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‘No shred of evidence’: Iran demands US presents proof of Saudi oil attacks claim after UN report release

RT | February 16, 2020

Tehran slammed the US for using a recent UN report to peddle its Saudi oil attack claims, accusing Washington of “clutching at every straw” to back up the allegations, while the report itself is based on shaky hypotheses.

“Just hours after the attack on Saudi oil facilities on 14 September 2019, the U.S. baselessly attributed it to Iran, but has failed so far to present any shred of evidence. Now, it clutches at every straw to seemingly prove its allegation,” the Iranian mission to the UN stated on Saturday, responding to the US mission doubling down on the White House’s claim that Iran was behind the 14 September twin attacks on Saudi oil giant Aramco facilities in Abqaiq and Khureys.

The attacks that briefly disrupted operations of Abqaiq oil plant – the largest oil processing facility in the world – were claimed by the Houthi rebels, embroiled in a 5-year-long war with the ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi backed by the Saudi-led coalition. However, immediately after the attacks took place, the US pointed finger at Teheran, not waiting for any fact-finding mission to be sent to the sites.

Commenting on the recently released UN Yemen panel report, which concluded that Houthi forces were “unlikely” responsible for the bombing since the operation was too “complex” and the “estimated” range of weaponry the militants supposedly possess would not have allowed for such launches from the rebel-held territory, the US mission recycled its allegations framing the report’s findings as a foregone conclusion.

“Iran attacked Saudi Arabian oil facilities on September 14, 2019. It was an attack not only against a sovereign state but against the global economy as well,” the note bluntly states.

Firing back, Tehran pointed out that “nothing in that report validates the US allegation, which has already been rejected by Iran.”

The report does not name Iran as the culprit in the strikes. Moreover, the experts admitted that they did not have a chance to see the debris of the weapons that allegedly hit the facilities first-hand at the scenes as they had been partially cleaned up by Riyadh by the time they arrived.

“It should be noted that the Panel did not see any debris of the weapon systems on-site in Abqaiq and Khureys, as those had already been transported to Riyadh at the time of the visits on 20 and 21 September 2019,” the report states.

In addition to that, the experts furher acknowledged that while they believe that this particular attack was not carried out by Houthis, “other attacks using the same weapons do seem to have been launched from Yemen.”

The panel did not rule out either that Houthis could have been indeed behind the twin strike, noting that “in theory, the attacks could have also been launched by Houthi forces either from within Saudi Arabia, from the territory of other countries, or even from sea or airborne launch platforms,” but called this scenario “highly unlikely.”

The Iranian mission said that the US note “represents another disinformation campaign against Iran,” arguing that it’s the US massive build-up, undertaken under the pretext of the “Iranian threat,” together with Washington’s “military adventurism” and “the unprecedented flow of sophisticated American weaponry” to the region that has become the “main source of instability and insecurity” in the Middle East.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Syrian army takes control over all villages around Aleppo, eliminating threat of terrorist shelling

RT | February 16, 2020

The Syrian military has established full control of all areas surrounding Aleppo for the first time since 2012, putting an end to the terrorist shelling of the country’s second-largest city.

A total of 23 villages to the west and north of the city were liberated, as fighters from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra) fled from their positions, state broadcaster SANA reported.

The news prompted large-scale celebrations in Aleppo. Residents took to the streets after dark waving Syrian national flags, and drivers honked their car horns.

Aleppo was freed in 2016 in a joint operation by Syrian and Russian forces, but anti-government militants remained holed up in the suburbs and nearby villages. From there, they shelled the city with mortars on a regular basis, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Video | , , | 2 Comments

US names members of panel for West Bank annexation

PNN – February 16, 2020

The US government has appointed members of a committee tasked with mapping out areas of the occupied West Bank that Israel plans to annex as part of President Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed “Deal of the Century.”

A senior Trump administration official told the Israel Hayom daily that US ambassador to Israel David Friedman will lead the joint committee.

“Honored to serve on the Joint Committee,” tweeted Friedman Saturday. “Looking forward to getting started right away,” he said.

