Vulture Fund Paella and Greek Salad

Prize menu of the year 2015

30 December 2015 by Pierre Gottiniaux

One for the Greek debt audit, one!

You will certainly have noticed that Greece was in the news at the beginning of the year. The EU establishment nearly choked on their peanuts when they saw Syriza come to power in Greece, even if they had already made a lot of concessions to get there. That didn’t stop Zoe Konstantopoulou, who was elected to the seat of President of the Greek Parliament with the support of Alexis Tsipras, requesting the counsel of the CADTM to create a truth commission on the Greek public debt, So our own Eric Toussaint, spokesman for CADTM International, became the scientific coordinator of the commission in which several CADTM members sat alongside other prestigious Greek and international experts on debt and public finance.

This happy lot worked relentlessly to produce a preliminary report that completely unravelled Greece’s public debt and reached the incontestable conclusion that a large part of the Greek debt, as well as many of the International and European treaties Greece has signed and ratified, are constitutionally illegal. What is more, much of the Greek debt is illegitimate, odious and unsustainable. All the evidence is in the report that we invite you to read, available here.

Unfortunately, all this work did not prevent Alexis Tsipras and a part of the Syriza directorate from capitulating before Greece’s creditors and signing a third memorandum, that will furnish liquidities Liquidities The capital an economy or company has available at a given point in time. A lack of liquidities can force a company into liquidation and an economy into recession. to Greece (to pay its debt) and squeeze the population into further misery and despair. The commission unravelled this third memorandum in September 2015 and its findings are again incontestable (french): this memorandum is just as illegal as the two previous memorandums. Still worse, the European leaders totally ignored the historic Greek referendum that took place on 6 July and its resounding “OXI” (NO) to the new mortifying agreement with the EU. The struggle continues, the commission – officially dissolved in November by the new President of the Greek Parliament – continues its task, to propose analyses that are independent of orthodox neoliberal European opinion. CADTM remains, as always, ready to respond to calls from persons and social and political movements seeking to collectively develop a ’plan B’ and alternatives for another Europe. The first meeting will be held in Paris on 23 and 24 January 2016, to be followed by another European conference in Madrid on 19, 20 and 21 February.

Meanwhile, with CADTM participation, the debt audits progress elsewhere in the world. A high-profile international conference took place in Buenos Aires, in June, in which many popular organisations, such as ATTAC/CADTM Argentina, took part. The assembly considered ways and means to struggle against the debt system and to press for the creation of debt audit commissions with some form of popular participation(in French)). Argentina has since started a process leading to a bicameral (Senate + General Assembly) debt audit commission. Asia is also savouring illegitimate debt. CADTM Pakistan, in Islamabad, is currently pressing for the creation of a debt audit commission.

Finally, RAID Tunisia (member of the CADTM and ATTAC networks) and the Popular Front (a coalition of several Tunisian political parties) launched a big campaign on 17 December, aimed at creating broad popular support for an audit of the Tunisian debt. To do this a law that includes the participation of the civil society in this audit will be presented to the Tunisian Parliament early in 2016. An international conference attended by several CADTM International network members was held on 19 December to, among other items on the agenda, give a summary of the proposed law.

Who ordered the Spanish popular tidal movement dish?

The next stop for the members of the Greek Debt Truth Commission could very well be Spain. The last local elections, in May, saw hundreds of new citizens’ groups gaining widespread support in Madrid, Barcelona, Saragossa, Cadiz and elsewhere. These new groups, partly political parties and partly social movements, have no fear of creating debt audits, with citizens’ participation, in their local councils, running the risk of annoying the powers that be: Madrid’s Council has already severed its contracts with Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, the giant US credit rating agencies Rating agency
Rating agencies
Rating agencies, or credit-rating agencies, evaluate creditworthiness.  This includes the creditworthiness of corporations, nonprofit organizations and governments, as well as ‘securitized assets’ – which are assets that are bundled together and sold, to investors, as security.  Rating agencies assign a letter grade to each bond, which represents an opinion as to the likelihood that the organization will be able to repay both the principal and interest as they become due.  Ratings are made on a descending scale: AAA is the highest, then AA, A, BBB, BB, B, etc.  A rating of BB or below is considered a ‘junk bond’ because it is likely to default.  Many factors go into the assignment of ratings, including the profitability of the organization and its total indebtedness.  The three largest credit rating agencies are Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings (FT).

Moody’s :
that gave a good bill of health to Lehman Bros. just a few days before it went to the wall.
Several members of the CADTM network are already meeting and speaking with these new Councils and the movements around them in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Cadiz, in order to support those who are struggling locally for the non-payment of illegitimate debt. Organisations such as ICAN (International Citizens’ Audit Network (in Spanish)) and the ODG (Debt and Globalisation Observatory), based in Barcelona, have been active in the field for many years and their action has deep rooted the movement for debt audits. Since the General Election that was held in Spain on 20 December we are expecting support from Podemos and the United Left (Izquierda Unida) parties that have gained parliamentary seats.

