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Solar warnings, global warming and crimes against humanity

Malaysian Realist

We’ve been seeing a lot of unexpectedly cool weather across the world. While this may be explained by local phenomenon such as the Northeast Monsoon in Malaysia and the Polar Vortex in the USA, a longer term trend of worldwide cooling is headed our way.

I say this because the sun – the main source of light and heat for our planet – is approaching a combined low point in output. Solar activity rises and falls in different overlapping cycles, and the low points of several cycles will coincide in the near future:

A) 11-year Schwabe Cycle which had a minimum in 2008 and is due for the next minimum in 2019, then 2030. Even at its recent peak (2013) the sun had its lowest recorded activity in 200 years.

B) 87-year Gleissberg cycle which has a currently ongoing minimum period from 1997 – 2032, corresponding to the observed ‘lack of global warming’ (more on that later).

C) 210-year Suess cycle which has its next minimum predicted to be around 2040.

Hence, solar output will very likely drop to a substantial low around 2030 – 2040. This may sound pleasant for Malaysians used to sweltering heat, but it is really not a matter to be taken lightly. Previous lows such as the Year Without A Summer (1816) and the Little Ice Age (16th to 19th century) led to many deaths worldwide from crop failures, flooding, superstorms and freezing winters.

But what about the much-ballyhooed global warming, allegedly caused by increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere? Won’t that more than offset the coming cooling, still dooming us all to a feverish Earth?

Regarding this matter, it is now a plainly accepted fact that there has been no global temperature rise in the past 25 years. This lack of warming is openly admitted by: NASA; The UK Met Office; the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, as well as its former head Dr. Phil Jones (of the Climategate data manipulation controversy); Hans von Storch (Lead Author for Working Group I of the IPCC); James Lovelock (inventor of the Gaia Theory); and media entities the BBC, Forbes, Reuters, The Australian, The Economist, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

And this is despite CO2 levels having risen more than 13%, from 349 ppm in 1987 to 396ppm today. The central thesis of global warming theory – that rising CO2 levels will inexorably lead to rising global temperatures, followed by environmental catastrophe and massive loss of human life – is proven false.

(All the above are clearly and cleanly depicted by graphs, excerpts, citations and links in my collection at http://globalwarmingisunfactual.wordpress.com – as a public service.)

This is probably why anti-CO2 advocates now warn of ‘climate change’ instead. But pray tell, exactly what mechanism is there for CO2 to cause climate change if not by warming? The greenhouse effect has CO2 trapping solar heat and thus raising temperatures – as we have been warned ad nauseum by climate alarmists – so how does CO2 cause climate change when there is no warming?

Solar activity is a far larger driver of global temperature than CO2 levels, because after all, without the sun there would be no heat for greenhouse gases to trap in the first place. (Remember what I said about the Gleissberg cycle above?)

And why is any of this important to you and I? It matters because countless resources are being spent to meet the wrong challenges. Just think of all the time, energy, public attention and hard cash that have already been squandered on biofuel mandates, subsidies for solar panels and wind turbines, carbon caps and credits, bloated salaries of dignitaries, annual jet-setting climate conferences in posh five-star hotels… To say nothing of the lost opportunities and jobs (two jobs lost for every one ‘green’ job created in Spain, which now has 26% unemployment!). And most of the time it is the common working man, the taxpayer, you and I who foot the bill.

What if all this immense effort and expenditure had been put towards securing food and clean water for the impoverished (combined 11 million deaths/year)? Or fighting dengue and malaria (combined 1.222 million deaths/year)? Or preserving rivers, mangroves, rainforests and endangered species? Or preparing power grids for the increased demand that more severe winters will necessitate – the same power grids now crippled by shutting down reliable coal plants in favour of highly intermittent wind turbines?