Other committee members will include Friedman’s senior adviser Aryeh Lightstone, and Scott Leith, a US National Security Council expert on Israel.

Israeli members will include tourism minister Yariv Levin and Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer.

The committee was announced by Trump last month during the unveiling of his scheme, which would see Israel control swathes of the West Bank in violation of the fundamental rights of the Palestinians.

Trump said the joint committee would be formed to “convert the conceptual map into a more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved.”

There is still no set timeline for when the committee will finish its work, but Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressured by right-wing lawmakers in recent weeks to announce the immediate annexation of all settlements before Israelis head to the polls.

Three weeks ago, both Netanyahu and Friedman said that Israel would be able to do so before the election, and Netanyahu planned to turn the issue into the cornerstone of his re-election campaign.

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who is believed to be the architect of the so-called “Vision for Peace,” has said the US administration and Israel had decided to wait until a team was formed to examine the maps, and that he hoped Israel would wait until after the election.

On January 28, Trump unveiled his plan negotiated with Israel but without Palestinians, as one side of any agreement, being involved in the process.

Palestinian leaders immediately rejected the plan, with President Mahmoud Abbas saying it “belongs in the dustbin of history.”

They view the deal as a colonial plan meant to unilaterally control Palestine in its entirety and remove Palestinians from their homeland.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 3 Comments

Iran: Saudi airstrike on Yemenis, near downed jet, war crime

Press TV – February 16, 2020

Iran has denounced the international community’s silence on Saudi airstrikes, the latest of which killed at least 31 civilians in Yemen’s al-Jawf province Friday, calling it a war crime.

“The international community’s silence on these war crimes has emboldened their perpetrators to kill more civilians,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in Tehran on Sunday.

The United Nations office in Yemen said preliminary field reports indicated that “as many as 31 civilians were killed and 12 others injured in strikes that hit al-Hayjah area” in al-Jawf province.

The health ministry in al-Jawf province said women and children were among those killed, Yemen’s al-Masirah TV reported. They were attacked as they gathered near the wreckage of a Saudi warplane shot down on Friday evening.

Mousavi strongly condemned “the criminal attack by the Saudi-led coalition forces and offered commiserations to the bereaved families and the oppressed Yemeni people,” IRNA news agency reported.

“Over the past several years, we have repeatedly witnessed that whenever Saudi-led coalition forces or their allies suffer humiliating defeats in the battlefield, they react by cowardly slaughtering women, children and civilians with American weapons,” Mousavi said.

“Yesterday’s crime in Jawf province is just one example among dozens of their war crimes,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run news agency quoted military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki Saturday as saying that the tornado warplane belonging to the kingdom’s air force had been shot down over the province of Jawf on Friday.

Yemeni forces said they shot down the warplane with an advanced surface-to-air missile.

Saudi warplanes later targeted people who had gathered near the wreckage of the jet. Officials said aid workers could not reach the site of the attack due to continuous flights by Saudi warplanes over the area.

“As usual, when the most brutal US-Saudi aggression receives painful strikes in the military confrontation fields, it replies with great folly by targeting civilians,” spokesman for Yemeni armed forces Yahya Sare’e said on Saturday.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande also denounced the “terrible strikes” in al-Jawf province.

“So many people are being killed in Yemen – it’s a tragedy and it’s unjustified. Under international humanitarian law parties which resort to force are obligated to protect civilians,” she said.

“Five years into this conflict and belligerents are still failing to uphold this responsibility. It’s shocking,” she added.

International aid group Save the Children also condemned the Saudi airstrikes, saying they showed the Yemen conflict was “not slowing down.”

“This latest attack must be urgently and independently investigated, and perpetrators held to account,” said Xavier Joubert, the group’s country director in Yemen.

“Those who continue to sell arms to the warring parties must realize that by supplying weapons for this war, they contribute to making atrocities like today’s all too common.”

Saudi Arabia and a coalition of its vassal states launched the war on Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall a Riyadh-backed former regime and crush a popular Houthi movement opposed to the kingdom’s meddling in their country.

