Wall Street and the Pentagon greeted the onset of 2016 as a ‘banner year’, a glorious turning point in the quest for malleable regimes willing to sell-off the most lucrative economic resources, to sign off on onerous new debt to Wall Street and to grant use of their strategic military bases to the Pentagon.
Brazil and Argentina, the most powerful and richest countries in South America and the Philippines, Washington’s most strategic military platform in Southeast Asia, were the objects of intense US political operations in the run-up to 2016.
In each instance, Wall Street and the Pentagon secured smashing successes leading to premature ejaculations over the ‘new golden era’ of financial pillage and unfettered military adventures. Unfortunately, the early ecstasy has turned to agony: Wall Street made easy entries and even faster departures once the ‘honeymoon’ gave way to reality. ; The political procurers persecuted center-left incumbents but, were soon to have their turn facing prosecution. The political prostitutes, who had decreed the sale of sovereignty, were replaced by nationalists who would turn the bordello back into a sovereign nation state.
This essay outlines the rapid rise and dramatic demise of these erstwhile ‘progeny’ of Wall Street and the Pentagon in Argentina and Brazil, and then reviews Washington’s shock and awe as the newly elected Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte embraced new ties with China while proclaiming, ‘We are no one’s ‘tuta’ (puppy dog)!’
Argentina and Brazil: Grandiose Schemes and Crapulous Outcomes
The international financial press was ecstatic over the election of President Mauricio Macri in Argentina and the appointment of former Wall Street bankers to his cabinet. They celebrated the ouster of the ‘evil populists’, accusing them of inflating economic results, reneging on debt obligations and discouraging foreign lenders and investors. Under the Macri regime all market obstacles were to be removed and all the bankers trembled with anticipation at the ‘good times’ to come.
After taking office in December 2015, President Macri unleashed the ‘animal instincts’ of the market and the carrion birds flocked in. US ‘vulture funds’ scooped up and demanded payment for on old Argentine debt ‘valued’ at $3.5 billion – constituting a 1,000% return on their initial investment. A devaluation of the peso of 50% tripled inflation and drove down wages by 20%.
Firing over 200,000 public sector employees, slapping 400% price increases on utilities and transport, driving small and medium size firms into bankruptcy and enraged consumers into the streets ended the honeymoon with the Argentine electorate quite abruptly. This initial massive dose of free enterprise ‘medicine’ was prescribed by the local and Wall Street bankers and investors who had promised a new golden era for capitalism!
Now that he had banished the ‘populists’, Macri was free to tap into the international financial markets. Argentina raised $16.5 billion from a bond sale taken up by the big bankers and speculators, mostly from Wall Street, who were eager to cash in on the high rates in the belief that there was no risk with their champion President Macri at the helm. Wall Street based its giddy predictions on a mere three-month experience with Mauricio!
But then… some of the hedge fund managers began to raise questions about the viability of Mauricio Macri’s presidency. Instead of reducing the fiscal deficit, Macri began to increase public spending to offset mass discontent over his triple digit increases in utility fees and transportation, the mass layoffs in the public sector and the slashing of pension funds.
The major banks had counted on the abrupt devaluation of the currency to invest in the export sector, but instead they were confronted with a sudden 11% appreciation of the peso and a skyrocketing inflation of 40% leading to high interest rates. As a result, the economy fell even deeper in recession exceeding minus 3% for the year.
While most Wall Street bankers still retain some faith in the Macri regime, they are not willing to fork-over the kind of cash that might allow this increasingly unpopular regime to survive. What keep Wall Street on board the sinking ship are the political and ideological commitments rather than any objective assessment of their protégée’s dismal economic performance. Wall Street counts on free market bankers appointed to the ministries, the massive purge of social services (health and education) personnel and the lucrative bond sales to cover the burgeoning deficit. They hope