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Sunday, 23 December, 2001, 02:44 GMT
Regional press points finger at IMF
Argentine protesters
Governments fear mass protests
The crisis in Argentina has prompted a heated debate in newspapers throughout Latin America.


IMF specialists supported the errors committed by the government of Fernando de la Rua from the outset

O Estado de Sao Paulo
Leading newspapers in Latin America's largest economy, Brazil, have pointed to the IMF as one of the major causes of the current upheaval.

O Estado de Sao Paulo says that the "social explosion in Argentina is the consequence of an incredible accumulation of errors by the government, the two main parties and the International Monetary Fund.

"For many years, renowned economists and the IMF itself were vocal in praising the imaginary benefits of the Argentine model. When the crisis began to bite, the illusion was kept alive. IMF specialists supported the errors committed by the government of Fernando de la Rua from the outset."

The Argentine crisis is the "disastrous end to an illusion" fostered by the IMF, O Estado de Sao Paulo concludes.

The Jornal do Brasil accuses the IMF of acting "cruelly" in finding Argentina's economic plans unsustainable after being so instrumental in their original implementation.

It argued that the introduction of a single currency for the countries in the Mercosur trading bloc - of which Brazil and Argentina are leading members - was "inevitable".

Tango

But the latest crisis meant that the plan had "taken on the rhythm of the tango". "Argentina's dollarization policy is tantamount to putting the currency in a plaster cast which leaves little space for adjustment in times of economic crisis".

Brazil should stand with Argentina during the very difficult international negotiations it must endure

Folha de Sao Paulo

The major circulation daily Folha de Sao Paulo calls for Brazil to play a major role in helping Argentina emerge from its crisis.

"It is fundamental that President Cardoso present himself to the Argentines as their most trusted external ally and as their preferred interlocutor in the region as well as internationally.

"Brazil must be willing to make trade concessions to Argentina to allow its economic transition to take place rapidly with the least amount of harm. Brazil should also stand with Argentina during the very difficult international negotiations it must endure," Folha argues.

Fallout

The financial paper Gazeta Mercantil quoted Brazilian Central Bank President Arminio Fraga warned that Brazil was likely to suffer some fallout from the Argentine crisis although it was unlikely to be serious.

"The risk of contagion still exists, but is much reduced," he said. "Brazil cannot do much for Argentina. The declarations of solidarity from President Cardoso and the foreign ministry are mainly political."

A similar view has been expressed in Chile, another neighbour of Argentina with a moderately successful economy.


Argentina has no strategic military importance for the administration of George Bush

Carlos Marichal
La Jornada
Mexico
"There is nothing to make us fear contagion from Argentina, whether by way of regional investment, commerce or on the financial side," Chilean Finance Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre was quoted as saying in the Santiago Times.

He put Chile's resilience down to "responsible fiscal and monetary policy". "Never in our history have we been so protected from foreign market turbulence."

However, the leading Chilean daily El Mercurio quoted a Christian Democrat senator, Adolfo Zaldivar, as saying the Argentine situation "should constitute a strong warning for us in Chile".

The consequences of phenomenon like globalization could lead Latin American countries to extreme situations like that in Argentina, he warned.

Bias

In Mexico, columnist Carlos Marichal writing in the major left-of-centre daily La Jornada asks why the IMF will not bail out Argentina when it has come to Turkey's aid.

"The reason is clear. Turkey is a key military and political entity in the Middle East at a time of the gravest conflicts and war in the region. The US bases in Turkey ensure that the financial flow to Ankara will continue. Argentina, on the other hand, has no strategic military importance for the administration of George Bush."

Mr Marichal says the US "is determined to punish the South American government for not having a zero deficit in its public finances".

"The Argentine authorities followed the IMF instructions to the letter, squeezing the population for more and more taxes... The responsibility of the IMF and the government of the United States is clear in not seeking an early and more orderly solution."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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