Vulture Funds Vulture funds
Vulture fund
Investment funds who buy, on the secondary markets and at a significant discount, bonds once emitted by countries that are having repayment difficulties, from investors who prefer to cut their losses and take what price they can get in order to unload the risk from their books. The Vulture Funds then pursue the issuing country for the full amount of the debt they have purchased, not hesitating to seek decisions before, usually, British or US courts where the law is favourable to creditors.
CADTM style, with Belgian gravy

In Belgium, too, things are moving! The nefarious activity of the Vulture Funds has taken a serious knock. These carrion feed on purchasing the discounted debts of countries in payment difficulties and then claim payment of the full amount hoping to make immense profits on the backs of impoverished populations already strangled by austerity policies – CADTM and the CNCD (National Centre for Cooperation and Development, that brings together organisations active in solidarity issues in French-speaking Belgium), have, in proud collaboration with Belgian magistrate Dominique Mougenot, drafted a law that would seriously reduce the scope of these predators, who, unlike real vultures, play no useful role in our ecosystem (’eco’ as in ’economic’). The project is supported by the representatives of ten political parties, with seats in parliament on both government and opposition benches. This is sufficiently rare to make it worth mentioning. It indicates the illegitimate character of the profits sought by the creditors.
For more information, see below and please click here

There is a bit over, may I leave it ?

The priority that the CADTM gives to the fight against illegitimate debt has not prevented it from taking part in the events triggered by the COP 21 meeting as much in the South (Cochabamba) as in the North, nor from taking time to do analysis (3 days in Amsterdam) and regrouping and sharing great moments of motivation at the CADTM European Summer School in Belgium at the beginning of September.

On top of all this activity, we have also found the time to improve our internet and social networks communication: we have a new updated website in four languages (English, French, Spanish and Portuguese) and a new Arabic language CADTM website. There is continual work on the Greek language website as well, along with increased periodicity of the French language electronic bulletin (sent to 21915 readers), the English bulletin (sent to 5717 readers) and the Spanish bulletin (sent to 11107 readers). Visits to the website increased during the year from an average of 80 000 per month to 110 000 p/m. Our echo on the social networks has also progressed to 6 400 followers on Facebook and 2 200 on Twitter.

In 2015, we have also renewed the layout of the CADTM magazine ’Les Autres Voix de la Planète’ (AVP, in French), fresher and more dynamic with reduced periodicity. Each issue will now be focused on a leading question; you will find complete and easily usable information on subjects like debt restructuring, as currently discussed in the cases of Greece, Portugal and Spain. Future issues will examine ecological questions (April 2016), illegitimate private debt, social welfare cover and many more topics.

To make sure you don’t miss any, [subscribe! >Rub25] The subscription rates are unchanged at: 30€ p/a (Belgium) (38€ elsewhere – 22€ reduced rate for small incomes), for a quarterly reception of 2 books and 2 magazines over the year, with bonuses such as the DVD of the film ’Dexia: Démocratie confisquée (Dexia: Confiscated Democracy)’ free inside the April 2016 issue of AVP.

On the bookshelf, the French and Spanish versions of l’Audit Citoyen de la Dette Publique, recounting the debt audit experiences of Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and also the situations in Europe can be ordered here or downloaded here. People who read English will be glad to learn that, after the French and Spanish versions, Bancocratie (Bankocracy) is now available in English.

Finally, as the icing on the cake, CADTM was present at the World Social Forum in Tunis, in which we co-organised more than a dozen workshops on a variety of subjects (debt, austerity, debt audits, the situation in Greece, free trade agreements, plundering, food crisis, IFI policies, micro-credit, gender struggles, etc.) and took an active part in several unitary assemblies such as the Social Movements Assembly, the Assembly on Health and Social Protection and the World Parliamentary Forum that discussed debt at length.

In 2016, CADTM will be holding its Worldwide General Assembly in Morocco in order to summarise the actions of all the network members (36 organisations present in 34 countries) and to prepare plans of action for the coming months and years. Watch our website for information and details.

L'équipe du CADTM Belgique et des membres du réseau international en formation à Amsterdam

All these little steps forward, to which the CADTM contributes, would not be possible without the hundreds and thousands of citizens who imagine another World, without the demonstrations, the many protests and demands. Each one of these actions gives us the strength to continue. We want to thank you and encourage you to keep on fighting!
Evidently, all that activity does not leave any time to contemplate leaves floating to the ground and a passing butterfly. We will only have such leisure once all the illegitimate debt has been abolished, capitalism overthrown and replaced by a system that favours humanity and nature, rather than business and profits. We count on your help at all times. You can make a donation, of course, but better still, you can get involved, turn up at the demonstrations and activities that we organise or help to organise, become an organiser, wear our t-shirts (especially when you go and see your bank manager!), join or create a local CADTM group in your neighbourhood. For more details see here.

Hope to see you soon, here, there or anywhere, today, tomorrow or anytime and...
Hasta la victoria siempre !

Translation : Mike Krolikowski and Vicki Briault.

Thanks to Louise Beauchêne for the illustrations !

Other articles in English by Pierre Gottiniaux (12)

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