.”

With nearly 600 million Africans lacking access to electricity, Moore added, “it seems immoral to restrict options for energy sources” for the world’s poorest continent. Later, Moore, with Vijaya Ramachandran of The Breakthrough Institute, wrote that a ban on oil and gas projects in Africa would stifle economic growth and thus make poor populations even more vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Moore and Ramachandran explained that the top priority in most African countries is economic growth, first in agriculture, then in industry and services. For most Africans, worries of an increased carbon footprint generated from economic growth are a weak second to worries that growth may not happen at all. In their view, people in poverty don’t just need to power a single lightbulb at home; they need abundant, affordable energy at work too.

Overall, Moore and Ramachandran noted, Africa’s needs are too great to be met solely with current green energy technologies. Its finances too stretched to be able to afford the cost of carbon-neutral energy. Keeping Africa poor to fight climate change will do nothing to help the people most affected by it. But President Biden, his EU allies, and the “green 450” disagree.

This arrogance makes it quite clear that “Our Common Future” is still in the future, if at all.

The difference is that, today, Africans are no longer waiting for the UN, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, or even the African Development Bank to finally invest in sorely needed African infrastructure.

By hook or by crook, Africans are committed to using available resources to do the job.

Duggan Flanakin is the Director of Policy Research at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. A former Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundations, Mr. Flanakin authored definitive works on the creation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and on environmental education in Texas.

April 18, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | Leave a comment

Argentine Government to Launch Legal Action Against Ex-President Over IMF Loan

Sputnik – 10.04.2021

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez issued a decree instructing the country’s special legal body to act as a plaintiff on behalf of the state in a case against his predecessor Mauricio Macri, stemmed from his decision to take a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the amount of $50 billion.

“Prosecutors representing the state as the claimant are ordered to pursue the case, ‘Mauricio Macri and others, fraud against state bodies’ … and to facilitate the advancement of the criminal process in order to determine those responsible for the crime,” the decree says.

The document further states that the case is related to Marci’s decision to take a loan from the IMF in the amount of $50 billion in 2018. The current government has repeatedly spoken about the difficulties surrounding paying off the debt and began negotiations with the IMF on a new assistance program.

In addition, lawyers were instructed to initiate actions leading to compensation for possible losses incurred as a result of the actions of the previous authorities.

The decree was signed by the country’s current president, prime minister, and ministers of economy and justice.

April 10, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Bolivia’s Central Bank Returns Añez’s Requested Loan To IMF

teleSUR | February 17, 2021

Bolivia’s Central Bank announced on Wednesday that it had returned US$346.7 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a loan irregularly managed by the de facto government of Jeanine Añez.

“This loan, in addition to being irregular and onerous due to its financial conditions, generated additional and millionaire economic costs to the Bolivian State, which as of February 2021 amount to US$24.3 million of which US$19.6 million are due to exchange rate fluctuations 19.6 million for exchange variation and 4.7 million for commissions and interest,” the institution explained in a statement.

The Central Bank denounced that the IMF jeopardized the “country’s sovereignty and economic interests” through its Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), which conditioned the funds to fiscal, financial, exchange rate monetary duties, which violate the Bolivian legal framework.

Moreover, authorities explain that they would start an investigation to prosecute all officials involved in the IMF’s illegal arrangement.

February 18, 2021 Posted by | Corruption | , , | 1 Comment

HBO’s ‘Welcome to Chechnya’ Is Latest Anti-Russian Cold War Propaganda

By Max Parry • Unz Review • August 26, 2020

In 2017, explosive allegations first emerged that the authorities of the Chechen Republic were reportedly interning gay men in concentration camps. After a three year period of dormancy, the accusations have resurfaced in a new feature length documentary by HBO Films entitled Welcome to Chechnya. Shot between mid-2017 and early last year, the film has received widespread acclaim among Western media and film critics. Shortly after its release last month, the Trump administration and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced an increase in economic sanctions and imposed travel restrictions against Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his family, citing the putative human rights abuses in the southern Russian republic covered in the film.

Most of the boilerplate reviews of Welcome to Chechnya have heaped particular praise upon the documentary’s novelty use of ‘deepfake’ technology to hide the identities of alleged victims in the cinematic investigation. Yet at the closing of the film, one subject who previously appears with his likeness concealed by AI reveals himself at a news conference without the disguise—rendering the prior use of synthetic media fruitless. Maxim Lapunov, who is not even ethnically Chechen but a Russian native of Siberia, is still the only individual to have gone public with the charges. Despite the obvious credibility and authenticity questions regarding the use of such controversial technology, it has not prevented critics from lauding it unquestioningly. Unfortunately, even some in alternative media have been regurgitating the film’s propaganda such as The Intercept, a slick online news publication owned by billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar whose financial ties to the national security state and U.S. soft power institutions conflict with the outlet’s purported mission. Notably, The Intercept’s glowing review of Welcome to Chechnya was written by Mehdi Hasan, a journalist who also works for Al-Jazeera, a news agency owned by the ruling emirs of Qatar, a theocratic dictatorship where homosexuality is actually illegal .

The documentarians follow the work of a purported network of activists who evacuate individuals like Lapunov out of the Caucasian republic. This is the film’s primary source of drama, despite their encountering seemingly no difficulty from the local authorities in doing so. We are then subjected to random cell phone clips of apparent hate crimes and human rights abuses going on, but at no point does the film crew even visit the Argun prison where the anti-gay pogroms are alleged to have taken place. In 2017, the imperial hipsters at Vice news were given unrestricted access to the facility where nothing was found and the warden adamantly denied the allegations — but not without expressing his own disapproval of homosexuality which was assumed by his interrogators to be evidence of the detentions having occurred. In the HBO documentary, a similar hatchet job is done to Ramzan Kadyrov, whose uncomfortable denial of the existence of homosexuality in the deeply conservative and predominantly Muslim republic is implied to be proof that the purges must be happening. One may recall this same sort of smear tactic was previously done to former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, Kadyrov and the warden’s predictable responses to the subject serve only as confirmation bias, not confirmation.

The selective outrage in response to the alleged purges, like all things Russia-related, is highly politicized. Western viewers would have no idea that of the 74 countries worldwide where homosexuality is still criminalized, Russia isn’t among them. In more than a dozen of those nations, same-sex activity is punishable by death, a few of which happen to be close strategic allies of the United States, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. As recently as 2017, the U.S. was one of 13 countries to vote against a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution condemning countries with capital punishment for same-sex relations to avoid falling-out with those allies, most of which have legal systems established on their respective interpretations of Sharia law. While the local authorities of the Muslim-majority Chechen Republic have been allowed to introduce some elements of the fundamentalist religious code by the Russian government such as the banning of alcohol and gambling and requiring the wearing of hijab by women, as a federal subject it is still ultimately beholden to Russia’s secular constitution. In fact, it was Kadyrov’s predecessor, Alu Alkhanov, who hoped to govern Chechnya with Sharia law, not the current administration. Credulous audiences would have no clue that Kadyrov actually represents the more moderate wing of Chechen politics because there is absolutely no history or context provided, a deliberately misleading choice on the part of the filmmakers.

The absence of any historical background deceptively suggests that the anti-gay sentiment in the mostly Muslim North Caucasus is somehow an extension of the homophobia in Russia itself, despite the autonomous differences in religion, culture, and society. In the last decade, the weaponization of identity politics has been central to Washington’s ongoing demonization of Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, with the issue of LGBT rights particularly given significant attention. While homosexuality is decriminalized, there is admittedly no legal prohibition of discrimination against the LGBT community in Russia. In particular, human rights groups have condemned the notorious federal law passed in 2013 known as the ‘gay propaganda law’ that forbids the distribution of information promoting “non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, which entails the banning of gay pride parades and other LGBT rights demonstrations. However, the measure enjoys widespread support among the Russian people whose social conservatism has been resuscitated by the Orthodox Church since the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is rather ironic and hypocritical that the West has since taken issue with this turn, considering it facilitated that political transformation.

In reality, the reason for the relentless vilification of Putin has absolutely nothing to to do with the exaggerated plight of gays in Russia and a lot more to do with the reversal of policies under his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. In the nineties, the mass privatization of the former state-owned enterprises during Russia’s conversion to capitalism resulted in the instant impoverishment of millions and the rapid rise of the notorious ‘oligarchs’ which the West characterized at the time as progression towards democracy. In the loans-for-shares scheme, a new ruling class of bankers and industrialists accumulated enormous wealth overnight and by the middle of the decade, owned or controlled much of the country’s media outlets. The oligarchs held enormous power and influence over the deeply unpopular Yeltsin, who would surely have lost reelection in 1996 without their backing and the assistance of Western meddling in the form of massive loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

While economic disparity and corruption persists today, overall the Russian economy has been rebuilt after its energy assets were re-nationalized and brought back under state control by the Putin administration, resulting in improved living standards and income levels for the last two decades. By the same measure, the Russian people can hardly be blamed for associating homosexuality with the unbridled neoliberalism, vulture capitalism and draconian austerity imposed on their country by Western capital. It is also truly paradoxical that the notion of “Russian oligarchs” has become synonymous with Putin in the minds of Westerners when many of the most obscenely wealthy oligarchs of the Yeltsin era now live in exile as his most ardent political opponents after they faced prosecution for their financial crimes. Not coincidentally, the initial reports of the ‘gay gulags’ in Chechnya were published in Novaya Gazeta, an anti-Putin newspaper partly owned by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the very man who ushered in the economic liberalization which auctioned off the state assets to oligarchs like co-owner Alexander Lebedev.

Gorbachev’s reforms, particularly that of perestroika (“restructuring”), also had destructive consequences for the national question and ethno-regional interests. V.I. Lenin had famously called the Russian Empire a “prison house of nations”, in reference to its heterogeneous range of nationalities and ethnic groups. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 especially re-agitated ethno-national conflicts in the Caucasus, a region that had enjoyed several decades of relative harmony and stability under socialism with rights and representation that did not exist in pre-revolutionary Russia. While Azerbaijan and Georgia were granted independence, Chechnya and many other municipalities remained under federal control of the Russian Federation, as sovereignty did not constitutionally apply because it had never been an independent state. Not to mention, its oil and gas reserves are essential to Russia’s very economic survival.