In the face of such dire needs that can be met immediately and effectively, continuing to throw away precious money to ‘possibly, perhaps, maybe one day’ solve the non-problem of CO2 emissions is foolish, arrogant and arguably malevolent. To wit, the UN World Food Programme just announced that they are forced to scale back aid to some of the 870 million malnourished worldwide due to a $1 billion funding shortfall and the challenges of the ongoing Syrian crisis. To put this is context, a billion is a mere pittance next to the tens of billions already flushed away by attempted adherence to the Kyoto Protocol (€6.2 billion for just Germany in just 2005 alone!).

During the high times for global warmist doomsaying, sceptics and realists who questioned the unproven theories were baselessly slandered as ‘anti-science’, ‘deniers’, ‘schills for big oil’… Or even ‘war criminals’ deserving Nuremberg-style trials for their ‘crimes against humanity’!

Now that the tables are turned, just let it be known that it was not the sceptics who flushed massive amounts of global resources down the drain – while genuine human and environmental issues languished and withered in the empty shadow of global warming hysteria. Crimes against humanity, indeed.

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

UK taxpayer to bear costs of nuclear leaks, not private firms

RT | February 23, 2014

The private consortium that will manage the decommissioning of the UK’s decaying Magnox nuclear reactors won’t be made to bear financial responsibility in the event of a radioactive incident. Taxpayers will have to pick up the tab instead.

Private contractors will be indemnified by the government, despite concerns that exempting them from financial liability for nuclear incidents could prove a disaster for the taxpayer, the Guardian reports.

Earlier this month the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) presented parliament with a departmental minute concerning an indemnity to be given by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in relation to the proposed Magnox reactors, built five decades ago. Among the reactors are some of the oldest facilities at Sizewell, Hinkley and Dungeness, which have been supplying electricity to the national grid for 40 years.

The Berkeley site in Gloucestershire, which entered service in 1962, was the first commercial nuclear power station in the UK to be decommissioned. After 27 years of operation, generating enough electricity on a typical day to serve an urban area the size of Bristol, the twin reactor station shut down in 1989. The station is currently undergoing work to decommission the site.

Meanwhile, according to the departmental minute, the prospective Parent Body Organizations (PBOs), selected through a competitive process, “are not prepared to accept liability” for certain nuclear liability claims. It adds that “because of the nature of nuclear activities the maximum figure for the potential liability is impossible to accurately quantify.” But there is allegedly only a “low probability” of a claim against the public purse.

Among the fierce critics of the use of the indemnity is Labour MP Paul Flynn, who says the nuclear debate in Parliament has been passed over by the government.

“There have been major nuclear accidents about every decade since Three Mile Island,” Flynn told the Guardian.

“More are very likely from technical failure, terrorism, human error or natural disaster. If risk is minimal, nuclear sites could be insured commercially.”

“The cost of the Fukushima cleanup and damages ranges from $250bn [£150bn] to $500bn and rising,” the politician noted.

“Nuclear installations are uninsurable in normal commercial terms. Only gullible governments can bear the enormous risk. If operators paid for their own insurance indemnities, their case for economic production of nuclear electricity collapses,” he added.

However, Energy Minister Michael Fallon, in his written statement to parliament, entitled “Contingent liability: indemnification by the nuclear decommissioning authority,” argues that there was “a very strong case” for the indemnity.

“An indemnity is a prerequisite to awarding the contract and securing the benefits of the competition. There is only a very low probability of a claim being brought under the indemnity and our assessment is that the benefits of the NDA contracting with a new PBO outweigh the small risk that the indemnity may be called upon,” the minister asserted earlier in February.

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Nuclear Power | , , , | 1 Comment

84-Year-Old Pacifist Nun Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison after Exposing Lack of Security at Nuclear Weapons Site

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | February 23, 2014

Three anti-nuclear protesters, including an elderly Roman Catholic nun, will spend multiple years in prison for breaching security at a key weapons facility previously known as the “Fort Knox of uranium.”

Sister Megan Rice, 84, and two other members of the group Transform Now Plowshares embarrassed the U.S. Department of Energy and its security contractor at the Y-12 Nuclear Complex in Tennessee two years ago.

