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Argenpress| 16 November 2009
This is a free translation by Anoosha Boralessa (May 2015). Not revised by bilaterals.org or any other organization or person
The military dollar v. Alba’s humanism
A discussion on what is happening in the Nicaraguan economy must be rounded off with some considerations on several global issues. We must take into account matters such as the role of the dollar as the international reserve currency, volatility in prices of raw materials, corporate propaganda that the international corporate media disseminates or the collapse of the US and European financial system.
The coup d’etat in Honduras and the installation of military bases in Colombia and in Panama indicate the development of an inverse symmetry between the US’s military might and its domestic economy’s decline. The seventh Alba Summit  reflects the profound contrast between imperialism that is wasting away and the healthy development of countries with more progressive governments in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Many commentaries have given weight to President Clinton’s decision in 1999 to abolish the Glass-Steagall legislation that separated commercial banking from investment banking since 1929. Almost noone has commented on the implications, which are far much serious, of the lapse of the Humphrey – Hawkins legislation in 2000. This legislation, in theory at least, obliged the US government and the Federal Reserve to work to sustain full employment . The economist Henry C.K. Liu has noted that, among other things, it specifically provided that the federal government would achieve four goals: full employment, growth, price stability and trade balance, chiefly through private business.
Liu comments as follows,
“Implicitly, private firms must be regulated to align structurally corporative profits with the four goals of economic policy. The private sector cannot be allowed to profit from activities that are counterproductive and deny the four goals of economic policy; that treat social costs as if they were an externality to their business activity.”
“In the welfare economy, an externality is a socio – economic cost created by a single actor, the payment of which is transferred to the rest of us.” It could be the epitaph of globalization.
The lapse of the Humphrey Hawkins legislation was, effectively, the US Government’s final adieu to ruling for the majority of its people. It was President Clinton and the Democratic wing of the US oligarchy that finally and categorically handed the US economy over to the country’s corporate plutocracy. A similar type of betrayal has been in the pipelines for many years now, in the EU. This is why now the US government and its European allies have acted so energetically to prevent the bankruptcy of their big private banks while allowing unemployment to run loose and making indigens of tens of millions of people.
It is necessary to counterpose this fact against Alberto Guevara’s vision of economic policy. He represents an Alba country and is the Minister of Finance and Public Credit in Nicaragua. In a recent interview, Minister Guevara said that the efforts of Nicaragua’s FLSN Government led by President Commander Daniel Ortega,
“Forms part of this vision of not acting out an economic policy as if we were just playing about with numbers. The aim is to convert economic policy into a social policy with economic consequences. In this way, when we take decisions on economic policy in any fundamental sector of national economy, action is not only exclusively based on statistics.”
“We base this on the 1000s of Nicaraguans that personify these statistics and that are hoping for results; the millions of Nicaraguans bring these statistics to life, hoping that finally, the revolutionary dream will crystallize; and that the dream of each man and woman in this country crystallizes; that they are committed to going forward, engaged in forging a better destiny for their children, for the people, for their town, for the community, for the city and for the whole country…. Then we are working on a revolutionary project that revolves around the human being.”
In Latin America, Alba countries are building an unprecedented economic system, with people at its heart. Its fundamentals are solidarity, co-operation, redistribution and complementarity. In contrast, the US government and the US legislature retain only few remnants of a humanistic and humane economic policy. It is worth examining this contrast more closely because it sheds light on the fundamental motive why military imperial aggression of the US and its allies will probably take the region to war.
The Financial Crisis
The propaganda of the free market is pitted against facts that demonstrate its flaws. For example, there is nothing free in markets that allow unimpeded flow of capital but guard ferociously against the movement of workers. Again, there is nothing free in central banks – the Federal Reserve in the case of the United States – that impose interest rates.
In fact, between 2002 and 2003, “the real rate of funds that is the nominal rate with an adjustment for inflation was negative for three years from October 2002 up to October 2005”. 
“It was negative” is a half-baked truth. The Head of the Federal Reserve and his colleagues established these levels because they wanted to favor certain sectors of the economy - goods and real estates, finances and insurance. That intervention enabled an enormous credit bubble. The flip side: an enormous risk of indebtedness.
