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US Air Freight Company that Smuggled Weapons Into Venezuela Linked to CIA “Black Site” Renditions

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | February 13, 2019

GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA – Two executives at the company that chartered the U.S. plane that was caught smuggling weapons into Venezuela last week have been tied to an air cargo company that aided the CIA in the rendition of alleged terrorists to “black site” centers for interrogation. The troubling revelation comes as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has rejected a U.S. “humanitarian aid” convoy over concerns that it could contain weapons meant to arm the country’s U.S.-backed opposition.

Last Tuesday, Venezuelan authorities announced that 19 rifles, 118 ammo magazines, 90 radios and six iPhones had been smuggled into the country via a U.S. plane that had originated in Miami. The authorities blamed the United States government for the illicit cargo, accusing it of seeking to arm U.S.-funded opposition groups in the country in order to topple the current Maduro-led government.

A subsequent investigation into the plane responsible for the weapons caché conducted by McClatchyDC received very little media attention despite the fact that it uncovered information clearly showing that the plane responsible for the shipment had been making an unusually high number of trips to Venezuela and neighboring Colombia over the past few weeks.

Steffan Watkins, an Ottawa-based analyst, told McClatchy in a telephone interview that the plane, which is operated by U.S. air cargo company 21 Air, had been “flying between Philadelphia and Miami and all over the place, but all continental U.S.” during all of last year. However, Watkins noted that “all of a sudden in January, things changed” when the plane began making trips to Colombia and Venezuela on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day.

According to Watkins’ analysis, this single plane had conducted 40 round-trip flights from Miami International Airport to Caracas and Valencia — where the smuggled weapons had been discovered — in Venezuela, as well as to Bogota and Medellin in Colombia in just the past month.

Publicly available flight radar information shows that the plane, although it has not returned to Venezuela since the discovery of its illicit cargo, has continued to travel to Medellin, Colombia, as recently as this past Monday.

Multiple CIA ties

In addition to the dramatic and abrupt change in flight patterns that occurred just weeks before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence prompted Venezuelan opposition member Juan Guaidó to declare himself “interim president,” a subsequent McClatchy follow-up investigation also uncovered the fact that two top executives at the company that owns the plane in question had previously worked with a company connected to controversial CIA “black sites.”

Indeed, the chairman and majority owner of 21 Air, Adolfo Moreno, and 21 Air’s director of quality control, Michael Steinke, both have “either coincidental or direct ties” to Gemini Air Cargo, a company previously named by Amnesty International as one of the air charter services involved in a CIA rendition program. In this CIA program, individuals suspected of terrorism were abducted by the intelligence agency and then taken abroad to third-country secret “black sites” where torture, officially termed “enhanced interrogation,” was regularly performed.

Steinke worked for Gemini Air Cargo from 1996 to 1997, according to a 2016 Department of Transportation document cited by McClatchy. Moreno, although he did not work for Gemini, registered two separate businesses at a Miami address that was later registered to Gemini Air Cargo while the CIA rendition program was active. McClatchy noted that the first business Moreno registered at the location was incorporated in 1987 while the second was created in 2001. Gemini Cargo Logistics, a subsidiary of Gemini Air Cargo, was subsequently registered at that same location in 2005.

21 Air has denied any responsibility for the weapons shipment discovered onboard the plane it operates, instead blaming a contractor known as GPS-Air for the illicit cargo. A GPS-Air manager, Cesar Meneses, told McClatchy that the weapons shipment had been “fabricated” by the Maduro-led government to paint his government as the victim. Meneses also stated that “the cargo doesn’t belong to 21 Air and it doesn’t belong to GPS-Air” and that it had been provided by third parties, whose identities Meneses declined to disclose.

Contras redux?

The revelation that the company that operates the plane caught smuggling weapons into Venezuela has connections to past controversial CIA programs is unlikely to surprise many observers, given the CIA’s decades-long history of funneling weapons to U.S.-backed opposition fighters in Latin America, Southeast Asia and other conflict areas around the globe.

One of the best-known examples of the CIA using airliners to smuggle weapons to a U.S.-backed paramilitary group occurred during the 1980s in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the Reagan administration delivered weapons to the Contra rebels in order to topple the left-leaning Sandinista movement. Many of those weapons had been hidden on flights claiming to be carrying “humanitarian aid” into Nicaragua.

The parallels between aspects of the Contra scandal and the current situation in Venezuela are striking, particularly given the recent “outrage” voiced by mainstream media and prominent U.S. politicians over Maduro’s refusal to allow U.S. “humanitarian aid” into the country. Maduro had explained his rejection of the aid as partially stemming from the concern that it could contain weapons or other supplies aimed at creating an armed opposition force, like the “rebel” force that was armed by the CIA in Syria in 2011.

Though the media has written off Maduro’s concern as unfounded, that is hardly the case in light of the fact that the Trump administration’s recently named special envoy in charge of the administration’s Venezuela policy, Elliott Abrams, had been instrumental in delivering weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras, including hiding those weapons in “humanitarian aid” shipments. In subsequent testimony after the scandal broke in the 1980s, Abrams himself admitted to funneling weapons to the Contras in exactly this way.

With the recently uncovered illicit weapons shipment from the U.S. to Venezuela now linked to companies that have previously worked with the CIA in covert operations, Maduro’s response to the “humanitarian aid” controversy is even more justified. Unfortunately for him, the U.S.-backed “interim president,” Juan Guaidó, announced on Monday that his parallel government had received the first “external” source of “humanitarian aid” into the country, but would not disclose its source, its specific contents, nor how it had entered the country.