The three activists managed to enter the top-security grounds and travel all the way to a key building that houses 400 metric tons of highly enriched uranium used in nuclear warheads.

Rice along with Michael Walli, then 64, and Greg Boertje-Obed, then 57, had enough time to paint slogans like “The fruit of justice is peace” and splash bottles of human blood on the bunker wall before private security guards arrived on the scene.

They were convicted last year on two felony counts: damaging government property and obstructing the national defense, a sabotage charge. But they were not sentenced until February 18, 2014.

Rice received a prison term of two years and eleven months, while Walli and Boertje-Obed each got five years and two months because of earlier protest-related arrests.

“Please have no leniency with me,” Rice told the judge prior to her sentencing. “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor for me.”

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar asked prosecutors before handing down the sentences what harm the activists caused at Y-12.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore responded that the defendants “had destroyed the ‘mystique’ of the ‘Fort Knox of uranium.’”

The August 2012 break-in at the complex prompted multiple federal reviews of security procedures, including congressional hearings, a report by the Energy Department’s inspector general (IG), and an independent commission review.

In the wake of the embarrassing episode, the Energy Department set about to test security readiness at nuclear weapons sites across the country. At Y-12, the IG discovered, the security knowledge exam itself was compromised when personnel disseminated it, along with the answers, ahead of time.

To Learn More:

Y-12 Protestors “Destroyed the Mystique” of Nuclear Security (by Lydia Dennett, Project On Government Oversight)

Nun, 84, Sentenced to Nearly 3 Years in Prison for Breaking into Nuclear Weapons Plant (Associated Press)

How the Obama Administration Charged 3 Pacifists with Violent Acts of Sabotage (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

The 82-Year-Old Nun Who Breached U.S. High-Security Nuclear Complex (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Chávez in The Americas: Increasing Autonomy in Latin America and the Caribbean

By Stephanie Pearce, NACLA

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2013 edition “Chavismo After Chávez: What Was Created? What Remains?”

Countries in the “developing world” have, since the end of formal colonialism, seen their ability to act autonomously systematically constrained by a variety of factors. These include, but are not limited to, macroeconomic policy conditions attached to World Bank and IMF loans, poor terms of trade with the Global North, lack of effective agency in international organizations, and the actions of multinational corporations operating in their territory.

Venezuela’s regionally oriented foreign policy during the Chávez era counteracted each of these dynamics, and in doing so opened up autonomous policy space for other states in Latin America and the Caribbean. The concrete achievements of a number of mechanisms, including counter-trading and credit provision within the PetroCaribe framework, and the recent establishment of a virtual regional currency, the SUCRE, all played a part in this process.

The first crucial action undertaken by Hugo Chávez as Venezuelan President in protecting regional economies was to vociferously oppose the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) at the third summit of the Americas, held in Quebec in 2000. The proposal represented the perfect consolidation of U.S. economic power, and was designed, in the words of General Colin Powell, to “guarantee control for North American businesses…over the entire hemisphere.”1 After Chávez voiced concerns, the Mercosur countries followed suit, stopping the FTAA conclusively at the subsequent Mar del Plata summit in 2005. If the FTAA had gone ahead, it would have resulted in the substantial economic subordination of Latin America to U.S. corporate interests. Agricultural sectors in particular would have suffered from an influx of low-cost subsidized U.S. products. In addition, areas of the public sphere that had previously avoided commoditization or privatization would have been fair game for trans-national corporations. Under the FTAA, Amanothep Zambrano, ALBA Executive Secretary, told me last August that states would not have been able to “lead any aspect of economic policy, and therefore their political capacity to solve social problems” would have been heavily constrained.