The jihadism which plagued the Caucasus was an outgrowth of the U.S.-backed ‘holy war’ in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the brainchild of Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor in the Jimmy Carter administration. It was the Polish-born Brzezinski who not only authored the geostrategy of arming the mujahideen against the Soviets but the efforts to turn Russia’s own large Muslim minority community against them. This was mostly unsuccessful as the majority of its 20 million Muslims (10% of the population) are harmoniously integrated into Russian society, but the Atlanticists did fan the flames of a militant secessionist movement in Chechnya that erupted in a violent insurgency and became increasingly Islamist as the conflict dragged on. For Washington, the hope was that the West could gain access to Caspian oil by encouraging the al-Qaeda-linked separatists rebranded as “rebels” vulnerable to its domination in the energy-rich region. The collapse of the USSR already escalated hostilities between the intermingling ethnic communities of the region, but the antagonisms were intensified by CIA soft power cutouts like the Jamestown Foundation fomenting the secessionist insurrection. As the separatist movement grew increasingly Wahhabist thanks to U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia, its more moderate nationalist faction led by Akhmad Kadyrov eventually defected back to the Russian side. The elder Kadyrov would pay the price when he was assassinated in a 2004 stadium bombing in Grozny during an annual Victory Day celebration, with his son becoming one of his successors.

The Kremlin’s support for the Kadyrovs should be understood as a compromise which prevented the more radical Islamists from taking power, which apparently Washington would be happier with running the North Caucasus. What a human rights utopia Chechnya would be as a breakaway Islamic state, under the salafists which during the Chechen wars committed unspeakable acts of terrorism including the taking of hospital patients, theater goers, and even hundreds of schoolchildren as hostages. One can be certain that if there aren’t anti-gay pogroms going on in Chechnya now, there definitely would be without the likes of Kadyrov in power. In the documentary, what the Chechen leader does implicitly acknowledge may be occurring are individual honor killings within families and clans, a social problem common in other Muslim countries such as Pakistan, and certainly not a human rights issue particular to Chechnya. Many instances of honor killings in the Muslim world have included homosexuality as a motive for the extrajudicial killings by relatives of victims believed to have betrayed the family honor. On the other hand, Kadyrov himself has overseen the establishment of unprecedented reconciliation commissions to address the issue of honor culture, blood feuds and vendetta codes of Caucasian tribes. Kadyrov’s promotion of reconciliation has made significant progress in reducing such killings which were rampant during the Chechen Wars as family members would often seek to avenge the deaths of loved ones. Now that the region is in a period of relative stability, peace and economic recovery, with the once devastated city of Grozny now known as the ‘Dubai of the North Caucasus’, the West is suddenly feigning concern over human rights.

The swift end brought to the conflict by Putin was another reason for his becoming a target of Washington who had been counting on the balkanization of southern Russia. In a pinnacle of imperial projection, the explanation for Putin’s rise to power has since been revised by the Atlanticists to his having somehow secretly masterminded the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings while director of the Federal Security Service (FSB, the KGB’s successor), as if the neocons hope to deflect all of the longstanding rumors about the Bush administration and the 9/11 attacks onto the Kremlin. Except this Machiavellian conspiracy would be a lot more believable if the Chechen wars had not been going on since the early nineties, with much worse terrorist attacks already having been committed by the separatists, such as the taking of thousands of hospital patients as hostages in southern Russia. Since the end of the Chechen Wars, on the flip side the U.S. has also backed Russian opposition figure and Putin critic Alexei Navalny, a right-wing Islamophobe who has pledged to secede the North Caucasus while comparing its Muslim inhabitants to cockroaches. Despite his anti-immigrant rhetoric and minuscule 2% support among Russians, Navalny has been depicted as a “pro-democracy” and “anti-corruption” campaigner in Western media, who have been crying foul over his recent suspected poisoning in Russia and ensuing comatose airlift to Germany. If only the naive American liberals who read The New York Times and The Washington Post had any idea that Mr. Navalny has far more in common with the dreaded Mr. Trump than Putin does.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has already experienced blowback for its nurturing of terrorism in the Caucasus in the form of the Boston Marathon bombings, which recently returned to the news when convicted Chechen-American perpetrator Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence was vacated on appeal last month. In the aftermath of the April 2013 attacks, it was revealed that Tsarnaev’s deceased older brother and co-conspirator Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been radicalized attending seminars financed by the Jamestown Foundation while traveling abroad in Tblisi, Georgia, and the brothers’ uncle Ruslan Tsarni had previously been married to the daughter of high-ranking U.S. intelligence officer Graham Fuller, Brzezinski’s CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the Afghan-Soviet war. It also came to light that ‘Uncle Ruslan’ had previously worked for the CIA-linked United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and established a company called the Congress for Chechen International Organizations which funded Islamic militants in the Caucasus. Despite the astounding ‘coincidences’ surrounding the Tsarnaev clan, Uncle Ruslan was never considered a person of interest by the FBI, who had ignored warnings by the Russian FSB of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s extremism prior to the attacks.

Two years before Putin’s election, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the prime mover of the West‘s plan to dominate the globe by using Islam to bring down the USSR in delivering the Soviet equivalent of the Vietnam War, wrote in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1997):

“… The last decade of the twentieth century has witnessed a tectonic shift in world affairs. For the first time ever, a non-Eurasian power has emerged not only as a key arbiter of Eurasian power relations but also as the world’s paramount power. The defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union was the final step in the rapid ascendance of a Western Hemisphere power, the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power.”

Those words were written before the return of both Russia and China on the world stage, developments that have thrown a monkey wrench into Washington’s plans which the Russophobic Warsaw-native did not anticipate in his blueprint for Western hegemony. When the U.S.-backed headchoppers in the Syrian war nearly had control of Damascus, just a thousand miles or so from Sochi, the threat of jihadism returning to the Caucasus became very real. Beginning at the Munich Conference in 2007, Putin had begun to criticize the monopolistic expansion of NATO on Russia’s borders — but after the subsequent overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi where Moscow witnessed Libya transformed into a hotbed of terrorism like post-Saddam Iraq, the prospect of the same happening in Syria was an existential threat that could not be tolerated. In mainstream media, reality has been inverted where Moscow’s self-defense has been portrayed as expansionism, even though the so-called “annexation” of Crimea was virtually nonviolent compared to the Nazi junta initiated by Washington in Ukraine and the Russian-speaking people of Donetsk and Luhansk who voted to join Russia did not wish to end up like those massacred in Odessa. Besides, is the U.S. not currently annexing northeast Syria? The Crimean parliament and Syrian government invited Moscow, while the same cannot be said for the US presence in violation of international law.

Those in Washington with no respect for the sovereignty of nations would prefer Americans to see Russia as an adversary. During the Cold War, the threat was communism, but with capitalism restored in Eastern Europe, it became necessary to manipulate liberals into perceiving Russia as an ultra conservative regime. They must also keep Americans from knowing the true history of US-Russia relations — that Russia was the first nation to recognize American independence when Catherine the Great’s neutrality during the Revolutionary War indirectly aided the Thirteen Colonies in their victory against the Loyalists and Great Britain. During the War of Independence, the Russian Empress had maintained relations with the U.S. and rebuffed British requests for military assistance. The Russian Empire also later helped secure the Union victory during the Civil War, with an Imperial Navy fleet off the shores of the Pacific preventing the Confederates from landing troops on the west coast and deterring intervention by the British and the French. Then as Allies in WWII, while the U.S. was victorious in the Pacific, it was the Soviets who truly won the war in Europe, a feat the Anglo-Americans are still trying to take credit for to this day. Unfortunately, despite his promising rhetorical embrace of détente with Moscow that has made him the subject of political persecution, Donald Trump has proven to be every bit as hostile toward Russia as his forerunners. With the latest actions taken by his state department regarding Chechnya that are right out of the Brzezinski playbook, the idiom that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” certainly applies to Washington and US-Russia relations.

Max Parry is an independent journalist and geopolitical analyst. His writing has appeared widely in alternative media. Max may be reached at maxrparry@live.com

August 26, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

COVID-19 economic decline brings IMF back to Latin America

By Paul Antonopoulos | August 26, 2020

The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic brought the International Monetary Fund (IMF) back to Latin America. In December 2005, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Argentine President Néstor Kirchner announced that they had paid the debts that South America’s two largest countries had with the IMF. At the time, Brazil paid $15.5 billion and Argentina about $9.81 billion, cancelling its debts. In addition to being historic, this transaction marked an era. The two South American powers freed themselves from the influence of the IMF and showed unprecedented political coordination, which was also complemented by political support from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

The bloc also gave impetus to its neighbors: Uruguay, for example, cancelled its debt of $1.08 billion in 2006, while Bolivia freed itself from the fund that same year after an agreement allowed a $250 million debt to be forgiven.

However, everything seems to have changed 15 years later. Latin America is one of the world’s most affected regions from the COVID-19 pandemic – medically and economically. The IMF’s director, Kristalina Georgieva, predicts a 9.3% contraction for the region in 2020, compared to a 4.9% decline worldwide. Georgieva said that as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic, the organization has doubled access to emergency financing, disbursing a total of $25 billion to help 70 countries. Of those, about $5.5 billion went to 17 countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The IMF director especially mentioned the cases of Chile, Peru and Colombia, which the IMF signed flexible credit line agreements totalling $107 billion.

An analysis by Teresa Morales, Nicolás Oliva and Guillermo Oglietti from the Latin American Strategic Center for Geopolitics (CELAG) shows that between April 17 and May 1, the IMF also helped Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Granada, Haiti, Panama, Paraguay and Saint Lucia with a total of $3.48 billion. CELAG researchers indicated at the end of May that “Latin American countries have started a new indebtedness process with the IMF.” In this sense, they warned that the IMF “will certainly mean short-term relief to face a very adverse external front, but that it certainly has its counterpart in the conditions of macroeconomic policies and their known consequences.”

However, we have not yet entered into a critical debt process. This is not so much because Latin American countries are not looking for it, but because of the very lukewarm response of multilateral organizations like the IMF to the pandemic. In this sense, the emergency financing lines provided by the organization have been of low magnitude and, for the time being, leave out the countries of the region with a low credit rating. Despite everything, this does not mean that the Fund has not returned to the region. The IMF has had a process of rapprochement with Latin America since the economic crisis of 2008 with loans of $57 billion to Argentina in 2018 and $4.5 billion to Ecuador.

It will depend on how much the countries in the region will need financing as a result of the pandemic to see if the IMF’s role as a financier in Latin America will be strengthened. One of the main changes is a nuance of the Washington Consensus, the traditional series of measures promoted by the IMF, the World Bank and the U.S. Treasury Department. The Washington Consensus pursues trade liberalization, fiscal adjustment, privatization policies and deregulation of the capital market, among others.

The Fund made a very strong self-criticism of the Washington Consensus. For example, now the reforms are not necessarily all implemented and, in some cases, the Fund recognized the importance of capital control by the State, the importance of counter-cyclical policies and the reduction of inequality through progressive fiscal policies. The organization is now more flexible and has started to allow government officials to participate in designing reform plans. It is likely this was allowed only after the IMF received massive criticism for choking Greece economically between 2008 and 2018 that tarnished the Fund’s image and reputation all around the world.

The Fund essentially has become more cunning and has learned that the same economic changes in all countries is counterproductive, not only in terms of economic results, but also in terms of the institution’s legitimacy. This change does not mean that it is a new institution, it still very much is the IMF with an orthodox bias, focused on liberalization policies. The IMF continues to have a preference for structural reforms, such as social security reform, tax reform, labor reform and, in some cases, trade reform.

In Georgieva’s address to the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean, the IMF will maintain its supposed solid commitment to the region in terms of capacity-building and economic policy advice. In this context, the IMF director asked Latin American countries to be able to reorient policies when the time comes to help workers get back to work and asked them to do so using fiscal stimulus with prudence. In her message, Georgieva said that as shocks dissipate, fiscal soundness and debt sustainability must become priorities for economic policy. However, it appears rather that Georgieva is attempting to prepare Latin America to once again be dominated by the IMF.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

August 26, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Sudan to Compensate Families of USS Cole Victims

teleSUR | February 13, 2020

The new Sudanese government has agreed to compensate the families of sailors killed in an Al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole warship 20 years ago, state news agency SUNA said on Thursday, part of government efforts to remove the country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The report said the settlement had been signed on Feb. 7. It did not mention the amount paid in compensation, but a source with knowledge of the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Sudan had agreed to settle the case for $30 million.

The 17 sailors were killed, and dozens of others injured, in the attack on Oct. 12, 2000, when two men in a small boat detonated explosives alongside the Navy guided missile destroyer as it was refueling in the southern Yemeni port of Aden.

Khartoum agreed to settle “only for the purpose of fulfilling the condition set by the U.S. administration to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism”, SUNA said, citing the justice ministry.

Being designated as a state sponsor of terrorism makes Sudan ineligible for desperately needed debt relief and financing from lenders such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Removal from the list potentially opens the door for foreign investment.

“The government of Sudan would like to point out that the settlement agreement explicitly affirmed that the government was not responsible for this incident or any terrorist act,” the justice ministry said in its statement, cited by SUNA said.

The announcement comes two days after Khartoum and rebel groups agreed that all those wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and genocide in the Darfur region should appear before the tribunal. The list includes Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir.

The U.S. sailors’ relatives had sued Sudan under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally bars suits against foreign countries except those designated by the United States as a sponsor of terrorism, as Sudan has been since 1993.

Sudan did not defend against the claims in court. In 2014, a trial judge found that Sudan’s aid to al Qaeda “led to the murders” of the 17 Americans and awarded the families about $35 million, including $14 million in punitive damages.

Sudan then tried to void the judgment, arguing the lawsuit was not properly served on its foreign minister, violating notification requirements under U.S. and international law.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down the bid by the families last year.

February 13, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Protests over fuel prices escalate in Ecuador, oil facilities seized

Press TV – October 8, 2019

Hundreds of people in Ecuador have clashed with security forces as they marched toward the country’s capital of Quito to protest soaring fuel prices.

Riot police and military forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters on Monday after they blocked roads with burning tires and other barricades in the town of Machachi on the outskirts of Quito.

Chanting anti-government slogans, the protesters also attempted to force their way into the National Legislative Assembly in the capital.

Thousands of indigenous people are due to converge on Quito for a protest on Wednesday.

“More than 20,000 indigenous people will be arriving in Quito,” said Jaime Vargas, the leader of the umbrella indigenous organization CONAIE, which was key to driving then-president Jamil Mahuad from office during an economic crisis in 2000.

The protesters, some armed with sticks and whips, hail from southern Andean provinces and are heading to the capital aboard pick-up trucks and on foot.

Meanwhile, Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy said in a statement on Monday that activities in three oil fields in the Amazon region had been suspended “due to the seizure of the facilities by groups of people outside the operation,” without identifying the groups responsible.

The seizures affected 12 percent of the country’s oil production, or 63,250 barrels of crude per day, according to the ministry statement.

The Latin American country has been rocked by days of mass demonstrations since increases of up to 120 percent in fuel prices came into force on October 3.

President Lenin Moreno scrapped fuel subsidies as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to obtain loans despite Ecuador’s high public debt.

The Ecuadorian government says the protests have so far left one civilian dead and 77 injured, the majority of them security forces. A total of 477 people have also been detained.

In a radio and television address on Sunday, Moreno blamed the deterioration in the country’s finances on his predecessor, Rafael Correa, also accusing him of an “attempted coup” and of “using some indigenous groups, taking advantage of their mobilization to plunder and destroy.”

The Ecuadorian president called for dialog with the indigenous community to alleviate their grievances.

“I am committed to a dialog with you, my indigenous brothers, with whom we share so many priorities,” Moreno said in his address. “Let’s talk about how to use our national resources to help those in the greatest need.”

But his plea was met with harsh opposition from Vargas, the indigenous leader.

“We are sick of so much dialog… There have been thousands of calls, thousands and thousands of calls, and until this point, we have not brought out our response,” he said.

Moreno declared a state of emergency in indigenous areas on Thursday, allowing the government to restrict movement and to use the armed forces for maintaining order as well as censoring the press.

October 8, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , | 1 Comment

US Threatens Venezuela at UNSC as IMF Freezes Funds

Diplomatic battles rage on at international bodies such as the UNSC, the OAS and the IMF

US VP Mike Pence called on the UN to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s president. (EFE)
By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | April 11, 2019

Caracas – The United States pressured the United Nations to recognize self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido during a Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Wednesday.

US Vice President Mike Pence told the UNSC that “the time has come” for the UN to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s “legitimate president” and accept the latter’s representative to the world body. He added that the US would circulate a resolution to this effect, but offered no details on its timetable. A previous US resolution at the UNSC was vetoed by Russia and China on February 28.

Pence went on to reiterate the warning that “all options are on the table” to oust the Maduro government. “This is our neighborhood,” he told reporters afterward, calling on Russia to cease its support to the Maduro government.

Venezuela’s UN representative, Samuel Moncada, slammed what he called a “clear move to undermine” Venezuela’s rights, adding that his legitimacy depended on UN recognition and not on the declarations of the US vice president.

Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the US of causing Venezuela “billions of dollars in losses” as a result of sanctions.

“[The US] deliberately provokes a crisis in Venezuela in order to change a legitimately elected leader for a US protege,” Nebenzia said in his speech.

Chinese representative Liu Jieyi likewise affirmed that Venezuelan affairs should be handled internally and criticized the imposition of sanctions, while his South African counterpart, Jerry Matjila, called for the UNSC to take a “constructive approach.”

Wednesday’s UNSC meeting came on the heels of a session at the Organization of American States (OAS) which approved Guaido’s appointment, Gustavo Tarre, as a representative to the body “until new elections are held.” The proposal had 18 votes in favor, 9 against, six abstentions and one absence.

Venezuelan authorities denounced the move as a violation of international law and of the OAS charter. The Foreign Ministry reiterated that Venezuela is due to leave the OAS on April 27, having started the process two years ago. Caracas denounced meddling in its internal affairs after the OAS had repeatedly tried to apply its democratic charter. However, it never managed to secure the necessary 24 votes.

Diplomatic battles surrounding Guaido’s recognition have extended to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to Bloomberg, the IMF cut off Caracas’ access to almost US $400 million in special drawing rights (SDR). While the IMF has shown no signs of recognizing Guaido, and lists Finance Minister Simon Zerpa as Venezuela’s representative, sources told Bloomberg that a government must be recognized by a majority of the Fund’s members to access its SDR reserves.

Venezuela remains mired in a deep economic crisis that has seen its international reserves shrink to around $9 billion. The cash crunch has been further compounded by US and allies freezing Venezuelan assets held abroad. In one such case, the Bank of England has refused to repatriate an estimated $1.2 billion worth of Venezuelan gold held in its vaults.

International tensions have also flared around the issue of humanitarian aid, with US and Venezuelan opposition ultimately failing to force an estimated $20 million worth of aid across the Venezuela-Colombia border on February 23. The operation faced strident criticism from international agencies such as the United Nations and the Red Cross, who refused to take part in the “politicization” of aid.

During Tuesday’s UNSC meeting, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock stated that Venezuela is facing a “very real humanitarian problem” and talked about the need to step up UN efforts in the Caribbean country. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres later tweeted that the UN estimates there are 7 million people in need of aid in Venezuela, and that the UN is working to increase its assistance “in line with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.”