February 14, 2019 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As US Laments Human Rights in Venezuela, US-Allied Colombia Descends into Drug-fueled Humanitarian Crisis

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | February 8, 2019

BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA – Several troubling situations are currently playing out across Colombia, yet the country’s continuing downward spiral into drug-fueled and politically-motivated violence has caused little concern in Washington, offering yet another clear indication that the U.S.’ current posturing on Venezuela is hardly motivated by concerns about “democracy,” “human rights,” or the welfare of the Venezuelan people.

This, of course, can hardly be considered surprising, given that Colombia is a top U.S. ally whose government has long been closely aligned with Washington’s interests. However, although the lack of U.S. government or media attention to Colombia may effectively hide it from the American public, the country is becoming increasingly lawless, with cocaine production reaching new record levels and the government sanctioning the mass murder of the country’s largest indigenous group. Not only that but since Colombia’s new president, Iván Duque, came to power late last year, the number of indigenous social leaders who have been murdered has spiked to the highest levels in over a decade.

Ultimately, the lack of media coverage of Colombia’s humanitarian crises, which have large implications for the Americas as a whole, is a telling example of how such crises are regularly weaponized by governments and media to exclusively target governments it wishes to pressure or overthrow, while turning a blind eye to those same or worse acts when committed by an allied nation.

An absurdly double standard

Though it was Barack Obama who first deemed Venezuela a “national security threat” and re-initiated draconian sanctions against the oil-rich nation, the Trump administration has greatly increased the sanctions targeting Venezuela, often citing its government’s alleged participation in illegal drug trafficking as justification for doing so. However, the U.S. has offered little in the way of concrete evidence to back up those allegations.

During this same period, moreover, the Trump administration has expressed little concern for the booming illicit drug trade in neighboring Colombia, which has broken records for cocaine production for the last two years in a row. Though the Colombian government and military have been repeatedly tied to the country’s drug trade, the Trump administration – like previous U.S. administrations – hasn’t lifted a finger.

According to UN figures released last September, Colombia’s cocaine production has again broken records, with the country producing an estimated 1,379 tons of cocaine in 2017, the latest year for which such statistics exist. That figure is a 31 percent increase in cocaine production from 2016. 2016 itself was a record-breaking year with cocaine production gaining by 50 percent over 2015 levels.

Though Trump had threatened to decertify former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ government over the rapid growth of cocaine production, he ultimately gave Colombia a pass in the U.S.’ annual determination of countries considered to be “major drug transit or major drug producing” areas “because the Colombian National Police and Armed Forces are close law enforcement and security partners of the United States in the Western Hemisphere.”

The document also described Venezuela, along with its regional ally Bolivia, as “countries that have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements” despite the fact that Bolivia had the fewest illegal coca crops of any South American country that year.

Since getting a free pass from the Trump administration, Colombia’s current president, Iván Duque, has signaled his hopes to revive a failed, U.S.-backed program to indiscriminately spray suspected coca fields with the infamous Monsanto product glyphosate to reduce cocaine production.

Though the U.S. government and Western media have traditionally placed the blame on leftist guerillas in Colombia, like the FARC, the 2016 peace deal that saw the FARC abandon the drug trade has removed this convenient scapegoat and highlighted the long-standing role of the Colombian military and prominent right-wing politicians in cocaine production.

In fact, the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) has described the Colombian military — which has been armed and trained for decades by the U.S. under the Clinton era policy known as “Plan Colombia” — as being among “the biggest heroin and cocaine trading institutions.”

The Colombian government has also been intimately involved, particularly during the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, who allegedly served as the “head of Colombia’s paramilitary groups” both before and while in office. Uribe was once ranked by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency “on a list of 104 important narco-traffickers contracted by the Colombian narcotics cartels.”

There are also indications of the U.S. government’s own involvement in the Colombian cocaine trade. For example, Colombia’s most notorious drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar, at one point worked for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, according to Escobar’s own children. Escobar allegedly sold cocaine for the CIA to help the U.S. government finance its fight against communism and left-wing governments in Latin America.

As pointed out in the book Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia, the U.S.’ anti-drug efforts in Colombia were never intended to eradicate cocaine, but instead alter the market share by ensuring that allies of the U.S. in Colombia – the Colombian government, paramilitaries and the wealthy elite who are favorable to U.S. business interests – could monopolize the drug trade with no competition from outsiders. Thus, it should hardly shock anyone that the U.S. continues to turn a blind eye to the country’s booming illegal drug trade and its associated violence, even as it continues to break records year after year.

Erasing the erasure of the Wayuú

As the long-standing, U.S.-backed plan to oust the Chavista regime in Venezuela has unfolded, Maduro’s government has been called out in Western media for “starving his own people,” despite the fact that U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela are a driving factor behind the country’s economic crisis. However, since 2011, Colombia has been the site of ongoing genocide against the country’s largest indigenous group – the Wayuú – in the country’s Guajira region, after the Colombian government diverted their only source of water to support the operations of the country’s – and continent’s – largest coal mine.

The suffering of the Wayuú, who have reported the deaths of at least 14,000 children due to the lack of clean water, has gone unreported by the same outlets that routinely raise concern about lack of essential goods in Venezuela. The Wayuú, who comprise around 20 percent of Colombia’s entire indigenous population and 48 percent of the Guajira region’s total inhabitants, are now on the brink of dying out completely seven years after the Ranchería river – their community’s only freshwater source – was diverted by the government-constructed Cercado dam in order to service the water needs of the Cerrejón coal mine.

An estimated 37,000 Wayuú now suffer from severe malnutrition, as they can no longer grow crops or raise livestock without a freshwater source. Each person in the community now lives off of less than 0.7 liters (24 oz.) of water a day while the Cerrejón mine guzzles more than 2.7 million liters of water in a 24-hour period – most of which is used to improve mine “visibility” by minimizing dust pollution. Despite the clear impact of the dam and mine on the humanitarian crisis facing the Wayuú, the Colombian government and supportive Western media have blamed “climate change” and weather patterns like El Niño for the situation.