Their shared opposition to these proposals encouraged Cuba and Venezuela to form an alternative regional integration framework, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in 2004. This quickly matured from a bilateral socio-centric cooperation agreement to a nascent regional bloc, or alliance, with the addition of Bolivia in 2006. Bolivia’s newly elected president, Evo Morales, brought with him the idea of a “Peoples Trade Treaty” (TCP), which extended the ALBA’s self-identified principles of solidarity, complementarity between economies, and respect for sovereignty, into a 23-point agreement that systematically opposed the tenets of orthodox free trade agreements. The TCP opened the possibility of pursuing economic policies outside of the market fundamentalist approach of the neoliberal era, for example by stating that people’s right to access healthcare should be prioritized above protecting pharmaceuticals’ corporate profitability. In the following three years, membership of the ALBA-TCP grew to nine countries encompassing much of Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.

During this time, the Venezuelan government also constructed PetroCaribe, a framework designed to facilitate the supply of its oil products to neighboring Caribbean states under preferential conditions, which at the time of writing had 18 members. Through these two channels the Venezuelan government has opened up autonomous policy space in the region, to some extent overcoming the constraints identified above. Venezuela has, largely through ALBA and PetroCaribe, become an important source of funding in the region. Oil supply agreements, signed between Venezuela and several members of both frameworks, permit countries to defer payment on set portions of their oil bill and use the capital obtained for government spending. Crucially this capital is obtained without the macroeconomic conditionality and policy prescriptions associated with World Bank or IMF loans. PetroCaribe agreements, for example, state that “member nations of the group are allowed to defer payment of 60% of their oil bills to Venezuela for 25 years, at 1% interest, in addition to a 90-day grace period on all payments, and a two year initial grace period on the credit facility.”2

This credit facility offers an alternative to IFI loans, while maintaining small Caribbean nations’ ability for autonomous decision making, which is considered critical in the post-colonial context. Specifically, credit provision has enabled Jamaica and Antigua to delay recourse to IMF loans, and put them in a better negotiating position so, I was told in August 2011 by Norman Girvan, former Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States, “they were able to make an easier deal.” Venezuela, under the current administration, has also purchased billions of dollars’ worth of bonds issued by the Argentine government, enabling the country’s early exit from all of its IMF debts and associated policy prescriptions.

As a result of this mechanism, PetroCaribe funding to the Caribbean now exceeds both EU and U.S. aid by a wide margin, with only remittances from the Caribbean diaspora exceeding it in funding to the signatory states.3 For Dominica, Venezuela is now the “single largest creditor…surpassing traditional sources of credit such as regional development banks and the IMF.” Venezuela is owed 27.7% of the country’s total debt, which grew 12.6% in 2011 alone, to $8.8 billion.4 Such figures inevitably raise concerns that the agreement is increasing debt levels in the region and developing dependence on Venezuelan largesse. Barbados’s Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, has stated that his country would not join because he “would not permit the present generation of Barbadians to consume oil now to be paid for by succeeding generations of Barbadians.”5 However, the deferred portion of the bill does not constitute debt in the orthodox sense, as it is kept by the Caribbean partners and can be spent as capital towards any project deemed socio-productive, or saved to accrue interest to offset the bill, as has been the case in Guyana. The domestic opposition sees the PetroCaribe scheme as Chávez “giving away” oil irresponsibly. However, the amount is relatively small and sustainable. Supply to PetroCaribe members, including Cuba, peaked in 2009 at an average of 196.4 thousand barrels daily, which constituted only 7% of total Venezuelan oil exports that year, and operates under market prices in accordance with Venezuela’s OPEC membership.6

Due to a high level of dependence on imports, Venezuela has also been uniquely able to position itself as a regional alternative to North American and European markets. This dynamic has, again, been apparent within both ALBA-TCP and PetroCaribe. In 2008, the PetroCaribe framework was augmented with a “compensatory exchange mechanism” via which oil bills from Venezuela could be offset by the export of domestically produced goods and services. The Venezuelan market is particularly important for Caribbean countries who suffer from poor terms of trade with the North due to dependence on primary commodity exports, the continued use of tariff and non-tariff barriers by developed nations, and the erosion of colonial trade preferences. For example, up to 90% of Guyanese rice exports per annum were going to EU countries when, in 2000, the Overseas Territories (OCT) loophole was closed, resulting, I was told by the Guyanese Ambassador to Venezuela, in a “50-60%” drop in prices. When the compensation mechanism was announced, the then-president of Guyana, Jagdeo Bharrat, actively sought a better deal with Venezuela through the PetroCaribe framework. The resultant export of both rice and unprocessed paddy has seen Venezuela become the single largest importer of Guyanese rice, replacing Portugal.7

