The programme got underway on March 1st with the 12th Economists’ Conference on Globalisation and Development which witnessed a participation of more than a thousand persons, half of which were foreigners (from 35 different countries). Since 1999, CADTM ha participated in 11 to 12 editions of this event.
This time, we were represented by four persons: Eric Toussaint, Daniel Munevar, Julio Gambina (ATTAC-CADTM Argentina) and Denise Comanne, to this we should add another dozen members of the International Observatory of Debt (IDO - see attached list). It is a fact that Daniel Munevar, who works with CADTM since October 2009 had met Eric Toussaint during a preceding conference in 2004. Daniel studied at the University of Pinar del Rio at Cuba at that time.
Eric Toussaint was invited to speak in the first panel of the plenary session (in front of 1000 participants) besides José Luis Rodriguez (ex-Cuban Finance Minister) and Carlos Bueno (University of Seville). The panel was on “the debate on the perspectives of the current global crisis”. This panel was preceded by a speech by a Vatican representative, Monsignor Marcello Sanchez Sorondo of the Science Academy of Vatican which was strongly criticised by Julio Gambino. This critique was strongly appreciated by the participants who were not at all convinced by the stories of the Eminence who presented a centre-left image of the conservative Pope Benedict XVI. In the following days Julio gave two speeches and also spoke in the Cuban television on March 2 approaching the relevance for the struggle for socialism.
Eric Toussaint based his presentation on the analysis of the crisis and specifically on the crisis of the model of growth based on the household and industrial debt.
His lecture is partially summarised in the article of the daily Globalizacion which is in French in the CADTM site http://www.cadtm.org/Eric-Toussaint-Dans-la-crise and in an article of the Mexican daily La Jornada (see in Spanish in the site). The power point presentation is also at the site and would be soon available in French. The message of his intervention was warmly received and it helped to make a lot of contacts in the following days at the sidelines of the conference which went on for five days.
On 3rd March, Wednesday, Daniel Munevar delivered a speech on "Fiscal deficit of the U.S. and the dollar’s future" to more than 200 people present. Meanwhile, Eric Toussaint spoke at the premises of the Ministry of Finance in the presence of Lina Pedraza, the Minister of Finance and Prices. He had the opportunity to talk to her for about 45 minutes before the conference began. 70 to 80 officials and senior ministry officials attended the conference which covered topics discussed on the first day. At the end of the conference, the Minister sought Toussaint’s advice on the state of social and political forces that intended to end the capitalist system at the international level. This led him to analyze the state of the global justice movement, the World Social Forum process, the parties of the radical left and the few left-wing governments holding power in Latin America.
Before the conference, the Minister spoke on some of the current reforms in Cuba mainly in the field of agriculture where, during 2009, 1, 00, 000 families were given usufruct rights to fallow lands in order to increase food production. In fact, it is crucial to reduce Cuba’s food imports which represent 85% of the country’s consumption. She also explained that the government was trying to set up a policy on consumption of food produced and consumed in the same area. For example, instead of sending all the milk produced in a community to the process of pasteurization and marketing, fresh milk can be consumed locally, especially in canteens and schools for the purpose of reducing environmental and economic costs of unnecessary transport. This seems to be a fine measure.
On the same day, 3rd March, Eric Toussaint was invited to a live Cuban television transmission (also telecast by Telesur) called Mesa Redonda (Round Table). During 15 minutes he was able to come up with an analysis of the causes of international crisis and its possible outcomes. We will soon publish this interview in Spanish on CADTM’s website.
On 4th March, Eric Toussaint gave an interview to the Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde on two themes- the situation in Africa, particularly in terms of debt and the resistance against it, and debt cancellation for Haiti. Two articles on this interview will be published shortly.
On 4th March, Thursday, Eric Toussaint, Julio Gambina and Daniel Munevar were invited to participate in a delegation of a dozen people for holding a discussion with Cuba’s new Minister of Economy and Planning, Jorge Marino Murillo (please see Eric Toussaint’s notes on this meeting in the annexure).
On 5th March, Friday, a very successful meeting of the International Debt Observatory - IDO began at 8am (please see attached report) in which 20 people from 10 countries took part.
On 6th March, Saturday, Eric Toussaint gave a television interview directed by Atilio Boron for the University of Distance Education in the Social Sciences (PLED Argentina), on the theme of debt crisis in the North and Europe’s political situation. Then he gave a long interview to a representative of the Venezuelan website Aporrea and the printed journal Marea Socialista. The main themes were- the international economic crisis and its prospects; policy analysis conducted by Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa.
During the week, Eric Toussaint also came to know that the Cuban publisher RUTH was going to publish the Spanish version of his book "A glance in the rearview mirror. Liberal ideology from the beginning till today”. This publishing house is represented by Carlos Tablada, who called the book "a little gem". Moreover, the Oriente Publishing Company of Santiago, Cuba had confirmed that the book "60 questions/60 answers on debt, the IMF and the World Bank" would be published. Also, the Social Sciences Publishing House in Havana confirmed that they will publish a Spanish version of his book "The crisis, what crises?" under the name" Global crisis". However, the financial crisis is such in Cuba that it is really difficult to actually carry out decisions for publications. It must be remembered that a year and a half ago a hurricane ravaged parts of the island, destroying or damaging 5, 00, 000 homes. Moreover, as a result of the international crisis Cuba’s revenues from tourism are going down.
Besides the conference, CADTM took part in a series of conversations with economists and activists, including Marcelino Dos Santos (one of the founders of Mozambique’s liberation movement - known as Frelimo. Marcelino was born in 1929 and chaired the Mozambican parliament for years), Pedro Paez (former Minister under Rafael Correa), Jose Felix Rivas (Executive Member of the Central Bank of Venezuela), Luis Suarez and Fernando Martinez Heredia (well-known Cuban intellectuals and extremely dynamic activists), Felisa Miceli (former Finance Minister from 2006 to 2008 under Nestor Kirschner) who, on behalf of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, has invited Eric Toussaint to be present in Buenos Aires from 9th-11th September, 2010. The Publishing House of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo will also publish Eric Toussaint’s book on the crisis. Alongside the official program there was also progress in the preparation for UNAM’s upcoming Mexican edition of the book ’60 questions/60 answers’.
On 8th March, Monday, Eric Toussaint held a meeting with Joel Suárez who plays an important role in the Assembly of Social Movements. He is the general coordinator of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana, Cuba and is part of the WSF International Council. Please note that in 2009 he published Eric Toussaint’s study on the food crisis. Fernando Martinez Heredia of the Juan Marinello Center, and Ester who looks after the journal of the Martin Luther King Center, also participated in the meeting.
Report prepared by Denise Comanne and Eric Toussaint
Notes taken by Eric Toussaint during the meeting with Jorge Murillo, Cuba’s Minister of Economy, on 4th March, 2010
Reaffirming the socialist option. We will not give up a single social achievement that the revolution accomplished.
The Cuban economy is strongly affected by the global crisis.
We will not move towards privatization.
We will change some methods to achieve greater efficiency.
Cuba’s Food production is totally inadequate and land usage is insufficient. We must seek external funding to invest in agriculture. Last year we secured 3, 100 calories for every Cuban individual (while the standard is to provide at least 2, 600 calories per person).
We will not change ownership structures.
2008: Damage caused by the hurricane.
Nickel: the price per ton rose up to 50, 000 dollars. We planned a price of 12, 000 dollars, but it dropped to 10, 000 dollars.
Last year we had to adjust our plan in June. We had to execute 2 or 3 adjustments to reduce expenditures.
We have tried to maintain a balanced trade.
1.4% Growth accomplished.
Some amount of pay rise has been accomplished.
Land (one million hectares) has been given to 1, 00, 000 people.
Tourism has increased by 3% and revenues dropped 10%.
Productivity has decreased by 1%.
Wages have increased by 2%.
14% of the population is at retirement age.
There are about one hundred municipalities where 4 million people live. They could ensure self-sufficiency.
We wanted to build 60, 000 houses, we built 32, 000.
Plan 2011 - 2015
We are not going to end state ownership of land.
1 caballeria = 13 hectares
1) Agriculture. Reconstitute a productive peasantry and where there is one, strengthen and stabilize the peasants.
2) Self-employed workers
3) Ration Card System (Libreta)
4) Energy and power
5) Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA)
Short term, long term factors
Exporters of rum in association with Ricard / Pernod
Negative outcome of UPBC
More detailed review of CAP and CCS
Self-employed workers at home, we will create / extend this status to workers in a state organ that will hire them.
Ration card: A person consumes 3, 100 calories. The ration card provides 33%. Normally, we must ensure 2, 600 calories. Cost: 950 to 1, 000 million dollars in convertible currency. We must end the Ration card system. There are roughly 12, 000 places that sell rationed products. 1 pound rice = 25 centavos of Cuban peso (3.5 pesos in the open market). If we withdraw the ration card we have to liberate the price and raise it. This year 80, 000 students graduated from high school and in principle, they can enter university (this year we will introduce an entrance exam).
Two years ago, we bought a liter of milk paying 40 centavos to the producer. Now we buy it at 2.40 pesos and a portion of it can be sold @ 25 centavos at subsidized prices.
Cuba has 27, 000 canteens where 3.5 million people eat.
Meeting of the International Debt Observatory
5th March, Havana, Cuba
Julio Gambina - Professor at the University of Rosario, EDI, ATTAC-Argentina CADTM
Claudio Katz - Professor at the UBA, Argentina EDI
Atilio Boron- Professor at the UBA, PLED, Argentina
Jaime Estay - Professor at the University Puebla, Mexico
Pedro Paez - former Minister of Economic Coordination, President of the Commission on the new regional financial architecture, Ecuador
Daniel Munevar - CADTM-Belgium/Colombia
Rafael Franco Ruiz - Colombia
Jorge Coronado - Costa Rica
Ernesche Rodríguez - Central Bank, Cuba
Gladis Hernandez - CIEM -Cuba
Guillermo Alpizar - student of the Matanzas University, Cuba
Alejandro Valle Baeza - Professor of UNAM-Mexico
Gloria Martinez - Professor of UNAM-Mexico
Giancarlo Delgado - Professor of UNAM-Mexico
John Saxe Fernandez - Professor of UNAM-Mexico
Antonio Elias - SEPLA,Uruguay
Aruda Plinio Sampaio - Professor of UNICAMP-Campinas, Brazil
Jose Felix Rivas- member of the Executive Board of the Central Bank of Venezuela
Denise Comanne- CADTM Belgium
Eric Toussaint- CADTM Belgium
Marlen Sanchez, Cuba
Camille Chalmers, Haiti
Jorge Marchini, Argentina
1. Present Status of the campaign against the debt to Haiti
2. Evolution of debt audits in Latin America
3. Presentation of IDO’s project on internal public debt
4. Present Situation in Argentina
1. Present Status of the campaign against the debt to Haiti
Eric Toussaint explained the work of the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (HPAAD) on Haitian debt. Apart from the struggle for the unconditional cancellation of debts claimed from Haiti, the focus is now on France’s payment of reparations to Haiti in connection with the colonial legacy and on the recovery of odious debts incurred by the Duvalier family. After the earthquake, Venezuela (Haiti’s largest creditor under the Petrocaribe initiative) canceled its bilateral debt worth 250 million dollars. Taiwan and the Paris Club are currently considering the possibility to cancel Haiti’s debt. We must also mention the (conditional) loan of 100 million dollars that the IMF has granted for the country’s reconstruction. CADTM denounces that. CADTM organized a fundraising campaign for the HPAAD (4, 500 Euros have been collected so far, nearly 7, 000 U.S. dollars).
Pedro Paez described the progress made during the Cancun meeting. The possibility of asking for donations for Haiti through the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) of IMF has been analyzed. Emphasis has been laid on the need to criticize the existing organs of aid, which are managed by a trust fund of the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), which implies strengthening the current financial structure. Discussions have been held on the forms of reconstruction with the aim of avoiding currency dualization, which might happen when contracts are denominated in dollars. Importance was given to creating a national fund managed by the government to channelize savings to the country’s reconstruction and development.
2. Evolution of debt audits in Latin America.
Eric Toussaint spoke on the progress and results achieved through the debt audit in Ecuador. He mentioned the ongoing work by the Parliamentary Committee of debt in Brazil. Similarly, he discussed the current situation of audit in Paraguay, where the vast majority of debt is bilateral (with Brazil and Argentina). Despite preliminary meetings to organize the audit it has not yet been carried out due to pressures from Brazil. To ease tensions Brazil has increased the rates it pays to Paraguay for electricity generated at Itaipu.
Pedro Paez highlighted the importance of sovereignty in the regional Energy projects. Financing can be organized through existing funds before the Bank of South officially starts its operations.
3. IDO’s presentation of the project on internal public debt
Daniel Munevar introduced the draft on internal public debt, which aims to create a database that integrates data on the region’s external and internal public debt. A discussion ensued on the specific situations of different countries, such as the issuance of domestic public debt in Uruguay with the support of the World Bank. Given the diversity of methodological issues it was decided that the proposal for consideration would be sent to the participants. It was also decided to abandon the request for sanctioning funds to Fundación Carolina of Spain due to its liabilities in terms of systematic support to right-wing groups.
4. Current Situation in Argentina
Julio Gambina discussed the situation in Argentina and the debate on the payment of debts to international reserves. He explained that the base of Argentine government’s particular behavior is resultant from Argentina’s participation in the G20 according to the new format of the presidential summit, and the new mandate given to the IMF by the G20. Argentina is trying to normalize its relations with the IMF, which does not audit national accounts any more since 2006. In this context, Argentina shows the willingness to reopen the exchange of goods produced in 2005 (30 billion U.S. dollars) and to renegotiate the default in debt to the Paris Club ($ 7 billion).
Therefore the context of the "Bicentenary Fund" arises, that is to pay the debt to international reserves with the objective of reducing the country’s risk and return in international markets. The current conflict was born of the decision to pay the debt, in a tense political context involving a change of the Central Bank’s chairman and a conflict among the Government, Parliament and Judiciary.
The Central Bank’s previous chairman argued that the payment of IMF debt in 2006 for the benefit of international reserves was allowed because the debt was accounted for by the Central Bank and not the government. To smother the controversy the Argentine government has issued 2 decrees: the first for the payment of over 2 billion dollars to multilateral creditors and the second for the payment of more than 4 billion to bondholders. The conflict continues and revives the political crisis.
The participants discussed the need to reactivate the campaign against the external public debt. They rejected debt as a mechanism to overcome the crisis. Great importance was given to creating and strengthening links between movements opposed to the debt in Latin America and Europe before the current crisis in Greece and the Eastern European countries. Coordination of meetings in the May summit in Madrid.
Finally, Rafael Franco of Colombia expressed interest in supporting IDO’s work of auditing and analyzing illegal debt contracts.
Translation to English by Sushovan Dar