The most likely reason for the erasure of the slow genocide of the Wayuú from Western media is the fact that the Cerrejón mine is a largely a U.S.-backed operation, as the mine was originally founded by ExxonMobil and is now owned by a consortium of largely Western mining companies such as Anglo American and BHP Billiton. These same mining companies often work with right-wing paramilitary groups — who are also closely connected to the Colombian government — and who repeatedly threaten the lives of Wayuú who speak up about their people’s suffering, including their chief legal advocate, Javier Rojas Uriana.

Notably, the Colombian Wayuú have been immigrating to the Wayuú community in Venezuela in order to avoid the slow death caused by malnutrition, lack of water, and waterborne illnesses from the polluted water from the community’s remaining wells. The Venezuelan Wayuú have been largely supportive of Chavismo and have backed the Maduro-led government, referring to U.S.-backed opposition protests as violent riots “intended to create chaos.” The Huffington Post noted in 2017 that the Wayuú’s support for Maduro had largely been erased by the Western media because it “does not match up with the media’s anti-Venezuelan government narrative.”

Liquidating social leaders, activists, human-rights advocates

While the fate of the Wayuú (and thus 20 percent of the country’s entire indigenous population) continues to hang in the balance, the plight of Colombia’s indigenous peoples has grown even worse since the recent inauguration of Colombian President Iván Duque.

Despite Duque’s having come to power just last August, El Tiempo recently reported that the murders of indigenous leaders in the country have spiked to levels unseen in over a decade since Duque became Colombia’s president. According to data cited by El Tiempo, 120 indigenous social leaders – as well as human-rights defenders — have been murdered in cold blood during Duque’s first 100 days in office.

Though the murder of social leaders by right-wing paramilitary groups has a standing problem in Colombia’s recent history, this level of targeted murder represents a spike over recent years — in which 226, 159, and 97 such murders occurred over the course of the entire years of 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. Notably, the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro has been routinely accused by Western media of murdering opposition activists; yet, those same outlets have been silent on Colombia’s recent spike in activist murders.

Despite the jump, Duque’s government has expressed little concern. This is hardly surprising when one considers that Duque is the hand-picked successor and protégé of Álvaro Uribe, the former Colombian president who was once “the head of Colombia’s paramilitary groups,” according to former paramilitary group commanders of the right-wing death squad AUC, which has been funded by several prominent U.S. corporations.

Uribe, who was Colombia’s president from 2002 to 2010, and was a close ally of George W. Bush, was also personally implicated in organizing a massacre conducted by a right-wing paramilitary group; and his cousin, Colombian politician Mario Uribe, was charged with mobilizing right-wing death squads in the country to help secure Uribe’s presidential victory in 2002. Uribe’s brother was also arrested for founding a right-wing paramilitary group in 2016.

Under Uribe’s presidency, the Colombian military massacred thousands of civilians — such as in the “false positives” scanda,l where the Colombian military dressed up an estimated 5,000 civilians in guerilla clothing and killed them in cold blood, subsequently gaining a bonus from Uribe’s government for the sinister act. It should be no surprise then that, under Uribe, the murder rate of indigenous leaders and human-rights activists reached its all-time high at 1,912 murders in 2003.

Given Duque’s close relationship to Uribe, it is also little surprise that paramilitary groups have endorsed Duque following his election and have vowed to “exterminate” Duque’s opposition, calling prominent Colombian progressives “military targets.”

What to expect if US gets its way in Venezuela

If Washington’s publicly stated concerns about “human rights” and the welfare of a country’s people in Venezuela were genuine, it would be equally critical of Colombia’s government, given the numerous troubling situations currently unfolding in that country. Instead, the dichotomy between Washington’s relationship with Venezuela and Colombia is yet another clear example that the public justifications for the U.S.’s Latin America policy are little more than window dressing for the U.S.-backed expansion of neo-fascist governments throughout Latin America.

Indeed, if Juan Guaidó – the self-declared, U.S.-backed “president” of Venezuela – manages to seize power in the country, the current state of affairs in Colombia is a telling harbinger of what would likely manifest should Nicolás Maduro be overthrown and replaced with the same type of government that the U.S. has either backed or installed in several Latin American countries over the last few decades, and particularly in recent years.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and has contributed to several other independent, alternative outlets. Her work has appeared on sites such as Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire among others. She also makes guest appearances to discuss politics on radio and television. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

February 8, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 3 Comments

Colombia Witnesses Murder of 17th Social Leader in 2019

Dilio Corpus Guetio, a Campesino leader was murdered in Colombia, making it 17th murder in 2019. | Photo: Twitter / @Paola_teleSUR
teleSUR | January 30, 2019

A Colombian Campesino leader Dilio Corpus Guetio, 44, who was a member of Asocordillera (Mountain Area Association of Campesino Workers) and also a member of the local Campesino Guard militia was shot to death Tuesday.

Corpus Guetio left his home in the municipality of Suarez in the department of Cauca, in southwest Colombia, at around six in the morning for work. On the way armed men from a car shot him several times.

“The murderers were in a van which hit him and made him lose control of his bike. At that point, they got out of the car to get close to Dilio, who was already injured and he was shot repeatedly, killing him,” said a representative from the United National Federation of Agricultural Unions (FENSUAGRO).

Studies for Development and Peace, Indepaz, say that within the 29 days of 2019, 16 social leaders have been killed in Colombia, excluding Corpus Guetio.

Dilio was known for his work monitoring rural areas and protecting the territory and its inhabitants. His murder case has been registered in the village of Santa Barbara, his place of work.

This week another community leader from Cuca, Jose Jair Orozco, 52, was also assassinated.

Colombian Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez said in early January that the greatest number of Colombians murdered over the past two years since the signing of the peace agreement have been social leaders who serve on Communal Action Boards (JAC).