The Saudi military aggression, coupled with a naval blockade, has killed up to 100,000 people and injured many more. It has plunged Yemen into what the UN says is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The UN says an estimated 24 million Yemeni people – close to 80 percent of the population – need assistance and protection.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman on Sunday stressed that the humanitarian catastrophe and violation of human rights and international laws in Yemen must end.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Sayyed Nasrallah: Trump’s Two Recent Crimes Usher Direct Confrontation with Resistance Forces

By Mohammad Salami – Al-Manar – February 16, 2020

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah stressed Sunday that the United States of America has recently committed two major crimes, the assassination of the head of IRGC’s Al-Quds Force general Qasem Suleimani as well as the deputy chief of Iraq’s Hashd Shaabi Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis and the announcement of Trump’s Mideast plan.

Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that those two crimes had ushered a direct confrontation with the axis of resistance in Lebanon, calling for forming a comprehensive resistance front against the United States all over the world.

Delivering a speech during Hezbollah’s “Martyrdom & Insight” Ceremony which marks the anniversary of the martyrs Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Sayyed Abbas Al-Moussawi and Hajj Imad Mughniyeh and the 40th day after the martyrdom of General Suleimani and Hajj Al-Muhandis, Sayyed Nasrallah emphasized that in this confrontation with the United States, we have to trust God’s help, keep hopeful for a bright future and challenge our fear.

Sayyed Nasrallah pointed out that the so-called “deal of the century” cannot be described as a ‘deal’ because it refers merely to the plan of the US president Donald Trump’s plan to eradicate the Palestinian cause.

All the Palestinian forces have rejected and may never approve Trump’s scheme, according to Sayyed Nasrallah who considered that this is basic in frustrating the US plan.

Sayyed Nasrallah noted that consistency of stances which reject Trump’s plan is required to frustrate it, adding that the US will is not an inevitable destiny and citing previous cases of Washington’s failure when opposed by resistance.

No one approved the US plan except Trump and Netanyahu, according to Sayyed Nasrallah who underscored the Palestinian, Arab and international rejection of the scheme.

The Hezbollah leader hailed the consensus of the Lebanese political parties which have rejected Trump’s plan, attributing this attitude to the recognition of the dangers of the scheme to Lebanon and the entire region.

Sayyed Nasrallah noted that Trump’s plan affects Lebanon because it grants the occupied Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shuba hills and the Lebanese part of Al-Ghajar town to the Zionist entity, stipulates naturalizing the Palestinian refugees and impacts the border demarcation.

“The spirit of Trump’s plan will be decisive in the issue of demarcating the land and sea borders with occupied Palestine and will affect Lebanon’s oil wealth.”

Sayyed Nasrallah pointed out that what reassures the Lebanese about the rejection of the naturalization of the Palestinian refugees is the consensual attitude of all the parties in this regard, calling for respecting certain groups’ fears related to this issue.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Are House Republicans Undermining President Trump’s Climate Policies?

By Eric Worrall | Watts Up With That? | February 16, 2020

Are some House Republicans going soft on climate policy? The house defied President Trump on cutting wasteful R&D spending on renewables, R&D which cannot possibly deliver value for money. What else is happening behind the scenes?

What a Republican Climate-Change Agenda Might Look Like

By ALEX TREMBATH
February 13, 2020 6:30 AM

Republican leaders in Congress have started to hash out policies to address the problem. Here’s what they should focus on.

For the first time in a long time, Republicans seem engaged on climate change. As concern over the issue surges among younger Republicans and sweeping Democratic proposals demand an answer from the right, GOP lawmakers have come forward with bills of their own to address the problem. The top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, recently sat down with Axios’s Amy Harder to outline the biggest goals of a Republican climate-change agenda, namely:

• Carbon capture, with a focus on natural solutions such as more trees and improved soil-management (what President Trump called the “trillion trees initiative” in his State of the Union Address);
• Clean-energy innovation; and
• Conservation and recycling, with a focus on plastic waste.

Start with innovation: Republicans should demonstrate a commitment to it beyond “basic science,” backing carbon capture, nuclear energy, renewables, and other clean-energy technologies. And, by all accounts, they appear ready to do just that. They have reliably rejected President Trump’s proposals to slash clean-energy RD&D (research, design, and development) funding from the budgets of the Department of Energy and other federal agencies. In just the past two years, they have co-sponsored, introduced, and/or helped pass policies to accelerate demonstration and deployment of nuclear-energy and carbon-capture technologies, including the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), the USE IT Act, and the Section 45Q tax credit for carbon removal.

An agenda resembling what I’ve laid out here would boost American investments in technology and enterprise, increase American exports, improve American energy independence, support the development of a domestic clean-energy industry that can compete globally, support the domestic agriculture sector, and eliminate one of the biggest and most widely hated of all subsidies. Add it all together and you have not only a credible package of climate policies but a credible Republican one.

Read more: https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/02/republican-climate-change-agenda-innovation-carbon-capture/

Obviously there is a lot of speculation in the article, so we can’t know for sure what is really happening in the heads of senior house republicans. But what a waste of resources the proposed policies would be.

  1. Carbon capture would make electricity far more expensive, and would potentially create terrifying new risks. Large concentrations of CO2 near inhabited areas are dangerous – a large natural CO2 release in Africa in 1986 killed most people and animals within 15 miles of the source, causing a loss of life comparable to the effects of a large nuclear explosion.

    A release of this magnitude near a densely populated US city would be an unimaginable disaster. The sheer volume of CO2 which would have to be managed by a serious carbon capture scheme would create a substantial risk of a major accident.

    Unbreathable concentrated CO2 is denser than air. After a large release the CO2 tends to hug the ground, displacing normal air and suffocating anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the cloud.

  2. Innovation won’t fix renewables, so innovation spending on renewables is a waste of money. Even 100% efficient renewables would not be a viable replacement for fossil fuel. They’re just too intermittent, require too much material to construct, and take up too much space. In 2014 a group of Google engineers discovered to their horror there is no viable path to 100% renewable energy.
  3. Conservation and recycling – why? I don’t think any of us have a problem with commercially viable recovery of material, funded by private companies. As a kid I used to make pocket money collecting soda cans, until the government messed up my pocket money business with taxpayer funded recycling bins. Money governments waste on taxpayer funded recycling schemes is money which cannot be spent on hospitals, police, roads or schools.

There is no route to pleasing everyone on this issue. If House Republicans openly make a break for bipartisan climate policies, their support in coal states and manufacturing centers will evaporate.

Worse, anything more than token climate action inevitably leads to economic hardship and job losses If there is one thing which will lose a politician votes, that thing is tanking the economy.

What about those young climate activist Republicans whose heads have been messed up by the education system? They exist, especially in universities. But the right thing to do is surely to try to help them get their heads straight, rather than promoting token climate policies in an effort to appease their global warming delusions.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

Do ‘green’ buses pass the performance test?

Do they even pass basic energy, environmental, economic and human rights tests?

By Duggan Flanakin | Watts Up With That? | February 15, 2020

Should Americans follow China in a massive commitment to supposedly eco-friendly battery-electric buses (BEBs)? California has mandated a “carbon-free” bus system by 2040 and will buy only battery or fuel cell-powered buses after 2029. Other states and cities are following suit.

Vehicle decisions are typically based on cost and performance. Cost includes selling price plus maintenance, while performance now includes perceived environmental impacts – which for some is the only issue that matters. But that perception ignores some huge ecological (and human rights) issues.

China today has 420,000 BEBs on the road, with plans to reach 600,000 by 2025. The rest of the world has maybe 5,000 of these expensive, short-range buses. However, the Chinese still get 70% of their energy from coal, so are their BEBs really that green? Are they safe? And are they really ethical?

Battery costs are the main reason BEBs today are much more expensive than buses that run on diesel or compressed natural gas. But bus makers say electric buses require less maintenance, and climate activists say the lower net “carbon footprint” (carbon dioxide emissions) justifies paying a little more.

China gets around the up-front cost problem by establishing national mandates, heavily subsidizing bus (and battery) manufacturers, and rewarding cities that replace entire bus fleets at one time. This ensures that their factories benefit from economies of scale – and that the transition will be swift and complete.

Beijing simply dodges the environmental costs by ignoring the fossil fuels, horrific pollution and human illnesses involved in mining, ore processing and manufacturing processes associated with building the buses. California and other “renewable” energy advocates do likewise. In fact, those costs will skyrocket as China, and the world emphasize electric vehicle, wind, solar and battery technologies.

Meanwhile, the USA and EU nations focus on subsidizing passenger cars. Thus, there are far more zero-emission passenger cars on the road today in the U.S. and Europe than public transit vehicles. No wonder Westerners still view electric vehicles as subsidized luxuries for the “woke wealthy,” who boast about lowering their carbon footprint, despite also often needing fossil fuel electricity to charge batteries.

The huge costs for fast-charging stations across Europe, let alone the vast United States, pose more huge challenges for future expansion of the electric vehicle market. But transit vehicles, even school buses, run regular routes, and if the routes are short enough, the bus can be recharged overnight in the garages.

Tax credits, free HOV lane access, free charging stations and other subsidies for the rich are seen by most as terrible policies. Yet another, says University of California–Davis researcher Hanjiro Ambrose, is the Federal Transit Administration funding formulas that favor short-term cost-efficiency over long-term innovation. “Those funding mechanisms haven’t been aligned with trying to stimulate policy change,” Ambrose says. “The cheapest technology available isn’t usually the newest technology available.”

To work around high upfront battery costs, innovative capitalists are creating new financial products that allow fleet owners to finance battery purchases. Treating battery costs the same way as fuel costs – as ongoing expenses – meets federal guidelines. Matt Horton, chief commercial officer for U.S. BEB maker Proterra, says, “The importance of the private capital coming into this market cannot be understated.”

Green advocates admit the primary reason people choose EVs is their belief that electric cars and buses, even with electricity generated from fossil fuels, are good for the environment. The Union of Concerned Scientists claims BEBs are 2.5 times cleaner in terms of lifespan emissions than diesel buses. That is highly questionable. Moreover, BEBs with today’s strongest batteries can take a full load no more than 150 miles in good weather. That’s fine for airport shuttles, maybe even for short public transit routes.

However, electric battery life is shorter than the 12-year vehicle life that many transit and school bus systems rely upon in their budgets. Battery replacement for BEBs is very expensive and unpredictable.

And then there are the horror stories. Los Angeles Metro purchased BEBs from Chinese-owned BYD Ltd. but yanked the first five off the road within a few months. Agency staff called the buses “unsuitable,” poorly made, and unreliable for more than 100 miles. Albuquerque returned seven out of its 16 BYD buses, citing cracks, leaking fluid, axle problems and inability to hold charges.

French journalist Alon Levy reported that BEB sales teams in Vancouver admitted their buses could not run for an entire day without recharging during layovers. Worse, in Minneapolis, bus performance suffers tremendously in cold weather: at 20o F buses cannot last all day; on Super Bowl Sunday, at 5o F, a battery bus lasted only 40 minutes and traveled barely 16 miles. Imagine being in a BEB in a blizzard.

In largely rural Maine, lawmakers proposed converting all school buses to BEBs. But Maine Heritage Policy Center policy analyst Adam Crepeau found that BEBs can travel no more than 135 miles per charge (in good weather), while diesel buses go up to 400 miles and can be refilled quickly almost anywhere. “This,” he said, “will severely impact the ability of schools to use them for longer trips, for sporting events, field trips and other experiences for students.” Or in bitterly cold Maine winters.

The economic and practical bottom line is simple. Activists and sales teams are pressing American cities, school boards and other public entities to follow China and convert their fleets to BEBs, calling them “the wave of the future.” Even in California, where lengthy power outages have become routine, this climate and anti-fossil ideology dominates. Given the growing vulnerability of our electric grid, among other concerns, cost and performance may not be the only considerations in making such an irreversible choice.

The environmental and ethical bottom line is equally simple – but routinely gets shunted aside.

Electric vehicles require about three times more copper than internal combustion equivalents – plus lithium, cobalt and other metals for their batteries. Wind turbines need some 200 times more steel, copper, plastics, rare earths, concrete and other materials per megawatt than combined-cycle gas turbines. Photovoltaic solar panels have similar materials requirements. 100% “renewable, sustainable” Green New Deal electricity systems on US or Chinese scales would require millions of turbines, billions of solar panels and billions of half-ton Tesla-style battery packs for cars, buses and backup electricity storage.

Those technologies, on those scales, would require mining at levels unprecedented in world history! And the environmental and human rights record we’ve seen for those high-tech metals is terrifying.

Lithium comes mostly from Tibet and the Argentina-Bolivia-Chile “lithium triangle,” where contaminated lands and waters are poisoning fish, livestock, wildlife and people. Most cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 40,000 children and their parents slave in open pits and dark, narrow tunnels – and get exposed constantly to filthy, toxic, radioactive mud, dust, water and air. Broken bones, suffocation, blood and respiratory diseases, birth defects, cancer and paralysis are commonplace.

Nearly all the world’s rare earth elements come from Inner Mongolia. Mining the ores involves pumping acid into the ground and processing them with more acids and chemicals. Black sludge from the operations is piped to a huge foul-smelling “lake” that is surrounded by formerly productive farmlands that are now so toxic that nothing can grow on them, and people and wildlife have just moved away. Here too, severe skin and respiratory diseases, cancers and other terrible illnesses have become commonplace.

In many of these cases, the mining and processing operations are run by Chinese companies, under minimal to nonexistent pollution control, workplace safety, fair wage, child labor or other basic standards that American, Canadian, Australian and European companies are expected to follow.

And this is just for today’s “renewable, sustainable, ethical, Earth-friendly, green” technologies. Just imagine what we are likely to see if China, California, New York, Europe and countless other places start mandating a fossil-fuel-free future – and then shut down nuclear power, to boot. Where will we get all the raw materials? Where will we put all the wind turbines, solar panels, batteries and transmission lines?

The prospect is horrifying. And it’s all justified by exaggerated fears of a climate apocalypse. Crazy!

Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT).

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | 1 Comment

Bolivia: An election in the midst of an ongoing coup

By Vijay Prashad | Globetrotter | February 12, 2020

On May 3, 2020, the Bolivian people will go to the polls once more. They return there because President Evo Morales had been overthrown in a coup in November 2019. Morales had just won a presidential election in October for a term that would have begun in January 2020. Based on a preliminary investigation by the Organization of American States (OAS) that claimed that there was fraud in the election, Morales was prematurely removed from office; the term for his 2014 presidential election victory did not end until January. Yet, he was told by the military to leave office. An interim president—Jeanine Áñez—appointed herself. She said she was taking this office only on an interim basis and would not run for election when Bolivia held another election. She is a candidate for the May 3 election. (For more information on what is happening in Bolivia, see this overview from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.)

Meanwhile, Morales has been in exile in Argentina. His party—the Movement for Socialism (MAS)—has candidates for the presidency and the vice presidency, but their party cadres and followers are facing a difficult time making their case to the people. Their radio stations have been blocked, their leaders arrested or exiled (or sitting in foreign embassies waiting for asylum), their cadre beaten up and intimidated.

The United Nations secretary-general’s personal envoy Jean Arnault released a statement on February 3 that expressed caution about the elections. The situation in Bolivia, Arnault said, is “characterized by an exacerbated polarization and mixed feelings of hope, but also of uncertainty, restlessness and resentment after the serious political and social crisis of last year.” This careful language of the UN needs to be looked at closely. When Arnault says there is “exacerbated polarization,” he means that the situation is extremely tense. When he asks that the interim government “outlaw hate speech and direct or indirect incitement to violence or discrimination,” he means that the government and its far-right followers need to be very careful about what they say and how much violence they use in this election.

On February 6, Morales spoke in Buenos Aires, where he urged an end to the violence so that the election could bring the fractured country together. He called for a national agreement between all sides to end the dangerous situation. In a pointed way, Morales called upon the government to respect diversity, noting that people wearing distinct clothes and wearing the signs of a certain political party were facing intimidation and violence. He meant the indigenous population of Bolivia, and the supporters of MAS; it is widely accepted that the violence has been coming from the far right’s paramilitary shock troops, and the intimidation has been coming from the government.

For instance, the Bolivian authorities have been routinely charging MAS leaders with sedition, terrorism, and incitement to violence. Morales faced these charges, along with dozens of important MAS leaders, most recently Gustavo Torrico who has been arrested. Matters are so bad that the UN’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, took to Twitter to express his concern at the “use of judicial and fiscal institutions for the purpose of political persecution. The number of illegal detentions grows.” This has not stopped Áñez, who says she will move her government to investigate at least 592 people who held high office in Morales’ 14 years in government. This means that the entirety of the MAS leadership will likely face harassment between now and the May 3 election.

U.S. Interference

In 2013, Morales expelled the U.S. government agency USAID; he accused USAID of working to undermine his elected government. Before that, Morales, as is his constitutional right, informed Salvador Romero—the head of the election agency (TSE)—that when his term ended in 2008, he would not be retained. This is a normal practice.

Romero went to the U.S. Embassy to complain. He met with U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg to complain about this and urged the U.S. to do something. It was clear that Romero and Goldberg knew each other well. When Romero left his post at the TSE, the U.S. establishment took care of him. He went to work at the National Democratic Institute in Honduras. The National Democratic Institute, based in Washington, is loosely affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party, and is part of the universe that includes the National Endowment for Democracy. These are all U.S. government-funded agencies that operate overseas to “oversee” what is known as “democracy promotion,” including elections.

Romero essentially worked for the U.S. government in Honduras during the first election after the U.S.-instigated coup of 2009. During this election in 2013, violence against the supporters of Xiomara Castro, the candidate of the left-wing Libre Party, was routine. The day before the election, for instance, two leaders of the National Center of Farmworkers (CNTC)—María Amparo Pineda Duarte and Julio Ramón Maradiaga—were killed as they returned home from a training for Libre election workers. This was the atmosphere of this very tight election, which returned to power the U.S.-backed conservative candidate Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party. Romero, at that time, was quite pleased with the results. He told the New York Times then that “despite ‘the general perception of fraud,’” the election was just fine.

Right after the coup in November, Áñez brought Romero back to La Paz as the head of the election court, the TSE. He has his old job back. This would have made Bruce Williamson, the U.S. charge d’affaires to Bolivia, very happy. The U.S. has its man at the helm of the May 3 election in Bolivia.

And then Trump said he is sending USAID to Bolivia to help prepare the ground for the election. On January 9, the USAID team arrived to “give technical aid to the electoral process in Bolivia.” Technical aid. The phrase should give a reasonable person pause.

Ten days later, Trump’s legal adviser Mauricio Claver-Carone arrived in La Paz and gave a series of interviews in which he accused Morales of terrorism and creating instability. This was a direct attack at MAS and interference with Bolivia’s electoral process.

If the U.S. intervenes in Bolivia, that is just “democracy promotion.”

But even with the violence from the government and its fascistic paramilitaries, even with Romero at the helm of the TSE, even with USAID on the ground, and even with the shenanigans of Claver-Carone, MAS is fighting to win. The candidates for MAS are Luis Arce Catacora (president) and David Choquehuanca Céspedes (vice president). Catacora was the minister of economy and public finance under Morales and the architect of the administration’s economic success. Céspedes was the foreign minister in that government. He managed Bolivia’s policy of international sovereignty and is an important person to Bolivia’s indigenous and peasant movements. Early polls show that the MAS ticket is in first place.


Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | Leave a comment