The US and the European financial sector have assumed informally and without regulation, activities that displaced the Central Bank’s function of controlling the creation of money. They developed new ways of exploiting volatility and marginal differences between global markets. With a sort of premeditated stupidity on the part of economic authorities and rich countries’ policies, inflating the value of goods and disproportionate growth through different types of debt were treated as if they were equivalent to genuine growth.
After abandoning the rules that the global financial police, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, had arrogantly imposed on poor countries, the governments of rich countries now impose structural adjustments on their own people. At the same time, millions of millions of dollars appear to support the banking sector. In the United States alone, this totaled US $ 13 millions of million. In exchange, they cut the amounts relating to small allotments to reduce poverty in its domestic economy or for cooperation for international development.
Every year, the military budget has increased. The US military budget this year is close to US $ 700 thousand million. The US allies in NATO follow by providing tens of thousands of millions of dollars to finance their interventions in Afghanistan and other countries. Apparently, there is no other manner of doing things in the amazing world of Western bloc countries comprising the United States and its allies. The governments of these countries are prisoners of a culture and a hypocritical, sadistic imagination of its imperial past.
A Free Market Where Banks Are Shattered
It is necessary to forget the fairy tales of “free market”. This theoretical model has never existed, does not exist now and will never exist. Central banks and governments of rich countries as well as their giant financial businesses are complicit in guiding markets in the direction they want. This is why they extend fabulous guarantees to US institutions - and their European counterparts – such as Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and the insurance giant AIG.
It must be noted Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and the Bank of America are a group of elite companies that have been authorized as Primary Government Securities Dealers of the Federal Reserve. They are the vital counter parts of the Federal Reserve in maintaining and manipulating the global money markets, raw materials, bonds and shares. Its counterparties in Europe include BNP Parisbas in France, Nomura in Japan, Barclays and RBS in the United Kingdom, UBS in Switzerland and Deutsche Bank in Germany. Canada participates through the Royal Bank of Canada. 
Now allowance is made for the dollar to fall to between 1.50 and 1.55 against the Euro. Once again, commodities’ prices fall. Oil is about US$ 80 per barrel. Gold has shifted to US $ 1,100 per ounce. Copper is more than US$ 290 per pound. Wheat is more than US$ 510 per bushel. These rises have not been promoted just because they help the US reduce its current deficit. This type of analysis has been completely wiped out together with the Humphrey – Hawkins legislation.
The slumps, rises and sudden movements in the global markets allow giant financial companies to make billions of dollars through bets. These bets are now made with tax payers’ money, provided by governments, to rescue the banks. Additionally, the very low rate of interest fixed by the Federal Reserve allows swindling bankers to borrow money at almost zero % interest.
On 15th November, a change in the US accounting rules came into force. Another example of the fallacies of the “free market”: these accountancy rules have also been manipulated to accommodate the financial sector. For example, the rule of “marcar-al-mercado” was abandoned in the first quarter of 2009. Why? To allow the financial sector to increase their asset value. Thus they succeeded in borrowing more money that they could have done under the old valuation rules - still at a rate of almost zero % interest. Then, they took this money to finance gambling in the casinos of the commodities markets, international money markets and stock markets.
With the money they earn from betting in the markets, they do everything other than investing it to generate jobs and production in the real economy. For example, they pay their employees who are already really well remunerated, billions of extra dollars in commission. Also they buy US treasury bonds yielding 3 or 4 % interest to help the Federal Reserve to create a market for government debt.
They work together with the Federal Reserve experimenting with new strategies for controlling future inflation. They use different mechanisms such as interest payment on deposits that banks maintain with the Federal Reserve though complex transactions of reverse – repurchase or through buying long term Treasury bonds.  Alternatively, they simply safeguard money anticipating fresh losses that they are probably going to have to face.
One of the events that they are preparing for is another change in accounting rules. This change was deferred mid-2008 to give banks time to recover from their hardship. Rule 140 of the Financial Accounting Standards Board requires that from 15 November 2009, banks must include so-called Special Purpose Entities on their general balance sheets. For many years, corrupt businesses (the best known example of which is Enron) have used these for many years to take off their general financial statements loss-making assets or goods.