JACs began in the 1950s and are local-level councils where citizens decide upon, plan and develop community projects based on their own needs. The majority of JACs are in rural areas and members include mainly low-income Campesino, Indigenous, and Afro-Colombian members of society.

According to Martinez, the assassinations of JAC leaders is “passively systematic.” The attorney general said that those responsible are paramilitary groups “such as the “Gulf Clan” that works on behalf of narco traffickers and “Los Caparrapos” he added.

Indigenous people made up 13 percent of those killed and farmers 10 percent. Union leaders and social leaders, Afro-Colombians and LGBTI population were the other main murder victims.

January 30, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | 1 Comment

Colombian police arrest 6 Israelis over running child sex network

Press TV – December 10, 2018

Colombian police have detained six Israelis accused of running a sex ring that exploited underage girls and forced them to have sex with Israeli tourists in the Latin American country.

Following a two-year investigation, Colombian security police managed to break up “an Israeli mafia that exploited and used girls, adolescents and women as sex slaves in Colombia,” said Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez in a press conference on Sunday, adding that two Colombian nationals were also nabbed in the sweep.

The chief prosecutor further said that the “mafia” had been selling tour packages to Israeli settlers with a destination to several cities in Colombia, but in reality they had been used as a front for sex services with minor females.

Among the detainees was Israeli alleged ring leader Mor Zohar as well as an unnamed Colombian police officer, who is accused of helping protect the criminal gang.

Martinez added that arrest warrants had been issued for eight other Israelis accused of the same crimes in the case.

According to a statement by the office of the attorney general of Colombia, all the arrested Israelis have Interpol Red Notices, the closest thing to an international arrest warrant. It added that the whole criminal network was allegedly led by Israeli Benyamin Mush, who has traveled in and out of Colombia and Central American countries.

Officials confiscated assets belonging to the suspects worth $45 million.

The testimony obtained from the victims revealed that the girls received between $65 and $126, and were forced to join a WhatsApp group code-named after the Jewish holiday Purim.

According to Colombian authorities, Israeli tourists would stay at hotels and take yacht trips and go to drug and alcohol-fueled private parties where women and minor females were offered as “sex slaves.”

The suspects, who are to stand before a judge in the northwestern city of Medellin, are facing multiple charges, including pimping minors, aggravated homicide, drug trafficking and money laundering.

Back in July, Israeli website Ynetnews reported that the Colombian police had arrested three Israelis as well as 15 others accused of being involved in sex trafficking in the tourist city of Cartagena that included the sexual exploitation of more than 250 women and girls as young as 14 years old.

The attorney general’s office at the time described the victims as “real slaves of the 21st century”.

December 10, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Timeless or most popular | , , | 6 Comments

A Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela? A Case Study into NGO Mercy Corps

By Nina Cross | Venezuelanalysis | October 31, 2018

Following a sharp increase in Venezuelan migration since 2015, the corporate mainstream media, alongside the governments of the US, EU and Colombia, is aggressively pushing the narrative of a “humanitarian crisis,” at the same time that Western NGOs flock to set up shop along the Colombian border.

But what if NGOs are being used to influence how the movement of people from Venezuela into Colombia is being shaped and reported, and what’s more, if they are directly benefiting from this situation? To explore the idea, we focus on one such NGO, US-based Mercy Corps, which recently announced an expansion of its operations on the Colombo-Venezuelan border.

Mercy Corps’s budget for global operations, on the order of US $500 million (according to its 2017 annual report), includes funding from US and EU government agencies. Its financiers have included the UK’s International Department of Development, which has regularly sent aid via Mercy Corps to rebel-held areas in Syria. Other funders include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation.

In March 2018, Mercy Corps carried out a “rapid needs assessment” (RNA) of Venezuelan migrants arriving at two main points along the Colombian border. The information gathered was used to “demonstrate” the dangers involved during and after crossings from Venezuela, and the reasons for leaving the country. It is in response to this second question that the people interviewed by Mercy Corps all say the same thing: they are migrating due to an economic crisis in Venezuela, which is linked to hyperinflation.

Independent UN experts, as well as other commentators, have shown on many occasions that the causes of this economic crisis have been significantly exacerbated by the economic sanctions imposed for years upon Venezuela by the US, as well as clarifying that the crisis in Venezuela is economic, not humanitarian. Even US State Secretary Mike Pompeo recently admitted that the sanctions “sometimes have an adverse impact on the people of Venezuela.”

However, Mercy Corps is not concerned with narratives that expose US and EU complicity, and as such, its recommendations fail to include the most obvious point: end the sanctions and stop the hostility towards Venezuela as they are inflicting hardship on its population.

Instead, Mercy Corps’ RNA identified 3 basic needs to be met by the Colombian government: a path to legal entry into Colombia that did not involve passports, the legal right to work in Colombia with the same wages and protections as Colombians and access to shelter, food and water. It is on this third point which Mercy Corps looks to fish for substantial (tax-free) donations and financing from the Global North.

In April, the Colombian government agreed that migrants could register, without passports, at any of the 500-plus checkpoints it would set up along the border over a two month period, to end in June. The reason given was to see how many Venezuelans were entering Colombia. The checkpoints were spread along the 1,500 mile border. Any information supplied by migrants at the checkpoints would be retained by NGOs, not passed to government departments.

By August, the Colombian government agreed that nearly half a million Venezuelans could remain in Colombia for up to two years, look for employment and have access to basic services. The reason given for this change was to accommodate humanitarian needs.

This shift in policy was a reversal of the government’s ruling in February, when up to 3,000 Colombian soldiers were stationed along the border to check for passports. This tightening of rules was referred to as a “diplomatic closure” and the government claimed in a short time the number of migrants fell by 30%.