UN agencies have increased their work in Venezuela in recent months, most recently via an agreement between Caracas and the UN’s Central Emergency Resource Fund for US $9.2 million to address the health and nutritional impacts of the country’s severe economic crisis. President Maduro has also appealed for UN assistance in countering US sanctions to bring medicines and medical equipment to Venezuela.

Likewise, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) recently announced a scaling up of its activities in Venezuela, doubling its annual country budget to $60 million as part of an agreement with the Venezuelan government.

Maduro met a Red Cross commission headed by IFRC President Peter Maurer on Tuesday to coordinate the agency’s work in Venezuela. Maurer had previously met Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza to “strengthen cooperation agreements.”

April 12, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

The Dark Secret Behind a British Billionaire’s “Parallel State” In Argentina’s Patagonia

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | March 11, 2019

EL BOLSÓN, ARGENTINA – At the “end of the world,” spanning the southernmost regions of Argentina and Chile, lies the land of Patagonia, much of which remains a pristine wilderness that has inspired countless naturalists and would-be adventurers with its dramatic landscapes and natural beauty. For many, it is a place that still feels remarkably untouched and removed from the chaos of the modern world.

Yet, it is these very qualities, as well as the region’s great oil and gas potential and its abundance of glacier-fed freshwater reserves, that have placed it in the crosshairs of predators — predators armed with billions of dollars, powerful influence over Argentine politics and the country’s press, as well as alliances with controversial international financial organizations and key elements of the global Zionist lobby.

Coveted for its still largely unplundered resources, Patagonia has become the target of a close-knit network of notorious billionaires and global elites, who have spent much of the last two and a half decades seeking to transform this area into their own independent state.

Indeed, though several of these billionaires have already created de facto private states where they enjoy near-total impunity within Argentine Patagonia, others have been behind major efforts that have pushed for the territory’s secession. Still others have pushed Argentina’s government to exchange its claim to Patagonia for “debt relief” as a way of easing Argentina’s economic plight that, incidentally, was largely created by this very same group of billionaires. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose connections to this billionaire network are considerable, has had an outsized role in this effort.

Yet this appears to be more than just a venture on the behalf of notable oligarchs and the global elite, as prominent elements of the international Zionist lobby are intimately involved, as is the state of Israel, though the extent of the involvement of the latter is subject to debate. Their interest revolves around claims that date back to the founding of Zionism in the 19th century, when revered Zionist figures like Theodore Herzl discussed Argentina as a potential homeland for a Jewish ethno-state.

Since then, other notable Zionists, including past Israeli ambassadors to Argentina, have argued that Israel is for “European Jews” while “American Jews” must take Argentina for themselves. Notably, the method suggested by Herzl as a means of creating a Zionist state in his seminal work “The Jewish State” involves the exchange of debt for territory.

In the first part of this investigative series, MintPress explores the de facto independent state that has been created by British billionaire and Zionist Joe Lewis, a long-time associate of controversial Hungarian-American financier George Soros. Lewis has essentially bought out the local, regional and even national government of Argentina, allowing him to operate with impunity while he acquires more and more territory through land purchases of dubious (if any) legality, intimidates and threatens locals, usurps crucial water and energy resources from local towns, and operates his own international private airport that no one but he controls.

Subsequent reports in this series will examine the other key players in this effort to create a Patagonian state, namely Argentine oligarchs Marcelo Mindlin and Eduardo Elsztain, who are both deeply connected to the global Zionist lobby and the Rockefeller-founded Americas Society, and are also both close Soros associates. Finally, the role of these individuals and their associates in efforts to use IMF debt slavery to pressure the Argentine government to swap debt for territory will be revealed, as will the role of the Zionist lobby and prominent figures in the global elite.

The town that fought back

The quaint mountain town of El Bolsón, nestled among the picturesque rocky peaks of Argentina’s Patagonia and famed for its local legends of gnomes and elves, may seem an unlikely epicenter in a nationwide battle that has pitted locals against powerful foreign billionaires — billionaires who are not only plundering the country’s rich resources but eroding its national sovereignty through backdoor deals with Argentina’s most powerful, and most corrupt, political leaders.

Yet, however unlikely the role of this sleepy town in Argentina’s Río Negro province may seem, for over a decade many locals have used every tool at their disposal to oppose one billionaire’s effort to turn the town and much of Río Negro into his own personal fiefdom. This struggle has seen massive demonstrations in El Bolsón against British billionaire Joe Lewis, with some attracting as many as 15,000 participants – nearly 80 percent of the town’s entire population.

Lewis, worth an estimated $5.2 billion according Forbes, is best known in the West for owning the British Tottenham Hotspur football club, his sprawling luxury estates and golf resorts in the Bahamas and Florida, and owning well-known brands including Puma sportswear and Vans shoes. He is often described as a “self-made” billionaire, having been born to a poor Jewish family in London, who worked his way up to become one of England’s richest men.

Since the mid-1990s, Lewis has been building an empire in Patagonia, having become the owner of extensive properties north of El Bolsón — which, among other things, contain almost all of the town’s water reserves, as well as those of the nearby farming community, Mallín Ahogado — and the de facto power behind Pampa Energía, the company controlling most of Argentina’s electricity production. Part Two of this series will focus on Lewis’ role at Pampa Energía, as well as that of his associate, Marcelo Mindlin.

The “self made” man made by Soros

Long before his venture into Argentina, Lewis was a controversial figure owing to his close association with controversial Hungarian-American financier George Soros. Indeed, the bulk of Lewis’ massive fortune derives from his decision to “team up” with Soros to bet against the British pound in 1992, a day popularly known as Black Wednesday.

Soros’ and Lewis’ bet against the pound actually led to the pound crashing, after Soros ordered his hedge fund to “go for the jugular” and aggressively trade against the currency, thereby prompting its sharp devaluation. Though Soros is often called “the man who broke the Bank of England” as a result of the $1 billion in profits he made on that fateful day, Lewis is said to have made an even larger profit than Soros, according to several reports.

While Soros became a financial celebrity after Black Wednesday, Lewis opted to stay out of the limelight even though, just three years later, he would repeat what he helped do to the British pound with the Mexican peso, reaping yet another massive profit. While the Mexican peso crisis made Lewis even wealthier, it led to a massive jump in poverty, unemployment and inequality in Mexico and left its government beholden to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through a loan package arranged by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Between 1995 and 1996, the severe economic recession that followed the Mexican peso crisis spread throughout the Americas and “severely affected” the economies of other Latin American countries like Argentina. As fresh economic havoc arrived and took hold in Argentina, Lewis decided to take advantage of the troubled regional economic climate that he himself had helped create and began developing his interests in Patagonia.

As will be explored later in this investigative series, Soros and two of his Argentine associates who are also connected to Lewis — Eduardo Elsztain and Marcelo Mindlin — took advantage of this economic crisis and subsequent crises to buy major stakes in several banks as well as massive tracts of Argentine real estate, particularly in Patagonia.

How to build an empire

In 1996, Joe Lewis returned to Argentina after initially visiting the country in 1992 at the invitation of Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer. Lewis, apparently inspired by his first visit, had decided to buy property in the area. According to regional media outlet El Patagónico, Lewis’ dream was not just owning his piece of paradise, but creating “his own state in Patagonia.”

Lewis soon came into contact with Nicolás Van Ditmar, who would not only facilitate Lewis’ initial and subsequent land purchases in Argentina’s Patagonia but would also do so for several other foreign oligarchs. Van Ditmar had previously arranged massive land sales farther south to the Benetton Group, the family company run by the Italian oligarchs of the same name, best known as the owners of the United Colors of Benetton clothing company.

Van Ditmar, after learning of what Lewis hoped to acquire, spoke to him of the property of the Montero family, which encircled a pristine mountain lake known as Lago Escondido (Hidden Lake). Most of the members of the Montero family agreed to sell their collective property of around 14,000 hectares (~34,549 acres) to Lewis for $7 million. However, one of the Montero brothers, Irineo Montero, had refused and he, along with his wife María Ortiz and their employee José Matamala, were all found dead under mysterious circumstances.

An aerial photograph Joe Lewis’ ranch on Hidden Lake, March 1, 2010 in southern Patagonia, Argentina. Francisco Bedeschi | dpa

Whether or not Lewis or his “right hand man” Van Ditmar were somehow involved in Irineo’s death and those of his wife and employee, there is no denying that their mysterious yet grisly endings cleared the way for Lewis’ purchase of Lago Escondido and the surrounding area. However, Lewis’ acquisition of this property, irrespective of the remaining Montero siblings’ willingness to sell, should never have been allowed for several reasons.

First, as per Argentine law, the sale of the property that Lewis has owned since 1996 is prohibited to a foreign citizen on national security grounds, given that the property is just 20 km from the Chilean border and thus, in foreign hands, could represent a grave national security risk. Second, it violates a local law dating back to 1969 that caps the maximum amount of land that any individual – Argentine citizen or foreigner – may own at around 70 hectares (~172 acres).

Third, it violates a provincial law passed in 1994 that created a protected natural area called the Río Azul Lago Escondido Natural Protected Area (ANPRALE), which included a significant portion of the land that Lewis would later buy from the Monteros. However, that law was amended in 1998, a few years after Lewis’ purchase, to remove the portion of his land that had previously been named a protected area under the control of the state. Federico Soria noted that the way in which the 1994 law was amended was blatantly unconstitutional.

One would think that the law would have prevented Lewis’ acquisition of the land long before Van Ditmar had first approached the Monteros about Lewis’ interest in the land. However, he was explicitly allowed to do so, despite the illegal nature of the purchase, owing to the general laxity of the local, regional and federal authorities towards wealthy foreigners looking to acquire Argentine land. As Lewis himself said in an interview with Gonzalo Sanchez in 2004, “I bought what they let me buy and here we are.”

The two-term presidency of Carlos Menem in the 1990s marked the reversal of more than 50 years of keeping and protecting areas of national importance and deemed strategic to natural security by permitting foreigners to buy a larger percentage of land than had been allowed since the passage of a 1944 law intended to preserve the territorial integrity of Argentina. Notably, when that law was created, the government of Edelmiro Farrell and Juan Perón expropriated several strategic properties owned by foreigners.

Yet, Menem’s presidency — which was thoroughly aligned with the “Washington consensus” — began, according to critics, violating the spirit of this 1944 law by issuing approvals of several million hectares to foreigners. Menem’s policies favoring foreign land purchases in rural areas have since been expanded by the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as well as that of the current president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri. Both of them have “friendly” relationships with Lewis and his associates, with the Macri a regular visitor of Lewis’ lakeside property in Patagonia.

Locals in El Bolsón have claimed that Lewis’ purchase of the Lago Escondido property – despite the legal obstacles – was the direct result of Menem’s policies. A member of El Bolsón’s community radio station FM Alas, who chose to remain anonymous owing to his father’s personal involvement in Lewis’ regional businesses, told MintPress that Lewis “had negotiated the purchase of the [Lago Escondido] property in meetings at the Casa Rosada [Pink House],” the Argentine equivalent of the White House, during Menem’s presidency.

MintPress was unable to confirm whether Lewis or his associates had visited the Casa Rosada while negotiating the property’s purchase. Yet Lewis has stated in interviews that “Menem sent us greetings and his best wishes when we opened [Lewis’ Lago Escondido mansion]” (Sanchez interview, pg. 61). Furthermore, Lewis has a notable habit of building close relationships with powerful Argentine politicians, including Macri. Macri has called Lewis “a friend,” defended him repeatedly, and even personally vacationed at Lewis’ Lago Escondido property.

The battle for Lago Escondido

Ever since his arrival to the area caused concern among some locals, Lewis has sought to win the good graces of the people of El Bolsón by acting as their benefactor — donating hospitals, building soccer fields and hosting annual activities and sporting competitions for locals at his property. This altruism is either embraced or rejected by locals, depending on whom you talk to. In keeping with the image that he has sought to cultivate among the townspeople, Lewis is often referred to as “Uncle Joe,” though it is spoken with either respect and admiration or derision and disgust.

Felicitas Libano, a member of the Assembly for the Defense of Water and Land (ADAT), told MintPress that Lewis has “integrated himself into nearly all the function of the city,” including its firefighters, police and other areas of the municipal government, and has “always tried to position himself as a benefactor.” According to Guido Augello, a member of local community radio station FM Alas, the townspeople are divided somewhat evenly into “people that like ‘Uncle Joe,’ people who hate him and people who don’t care.”

Lewis has also won over a portion of the townspeople and local businessmen through his patronage of select local services and his occasional hosting of small groups of locals for invitation-only sporting events and holiday celebrations. However, some have contended that Lewis receives many foreign guests, particularly from Israel.

According to the research of former French intelligence officer turned journalist Thierry Meyssan, Lewis has been inviting thousands of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers to his territory annually. In late 2017, Meyssan alleged:

Since the Falklands War, the Israeli army has been organizing ‘holiday camps’ in Patagonia for its soldiers. Between 8,000 and 10,000 of them now come every year to spend two weeks on Joe Lewis’ land.”

It is unclear if Meyssan’s information was the result of his time in France’s exterior intelligence service DGSE or independent research he conducted since becoming a journalist, as MintPress’ efforts to contact Meyssan were unsuccessful. Locals, journalists and researchers interviewed by MintPress could not confirm Meyssan’s claims. Yet, many of these locals and researchers said they had heard of those claims from other sources within Argentina, but also noted that they were speculative, given that no one but Lewis or his employees knows who visits the property beyond the aforementioned events where select locals are invited to attend.

Tacuifi road leading to Lago Escondido, now blocked to public access, lies off of Argentina’s Route 40. The sign notes the 2009 Supreme Court ruling demanding the still-closed road be opened to the public. Photo | Revista Anfibia

Beyond the alleged IDF “vacations” on Lewis’ land, his presence in the area has been controversial for other reasons, namely for concerns that he sought to usurp key regional resources. Indeed, journalist Gonzalo Sanchez noted in his 2004 book Patagonia Sold: The New Owners of the Land :

In El Bolsón, there are more than a few locals and city council members that believe that, behind his [Lewis’] generosity, there are other hidden objectives, like the possible control of the water reserves of this part of Patagonia (pg. 50).”

Inklings of the truth in relation to these concerns were evident as soon as Lewis acquired the property surrounding Lago Escondido. This large mountain lake, which Lewis’ property surrounds, is the water basin for two important regional rivers, the Manso and Puelo, which later unite in Chile and drain into the Pacific. It is also the lake which feeds other nearby lakes including the Soberanía Lakes and Montes Lake, among others. Lago Escondido itself is estimated to contain as many as 400 billion liters (~105 billion gallons) of freshwater.

In Argentina, as is also the case in neighboring Chile, water – whether in lakes, rivers or seas – is a public right and public access to all bodies of water is guaranteed by law. This legal concept — likely foreign to Lewis and other Westerners, whose home countries often enshrine private property rights over the public’s right to vital resources — has been the most visible way in which tensions between Lewis and locals have manifested. It was also the first real test of Lewis’ resolve to carve out his “independent state” in Patagonia and keep locals out.

Lewis closed off the public road from the highway to the lake and also closed the private road he built at a separate point from public access. According to several locals interviewed by MintPress who had tried to enter the area, private security in civilian clothing prevent people from using the roads either by vehicle or on foot. Federico Soria, who has himself tried to enter the area on several occasions, described the guards to MintPress as “intimidating” and “aggressive” and also said that the Montero family, the old owners of the land, block one of the roads before it enters Lewis’ property and are “heavily armed.”

The only remaining path is a steep – and in places, dangerous – mountain path that takes at least two days in each direction to traverse. The path is poorly marked and maintained and is only usable in summer, as it is blocked by snowfall in other seasons. Every person interviewed by MintPress who had seen or traversed the path described it as being suitable only for “experienced mountaineers.”

In 2009, Lewis suffered his first major defeat in his efforts to keep locals out of his “parallel state” when the regional court ruled that the Tacuifi road — which connects the lake to the main highway, Route 40, and crosses Lewis’ property — be opened. The ruling stated that this must be done in order to “ensure access to Lago Escondido with appropriate signaling and ensuring transability.” The court gave Lewis 120 days to comply.

However, he didn’t comply and instead his regional associates began openly threatening any who tried to visit “his” lake. The clearest threat came from Van Dittmar himself in 2011, when he publicly stated that he and other Hidden Lake S.A. employees would defend Lewis’ private property by “fighting with blood, if we have to.” Van Ditmar also said that he would keep locals from accessing the lake “with a Winchester [rifle] in hand, with blood if necessary.”

In 2012, the region’s Supreme Court upheld the 2009 ruling, as did Argentina’s national Supreme Court a year later. However, Lewis and Van Ditmar refused to open the Tacuifi road, Van Ditmar saying that the treacherous but “very pretty” mountain path should instead be used to access the lake. Argentine President Macri also stepped in and echoed Van Ditmar, stating that the lake is even more accessible than before Lewis bought the property.

The court battle continues to today, after the Supreme Court of Río Negro in 2016 withdrew its previous ruling and ordered that a new hearing with different judges issue a new ruling. Critics accused Lewis of using extreme “political pressure” at the regional and local level in order achieve this very surprising ruling.

Despite that, locals continue to fight for public access to Lago Escondido and defend Argentina’s sovereignty over Lewis’ private empire. The main manifestation of this effort is an annual “March for Sovereignty,” the most recent of which took place in early February of this year. The march is organized by the Foundation for the Cultural Integration and Promotion of Water (FIPCA), which is run by former Argentine marine Julio Cesár Urien. Like the prior marches of the same name, its participants walked for nearly three days on foot over the mountain trail to arrive on the shore of the lake, which – as mentioned above – they were within their legal rights to do.

Participants in the 2019 “March for Sovereignty” pose for a picture at the beginning of their several-day journey to reach Lago Escondido by foot. Photo | FIPCA PRENSA

Upon arriving, they were met by Lewis’ private security as well as members of the Río Negro police, who cornered them and told them that they couldn’t even go to the bathroom without fear of arrest for trespassing, even though lakeshores are also legally considered public spaces. Guillermo Martín Caviasc —  a journalist for Barricada TV, who was present at the demonstration — called the combination of local police and private security Lewis’ “private army” and remarked that the police officers present were “in a situation of subordination like if they were visiting a foreign state controlled by Lewis.”

Two participants in the march, Andrea Gatabria and David Ramallo, mounted inflatable kayaks with the intention of placing an Argentine flag in a small island in the middle of the lake, itself technically a public space. Before they made it to the island, two speedboats belonging to Hidden Lake S.A. circled the kayaks in an effort to capsize them while taunting them, asking “Do you know what it’s like to die from hypothermia?”

Participants in the 2019 “March for Sovereignty” pose for a picture at the beginning of their several-day journey to reach Lago Escondido by foot. Photo | FIPCA PRENSA

After half an hour of taunts that seemed more like death threats, Lewis’ private security knocked over the kayaks, leaving Gatabria and Ramallo floating in the freezing water. After several minutes, several witnesses stated that one of the security guards told the two kayakers “Well, now do you see what it’s like to die of hypothermia?” Gatabria and Ramallo were, after some time, lifted into the guard boats, but had spent so much time in the frigid water that both had to be hospitalized.

National Senator for Río Negro, Magdalena Odarda, demanded accountability for the actions of Lewis’ private security and local police and FIPCA has begun legal action against Hidden Lake S.A. for threatening the lives of march participants. Neither Hidden Lake S.A. nor Lewis’ Tavistock Group, which oversees his business interests in Argentina and elsewhere, responded to MintPress inquiries regarding the incidents against march participants.

While Argentines have routinely experienced intimidation and aggression when attempting to access the lake, some foreigners have had very different experiences. Take, for instance, Scott Leahy*, an American now living in Chile, who, during a past trip to El Bolsón, was able to waltz right through onto Lewis’ Lago Escondido property when he was in the company of two ex-IDF soldiers who had been there before.

Leahy told MintPress that when he was backpacking through Argentine Patagonia in 2010 with a Chilean friend, he had met and become friends with two young Israelis who had recently finished their service in the IDF and were staying at the same youth hostel. One day, these two Israelis offered to take Leahy and his friend to what they called a “secret beach” nearby.

They all piled into a car and, upon taking a gravel road off of Route 40, arrived at a gate that Leahy confirmed to MintPress was the Tacuifi road entrance to Lewis’ Lago Escondido property (seen in an image earlier in this report). Leahy was unsure about continuing, given that the gate was closed and, as a foreigner, he was unfamiliar with the area. However, the Israelis urged him on, saying that they had been there before and knew where they were going.

When the group of backpackers encountered Hidden Lake S.A. employees and guards, the Israelis explained that they were from Israel and wanted to bring their friends to the beach. The Lago Escondido employees told the pair that the group was not officially allowed to enter the property, but they could pass. Leahy didn’t think anything of it at the time, and told MintPress that he had assumed the pair knew the owner, though the Israelis never mentioned Lewis at all and they showed no interest in meeting with him either. This suggests that they were not personal friends of Lewis, but also shows that they knew that they could access the lake without problem, even in the absence of a formal invitation.

While this anecdote suggests that the claims of Lewis hosting thousands of IDF soldiers annually may indeed have something to them, it also serves as a very troubling comparison to the way Argentines have been treated when trying to access the very same lake. Indeed, if foreigners, Israelis in this case, were amicably waved through despite no invitation from Lewis or Hidden Lake S.A., why are Argentines who try to do the same met with such violence and aggression, particularly when they have a legal right to do so?

Stealing El Bolsón’s resources for his own use

Though public access to Lago Escondido has been a major issue of contention between Lewis and the people of El Bolsón since the late 1990s, concerns that the British billionaire was intent on controlling the region’s water supply multiplied when firms connected to Lewis began to move forward with what is often referred to as simply the “Laderas project.”

As early as 2004, a man named Cipriano Soria started telling his neighbors that he had “sold” his land in an area known as Pampa de Ludden (Ludden’s Plain) to Lewis. However, Soria did not technically own the land, which was a publicly-owned nature reserve, but was granted an easement by the provincial government of Río Negro to use its meadows to graze his livestock as long as he paid a “grazing license.” Despite the fact that it was neither legally nor properly sold to Lewis, Lewis began to make plans for the land — plans that ignored the fact that the area was and technically remains under several legal protections due to its ecological and strategic importance to the region.

Lewis intended to use this land to build a private airport in the area but was met by strong local resistance in 2005, including from the local group Assembly for the Defense of Water and Land (ADAT). Several members of ADAT live in Mallín Ahogado next to Pampa de Ludden, which provides the adjacent farming community of 2,000 with nearly all of its water. Felicitas Libano, who lives in Mallín Ahogado, told MintPress that the importance of this area as a critical water resource — as well as its ecological importance as an old-growth native forest — led it to be named a nature reserve that was supposed to be prevented from falling into private hands.

ADAT’s eforts were successful and Lewis’ plan for the area seemed to have been defeated or, at least, put on hold. Then, in 2009, the town voted on Lewis’ private airport, with more than 79 percent of voters opposing it. However, unluckily for the people of El Bolsón, Lewis had much bigger plans than just an airport and he wasn’t planning on letting local democracy get in his way.

From 2006 to 2009, legal arrangements were made between the ski center’s owner, the Club Andino Piltriquitrón, and the provincial government that opened up the local ski center at the Perito Moreno mountain to “third party” management.

Then, in 2009, Mirta Soria, Cipriano’s daughter, “inherited” the land from her father — land that he technically did not own yet was somehow granted permission to purchase from the state, along with another protected territory between Pampa de Ludden and the ski center, even though the state was forbidden from doing so by regional and local laws. Just six months after she bought this territory and sold more than half of it to Van Ditmar’s brother-in-law Samy Mazza. This new and very large area under Van Ditmar/Lewis control is where El Bolsón’s, in addition Mallin Ahogado’s, water reserves are located.

Soon after the land purchase occurred, two businesses appeared — Laderas of Perito Moreno Association S.A. and Laderas of Parallel 42, both of which are directly connected to Lewis and were given ownership of the lands in Pampa de Ludden and the other area recently purchased by Van Ditmar’s relative. That same year, both of these linked businesses proposed a “lottery” whereby the provincial government would select a private company to manage the local ski center. Laderas of Parallel 42 won the lottery.

Subsequently, the other Laderas company, Laderas of Perito Moreno, began plans to transform the land illegally acquired by Van Ditmar’s brother-in-law, Samy Mazza, as well as the portion still owned by Mirta Soria into a luxury subdivision of more than 1,000 luxury homes for wealthy Argentines and foreigners, along with a golf course, shopping centers, an artificial lake, and a private airport. This planned venture was subsequently promoted by pro-Lewis businessmen and media outlets as necessary for the successful development and improvement of the ski center.

Proposed plan for the Laderas project, a 1,000-home luxury subdivision complete with an artificial lake and a golf course. Lewis’ firm plans to place the private airport (not shown in this image) south of the lake. The project, located right in the center of a nature reserve, is connected to Lewis’ Lago Escondido property and sits atop El Bolsón’s water reserves.

With the court battle underway and the project still lacking approval from El Bolsón’s city council, the regional governor, Alberto Weretilneck – a well-known Lewis ally – teamed up with Lewis-associated local businessmen in an effort to strongly pressure El Bolsón’s mayor at the time, Ricardo García, to sign a pledge that, once legal issues were resolved, the project would be fast-tracked for approval. García refused and Weretilneck along with other Lewis associates in the area began to push for his resignation. However, local protests kept García in power and, before leaving his post as mayor, García issued a decree that temporarily prohibited the Laderas project from advancing.

Clearly unhappy with this turn of events, the Laderas firms challenged the suspension of the project in court. Around this same time, members of local groups that had opposed the Laderas project reported several incidents of violence and intimidating acts, including threatening phone calls, their cars being set on fire, and the burning of a radio station as well as a community center in Mallín Ahogado.

In the case of architect and local politician Luis Martin, he was threatened with “lynching” by two Lewis associates – local businessmen Juan Carlos Martínez and Fabián Tornero – and his home was later broken into by armed thugs, one of whom accidentally cut himself with his machete and later fled the scene. Before escaping, the man had told Martin, “They have you targeted, they are going to kill you.”

In a 2011 article in Tiempo Argentina, Martínez referred to Lewis as “my friend” and was noted as a regular participant in meetings with Van Ditmar. The same article goes on to note that, in those meetings with Van Ditmar, Tornero is “influential” and further notes that Tornero is a known associate of Lewis.

In 2015, after García’s decree was challenged in court by Lewis’ firms, a judge ruled that the decree was legal but had not been written properly and therefore cancelled it. Soon after, a new pro-Lewis mayor and city council took charge and quickly signed a legal agreement with the Laderas companies, allowing them to build a “smaller project,” while claiming that any attempt to block the project – as García had done – could lead to another costly, lengthy legal battle that the municipal government just couldn’t afford. However, as Guido Augello told MintPress, this was hardly accurate, given that the local government could have appealed the decision regarding the decree, suggesting that this was just a convenient excuse to fast-track the project.

A few months after signing this agreement with the Laderas firms, the city council held a public hearing at which the vast majority of attendees from the community overwhelmingly rejected and criticized the project. Not getting the response it had hoped for, the council held a “secret” extraordinary meeting — secret because they declined to give the public the required notice needed to register to attend and participate in the meeting. With no one having registered, Pogliano decided to keep the meeting “closed” and placed police officers at the entrances to keep the townspeople out by force. The council subsequently decided to approve the Laderas project. Angry locals moved to occupy local government buildings in response, where they were targeted by riot police with tear gas.

The move generated several large-scale protests in El Bolsón, which started in 2016 and continued into 2017. Local resistance to the actions taken by the city council and mayor in relation to the Laderas project included a citizen occupation of the main plaza for three months, which was subject to police intimidation and violence, as well as three major protests, including the largest in El Bolsón’s history. That march against the Laderas project attracted an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 participants — quite a feat considering that the town’s urban and rural population boasts little more than 25,000 total inhabitants.

The reason for this mass mobilization, according to Augello, was that “even many of the people that like Lewis or believe his ‘Uncle Joe’ image oppose the Laderas project” and its associated airport. It’s not hard to understand why, considering that electricity and water intended for the townspeople of El Bolsón could soon be diverted to the wealthy outsiders who buy homes in “Lewislandia,” a derogatory term used to describe the Laderas project by some locals.

Yet, not only does Lewis intend to privatize El Bolsón’s water reserves, he and those developing his Laderas project also plan to divert the tourism that keeps its economy alive by instead diverting traffic from the main highway (Route 40) into his newly planned “city,” according to Federico Soria, a member of the Union of Patagonian Assemblies who has extensively researched Lewis’ local businesses. In an extensive 2016 article on the Laderas project and other Lewis-linked ventures, Soria wrote:

It is the intention of the developers of Laderas to unite the complex to Route 40 through two paved roads that they plan to build north and south of El Bolsón…. The Laderas variant road would be an advantageous shortcut [around El Bolsón].… [This] would benefit Lewis but economically endanger the community of El Bolsón…”

Furthermore, in 2016, Lewis completed a hydroelectric plant on the Escondido River — in the name of another of his local firms, Patagonia Energía — which passes through his property and feeds into the lake of the same name. However, he was granted permission to do so only if he connected the plant to El Bolsón in order to help the town resolve its ongoing and highly problematic electricity shortages. Once the plant was connected to El Bolsón, Lewis would become the main electricity provider to El Bolsón, as its current, aging diesel generators would be shut down.

Yet, instead of following the planned route for the power line that would give power to El Bolsón, it was diverted to the planned zone for the Laderas project, where it has remained “stopped” for years, even though his license to use the river for electricity production expired in 2015 owing to his company’s failure to connect the plant to El Bolsón in the time allotted by the license. As in so many other cases, Lewis and his companies have suffered no repercussions and continue to use the river for private power production. This situation has led some locals to speculate that Lewis has no intention of ever providing hydroelectric power to El Bolsón and it is instead a resource being guarded especially for his planned Laderas villa.

In effect, Lewis and his local representatives are working the resources they have acquired — water, electricity and tourism traffic — away from the town of El Bolsón and to the new “luxury” town of Laderas they hope to build to its north, a town that is an extension of Lewis’ own “independent” state. If this project is allowed to be completed, the people of El Bolsón will face a new troubling reality of resource insecurity and see its economy falter, as a crucial stream of revenue is diverted to the personal pet project of a foreign and predatory billionaire.

A satellite image taken last August shows land owned by the Laderas companies (center of photo) Roads for the planned “mini-city” are already being built, despite the fact that the companies are still not legally authorized to begin construction due to ongoing litigation. The already present ski center is seen on the left. Photo | Radio FM Alas, El Bolsón, Argentina via Google Earth

Yet, though Lewis won that particular battle in 2017, he is far from winning the war. Soon after the scandalous way in which the project was approved, the project again found itself challenged in court — placing it in legal limbo, unable to advance. Though the project is supposed to be blocked from moving forward until the conclusion of this latest legal battle, satellite images taken last August and shared with MintPress by local radio station FM Alas (shown above) reveal that Lewis’ businesses have already begun construction on the Laderas project, a clear indication that Lewis and his associates expect their impunity to continue.

Lewis’ Tavistock Group did not respond to MintPress inquiries about the Laderas project or the satellite images shown above.

The Joe Lewis “International Airport” — off-the-radar (literally)

Lewis’ “irregular” acquisition of Lago Escondido, the Laderas property, and his use of private security to block civilian access to the lake that is — by law — public property have long been decried as flagrant affronts to Argentina’s national sovereignty. Yet, while Lewis’ activities in and around Lago Escondido certainly do undermine existing Argentine laws, it is another Lewis-linked property in the Río Negro province that has done far more to erode Argentina’s national sovereignty.

Though Lewis’ plan to build an airport in Lago Escondido was technically approved but has not been able to move forward, Lewis – through his foreman Van Ditmar – purchased a sizeable property at the same latitude as Lago Escondido, but hours away on the Atlantic Coast. The property would soon become the site of Lewis’ private airport as well as a beachfront mansion. That airport, located south of Playas Doradas, was completed in February of 2008 and local media noted that its construction was “systemically hidden” from the public and was not subject to environmental impact assessments as normally required by law.

Most notably, however, there has never been any presence of Argentine customs or any other form of Argentine government control over what or who flies into or out of that airport, even though the airport is capable of receiving international flights. This point is particularly concerning in light of allegations that Lewis receives thousands of IDF soldiers annually on his property.

Joe Lewis’ private airport as seen on Google Maps

Furthermore, the Defense Ministry of Argentina has confirmed that not only is there no formal state control over what lands or takes off from this private airport, but that there are no radars in the area that even allow Argentine authorities to track nearby flight movements, including those of international flights. This means that no one but Lewis and his associates knows for sure how many flights land or take off from this area or where these flights originate or their intended destinations.

More shocking still, in 2010 then-Defense Minister Nilda Garré, in responding to a complaint from local politicians over the flagrant illegality of the airport, defended the airport’s presence by stating that it “could be used to facilitate rapid assistance of the state to locals in the event of disasters or emergencies.” To date, in the more than 10 years of its operation, it has never been used for any such purpose, according to those interviewed for this report.

The airport in Playas Doradas is roughly the same size as the airport in San Carlos de Bariloche (though some say it is larger), and is capable of receiving at least two large commercial-size passenger planes at a time. Much as with Lago Escondido, public access to the airport is denied, owing to the fact that the sprawling 15,000 hectare (~37,065 acres) property surrounding the airport is privately owned by a front company called Bahía Dorada S.A., which itself is legally owned by Lewis’ “foreman” Van Ditmar. However, the airport itself is owned by Westwind Aviation S.A. (formerly owned by Tavistock Aviation Argentina S.A., a subsidiary of Lewis’ Tavistock Group. Westwind Aviation S.A. is based at Lewis’ Lago Escondido property, as is Bahía Dorada S.A.. Neither Westwind Aviation S.A. nor the Tavistock Group responded to inquiries from MintPress regarding the lack of Argentine government oversight over the airport.

In order to realize the project, Van Ditmar – an Argentine citizen – had to be the owner of the property, as the area where the airport is built falls within a “National Security Zone” that prohibits land in that zone from being owned by foreigners on the basis of national security interests. In addition, the airport and the surrounding property, much like Lago Escondido, has a large and sophisticated private security presence.

The airport is estimated to have cost $20 million and Van Ditmar has publicly justified the airport’s existence by stating that Lewis not only “had the money” to build the complex but that it also made his ability to travel to his Lago Escondido property “easier.” This latter point is hard to believe given that the existing airport in San Carlos de Bariloche, which receives both private and commercial planes, is several hours closer to Lewis’ property than is his private airport in Playas Doradas. The notable difference between the two is that the private airport has no Argentine government oversight while the Bariloche airport does.

Few knew of the existence of the airport or the fact that access to the beach in that area had been effectively cut off by the Lewis/Van Ditmar project until a local woman, Elvira Linares, went on the television program “Documentos América,” hosted by Argentine journalist Facundo Pastor. On that program, Linares shared her experience of trying to pass through the now-private territory, noting that access to the ocean had been illegally blocked off. She also shared video footage she had taken of the massive, yet largely unknown to the public, private airport.

Mere hours after the program aired, Linares’ home was filled with bullet holes by still unknown assailants in what local media described as a blatant act of intimidation that led National Senator for Río Negro, Magdalena Odarda, to request that the government extend its protection to Linares, whose life was in danger. Efforts to contact Linares for comment for this report were unsuccessful.

Senator Odarda has arguably been the most well-known figure to demand accountability regarding the numerous irregularities surrounding the private airport. Odarda has, with limited success, repeatedly denounced the airport, on the basis of the fact that there is “no state control” over what or who passes through the airport.

Senator Magdalena Odarda tours the publicly accessible road to Lago Escondido. Photo | Facebook

Odarda has also noted that the area where the airport is constructed is highly “strategic,” which poses a danger given that it is exclusively controlled by a foreigner, an Englishman. Odardo has pointed out that the airport is located on the important 42° parallel, which divides the regions of Río Negro and Chubut, and is only two hours away by plane from the disputed Falkland Islands, which are controlled by the United Kingdom but also claimed by Argentina. This dispute dates back to the 19th century and was the principal factor behind the Falklands War between Argentina and the U.K. in the 1980s, which many Argentines remember quite bitterly for the peace treaty Argentina signed after its defeat by England. Many Argentines have compared the document to the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Notably, there has been considerable evidence that Lewis’ airport has received planes from the Falkland Islands, which was the subject of a formal complaint made in 2010 to Argentina’s defense minister by then-governor of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province, Fabiana Ríos.

A well-oiled machine

Given the numerous laws that Lewis’ activities in Río Negro have broken at both the local and federal level, one would expect that somebody in the government – at least the local government – would hold him accountable. While some politicians like Magdalena Odarda and others have tried, the lack of impunity surrounding Lewis’ activities largely owes to his “friendships” with local and regional politicians as well as the country’s president.

One of the innumerable examples is Sergio Plunket. Plunket, who is in charge of Vial Rionegrina Sociedad del Estado (VIARSE), the regional body in charge of controlling public roads including the road leading to Lago Escondido, also works as a private “ecological consultant” for Lewis’ Hidden Lake S.A. Plunket also authorized the construction of Lewis’ Playas Doradas airport. Another clear example is Bruco Pogliano, El Bolsón’s current mayor, who is also Lewis’ long-time accountant in Argentina.

Another example that Gonzalo Sanchez noted (pp. 50-51) in his book, Patagonia Sold , is how Pablo Verani, ex-governor of Río Negro, started a long tradition of politicians making regular visits to Lago Escondido for Lewis-financed barbeque feasts, when he celebrated his win as the 1997 regional governor on the shores of the magnate’s privatized lake.

In addition to his undeniable influence among key local, regional and even national politicians, Lewis also enjoys considerable influence in the regional press and several former employees of his have become important figures in local and regional media. For example in 2016, according to local media, Dalila Pinacho, who long served as a lawyer and spokeswoman for Lewis’ Lago Escondido firm Hidden Lake S.A., became the director of the Nequén branch of Argentina’s National Radio, apparently through her “close” connections to local politicians.

Another journalist, Julio Álvarez — who described himself, to Gonzalo Sanchez in 2004 at an event in Lago Escondido, as Lewis’ “spokesman” — now works at a radio station in Viedma, Argentina, and was previously the El Bolsón correspondent for the regional newspaper Río Negro. Lewis also funds the local newspaper Ruta 40 and has stakes in other local newspapers such as El Cordillerano, Bolsón Web Patagonia, and El Ciudadano in Bariloche. Eliana Almonacid, who used to work for Ruta 40, told the national outlet Tiempo Argentina in 2014 that the Ruta 40’s director Nancy Aleuy, who also works for Hidden Lake S.A., told her that “Lewis had bought all the media outlets” in the region.

Lewis’ “Parallel State” is just the beginning

Lewis’ control over the local authorities and local press in Río Negro, and the complete impunity of his actions and those of his associates, have made it clear that in Argentina there is a de facto different legal system for oligarchs like Lewis and for the vast majority of Argentina’s citizens. This fact — in combination with the control Lewis and his associates exercise over the region’s key resources, including its water and energy production — has led to the creation of what some like Federico Soria have called a “parallel state” within Patagonia. However, this “parallel state” is, in reality, a microcosm of a much larger project currently underway that is aimed at the domination of the entirety of Argentine Patagonia by predatory oligarchical interests, the majority of which are directly connected to Lewis and his associates.