The use of these financial vehicles permits unscrupulous businesses to protect their value, making it appear bigger that it is. To give you some idea of the numbers we are talking about, in 2008 these off – balance sheet vehicles exposed: Citigroup to a US $ 800 thousand million losses; JP Morgan Chase to US $ 600 thousand million losses; and Bank of America to more than US $ 40 thousand million losses.
Despite the US government making some attempts to supervise valuation, in the first quarter of 2009, noone really knows by how much they are going to negatively affect the general balance sheets of big financial entities when the Rule 140 amendment comes into force. For sure, it will impact their value, perhaps dramatically. This is the other factor that explains why the big US banks do not finance the real economy.
All history teaches us is that we learn nothing from history
The final result of all the millions of millions of dollars picked from air to rescue the financial sector of rich countries: neither governments, nor central banks nor financial corporations in rich countries have changed. The United Kingdom is still stagnating in an economic recession. It has cost two years from when the crisis first broke out in July 2007 before financial leaders are prepared to admit that, as far as financial regulation goes, their house is not in order.
For example, the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, recently acknowledged that sooner or later, the issue of the banks called “too big to fail” must be addressed . But what impact will these good intentions have two years too late when King’s deputy, Charles Bean, can say that the increase in price of goods suggests that an enormous quantity of money created from nothing to rescue banks “ signifies that the economy has bottomed out.” 
Mr Bean’s words arouse fear. This is because European and US economic authorities still think that inflating the price of goods is the same as a genuine growth in the real economy. It seems that they are not so bothered with the sky-high rates of unemployment that many free market commentators dismiss as “not being a timely indicator” and one that does not reflect what is going to happened in the short term. Now the most comprehensive measure of US unemployment is close to 18%. However the most powerful bank in the world, Goldman Sachs, has just rewarded its employees with record commissions of more than US $ 20 thousand million.
The Importance of Alba, the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America
It is in this context that the Seventh Alba Summit took place in Cochamba Bolivia.  The reports and the commentaries in the corporate media and in progressive, neo-colonialist medias always ignores or underestimates what Alba signifies. Even when they recognize its importance, they underestimate its successes, relevance and viability. The reality is that Alba states have a population of more than 75 million. The countries that make up the little sister of Alba, the regional agreement Petrocaribe, have a population of more than 90 million people. If you add together the populations of Alba and Petrocaraibe, this totals more than 114 million .
The reason for Alba’s successful development to date is that small countries can only defend their interests if they are united, in every sense of the word. The power of the old empire of North America and Europe may now be on the decline. Even if this were certain, there is no guarantee that new emerging powers such as China and Brazil are going to respect the interests of small countries when a dispute arises.
Countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador know that this was the experience of Paraguay and Uruguay in MERCOSUR. They see how the development of MERCOSUR was halted by the domination of big corporate Brazil. Bolivia and Ecuador have their own experiences of ruthless corporate policies and the Brazilian government. They also know that China is equally anxious to grab natural resources from Latin America as the old imperialist powers never did. The Alba countries know that only united will they be able to fiercely defend their natural resources and their people.
As important aspect of the Cochamba Summit is that it could leave its participants convinced of prioritizing the development of the Alba institutions of integration instead of wasting its energy in futile attempts of developing continental integration through Mercosur or the Banco del Sur. Both organizations are dominated by sympathetic neoliberals of the Brazilian elite. As the former Hydrocarbon Minister, Andres Solis Rada, has noted,
“ Brazil by converting to a creditor of the IMF and increasing its votes in the World Bank, is associated with nations that oppress and strangle oppressed nations” 
The strategy and integration of Alba functions at two levels: the extensive agreement of Alba in se and the narrower approach of Petrocaraibe on energy and food. The benefit that Petrocaraibe brings to its members is enhanced liquidity. How? through access to the supply of oil on favorable terms (half to be paid within 90 days and the rest to be paid over 20 years at low interest rates), more investment in energy infrastructure (including sources of renewable energy) and support for food security.
The Alba states have access to a much wider range of economic, social and cultural options. Alberto Guevara thinks that “Alba is the alternative model that we are developing in Latin America and the Caribbean so that under different principles of association, we are integrating the brother nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. I am talking about principles that have nothing to do with the principles currently being applied, are rigged in many cases in the context of the international financial community, donations etc.
Alba has no conditions that impair people’s sovereignty. None whatsoever. Alba gives first place to the principle of self-determination. But also in Alba, we apply many principles including solidarity: genuine solidarity that is, that disinterested solidarity, focused on helping those who have less, to reach a level of development as a country, a nation and as a people.
Alba operates on the principle of complementarity. This is a principle that does not exist in the other world, outside Alba. It is a principle that firstly acknowledges the different development pathway that the people of our America are pursuing. A pathway that veers away from those that colonized these people, who destroyed and robbed our raw materials and killed those indigenous to our soil in order to form the original accumulation of capital set up then for global capitalism.
This principle of complementarity is an innovative principle. It is a principle of justice. It is a principle of brotherhood” 
The Example of Alba in Nicaragua
Alberto Guevara’s enthusiasm is justified. In practice, the experience of Nicaragua demonstrates that the benefits of Alba are wide-ranging and extensive. The exports from Nicaragua to Venezuela increased from US$ 8 million in 2007, the year that Nicaragua contributed to Alba, US $90 million more than it contributed in 2009. The increase is invariably in agricultural products such as beans, beef and dairy products.
Nicaragua’s agricultural economy has dramatically improved following government investment financed largely by Alba. The principle of complementarity makes Venezuela accept payment in kind – in agricultural products - equivalent to the cash price of petrol.
The investment necessary to develop agriculture in Nicaragua came from funds released on favorable terms for the provision of petrol from Petrocaribe and soft loans from the Venezuelan National Development Bank. That transformation allowed a record level of exports in 2008. The fall of exports in 2009 was projected as being less than 5% compared with 2008. It is also possible that record production during the first six months of 2009 will help the government and manufacturers maintain the adverse affects of the drought of the second six months provoked by “El Nino”.
A key tenet of the Alba program is to create mixed businesses between Alba countries to respond to the plundering practiced by transnational businesses of rich countries. In the energy sector, by the end of 2010, the mixed Venezuelan – Nicaraguan Alba company, is going to be able to import and to stock all the oil that the Nicaraguan economy needs. Then Nicaragua will be independent of the transnational giant Exxon that always has handled imports of oil to Nicaragua up till now.
In just two years, Alba has contributed an additional 290 megawatts to the electrical energy generating system in Nicaragua. This releases its consumers from the permanent threat of constant energy shortages that they were experiencing in 2006 under the former government. This is the result of a 16 year drought in investment under the principles of the Washington Consensus. Nicaragua consumes around 520 megawatts per day.
The favorable terms of Petrocaribe allowed funds released to be channeled for subsidies for the public transport system that protect users and operators from the chaotic effects of volatile petrol prices. In Managua, the country’s capital, the overwhelming majority of the population are low income. They pay half of what they would have to pay in another way. Inter-city journey prices also have remained stable following the shock caused by rising oil prices in the first six months of 2008.
Alba has facilitated investment in infrastructure including a refinery and a complex petrochemical in the western region of Nicaragua on the Pacific side. Preparatory works are already underway. In the Region North of the Atlantic Coast, reconstruction has started following Hurricane Felix. This includes improvements to the port of Bilwi (the Puerto Cabezas) and work to improve the road that unites Bilwi with the Pacific side of the country through Matagalpa. Going forward, 5 agro-industrial projects are being planned for 2010. Alba is also financing programs for housing and improving the streets in the entire country.
Programs Alba is promoting include the Mision Milagro that has given eye care to more than 60,000 people in Nicaragua since 2008. Alba finances Cuban medical brigades that work in rural zones of the country, that in the past always have suffered from scant medical cover, especially on the Atlantic Coast. Cultural and sports programs have created opportunities for thousands of young Nicaraguans to follow educational courses and for training that otherwise would have eluded them. Alba’s positive legacy has been eliminating illiteracy in Nicaragua – just as it did in Bolivia.
Alba in the region
Alba is doing all this not only in Nicaragua but also in all the other member states. This together with investments and less wide-ranging programs in the Petrocaraibe member states. All this investment is directed not to substitute, but to complement, existing help and cooperation provided by Western Bloc countries. However, at the same time, Alba liberates countries from traditional blackmailing, practiced by imperial countries through aid and trade. This was clear when the United States cancelled $60 million of Cuenta Reto del Milenio funds on the false pretext of allegations of electoral fraud in the 2008 municipal elections. Most of this cancelled amount was replaced with Alba funds.
Alba and Petrocaribe ensure unprecedented stability for their member states. However, the United States, Canada and Europe are always accusing Venezuela of having a destabilizing influence in the region. What they really mean is that Venezuela blocks their plans to dominate Latin America and the Caribbean. In recent decades, this command has been maintained in recent decades by neocolonial mechanisms of cooperation for development, external debt and unfair trade. An example of the challenge Alba represents for Western Bloc imperialist countries: Alba countries have their own bank – the Bank of Alba.
At the Cochabamba Summit in October, the Alba countries took a crucial step towards integrating as a regional economic community by introducing a Single System for Regional Payment (Sucre). Sucre enters into force in January 2010 and is the first step to a common currency. It implies that eventually the Alba countries are not going to have to buy dollars to pay for their imports – for example for Venezuelan oil - from other Alba states. It is a small but effective blow against the viability of the US dollar as an international reserve currency.
Recently Henry CK Liu said,
“ global trade following the Cold War has been transformed into a new form of economic imperialism where advanced economies and forces exploited underdeveloped and weak economies. This results in denying sovereign governments their right to deploy their sovereign credit for national development; it forces them to depend on foreign capital denominated in the currency of the country playing out the role of the monetary hegemon.”
Alba’s Challenge to Imperialism
On 17 October 2009 Alba countries notified the Empire that it was determined to recover its sovereign right to use its own sovereign credit for national and regional development. This is only an additional motive to encourage even more, the daily diplomatic and showy aggressions of the Western Bloc governments and their corporate media propaganda. There are three more reasons that underlie this continuing cynicism and the falsehood of the US government and its allies.
First, it is that one sees – even in the brief summary given here - the tremendous impact of Alba and the Petrocaraibe on national and regional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this sphere, Alba demonstrates that developmental aid, trade policies and the manipulation of foreign debt are nothing more than an evil machine, designed to retard genuine development and sovereignty of its people. Alba is a challenge to which the Western Block does not have an effective response in its current scheme – apart from its military capacity.
The issue of literacy demonstrates this very well. In only three years, Alba has eliminated illiteracy in Bolivia and in Nicaragua. The cooperation programs for development of Western Bloc countries have not been able to achieve something similar in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador. If one asks why it has to be like this, the response is clearly because rich countries and their local allies are not inclined to do so. The contrast reveals that the declarations rich countries make on an alleged agreement on poverty reduction is a silly rhetoric.
The second of the three reasons for the Western Bloc’s aggression against Alba states is that at the international level, Alba countries throw punches far above each country’s individual weight. Alba has increased promoting South – South cooperation in relations not only with India and China but also with countries such as Argelia, Vietnam, Libya and Iran. Ecuador and Venezuela are members of OPEC. The example of Alba will be a key issue in the important conference on South – South cooperation scheduled for this year, at the beginning of December in Kenya.
The other Alba countries will probably follow the lead of Nicaragua and recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two states that broke away from Georgia in 2008. Russia has observer status at Alba meetings. On issues ranging from Sri Lanka to Western Sahara, to Palestine, the Alba countries pursue their agenda of non-alignment and anti-imperialism. In this sense Alba is also an example that Western Bloc countries want to crush.
The third reason why Western Bloc countries hate Alba so much is because Alba states are completely committed to fighting drug trafficking and have been effective in doing so. This irks the US government for two reasons: first, US counterparts in the corporate finance sector depend greatly on the liquidity of its operations in the tens of millions of millions of dollars that flow each year through international tax havens. These tax havens launder hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars coming from international business of narco-trafficking - as well as organized crime – to facilitate operations of the international financial system.
The Military Threat
Despite more than US$ six millions of millions of the money that the US contributed as an investment in the “war against narcotics” in Colombia, cocaine exports are still the same. In Afghanistan, despite the “war against drugs” and also the “war against terror”, heroin exports have reached record levels. Now through the Merida Plan, the US is helping its military industries and security - with the support of the Government of Mexico – just as it did in Afghanistan, Colombia and Irak – through the other exaggerated initiative of its false “war against drugs”.
Evidently, drug trafficking is one of the US’s most important industries. It satisfies the excessive demands of its US consumers. It provides essential economic benefits for the financial sector. It significantly sustains its military and security industries. It is not for nothing that US has by far the biggest prison population in the world.
When we asked Alberto Guevara in the interview cited above if he believed that US expansionism was the inevitable collorary of its economic decline Cro. Guevara commented:
“History has taught us that so long as there’s a domestic crisis, the result is the reactivation of the military - industrial complex. All recent history, the Korean war, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq war and Afghanistan all, in addition to the natural concept of war, that is the final result was always dividing the world in such a way that war is the most intense expression of the economy.”
The US government has tacitly supported the military coup in Honduras in part because the toppled President Manuel Zelaya was committed to supporting Alba. The Department of State used Costa Rica’s President Oscar Arias as a tool to facilitate a framework agreement that permitted sporadic periods of a spurious “dialogue” to enable arriving at elections at the end of November without any specific agreement in favor of President Zelaya. Now it appears certain that a violent conflict is going to arise in Honduras. In Mexico, an increase in US support for the “war against narcotics” threatens to deepen, what is already a social and economic crisis out of the control of the usurping government of Felipe Calderon.
In Colombia, President Barack Obama, the winner of the Noble Peace Prize, is destabilizing the region through five or six military bases in this country. Even Brazil, whose troops in Haiti head of the UN’s military occupation of this country, has expressed its disapproval of President Obama’s decision. President Obama has also agreed to install two new navel bases in Panama. Also, he has reactivated an old communications and spying centre in Costa Rica at the substantial cost of US $ 10 million.
The US economy devastated. There is little chance that unemployment is going to return to its pre – crash levels until 2017. How to respond to this catastrophe. President Obama, the oligarchs and plutocrats that finance him and Western allies are clearly committed in a bet – winner takes all - to recover their empire through imperial military expansion and the unfolding of a regional crisis. They are determined to use the full spectrum of aggression against the Alba countries. They think that the best options for countries of the Western bloc are military harassment and state terror. This will strengthen the countries of the region, as Henry C.K. Liu put it, “ to depend on foreign capital in the currency of the country playing the monetary hegemon.”
 The nine Alba nations (Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, San Vicent and the Grenadines and Venezuela) met Cochabamba, Bolivia, 16th and 17 October 2009. The declaration from that summit can be accessed at http://tortillaconsal.com/tortilla/node/4108
 "Greenspan Forgets Where He Put His Asset Bubble:", Caroline Baum, Bloomberg March 12th 2009
 A complete list of Primary Dealers as of 27 July 2009 was:
BNP Paribas Securities Corp ; Bank of America Securities LLC; Barclays Capital Inc.; Cantor Fitzgerald & Co.; Citigroup Global Markets Inc.; Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC; Daiwa Securities America Inc.; Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; HSBC Securities (USA) Inc.; Jefferies & Company, Inc.; J. P. Morgan Securities Inc.; Mizuho Securities USA Inc.; Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated; Nomura Securities International, Inc.; RBC Capital Markets Corporation; RBS Securities Inc.; UBS Securities LLC.
 "Mervyn King launches blistering attack on ￡1tn banks bailout", Ashley Seager and Jill Treanor, Guardian, October 21st 2009
 "BOE More Likely to Expand Bond Purchases on GDP Slump (Update1)", By Brian Swint and Jennifer Ryan, Bloomberg October 23rd 2009
 Compare with the following populations: Brazil 190 million, Russia 140 million, Japan 127 million, United Kingdom 62 million, Germany 82 million.
 Interview with Cro. Alberto Guevara, Nicaraguan Minister of Finance and Public Credit, 8 October 2009 - http://www.tortillaconsal.com/alberto_guevara_8-10-09.html