Yet within a few weeks Bogota U-turned its policy to allow the unhindered movement of Venezuelans, and NGOs such as Mercy Corps were conscripted to enable the process. The new policy of the Colombian government met exactly the needs identified by Mercy Corps, suggesting that the campaign for this migration was an international, organised effort.

In October of this year, Mercy Corps announced they are expanding their services on the border, including providing migrants with a debit card to purchase products. Yet, one out of every three Venezuelans attended by Mercy Corps did not see any improvements to their diet in the two weeks since arriving to Colombia, and 12 percent reported that it had worsened.

Since the Colombian government changed its policy, the number of people leaving Venezuela has increased, according to the Migration Policy Institute, an organisation affiliated to the EU.

As the exodus expands, the humanitarian needs of migrants grow more urgent.

Humanitarian crisis? Mercy Corps as a propaganda tool

The situation of Venezuelan migrants is now being called a “regional humanitarian crisis,” creating a picture of unimaginable catastrophe that needs external intervention.

This escalating crisis narrative of an expanding exodus is placing Venezuela under intense scrutiny. While punishing Venezuela with sanctions from the front, and promoting a migration crisis from behind, the EU and US, with the cooperation of Colombia, are attempting to box Venezuela into a more isolated and vulnerable position.

Colombia has enjoyed close ties with the EU, and soon after changing its policy on Venezuelan passports, it became a NATO partner, further cementing its EU and US dealings. This ballistic development means that the consequences of border conflict, fuelled by a recent movement of 5,000 extra troops to the Catatumbo border region, should be taken very seriously.

Meanwhile, Mercy Corps has consistently driven a narrative of a full-blown humanitarian crisis and rampant violence under President Maduro, including unfounded allegations of repression and torture. For instance, the NGO has made the unsubstantiated, hyperbolic claim on their website that “newborns in Syria have a better chance of survival than those born in Venezuela today,” wich clearly looks to stoke the fire.

Harnessing its “independent charity voice,” Mercy Corps is playing its part as a propaganda tool in vilifying the Venezuelan government, enabling its US and EU funders to continue their sanctions, which only worsen the economic hardship of average Venezuelans, the root cause for leaving their country, as explained in Mercy Corps’ own needs assessment. And whilst all this goes on, Mercy Corps gleefully rakes in ever greater funding so as to “attend” to the “humanitarian crisis” they, together with the mainstream media, have played a key role in manufacturing.

Political interference and profit from Mercy Corps

However, beyond playing a role in the international media war, Mercy Corps is intimately linked to the Washington policy-making establishment that has formulated the US policy of illegal, unilateral sanctions.

Mercy Corps is connected to the influential US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) through its CEO Neal Keny-Guyer, who declared earnings of $460,000 just for his Mercy Corps role in 2017. Apart from being a member of the CFR, he also serves as chairman for Interaction, the US’ largest alliance of NGOs and sitting on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Fragility, Violence and Conflict. The CFR, a virtual who’s who of America’s wealthiest and most powerful people, claims it “helps policymakers” on “international peace and stability,” whilst actually pushing Washington’s neoliberal agenda and interests around the world.

The president of the CFR is Richard Haass, Middle East advisor under George Bush, and advisor to Colin Powell under George W. Bush. On his 2016 election win, Donald Trump publicly considered Haass as an advisor.

The CFR president recently displayed his frustration that US-backed military coups and UN- sanctioned military intervention in Venezuela, all of which would create a further migratory exodus, were taken off the table, despite ongoing rumours from the White House, Bogota, and even Brasilia, that they may be be possible.

In February the CFR made a Preventive Action Plan which recommended more economic sanctions for Venezuela, and in May more US sanctions were imposed.

Whilst sanctions have helped create the conditions which drive people out of Venezuela, US government aid has flowed to NGOs in Colombia, to which Mercy Corps has taken its chunk.

Mercy Corps’ 2017 financial statement shows that the organization benefited from US $464,452,000 in governmental grants and private backing alone, only spending $139,876,000 in humanitarian relief and $46,699,000 in humanitarian recovery. Of this humanitarian relief, the vast majority was spent on the mysteriously entitled “subgrant” category, and only $21,753,000 on actual materials and supplies for migrants.

Aid and NGOs: Assets of US policymakers

The CFR also included an aid plan for Venezuela which called for State Department funding for the Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration (PRM), an organisation which finances Mercy Corps.

In August, the US announced an aid plan at the United Nations Assembly General (UNGA), matching the plan set out by the CFR.

Additionally, in an April article the CFR also suggests “…bypassing the government, if enough aid is provided by the United States, the Lima Group, and the EU to enable people to bring some back into Venezuela.”

The CFR continues: “While not the ideal means to provide humanitarian aid inside Venezuela, smuggling is a well-established activity and effectively closing the border to the influx of such aid would significantly add to the discredit of the Maduro government.”

Indeed, the CFR is explicitly advocating illegal smuggling as a means of destabilizing the elected government in Caracas. Meanwhile, smuggling is a problem for Venezuela, but not in the terms described by the CFR. On the contrary, Venezuela has suffered from extensive smuggling of subsidized goods and fuel into Colombia, exasperating shortages and as such generating more inflation.

Mercy Corps: A toy in the US imperialist toolbox

This game played by think-tanks and policymakers reveals Washington’s glaring double-standards vis-a-vis Venezuela. While they help to create and exploit the need for basic foods and medicines in another hemisphere, roughly 45,000 of their own people die each year through lack of health care. Around 30 million Americans have no medical cover at all, roughly the population of Venezuela, which has health care written into its constitution.

Every year a further 2 million Americans travel out of the US for treatment they cannot afford at home. Some will die if they do not find treatment abroad, but instead of being a crisis, this is termed ‘medical tourism.’

At the same time, the US is deporting tens of thousands of Hondurans, while more attempt to cross the border into the US every day, a legacy of Hillary Clinton’s 2009 adventurism.

Yet, we are constantly told to believe that Washington cares about migrants and the well-being of Venezuelans.

While US policymakers play games around Venezuela, with toys from the imperialist toolbox, along with their EU friends, it is no wonder Maduro fears assassination.

This article is a combination of two texts by Nina Cross, the first of which was published by the Morning Star, edited by Venezuelanalysis.

November 1, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 4 Comments

72nd FARC Member Murdered in Colombia Since Peace Agreement

Colombians protest against the murder of social leaders in Bogota.

Colombians protest against the murder of social leaders in Bogota. | Photo: EFE
teleSUR | September 27, 2018

The systematic targeting of social leaders and former FARC guerrilla fighters has become one of the main obstacles to peace in Colombia.

In Colombia, two former combatants of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were attacked in the Cauca department. One of them, John Faber Gomez, who was also a member of the National Protection Unit, died as a result of the wounds he sustained.

The armed attack took place after the Colombian government authorized the new Temporary Hamlet Zone for Normalization in the municipality of Patia, to replace the abandoned hamlet zone in Policarpa, Nariño.

The Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) party condemned the attack and demanded security guarantees from the government.

“Peace is in mourning. In the Cauca department, a member of the National Protection Unit and our party @FARC_EPueblo was murdered, 72 former combatants have already been murdered. #WeDemandTheRighttoLife #ThatPeaceDoesNotCostUsOurLives #WeWorkForPeace #TheyAreKillingUs,” Pablo Catatumbo tweeted Monday.

The systematic targeting of social leaders, human rights defenders, and former FARC guerrilla fighters has become one of the main obstacles to peace, especially because the state has failed to guarantee control over the territories left by the demobilized FARC.

In the framework of the United Nations General Assembly, the U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, met with Colombian President Ivan Duque to ratify his commitment to the Colombian peace process and stress the urgency of providing security and development to conflict zones.

Cauca, Nariño, and Antioquia are the departments that record the highest number of murders. Human rights organizations have denounced the country’s General Attorney’s Office for lacking an investigation strategy that takes into account the existence of paramilitary groups, and the systematic nature of the murders against former combatants and social leaders.

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Colombia’s Peace Crumbles as Social Leaders Killed With Impunity

September 28, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Colombia recognizes Palestinian state, then abruptly vows to review the move amid Israeli outrage

RT | August 9, 2018

After it emerged that the former president Juan Manuel Santos recognized Palestine as an independent state just before leaving office, Colombia’s new government has pledged to “cautiously” review the decision and its implications.

Palestine was described as a “free, independent and sovereign state” in Santos’ August 3 letter to the Palestinian representative in Colombia, which was only made public on Wednesday. “Just as the Palestinian people have a right to constitute an independent state, Israel has a right to live in peace alongside its neighbors,” it added.

The Palestinian representative welcomed the announcement, expressing hope it will “contribute significantly to generating the necessary conditions in the search for peace in the Middle East.” Palestine is currently recognized as a sovereign state by the UN, the International Criminal Court and at least 137 countries.

Israel, however, immediately slammed the last move by the outgoing Colombian administration, urging the new government to reverse the decision, which, according to Israeli embassy in Bogota, “contravenes the close relations, extensive cooperation in vital areas and interests of both countries.”

Apparently facing some pressure, the new Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said in a statement later on Wednesday that, given “possible omissions that could come to light about the way in which this decision was taken by the outgoing president, the government will cautiously examine its implications and will act according to international law.”

Colombia’s new president, Ivan Duque, took office on Tuesday in an inauguration ceremony attended by visiting US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley. Colombia was one of the few states that abstained from voting on a US General Assembly resolution that urged the US to rescind its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December.

August 9, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 1 Comment

Colombia’s New Defense Minister To Impose Permit Requirement for Protests

teleSUR | July 19, 2018

Colombia’s incoming Defense Minister Guillermo Botero is planning to “regulate” anti-government protests by only allowing demonstrations if they are previously approved by authorities. The announcement was made by Botero during a summit attended by USAID director Mark Green and former U.S. vice-president Joseph Biden.

Also attending the summit, president-elect Ivan Duque, said that “opposition is important to scrutinize, make demands and to criticize. But the invitation is that we pull together for a future for us all.”

Botero, who will be in charge of both the National Police and military, seemed to agree, saying public protests should “represent the interests of all Colombians and not just a small group.”

Restricting anti-government protests, which appears to go in contradiction to some parts of the ongoing peace process, was the first proposal made by Botero after being appointed by Duque.

Outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos vowed to release jailed participants in protests that turned violent during major social tensions between neglected or discriminated communities and the authorities, according to Colombia Reports.

Over the past decade, the overwhelming majority of protests were held by historically neglected groups, mainly Indigenous groups and African-descendant communities. They also included labor unions, campesinos, teachers, as well as political opponents to the government.

Botero’s proposal comes amid a surge of assassinations and death threats against human rights defenders and social activists.

Opposition Senator Alexander Lopez, who earlier this year survived an alleged assassination attempt, took to Twitter to voice his concern over the restrictive measure. “Botero hasn’t even taken office and he’s already persecuting social protest. He wants us to just raise our arms for him to do what he wants with us.”

Colombia’s inspector general, Fernando Carrillo, has accused elements of the country’s police and military of collaborating with criminal organizations to assassinate human rights defenders and community leaders. “State agents are co-opted by criminal organizations that are eliminating social leaders,” the official said on Wednesday.

Carrillo’s office is one of the state departments tasked with investigating the murders of at least 311 social leaders since 2016.

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Colombia: State Agents Accused of Murdering Social Leaders

July 20, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | 1 Comment

Colombian Community Mourns the Loss of Another Social Leader

teleSUR | July 17, 2018

Another Colombian social leader was reportedly murdered in the municipality of Caloto, Cauca, a national human rights network confirmed Monday.

The father of a former FARC soldier, an active participant in the Association of Pro-Constitution Workers Zones of the Caloto Campesina Reserves, Luis Eduardo Dague was a leader in his community. He assisted in founding the Carmelo of the Municipality of Caloto Cauca community and worked on the El Carmelo Action Board and various union, trade, and agricultural groups, the human rights network Francisco Isaías Cifuentes reported.

Dague’s remains were found in the El Carmelo Monday morning with marks consistent with torture across his body, face, and neck. Experts say Dague was most likely stoned or beaten to death.

According to local reports, a group of soldiers was camped on property owned by the victim near the crime scene. This is the second murder registered in Cauca this week. On Sunday, the body of Jose Bayardo Montoya was found in Miranda, also allegedly beaten to death, his skull completely crushed.

The Human Rights groups denounced the recent violence, calling on the state to act accordingly and to uphold the rights to life, liberty, personal safety, as well as physical, and psychological integrity; saying, “The necessary legal actions to determine the collective and individual responsibilities for the homicide.”

Late last week, Colombia’s inspector general, Fernando Carrillo, accused elements of the country’s police and military of collaborating with criminal organizations to assassinate human rights defenders and community leaders.

While earlier this month, demonstrations were organized in Paris, Valencia, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, London, New York, Rome and Buenos Aires to protests the violence targeting social rights leaders.

Jaime Gutierrez, of the National Confederation of Community Action, told El Espectador: “Why do they kill leaders? Because we’re against illegal mining, because it’s us who denounce the drug routes.”

Despite government promises from outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos to address the paramilitary violence, the number of fallen social leaders continues to climb with over 400 deaths since the signing of the Peace Treaty signing in November 2016.

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Colombia: State Agents Accused of Murdering Social Leaders

July 18, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Colombia: ELN Denies Responsibility For Murdered Social Leaders

teleSUR | July 7, 2018

Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) has refuted allegations by the General Prosecutor that the group is responsible for the majority of social leaders murdered since the peace agreement was signed in 2016.

Posting on its official Twitter account on July 7, the insurgent group said: “The Office of the Prosecutor confuses and contaminates intentionally without providing information to support his accusations against us.”

The group also called attention to the General Prosecutor’s failure “to resolve the deaths and threats against leaders,” and said the words of National Director of Public Prosecutions Gonzalez Leon “represent a smokescreen to hide the true perpetrators of these murders.”

“The Prosecutor’s Office must stop participating in the ‘war of information’ and we urge the government to show its willingness to stop this extermination,” the ELN tweeted.

On July 6, Leon had told local media: “In the areas where these killings occur, we have found the (drug cartel) Clan del Golfo and the ELN as the main authors in Antioquia; the ELN in Choco and the municipalities of Cauca and Nariño, as well as FARC dissidents.”

The exchange followed a flurry of reports released by various social organizations earlier in the week, which variously accused the government and paramilitary groups of complicity in the killings.

One report, entitled ‘All The Names, All The Faces,’ names 123 of the 125 social leaders murdered between January 1 and July 4 this year. The two additional victims were murdered immediately after the report was published.

Another report on assassinations between 2002 and 2015 revealed that the majority of the murders aren’t related to Colombia’s half-century internal armed conflict, but are perpetrated by state security forces.

July 8, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Colombian President-elect will not recognise Venezuela’s government, says to withdraw from UNASUR

Venezuelanalysis | June 21, 2018

Colombian President-elect Ivan Duque has vowed to not send an ambassador to Caracas upon assuming the presidency, claiming not to recognise the Venezuelan government in heated statements less than two weeks after his electoral victory.

“We can’t accept having links with a government which we consider to be illegitimate,” declared the winner of the June 17 election. Duque obtained 54 percent of the vote amid a 53 percent participation.

The president-elect, who will take power on August 7, also characterized Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as a “dictator,” alleging the existence of government-sponsored “drug trafficking structures.”

Similarly, Duque criticised Venezuela’s recent May 20 elections, which he considers to have been “openly manipulated.”

Venezuela’s May 20 presidential elections were declared free and fair by numerous international accompaniment missions who observed the process in the Caribbean nation.

By contrast, Colombia’s recent balloting has drawn significant criticism, with Colombia’s Immediate Reception for the Electoral Transparency Unit (URIEL) registering 1,239 complaints on the day of voting, 51 percent of which referred to “pressure and threats” to voters.

Duque is considered a hard-line politician of the right wing Democratic Centre center who is extremely close to party head and ex-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, both in his rejection to the Colombian peace process and in the aggressive tone taken in relation to Caracas.

However, unlike Uribe, who stated days after his presidency was over that an invasion to Venezuela had been on the table, Duque has calmed concerns over a possible military encounter between NATO member Colombia and Venezuela, saying that he will not “assume a warlike attitude towards Venezuela.”

Nonetheless, the new Colombian president has threatened to denounce his Venezuelan counterpart at the UN Security Council. Duque has also promised to withdraw from regional body UNASUR for its “complicity” with Venezuela.

The tense relations between Colombia and Venezuela since 1999 have not stopped the abundant, migration between the two populations. It is estimated that more than five million Colombians entered Venezuela fleeing the civil war and government persecution. Likewise, recent data suggests that more than one million Venezuelans have crossed into Colombia in the past two years.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Colombia, the death squads & the US’ human rights double standard

Dan Kovalik | RT | June 7, 2018

Nearly every day, we are bombarded with “news” about problems in Venezuela. And certainly, there are problems, such as food and medicine shortages and skyrocketing inflation. But there is something that is downplayed.

What the press downplays, if it mentions it at all, is the very real and significant ways that US sanctions have contributed to these problems facing Venezuela and how these sanctions are making it nearly impossible for Venezuela to solve these problems.

What the press also fails to mention is the even greater humanitarian issues confronting Venezuela’s next-door neighbor, Colombia – the US’ number one ally in the region and, quite bizarrely, the newest “global partner” of NATO from Latin America. And, the US is very much responsible for these issues as well, but in quite different ways.

The fact is that, by a number of measures, Colombia has one of the worst human rights situations on earth, but you would never know this from watching the nightly news.

First of all, Colombia has the largest number of people forcibly disappeared in all of the Americas – even more than all of the Southern Cone countries combined during the infamous ‘dirty war’ years – at over 60,000.

In addition, Colombia has one of the largest internally displaced populations on earth at well over 7 millionsecond only to Syria. And, a disproportionate number of these internally displaced are indigenous and Afro-descendants.

Moreover, Colombia ranks 5th in the world for the number of children internally displaced by conflict, with two million boys and girls internally displaced. Quite shockingly, Colombia ranks 3rd in the world for the number of children murdered, with 715 children murdered just last year. Such statistics have led Save The Children to conclude that Colombia is “one of the worst countries to be a child and adolescent in the world.”

Colombia is also one of the worst countries in the world to be a social leader, such as a human rights defender, union leader, indigenous or Afro-Colombian leader. Thus, even after the signing of a peace deal between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas in 2016, social leaders are being murdered at an alarming rate. Indeed, over 200 social leaders have been killed just since January of 2017. Last year was in fact the worst year on record for human rights defenders in Colombia, with 120 killed in 2017.

Of course, the US has a large responsibility to bear for this awful situation in Colombia, as it has been the intellectual author behind Colombia’s brutal, decades-long war against its own people and has provided billions of dollars of material aid to this war effort. Indeed, since 2000, the US has given Colombia $10 billion in mostly military assistance as part of its counter-insurgency program known as ‘Plan Colombia.’ During the Plan Colombia years, the Colombian military attempted to boost US military assistance by murdering civilians in cold blood and passing them off as left-wing guerillas. It is now believed that the military killed 10,000 civilians in this grisly “false positive” operation.

But the US is also behind an even darker force than the Colombian military – that is, the Colombian paramilitary death squads. While those who live in the more remote parts of Colombia are painfully aware of the paramilitaries’ presence and brutality, the paramilitaries are now a well-kept secret in the more well-to-do parts of Colombia’s big cities and even more so outside of Colombia. Indeed, the Colombian and US governments deny the very existence of these paramilitary groups, and the compliant press is happy to oblige in keeping this dirty secret.

Recently, Colombia’s most prominent human rights defender, Father Javier Giraldo, S.J., spoke about the paramilitary phenomenon of which he is an expert. As he explains, “There are clandestine or semi-clandestine arms of the State, which are the paramilitary groups. Today, it is not tolerated that you refer to them as such, but I still call them paramilitaries, because that is the appropriate term.”

Father Giraldo describes the origin of the paramilitary death squads, a force developed by the United States before the left-wing guerrillas even came into existence in 1964. As Father Giraldo explains:

“In 1962, when Guillermo León Valencia was president, a mission of the North American army, of a special school of war in North Carolina, created after the Second World War to maintain the security of the United States, arrived in Colombia… They analyzed the situation in Colombia and left secret instructions, ordering the Colombian government to begin training mixed groups of civilians and the military, and preparing them for paramilitary terrorist activities to combat the sympathizers of communism.”

“… President Valencia, on Christmas day of the year 1965, issued Decree 3398 with which he changed the name of the Ministry of War to [the Ministry of] Defense, and authorized forming groups of civilians as auxiliaries of the armed forces, the legal basis of paramilitarism.”

“… The United States began to direct the entire security apparatus in Colombia and its agencies… first with 400 officers of the US Army; today there are at least 800. The paramilitarism that was created at that time, with all the legal support, has been reaffirmed.”

Of course, as Father Giraldo has explained on numerous occasions, the ostensible “sympathizers of communism” targeted by the paramilitaries are trade union leaders, human rights defenders, peasant leaders, and Catholic priests who advocate on behalf of the poor. As for Catholic priests, over 80 have been murdered since 1984 for the crime of advocating on behalf of the poor.

It is now becoming more evident than ever from the fact that there is now a rise in the murder of such social leaders, as well as mass forced displacement, after the disarming of the FARC guerrillas, that it, is the paramilitaries which are responsible for the lion’s share of such human rights abuses in Colombia. But again, you would have no idea about this from reading the newspapers or watching the nightly news. And, Colombians who are suffering at the hands of the paramilitaries are painfully aware of the conspiracy of silence around this issue.

Indeed, when I was recently in Colombia for the first round of the presidential elections, our delegation met with a number of residents of the small town of Suarez (Cauca Department) which had just lost three members of their community to paramilitary violence. One of the members of the community desperately asked us, “what can we do to let the world know of the continued existence of the paramilitaries?” I answered that we have been trying to do just that for many years, though few will hear us out on this issue.

While we were in Colombia, a campaign coordinator for Gustavo Petro, a Colombian presidential candidate, was murdered by paramilitaries the day before the election, and the paramilitary group known as ‘Aguilas Negras’ (Black Eagles) issued a general threat against the supporters of Petro for president just a few days before the May 27 vote.

© Dan Kovalik

If Colombia’s very real human rights and humanitarian crises were given nearly the attention that the problems in neighboring Venezuela receives, the US and Colombian government would at least have some incentive to improve the situation in Colombia and to go after the paramilitary groups which continue to haunt that country. The near complete silence about the staggering violence in Colombia is critical in allowing that violence to continue. Indeed, the paramilitaries have always depended upon being able to operate in the shadows, and the US press is more than happy to oblige them in this effort.

Dan Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is the author of ‘The Plot to Attack Iran.’

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment