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Argentina's Phony Energy Crisis

With the current so-called energy crisis, Argentineans and South Americans in general are being submitted to one of the best planned disinformation campaigns of recent times. The petrol consortiums and to some extent the governments of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile have woven a tapestry of distortion and cover-ups to hide crucial elements in the United States strategy of forced appropriation of Latin American natural resources.

That is possible thanks to the break up of the State in South America, duly recorded through the privatization and deregulation that took place over the last decade of neoliberal fundamentalism and thanks as well to the fact that such policy making continues to hold sway, despìte hints by the current government in Buenos Aires, for example, at the proposed creation of a State energy compny. What are the crucial elements referred to above?

In the first place, it's necessary to be clear that the officially recorded deliveries of Argentinean gas to Chile were not cut back as has been said and that the energy shortages adduced by the government of Richard Lagos are due to the fact that Chile increased its re-exportation of that gas to the United States to supply the very real crisis affecting the energy sector in California.

With that quasi-clandestine operation, Chile is complying with the obligations imposed by the bilateral "free trade" treaty that it has signed with the United States, making a reality the very deeds against which the Bolivian people rose up at the end of 2003 that ended with the fall of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and his replacement by another of Washington's protegés, the current head of state Carlos Meza.

Let's remember here that using bilateral trade deals with different Latin American countries is one of the alternatives drawn up by United States governments to impose a kind of de facto Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The FTAA project was put forward during the government of the first George Bush, then reinstalled in the mid 1990s by William Clinton, and finally taken up again by the current denizen of the White House, George W. Bush.

Secondly, it's necessary to make clear that the commercial triangulation of the gas that Bolivia sells to Argentina - or more accurately, that one business sells to itself - Repsol Andes sells it to Repsol YPF - arrives in Chile via gas pipelines also owned by Repsol and ends when it is re-exported from there to the United States.

In other words, the much-worked-over "cuts" in Argentinean exports to its neighbour on the other side of the Andes are in fact minimal and the energy shortfall alleged by Lagos is the result of an increase in his own exports to his business partner in the North. From which one can conclude that the lack of gas for domestic consumers and the productive apparatus of both South American countries - in Argentina it already affects 12 thousand industries - make up two faces of the same deal, which always ends up in the same coffers - those of Repsol.

Furthermore, that company undersupplies petrol to internal markets so as to increase its export profits and pressures the Argentinean government with constant demands for an increase in domestic prices, a policy used by all the other companies that make up the oligopoly that runs this country.

The data were revealed in a cautious way to APM (1) by Argentinean technicians working for Repsol YPF who based their findings on internal company documents and explained that the procedure is illegal since the Argentinean State not only does not know the volumes of its gas reserves but neither does it have any control over the transit or destination of the liquid gas crossing its territory, much less over the destination of 70% of the export profits that go to the petrol companies - legally permitted not to use them in the country - nor over the true nature or identity of Repsol's financial and shareholder complexities - Repsol is currently engaged in the bureaucratic steps necessary to change itself into a corporation with a United States parent company.

¿And what does the Bolivian State get out of all this? The Repsol group pays it only 15% of the proceeds of officially recorded exports, since that altiplano country has the same absence of controls that affects Argentina.
Félix Herrero, member of the movement for the recovery of Argentina's energy sovereignty MORENO, explains his view that when the ex-head of the Spanish government José Maria Aznar came to power "the small state refiner Repsol changed into a great big privatized one, run by some of his friends. From there it has worked as an intermediary for North American and British groups ."

¿Who does Repsol belong to? Herrero himself says "It's a Spanish company, with Spanish banking capital in which the State has a golden share until 2005. When that share comes to term the owners are ready to sell the company for a good price, it's probable that a North American or British company will take over Repsol. Even now, just three months ago, a Californian group Brandes Co. bought 9% of the shares."
This economist of the National University of Buenos Aires (UBA) recalls that "Repsol is the most highly indebted oil company in the world. It got to the point where its debt reached 80% against its capital." Herrero went on to note that this - Spanish? - oil company operates in Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela and in Jamaica through a United States oil refinery.

Other cautious sources, consulted in Bolivia and the United States, revealed to APM that Repsol is already contemplating the sale of millions of shares to a US petrol consortium led by the Bush clan, the same that started up , well over a decade ago the Arbusto compnay (arbusto translates as "bush") a link between the elder George Bush and a family whose younger son is called Osama bin Laden.

Those sources of capital also form part of the shareholder base of the Halliburton corporation, de facto winner of the main contracts opened up by the US government of occupation in Iraq among whose principal shareholders is the current US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. (2)

Thus one can confirm the deep articulation between the Latin America of the military dictatorships of the 1970s, privatized, economies de-regulated and converted into booty of the inter-imperial dispute between the US and the European Union, and Iraq taken by force by Washington in the name of its energy corporations. Both geopolitical landscapes are crossed by the same phenomenon, torture as a method of confronting popular protest and armed resistance.
In Latin America in the decade of the 1970s torture was practised under the aegis of National Security Doctrine, while in Iraq, the Pentagon's troops act in the name of the Theory of Preventive Warfare and the "war on International Terror".

In the prologue to an important book by the Brazilian political scientist Luís Alberto Moniz Bandeira (3) another Brazilian specialist Samuel Pinheiro Guimaraes wrote "the US economic strategy for South America, now blended and aggravated by a new enemy, international terrorism, whose diffuse, terrible, maleficent existence jutsifies everything, remains essentially; keep the two main South American States, Brazil and Argentina, dependent economically and financially using agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and its increasingly direct administrative intervention, to open and keep open their markets for goods, services and capital and to get access to strategic raw materials."

This US strategy, which was worked out for everyone to see during the 1990s in an academic document, "Projections for 2015", taken up by the White House, puts centre stage the following idea: to recover its absolute hegemony, called into question by the European Union and by the appearance of China as a new protagonist on the international playing board, the United States ought to secure control of the fundamental reserves of the real economy. These reserves are those of energy, distribution systems, drinking water and biodiversity.

To achieve this objective US governments have set themselves the task, among other things, and in accord with what Pinheiro Girmaraes says, to break up the energy sovereignty of periphery countries and encourage suspicion and confrontation between them.

That theoretic sketch slips like a ring onto the finger as an explanation of the so-called South American energy crisis and especially the explosive situation of Bolivia, declared two months ago by the US State Department as of the same priority and urgency as Colombia, the geographic base of Washington's overall regional military plans.

The US encourages Chile, its partner and geo-strategic pawn in the Southern Cone, so that its no to a negotiated solution of a route to the sea for Bolivia - a demand of that country since the Pacific War at the end of the 19th Century - hots up the climate of instability in the area. Furthermore, it forces the government in Buenos Aires to prop up the new man in Bolivia, President Meza, at the same time as giving Repsol, virtually a US company, operative exclusivity in the gas sector. Bolivia is the main reserve for gas in the continent just as Venezuela is for oil .
On the other hand, all this sets the scene for the FTAA and for the return of the neoliberal fundamentalists and further undermines the energy and production outlook in general for the South American periphery, especially Brazil and Argentina, Washington's two main worries in the southern limits of our continent.

Notes
1.APM (Asociación Profesionales de Medios) is an Argentinean medianetwork
2. See "Bush & ben Laden S.A." by Víctor Ego Ducrot, Grupo Editorial Norma, Buenos Aires, 2001.
3."Argentina, Brasil y Estados Unidos", Grupo Editorial Norma, Buenos Aires, 2004

Translated by toni solo.

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