In the case of ALBA countries, a strategic reorientation towards intra-regional trade, and particularly export to Venezuela, has reduced dependence on the United States and subsequently its ability to constrain autonomous action. For example, when Bolivia expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2008 following his alleged involvement in separatist actions in the Santa Cruz Department, Washington retaliated by excluding Bolivia from the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Agreement (ATPDEA). Bolivia lost its U.S. tariff advantages, which was a particularly painful blow to its textile industry. Chávez immediately offered them a market under “the same or better conditions” that Bolivia had enjoyed with the United States. As a result, says the Bolivian Ambassador to Venezuela, in 2010 Venezuela “imported almost 50 million dollars in textiles alone, or nearly double that which [Bolivia] used to export to the USA” annually.

The purchase agreement was supported by initiatives by both governments to facilitate small and medium sized businesses’ entry into the regional market. A fund was established in the Bank of ALBA to provide short-term interest-free credit to Venezuelan importers in order to purchase Bolivian textiles, paired with a fund in the Bolivian national development bank to provide small textile producers credit to purchase raw materials. This agreement therefore not only minimized the impact that U.S. market sanctions could have over autonomous decision making by the Bolivian government, but also created direct relations between regional producers and consumers.

These patterns are part of a wider renewed focus on South-South trade, both within the region and with extra-hemispheric partners. However, the United States remains the region’s single most important trading partner. The objective is not to be “anti-American,” rather to reduce the U.S. ability to exert controlling influence over its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors by creating alternatives to the dollar in international trade. One way in which this was achieved was through the PetroCaribe mechanism and similar counter-purchase agreements with other regional allies. As direct non-market transactions, they circumvented the use of the dollar, thereby avoiding its automatic privileging in international trade, and avoiding the transaction costs associated with its use.

This concept was extended by the ALBA’s virtual common currency, the Unified Regional System for Economic Compensation (SUCRE). The SUCRE is essentially a series of clearing accounts between Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador that allow the countries to trade freely without transaction costs. Accounts are balanced every six months with one hard currency transfer. The value of trade conducted via the SUCRE in its first year of operations, 2010, was just over $8 million. It grew exponentially, to almost 100 times that the following year ($172,905,344).8 Though the SUCRE’s value was originally set against the dollar ($1 to XSU1.25), and it is typically used as the convertible currency to make balancing payments, in the long term the intention is to no longer use the dollar at all. The direct and deliberate countering of U.S. economic hegemony that the SUCRE represents has been of particular importance to Ecuador, whose macroeconomic policy options have been constrained by a prior administration’s decision to dollarize the economy in 2001. In fact, the mechanism was largely designed by Ecuadoran economists, and of the $170 million traded in 2011, $140 million was for Venezuelan purchases from Ecuador (mainly tuna).9

As we have seen, Chávez’s time in office saw an unequivocal reassertion of the state as economic actor throughout the region. This dynamic was particularly felt in the crucial energy sector. In Venezuela, governmental control of the state oil industry was consolidated, while both Bolivia and Argentina nationalized hydrocarbons with investment and technical assistance from Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), via agreements with YPFB and Enarsa, state owned gas and oil companies in Bolivia and Argentina respectively. Even in centrist or center-right Caribbean nations, Venezuelan investment has enabled state-owned oil companies and agencies to supply oil products directly to their population, “to effectively intervene in their markets to minimize retail prices” in the energy sector which had previously been “dominated by foreign companies.”10

Where state energy companies or agencies did not exist prior to PetroCaribe, they have been formed to facilitate the direct import of oil products from PDVSA. These can take the form of joint ventures with the PDVSA subsidiary PDV Caribe. Venezuelan credit and grants have also been used to fund improvements in energy infrastructure; that is namely the capacity of the member countries to store and refine oil, and in turn to generate and distribute energy. Central to this scheme has been investment in the Cienfuegos refinery in Cuba and at the Kingston refinery which now almost exclusively refines Venezuelan crude. The refinery is run by Petrojam Ltd, a mixed state enterprise in which Jamaica Oil Company owns a 51% stake and PDV Caribe 49%. This reassertion of state control over energy resources is seen as a fundamental facet of PetroCaribe’s “new oil geopolitics…at the services of our peoples not at the service of imperialism and big capital.”11

The right and power of multinationals to dictate domestic policy has been systematically undermined, both through a reassertion of the state as economic actor and in the tenets of the TCP which we briefly touched on earlier. This offers a stark contrast to the World Trade Organization’s policies such as Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), which consistently privilege corporate interests, and/or offer beneficial “loopholes” for developed nations. This has been possible through the creation of new regional forums in Latin America and the Caribbean, in which members’ interests are not subordinate to those of more powerful nations. For example, in the TCP, economic asymmetries between members are recognised and therefore tariff reductions do not have to be reciprocal, disregarding the “most favored nation” principle. In addition, ALBA has no supranationality; it is best described as a framework for cooperation rather than an integration body in the orthodox sense. All programs and agreements are optional, flexible, and voluntary, thereby protecting the national autonomy of members.

Though statist in its organization, ALBA facilitates continual dialogue through presidential and ministerial summits, which have also been attended by international observers. Non-member countries are also represented in the council for social movements, whose proponents include groups such as the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement. ALBA proved to be the first in a series of new regional spaces, catalysed by massive rejection of the FTAA proposal—a rejection led by Chávez—and culminating in the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which was put together as an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS), and includes all the countries of the Americas except the United States and Canada. In this way, lessened economic dependence has resulted in increased diplomatic autonomy from the United States.

There are those who argue that Venezuelan projects in the region created new constraints, replaced one set of dependencies with another. But this is not the case. Though he was a catalyst for and investor in regional development, Chávez avoided constructing a position of power or privilege for Venezuela. This is evident in the lack of conditionality attached to credit mechanisms and the fact that the controlling stake of each mixed state enterprise was maintained by the partner country. Though oil wealth put Chávez in a unique position to invest in regional projects, these were not unilaterally devised or constructed; the TCP came from Bolivia, SUCRE is an Ecuadoran concept, and of course ALBA social programs were exported from Cuba. However, these ideas were made a reality by the capacity for rapid implementation that oil largesse afforded. Such apparently altruistic actions led many to question Chávez’s motives. It is important to point out that these frameworks and counter-purchase agreements have also helped reduce Venezuela’s dependence on the United States as a market and refining destination for oil. The volume of Venezuelan oil exported to the United States decreased from 1,500,000 barrels per day in 2008, to 1,166,000 bpd in 2011, a drop of 334,000 barrels per day. This can, in part, be attributed to the diversification of markets in Latin America (190 bpd to PetroCaribe, plus supply agreements with Argentina among others). This is in addition to securing crucial imports without financial outlay, specifically agricultural commodities, which are often then provided to the Venezuelan population at low cost through state owned agencies such as the supermarket chain Mercal.

***

Under the last ten years of Hugo Chávez’s Presidency, Venezuela’s foreign policies resulted in an opening up of autonomous policy space in Latin America and the Caribbean. What was begun in 2004 with the rejection of the proposed FTAA continued into the post-crisis conjuncture, when Chávez was instrumental in creating a new regional financial architecture to limit the power exerted by Washington-based IFIs. PetroCaribe credit provided funds for capital expenditure, without imposing macroeconomic conditionality. In addition, guaranteed oil supplies allowed the small and energy dependent nations that made up its membership to move beyond reactive policies and look to longer term socio-productive investment.

Venezuela’s concurrent strategy of sourcing imports from the region offered primary-commodity-dependent economies some opportunity to diversify their markets and baskets, with better terms of trade than offered by the United States or ex-colonial metropoles in Europe. Chávez also took the bite out of attempted control via market sanctions, as was clearly demonstrated in the Bolivian example.

These regional imports often took the form of non-market exchanges and counter-purchase agreements within PetroCaribe, ALBA, and beyond. Combined, they arguably represented a strategic de-linking from international trade and finance systems, specifically from the U.S. dollar. As such, these frameworks have lessened both the dependence on, and influence of, the United States in the region, protecting countries’ ability to act autonomously and not follow the dictates of Washington. Chávez effectively undermined U.S. economic power by offering alternatives to the hegemony of the dollar, with the SUCRE in particular offering a concerted challenge. Lessened economic dependence in turn allowed for greater diplomatic autonomy from Washington, demonstrated in its strategic exclusion from the newly formed CELAC. The various new regional initiatives provide space to build development strategies and devise economic policies, beyond the constraints of “market-friendly” logic. This allows for a reassertion of the state as an economic actor and service provider, within a culture of regional cooperation. Though the Venezuelan state is not operating outside of capitalism per se, from the initial rejection of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2001 the Chávez government demonstrated that there are alternatives beyond the policy prescriptions of the neoliberal era, and what’s more, facilitated their use throughout the region to mutually beneficial ends.


1. Colin Powell cited in Katharine Ainger, “Trading Away the Americas,” New Internationalist, Issue 351, November 1, 2002, available at newint.org

2. Venezuela: Two Countries Hold Out Against Cheap Loans and Barters,” Countertrade & Offset, 26:15 (2008)7

3. Sir Ronald Sanders, “The Chavez Effect: A life belt for the Caribbean,” Kaieteur news online, July 27, 2008, available at kaieteurnewsonline.com

4. Andrés Rojas Jiménez “Deuda dominicana con PDVSA aumentó durante 201,” El Nacional, February 16, 2012, available at elnacional.com

5. Wendell Mottley, Trinidad and Tobago’s Industrial Policy 1959-2008 Kingston. (Randle, 2008) 157.

6. This data, and all data not otherwise cited, elaborated from PDVSA annual reports, 2009-2011.

7. Guyana Rice Development Board, “Guyana Rice Development Board Annual Report 2010,” 2011.

8. Consejo Monetario Regional del SUCRE, “SUCRE Informe de Gestión 2011,” 2012.

9. Ibid

10. Curtis Williams, “Venezuela Urged to Fast-track Petrocaribe Initiative,” Oil and Gas Journal, 102 (2004):26.

11. Hugo Chávez Frías, Petrocaribe, Towards A New Order in Our America, (Colecciones Discursos, Ministerio de Poder Popular para Comunicación.)


Stephanie Pearce is a doctoral candidate at the School of Politics & International Relations, Queen Mary College, University of London. Her research focuses on the role of countertrade in Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution.”


Read the rest of NACLA’s Summer 2013 issue: “Chavismo After Chávez: What Was Created? What Remains?”

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela: Retired General to be Arrested Following Decapitation of Motorist at Opposition Blockade

Venezuelanalysis | February 22, 2014

Merida– President Maduro has ordered the arrest of retired General Angel Vivas, who promoted the use of wire at blockades in order to “neutralise” people on motorbikes. One government supporter on a motorbike died by such a method last night.

On 20 February Vivas tweeted “In order to neutralise criminal hordes on motorbikes, one must place nylon string or galvanised wire across the street, at a height of 1.2 metres”.

He also tweeted, “to render armoured vehicles of the dictatorship useless, Molotov cocktails should be thrown under the motor, to burn belts and hoses, they become inoperative”.

Other tweeters responded to his tweet about decapitating motorbike riders with further advice for the violent blockades, including suggesting that “a lot of oil be used in the streets, it is good for two things, they fall off, and it can set [things] alight. The collectives are the ones in the vehicles”.

Last night a man died in Caracas when his throat was cut by wire that blockaders had erected. Santiago Enrique Pedroza was 29 years old. According to Minister Miguel Rodriguez, Pedroza “didn’t see the wire”.

“Murderers who put the wire there with the intention of causing the death of human beings have to be put in prison,” Rodriguez stated. He said Venezuela’s criminal investigation body (CICPC) was investigating the case.

This afternoon at a march of Women for Peace, Maduro said that those who had set up the wire had been “identified and will be arrested”.

He also denounced the alleged burning of 40 new Metro buses, and “various Mercal and Pdval trucks that were transporting food”. He further accused violent groups of setting a Bicentenario market on fire in Bolivar state. Mercal, Pdval and Bicentenario are state subsidised food programs.

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Karzai meets Chinese FM in Kabul

BRICS Post | February 23, 2014

Kabul’s China-policy will not alter, irrespective of the political situation, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday.

Karzai was hosting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday.

Wang said he made the visit in the crucial year of Afghanistan’s transition to underscore the importance of bilateral ties.

“We hope to see a broad-based and inclusive political reconciliation in Afghanistan as soon as possible, and China will play a constructive role to facilitate that,” he said.

“China firmly supports Afghanistan to realize a smooth transition and hopes Afghanistan’s general election will go ahead smoothly as scheduled. China is willing to keep close communication with Afghanistan and work hard to facilitate Afghanistan’s political reconciliation,” he added.

The Afghan government is trying to reassure foreign investors its economy will not sink following the NATO withdrawal. In their meeting on the sidelines of the Sochi opening in Russia earlier this year, Karzai asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to aid the restructuring of the war-torn nation.

During his visit Wang announced China will increase aid to help infrastructure projects, including the construction of school buildings in Kabul University, offering farm machinery and training classes to Afghan technicians.

“The Chinese government encourages and supports capable Chinese enterprises to invest in Afghanistan to strengthen cooperation with the Afghanistan side in trade, energy and other fields,” said Wang.

In 2007, Chinese mining companies announced the single biggest foreign investment in Afghanistan, a whopping $4 billion into developing a copper mine.

Mineral reserves in the country, including copper, gold, iron ore and rare earths, are estimated to be worth $1 trillion.

In a separate meeting with Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Karzai’s national security advisor, Wang stressed on security cooperation even as the Chinese government battles insurgency in the restive region of Xinjiang.

China lauded Afghanistan’s efforts to crack down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and other terrorist forces.

“China hopes both sides would continue strengthening such cooperation,” said Wang.

Spanta said as a good neighbor of China, Afghanistan will keep its policy to cooperate with China to fight the “three evil forces, ” including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s war on terror.

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Former Pakistani general says US seeks to ruin his country

Press TV – February 23, 2014

Retired Pakistani General Hamid Gul says the United States and its allies are seeking to destroy Pakistan by fueling insecurity in the country.

The former head of Pakistan’s Intelligence Service (ISI) alleged that Washington used the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City as a pretext to invade the neighboring Afghanistan.

The former Pakistani intelligence chief, who was often accused of collaborating with the Taliban militant group in Pakistan and Afghanistan, also stated that the United States has failed in Afghanistan and is now seeking to destroy Pakistan.

General Gul also pointed out that the US military will have to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and follow the example of the former Soviet Union in accepting defeat after its military occupation of the country in the late 1970s.

The administration of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has initiated a negotiating process with the pro-Taliban militants in an effort to end the violence in the country.

There are speculations that the negotiations may not succeed as the militants have set tough conditions for the talks.

Pakistan has been gripped by deadly violence since 2001, after Islamabad joined the so-called US war on terror. According to official Pakistani sources, nearly 50,000 people have lost their lives in fatal attacks across the country ever since.

February 23, 2014 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment