Friday, October 29, 2010

Nestor Kirchner R. I. P.

The climatic moment in the Wizard of Oz comes when Dorothy discovers that the Wizard is just this fraud with excellent theater props.  "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" says the Wizard as he is being uncovered by Toto.

L. Frank Baum, who wrote Wizard, spent his early working life trying to eek out a livelihood in the new state of South Dakota.  Whatever the man's politics, he was overwhelmed by the struggles that surrounded him and had to move on.  It was absolutely impossible for him not to have absorbed the agrarian critique of Robber Baron capitalism that saturated the atmosphere on the frontier.  As a result, Wizard would be been seen by many as this Populist fable.  Makes sense to me.

In this interpretation of Wizard, the Tin Man represents industry made idle by the Depression of 1893, the Scarecrow represents the sorry state of agriculture in the "internal empire" of USA, The Cowardly Lion is William Jennings Bryan, and the Wizard of Oz represents the power of the gold standard--the 19th century method for the money trusts to control everything.

What Baum is saying in this interpretation is that the power of money and the moneychangers is based on an illusion.  If you ignore or reject this illusion, their power is destroyed.  This is a wildly optimistic position to take and precious few people have had the courage to actually take it.

Nestor Kirchner of Argentina was one of those people.  As such, he is one of the tiny handful of people whose lives have changed the fortunes of countries and continents.  His leadership out of Argentina's greatest economic crises demonstrated how someone who understands the illusory nature of money can achieve great things.  When the austerity ghouls from IMF showed up, he said no.  From Wikipedia
Kirchner was a critic of IMF structural adjustment programs. His criticisms were supported in part by former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz, who opposes the IMF's measures as recessionary and urged Argentina to take an independent path. According to some commentators, Kirchner was seen as part of a spectrum of new Latin American leaders, including Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil and Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, who see the Washington consensus as an unsuccessful model for economic development in the region.
Kirchner's increasing alignment with Hugo Chávez became evident when during a visit to Venezuela on July 2006 he attended a military parade alongside Bolivian president Evo Morales. On that occasion Mr. Chávez called for a defensive military pact between the armies of the region with a common doctrine and organization. Kirchner stated in a speech to the Venezuela national assembly that Venezuela represented a true democracy fighting for the dignity of its people.
While a critic of neoliberalism, Kirchner did not describe himself as an opponent of markets and the private sector.
Kirchner emphasized holding businesses accountable to Argentina's democratic institutions, laws prompting environmental standards, and contractual obligations. He pledged to not open his administration to the influence of interests that "benefited from inadmissible privileges in the last decade" during Carlos Menem's presidency. These groups, according to Kirchner, were privileged by an economic model that favored "financial speculation and political subordination" of politicians to well-connected elites. For instance, in 2006, citing the alleged failure of Aguas Argentinas, a company partly owned by the French utility group Suez, to meet its contractual obligation to improve the quality of water, Kirchner terminated the company's contract with Argentina to provide drinking water to Buenos Aires.
Néstor Kirchner: Argentina's independence hero
The death of Argentina's former president is a sad loss. His bold defiance of the IMF paved the way for South America's progress
Mark Weisbrot, Wednesday 27 October 2010 20.20 BST
The sudden death of Néstor Kirchner is a great loss, not only to Argentina but to the region and the world. Kirchner took office as president in May 2003, when Argentina was in the initial stages of its recovery from a terrible recession. His role in rescuing Argentina's economy is comparable to that of Franklin D Roosevelt in the Great Depression of the United States. Like Roosevelt, Kirchner had to stand up both to powerful moneyed interests and to most of the economics profession, which was insisting that his policies would lead to disaster. They were proved wrong, and Kirchner right.
Argentina's recession from 1998-2002 was, indeed, comparable to the Depression in terms of unemployment, which peaked at more than 21%, and lost output (about 20% of GDP). The majority of Argentines, who had, until then, enjoyed living standards among the highest in Latin America, were pushed below the poverty line. In December of 2002 and January 2003, the country underwent a massive devaluation, a world-historical record sovereign default on $95bn of debt, and a collapse of the financial system.
Although some of the heterodox policies that ultimately ensured Argentina's rapid recovery were begun in the year before Kirchner took office, he had to follow them through some tough challenges to make Argentina the fastest-growing economy in the region.
One major challenge came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF had been instrumental in bringing about the collapse – by supporting, among other bad policies, an overvalued exchange rate with ever-increasing indebtedness at rising interest rates. But when Argentina's economy inevitably collapsed, the IMF offered no help, just a series of conditions that would impede the economy's recovery.
The IMF was trying to get a better deal for the foreign creditor. Kirchner rightly refused its conditions, and the IMF refused to roll over Argentina's debt. more
Remembering Nestor Kirchner, South American Hero Who Defied the IMF
Robert Naiman
Policy Director, Just Foreign Policy
Posted: October 27, 2010 03:15 PM
The past president of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, has died unexpectedly of a heart attack.
U.S. media aren't likely to give us much coverage indicating what Kirchner meant to many people in South America. This is a pretty safe bet, in part because to understand what Kirchner meant, you have to understand Kirchner's role in a story that the U.S. media have never told properly: how, in the last 15 years, South America has been breaking free of Washington-prescribed economic and security policies. Since the US media never told this story, they'd be hard put to explain Kirchner's role in it. more
Oliver Stone made a very interesting art film recently about the new wave of leadership in Latin America called South of the Border.  Most of the coverage of this movie concentrated on his visit to Venezuela and Hugo Chavez.  But as far as I was concerned, the Kirchners stole the movie.  Because of term limits, Nestor could not run in 2007 so in the good Argentine tradition, his lovely wife ran instead.  The depth of political sophistication those two showed in their interviews was literally breath-taking.

We start with the trailer for South of the Border.

Then we see a clip of the interview of Nestor Kirchner

And finally, we have a clip describing the big political shift in Latin America.  Kirchner was certainly one of the fathers of this movement.  He will be missed.

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