As will be explored in Part Two of this series, the Soros-led oligarch network, of which Lewis is a part in Argentina, has expanded its efforts to control Patagonia’s vast and strategic resources, including the region’s oil and gas wealth in addition to the domination of its freshwater resources and hydroelectricity production. Subsequent articles will then show that this effort is just the beginning, as this network and its close ties to the International Monetary Fund are being used to transfer ownership of vast state lands to their control in exchange for “debt relief.” The ultimate endgame appears to be the expansion of this “parallel state” — which Lewis has already helped to create in Río Negro and beyond, and which is controlled by small number of mostly foreign oligarchs — into a full-scale operation for extracting the region’s riches and exploiting its people.

Note: An sterisk (*) after a name indicates that a person’s real name was not used after they requested that MintPress not use their real name in this report.

Top Photo | This undated photo shows British billionaire, Joseph C. Lewis, at a Tottenham Hotspurs football game in the United Kingdom. Photo | Reuters

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

March 11, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Happening in Nicaragua?

Task Force on the Americas | July 1, 2018

For over two decades, Nicaragua was:

The safest country in Latin America.[2]Its police force was internationally recognized for its innovative community policing policies. Unlike its neighbors El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, where undocumented immigrants were fleeing to the US border, Nicaragua had kept gang violence and organized drug cartels in check.

Far from a dictatorship.[3] President Daniel Ortega was democratically elected and then twice re-elected, each time with an increasing percentage and number of votes.In 2017, polls showed he had the highest approval rating of any chief of state in the entire hemisphere.[4]

Where social indices were on the rise. [5]Literacy, small businesses promotion, free public education, poverty reduction, and economic growth were among the highest in the hemisphere.[6]

Then on April 18 things suddenly changed dramatically. Triggered by a minor adjustment to the social security program, which was designed to avoid austerity measures promoted by big business and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), violence broke out across Nicaragua.[7]

Incongruously, the opposition was led by students from private universities, who had little material interest in old age pensions, and by rightwing elements that favored draconian cuts in social welfare programs.[8]Despite the government rescinding the adjustment and its attempts to meet with the opposition and negotiate a settlement,[9]the violence has escalated with a death toll of over 200.[10]

Road blocks have been set up on vital streets and highways throughout the country. They are forcefully maintained by young militants, with reports that many are paid.[11]Organized crime, aligned with the violent protests, has infiltrated Nicaragua.[12]Some believe the extreme opposition is intent on escalating the conflict to paralyze or overthrow the elected government.[13]

This is within the larger context the US government targeting[14]independent and progressive governments for regime change.[15]Nicaragua is allied with Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia and has not served as a client state to the dictates of Washington.

The US has poured millions into Nicaraguan private non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in what is called “democracy promotion” but may be better understood as regime change training.[16]Even sources hostile to the Ortega government admit US involvement in the current unrest.[17]Meanwhile the US Senate is considering the NICA Act designed to cripple the Nicaraguan economy.

The Task Force on the Americas:

Recognizes the Nicaraguan people may have legitimate grievances with their elected government. But the rightwing attack is on what the Sandinistas have done right, not what they’ve done wrong.

Believes there is a huge amount of distortion and misinformation in how the situation is being portrayed.

Supports an objective and independent investigation of who carried out and who provoked the violence [18] with all parties held responsible for their actions. [19]

Commends efforts to mediate a peaceful settlement in Nicaragua, including dismantling the barricades and cessation of destruction of public property. [20]

Opposes the NICA Act and US interference [21] in the internal affairs of Nicaragua including through the NED, [22] USAID, and other instruments of intervention.

NOTES and SOURCES

[1]The Task Force on the Americas is a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights organization. http://taskforceamericas.org/

[2]How Central America’s poorest country became one of its safest. 01/28/12. https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2012/01/28/a-surprising-safe-haven

[3]Pérez, Foundations of Democracy,06/25/18.  http://www.redvolucion.net/2018/06/25/cimientos-de-la-democracia/

[4]Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega at 80% approval rate, 10/11/17. https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Nicaraguan-President-Daniel-Ortega-at-80-Aproval-Rating-Poll-20171019-0008.html

[5]Di Fabio, Economic growth in Nicaragua has helped reduce poverty, 04/18. https://borgenproject.org/economic-growth-in-nicaragua-helped-reduce-poverty/

[6]The World Bank on Nicaragua, 04/16/18. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/nicaragua/overview

[7]The reform of the social security system and the interest groups of Nicaragua,04/25/18. http://www.celag.org/la-reforma-del-sistema-seguridad-social-y-los-grupos-de-interes-en-nicaragua/

[8]Fernandez, A Nicaragua spring or an imperial spring cleaning. 05/07/18. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/nicaraguan-spring-imperial-spring-cleaning-180507082508249.html

[9]Tricker, Update on Nicaragua: the national dialogue is back on…for now.06/22/18. https://quixote.org/update-on-nicaragua-the-national-dialogue-is-back-on-for-now/

[10]Perry, After 2 months of unrest, Nicaragua is at a fateful crossroads, 06/22/18.  https:/ /www.thenation.com/article/two-months-unrest-nicaragua-fateful-crossroad/

[11]Kovalik, The US, Nicaragua and the continuing counter-revolutionary war.06/27/18. https://ahtribune.com/world/americas/2316-us-nicaragua.html

[12]Violencia armada en Nicaragua: un product importado (investigación), 06/24/18.http://misionverdad.com/trama-global/violencia-armada-y-paracriminal-exportada-a-nicaragua-investigacion

[13]Tortilla con Sal, Nicaragua’s crisis – the latest stage in a permanent war, 06/17/18.https://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Nicaraguas-Crisis—the-Latest-Stage-in-a-Permanent-War-20180617-0021.html

[14]Kovalik, The US & Nicaragua: a case study in historic amnesia and blindness. 06/15/18. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/15/the-us-nicaragua-a-case-study-in-historical-amnesia-blindness/

[15]Chossudovsky, Social media and the destabilization of Cuba,04/05/14. https://www.globalresearch.ca/social-media-and-the-destabilization-of-cuba-usaids-secret-cuban-twitter-intended-to-stir-unrest/5376720

[16]Blumenthal & Norton, US gov’t regime change machine exacerbates Nicaragua’s violent protests,06/2/18. https://therealnews.com/stories/us-govt-regime-change-machine-fuels-nicaraguas-violent-right-wing-insurgency

[17]Waddell, Laying the groundwork for change: a closer look at the U.S. role in Nicaragua’s social unrest. 05/01/18. https://theglobalamericans.org/2018/05/laying-groundwork-change-closer-look-u-s-role-nicaraguas-social-unrest/

[18]Sweeney, Right-wing militias committing ‘acts of terrorism’ in an effort to destabilize Nicaragua, police say,06/111/18. https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f-lead-nicaraguan-acts-terrorism

[19]Kaufman, Let’s think about the consequences of our actions. 06/06/18. https://afgj.org/nicanotes-lets-think-about-the-consequences-of-our-actions

[20]Mejia, Open letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua from a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience. 06/15/18.https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/15/open-letter-to-amnesty-international-on-nicaragua-from-a-former-amnesty-international-prisoner-of-conscience/

[21]Blumenthal, U.S. gov. meddling machine boasts of ‘laying the groundwork for insurrection’ in Nicaragua.06/19/18. https://grayzoneproject.com/2018/06/19/ned-nicaragua-protests-us-government/

[22]Tricker, Manufacturing dissent: the N.E.D., oppositionmedia and the political crisis in Nicaragua, 05/11/18. https://quixote.org/manufacturing-dissent-the-n-e-d-opposition-media-and-the-political-crisis-in-nicaragua/

July 12, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia is Wary of Borrowing Abroad but Has Increased Foreign Debt by 10% in 2018 Anyway

Sputnik – 12.06.2018

Worried by Russia’s small foreign debt, international creditors are advising it to borrow more, but Russia’s Central Bank believes that investments, not loans, are the way to go.

Russia’s $525-billion foreign debt is dwarfed by $7.5 trillion in Britain, $5 trillion in France, $4.8 trillion in Germany and a whopping $21 trillion in the US.

This tell-tale ratio was not lost on IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde who, when speaking at the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, described Russia’s foreign debt as “considerably small” and said that it should borrow more.

The Russian Central Bank disagrees, arguing that “investments, not debt capital” should be the main source for financing the country’s economic growth.

Big Debt – Big Problems

Foreign debt may become a major problem if market conditions suddenly change for the worse. The smaller the debt, the lesser the chances of a default. Economists say that with Russia’s foreign debt accounting for just 33 percent of GDP, this is a fairly moderate debt burden.

Russia’s entire foreign debt is commensurate with the country’s gold and currency reserves of $450 billion. This means that Russia’s financial system can simply buy it back from foreign holders at any time.

Risk Minimization

Experts also say that Russia’s small foreign debt and its ability to pay it back fast makes it less dependent on foreign financing.

“The developing markets have found themselves in a bad fix with money going out and high dollar-denominated debt negatively impacting the national economies. In Russia this risk is virtually nonexistent,” TeleTrade currency strategist Alexander Yegorov told Sputnik.

A balanced budget is another reason why Russia does not need to borrow abroad.

This year Russia will have a budget surplus – the first in seven years with the Finance Ministry expecting state revenues to exceed outlays by more than half a trillion rubles ($16 billion).

A small foreign debt is also an indicator that the economy is performing well and the country is paying less interest on borrowed money.

There is one downside here, though, as this leads to a shortage of funds needed for economic growth. Russia is ready to borrow, provided that the money goes into useful and profitable projects that allow the country to easily meet its financial obligations to its foreign partners

In the first quarter of 2018, foreign sources lent Russia an estimated $17 billion in the form of sovereign Eurobonds. Another $2.3 trillion rubles ($36 billion) came from foreign investors buying federal loan bonds.

Russia’s Central Bank governor, Elvira Nabiullina, believes that Russia could borrow more abroad and use part of the money to finance various infrastructure projects inside the country.

June 12, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment