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Protests over fuel prices escalate in Ecuador, oil facilities seized

Press TV – October 8, 2019

Hundreds of people in Ecuador have clashed with security forces as they marched toward the country’s capital of Quito to protest soaring fuel prices.

Riot police and military forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters on Monday after they blocked roads with burning tires and other barricades in the town of Machachi on the outskirts of Quito.

Chanting anti-government slogans, the protesters also attempted to force their way into the National Legislative Assembly in the capital.

Thousands of indigenous people are due to converge on Quito for a protest on Wednesday.

“More than 20,000 indigenous people will be arriving in Quito,” said Jaime Vargas, the leader of the umbrella indigenous organization CONAIE, which was key to driving then-president Jamil Mahuad from office during an economic crisis in 2000.

The protesters, some armed with sticks and whips, hail from southern Andean provinces and are heading to the capital aboard pick-up trucks and on foot.

Meanwhile, Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy said in a statement on Monday that activities in three oil fields in the Amazon region had been suspended “due to the seizure of the facilities by groups of people outside the operation,” without identifying the groups responsible.

The seizures affected 12 percent of the country’s oil production, or 63,250 barrels of crude per day, according to the ministry statement.

The Latin American country has been rocked by days of mass demonstrations since increases of up to 120 percent in fuel prices came into force on October 3.

President Lenin Moreno scrapped fuel subsidies as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to obtain loans despite Ecuador’s high public debt.

The Ecuadorian government says the protests have so far left one civilian dead and 77 injured, the majority of them security forces. A total of 477 people have also been detained.

In a radio and television address on Sunday, Moreno blamed the deterioration in the country’s finances on his predecessor, Rafael Correa, also accusing him of an “attempted coup” and of “using some indigenous groups, taking advantage of their mobilization to plunder and destroy.”

The Ecuadorian president called for dialog with the indigenous community to alleviate their grievances.

“I am committed to a dialog with you, my indigenous brothers, with whom we share so many priorities,” Moreno said in his address. “Let’s talk about how to use our national resources to help those in the greatest need.”

But his plea was met with harsh opposition from Vargas, the indigenous leader.

“We are sick of so much dialog… There have been thousands of calls, thousands and thousands of calls, and until this point, we have not brought out our response,” he said.

Moreno declared a state of emergency in indigenous areas on Thursday, allowing the government to restrict movement and to use the armed forces for maintaining order as well as censoring the press.

October 8, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , | 1 Comment

US Threatens Venezuela at UNSC as IMF Freezes Funds

Diplomatic battles rage on at international bodies such as the UNSC, the OAS and the IMF

US VP Mike Pence called on the UN to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s president. (EFE)
By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | April 11, 2019

Caracas – The United States pressured the United Nations to recognize self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido during a Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Wednesday.

US Vice President Mike Pence told the UNSC that “the time has come” for the UN to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s “legitimate president” and accept the latter’s representative to the world body. He added that the US would circulate a resolution to this effect, but offered no details on its timetable. A previous US resolution at the UNSC was vetoed by Russia and China on February 28.

Pence went on to reiterate the warning that “all options are on the table” to oust the Maduro government. “This is our neighborhood,” he told reporters afterward, calling on Russia to cease its support to the Maduro government.

Venezuela’s UN representative, Samuel Moncada, slammed what he called a “clear move to undermine” Venezuela’s rights, adding that his legitimacy depended on UN recognition and not on the declarations of the US vice president.

Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the US of causing Venezuela “billions of dollars in losses” as a result of sanctions.

“[The US] deliberately provokes a crisis in Venezuela in order to change a legitimately elected leader for a US protege,” Nebenzia said in his speech.

Chinese representative Liu Jieyi likewise affirmed that Venezuelan affairs should be handled internally and criticized the imposition of sanctions, while his South African counterpart, Jerry Matjila, called for the UNSC to take a “constructive approach.”

Wednesday’s UNSC meeting came on the heels of a session at the Organization of American States (OAS) which approved Guaido’s appointment, Gustavo Tarre, as a representative to the body “until new elections are held.” The proposal had 18 votes in favor, 9 against, six abstentions and one absence.

Venezuelan authorities denounced the move as a violation of international law and of the OAS charter. The Foreign Ministry reiterated that Venezuela is due to leave the OAS on April 27, having started the process two years ago. Caracas denounced meddling in its internal affairs after the OAS had repeatedly tried to apply its democratic charter. However, it never managed to secure the necessary 24 votes.

Diplomatic battles surrounding Guaido’s recognition have extended to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to Bloomberg, the IMF cut off Caracas’ access to almost US $400 million in special drawing rights (SDR). While the IMF has shown no signs of recognizing Guaido, and lists Finance Minister Simon Zerpa as Venezuela’s representative, sources told Bloomberg that a government must be recognized by a majority of the Fund’s members to access its SDR reserves.

Venezuela remains mired in a deep economic crisis that has seen its international reserves shrink to around $9 billion. The cash crunch has been further compounded by US and allies freezing Venezuelan assets held abroad. In one such case, the Bank of England has refused to repatriate an estimated $1.2 billion worth of Venezuelan gold held in its vaults.

International tensions have also flared around the issue of humanitarian aid, with US and Venezuelan opposition ultimately failing to force an estimated $20 million worth of aid across the Venezuela-Colombia border on February 23. The operation faced strident criticism from international agencies such as the United Nations and the Red Cross, who refused to take part in the “politicization” of aid.

During Tuesday’s UNSC meeting, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock stated that Venezuela is facing a “very real humanitarian problem” and talked about the need to step up UN efforts in the Caribbean country. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres later tweeted that the UN estimates there are 7 million people in need of aid in Venezuela, and that the UN is working to increase its assistance “in line with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.”

UN agencies have increased their work in Venezuela in recent months, most recently via an agreement between Caracas and the UN’s Central Emergency Resource Fund for US $9.2 million to address the health and nutritional impacts of the country’s severe economic crisis. President Maduro has also appealed for UN assistance in countering US sanctions to bring medicines and medical equipment to Venezuela.

Likewise, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) recently announced a scaling up of its activities in Venezuela, doubling its annual country budget to $60 million as part of an agreement with the Venezuelan government.

Maduro met a Red Cross commission headed by IFRC President Peter Maurer on Tuesday to coordinate the agency’s work in Venezuela. Maurer had previously met Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza to “strengthen cooperation agreements.”

April 12, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

The Dark Secret Behind a British Billionaire’s “Parallel State” In Argentina’s Patagonia

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | March 11, 2019

EL BOLSÓN, ARGENTINA – At the “end of the world,” spanning the southernmost regions of Argentina and Chile, lies the land of Patagonia, much of which remains a pristine wilderness that has inspired countless naturalists and would-be adventurers with its dramatic landscapes and natural beauty. For many, it is a place that still feels remarkably untouched and removed from the chaos of the modern world.

Yet, it is these very qualities, as well as the region’s great oil and gas potential and its abundance of glacier-fed freshwater reserves, that have placed it in the crosshairs of predators — predators armed with billions of dollars, powerful influence over Argentine politics and the country’s press, as well as alliances with controversial international financial organizations and key elements of the global Zionist lobby.

Coveted for its still largely unplundered resources, Patagonia has become the target of a close-knit network of notorious billionaires and global elites, who have spent much of the last two and a half decades seeking to transform this area into their own independent state.

Indeed, though several of these billionaires have already created de facto private states where they enjoy near-total impunity within Argentine Patagonia, others have been behind major efforts that have pushed for the territory’s secession. Still others have pushed Argentina’s government to exchange its claim to Patagonia for “debt relief” as a way of easing Argentina’s economic plight that, incidentally, was largely created by this very same group of billionaires. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose connections to this billionaire network are considerable, has had an outsized role in this effort.

Yet this appears to be more than just a venture on the behalf of notable oligarchs and the global elite, as prominent elements of the international Zionist lobby are intimately involved, as is the state of Israel, though the extent of the involvement of the latter is subject to debate. Their interest revolves around claims that date back to the founding of Zionism in the 19th century, when revered Zionist figures like Theodore Herzl discussed Argentina as a potential homeland for a Jewish ethno-state.

Since then, other notable Zionists, including past Israeli ambassadors to Argentina, have argued that Israel is for “European Jews” while “American Jews” must take Argentina for themselves. Notably, the method suggested by Herzl as a means of creating a Zionist state in his seminal work “The Jewish State” involves the exchange of debt for territory.

In the first part of this investigative series, MintPress explores the de facto independent state that has been created by British billionaire and Zionist Joe Lewis, a long-time associate of controversial Hungarian-American financier George Soros. Lewis has essentially bought out the local, regional and even national government of Argentina, allowing him to operate with impunity while he acquires more and more territory through land purchases of dubious (if any) legality, intimidates and threatens locals, usurps crucial water and energy resources from local towns, and operates his own international private airport that no one but he controls.

Subsequent reports in this series will examine the other key players in this effort to create a Patagonian state, namely Argentine oligarchs Marcelo Mindlin and Eduardo Elsztain, who are both deeply connected to the global Zionist lobby and the Rockefeller-founded Americas Society, and are also both close Soros associates. Finally, the role of these individuals and their associates in efforts to use IMF debt slavery to pressure the Argentine government to swap debt for territory will be revealed, as will the role of the Zionist lobby and prominent figures in the global elite.

The town that fought back

The quaint mountain town of El Bolsón, nestled among the picturesque rocky peaks of Argentina’s Patagonia and famed for its local legends of gnomes and elves, may seem an unlikely epicenter in a nationwide battle that has pitted locals against powerful foreign billionaires — billionaires who are not only plundering the country’s rich resources but eroding its national sovereignty through backdoor deals with Argentina’s most powerful, and most corrupt, political leaders.

Yet, however unlikely the role of this sleepy town in Argentina’s Río Negro province may seem, for over a decade many locals have used every tool at their disposal to oppose one billionaire’s effort to turn the town and much of Río Negro into his own personal fiefdom. This struggle has seen massive demonstrations in El Bolsón against British billionaire Joe Lewis, with some attracting as many as 15,000 participants – nearly 80 percent of the town’s entire population.

Lewis, worth an estimated $5.2 billion according Forbes, is best known in the West for owning the British Tottenham Hotspur football club, his sprawling luxury estates and golf resorts in the Bahamas and Florida, and owning well-known brands including Puma sportswear and Vans shoes. He is often described as a “self-made” billionaire, having been born to a poor Jewish family in London, who worked his way up to become one of England’s richest men.

Since the mid-1990s, Lewis has been building an empire in Patagonia, having become the owner of extensive properties north of El Bolsón — which, among other things, contain almost all of the town’s water reserves, as well as those of the nearby farming community, Mallín Ahogado — and the de facto power behind Pampa Energía, the company controlling most of Argentina’s electricity production. Part Two of this series will focus on Lewis’ role at Pampa Energía, as well as that of his associate, Marcelo Mindlin.

The “self made” man made by Soros

Long before his venture into Argentina, Lewis was a controversial figure owing to his close association with controversial Hungarian-American financier George Soros. Indeed, the bulk of Lewis’ massive fortune derives from his decision to “team up” with Soros to bet against the British pound in 1992, a day popularly known as Black Wednesday.

Soros’ and Lewis’ bet against the pound actually led to the pound crashing, after Soros ordered his hedge fund to “go for the jugular” and aggressively trade against the currency, thereby prompting its sharp devaluation. Though Soros is often called “the man who broke the Bank of England” as a result of the $1 billion in profits he made on that fateful day, Lewis is said to have made an even larger profit than Soros, according to several reports.

While Soros became a financial celebrity after Black Wednesday, Lewis opted to stay out of the limelight even though, just three years later, he would repeat what he helped do to the British pound with the Mexican peso, reaping yet another massive profit. While the Mexican peso crisis made Lewis even wealthier, it led to a massive jump in poverty, unemployment and inequality in Mexico and left its government beholden to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through a loan package arranged by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Between 1995 and 1996, the severe economic recession that followed the Mexican peso crisis spread throughout the Americas and “severely affected” the economies of other Latin American countries like Argentina. As fresh economic havoc arrived and took hold in Argentina, Lewis decided to take advantage of the troubled regional economic climate that he himself had helped create and began developing his interests in Patagonia.

As will be explored later in this investigative series, Soros and two of his Argentine associates who are also connected to Lewis — Eduardo Elsztain and Marcelo Mindlin — took advantage of this economic crisis and subsequent crises to buy major stakes in several banks as well as massive tracts of Argentine real estate, particularly in Patagonia.

How to build an empire

In 1996, Joe Lewis returned to Argentina after initially visiting the country in 1992 at the invitation of Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer. Lewis, apparently inspired by his first visit, had decided to buy property in the area. According to regional media outlet El Patagónico, Lewis’ dream was not just owning his piece of paradise, but creating “his own state in Patagonia.”

Lewis soon came into contact with Nicolás Van Ditmar, who would not only facilitate Lewis’ initial and subsequent land purchases in Argentina’s Patagonia but would also do so for several other foreign oligarchs. Van Ditmar had previously arranged massive land sales farther south to the Benetton Group, the family company run by the Italian oligarchs of the same name, best known as the owners of the United Colors of Benetton clothing company.

Van Ditmar, after learning of what Lewis hoped to acquire, spoke to him of the property of the Montero family, which encircled a pristine mountain lake known as Lago Escondido (Hidden Lake). Most of the members of the Montero family agreed to sell their collective property of around 14,000 hectares (~34,549 acres) to Lewis for $7 million. However, one of the Montero brothers, Irineo Montero, had refused and he, along with his wife María Ortiz and their employee José Matamala, were all found dead under mysterious circumstances.

An aerial photograph Joe Lewis’ ranch on Hidden Lake, March 1, 2010 in southern Patagonia, Argentina. Francisco Bedeschi | dpa

Whether or not Lewis or his “right hand man” Van Ditmar were somehow involved in Irineo’s death and those of his wife and employee, there is no denying that their mysterious yet grisly endings cleared the way for Lewis’ purchase of Lago Escondido and the surrounding area. However, Lewis’ acquisition of this property, irrespective of the remaining Montero siblings’ willingness to sell, should never have been allowed for several reasons.

First, as per Argentine law, the sale of the property that Lewis has owned since 1996 is prohibited to a foreign citizen on national security grounds, given that the property is just 20 km from the Chilean border and thus, in foreign hands, could represent a grave national security risk. Second, it violates a local law dating back to 1969 that caps the maximum amount of land that any individual – Argentine citizen or foreigner – may own at around 70 hectares (~172 acres).

Third, it violates a provincial law passed in 1994 that created a protected natural area called the Río Azul Lago Escondido Natural Protected Area (ANPRALE), which included a significant portion of the land that Lewis would later buy from the Monteros. However, that law was amended in 1998, a few years after Lewis’ purchase, to remove the portion of his land that had previously been named a protected area under the control of the state. Federico Soria noted that the way in which the 1994 law was amended was blatantly unconstitutional.

One would think that the law would have prevented Lewis’ acquisition of the land long before Van Ditmar had first approached the Monteros about Lewis’ interest in the land. However, he was explicitly allowed to do so, despite the illegal nature of the purchase, owing to the general laxity of the local, regional and federal authorities towards wealthy foreigners looking to acquire Argentine land. As Lewis himself said in an interview with Gonzalo Sanchez in 2004, “I bought what they let me buy and here we are.”

The two-term presidency of Carlos Menem in the 1990s marked the reversal of more than 50 years of keeping and protecting areas of national importance and deemed strategic to natural security by permitting foreigners to buy a larger percentage of land than had been allowed since the passage of a 1944 law intended to preserve the territorial integrity of Argentina. Notably, when that law was created, the government of Edelmiro Farrell and Juan Perón expropriated several strategic properties owned by foreigners.

Yet, Menem’s presidency — which was thoroughly aligned with the “Washington consensus” — began, according to critics, violating the spirit of this 1944 law by issuing approvals of several million hectares to foreigners. Menem’s policies favoring foreign land purchases in rural areas have since been expanded by the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as well as that of the current president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri. Both of them have “friendly” relationships with Lewis and his associates, with the Macri a regular visitor of Lewis’ lakeside property in Patagonia.

Locals in El Bolsón have claimed that Lewis’ purchase of the Lago Escondido property – despite the legal obstacles – was the direct result of Menem’s policies. A member of El Bolsón’s community radio station FM Alas, who chose to remain anonymous owing to his father’s personal involvement in Lewis’ regional businesses, told MintPress that Lewis “had negotiated the purchase of the [Lago Escondido] property in meetings at the Casa Rosada [Pink House],” the Argentine equivalent of the White House, during Menem’s presidency.

MintPress was unable to confirm whether Lewis or his associates had visited the Casa Rosada while negotiating the property’s purchase. Yet Lewis has stated in interviews that “Menem sent us greetings and his best wishes when we opened [Lewis’ Lago Escondido mansion]” (Sanchez interview, pg. 61). Furthermore, Lewis has a notable habit of building close relationships with powerful Argentine politicians, including Macri. Macri has called Lewis “a friend,” defended him repeatedly, and even personally vacationed at Lewis’ Lago Escondido property.

The battle for Lago Escondido

Ever since his arrival to the area caused concern among some locals, Lewis has sought to win the good graces of the people of El Bolsón by acting as their benefactor — donating hospitals, building soccer fields and hosting annual activities and sporting competitions for locals at his property. This altruism is either embraced or rejected by locals, depending on whom you talk to. In keeping with the image that he has sought to cultivate among the townspeople, Lewis is often referred to as “Uncle Joe,” though it is spoken with either respect and admiration or derision and disgust.

Felicitas Libano, a member of the Assembly for the Defense of Water and Land (ADAT), told MintPress that Lewis has “integrated himself into nearly all the function of the city,” including its firefighters, police and other areas of the municipal government, and has “always tried to position himself as a benefactor.” According to Guido Augello, a member of local community radio station FM Alas, the townspeople are divided somewhat evenly into “people that like ‘Uncle Joe,’ people who hate him and people who don’t care.”

Lewis has also won over a portion of the townspeople and local businessmen through his patronage of select local services and his occasional hosting of small groups of locals for invitation-only sporting events and holiday celebrations. However, some have contended that Lewis receives many foreign guests, particularly from Israel.

According to the research of former French intelligence officer turned journalist Thierry Meyssan, Lewis has been inviting thousands of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers to his territory annually. In late 2017, Meyssan alleged:

Since the Falklands War, the Israeli army has been organizing ‘holiday camps’ in Patagonia for its soldiers. Between 8,000 and 10,000 of them now come every year to spend two weeks on Joe Lewis’ land.”

It is unclear if Meyssan’s information was the result of his time in France’s exterior intelligence service DGSE or independent research he conducted since becoming a journalist, as MintPress’ efforts to contact Meyssan were unsuccessful. Locals, journalists and researchers interviewed by MintPress could not confirm Meyssan’s claims. Yet, many of these locals and researchers said they had heard of those claims from other sources within Argentina, but also noted that they were speculative, given that no one but Lewis or his employees knows who visits the property beyond the aforementioned events where select locals are invited to attend.

Tacuifi road leading to Lago Escondido, now blocked to public access, lies off of Argentina’s Route 40. The sign notes the 2009 Supreme Court ruling demanding the still-closed road be opened to the public. Photo | Revista Anfibia

Beyond the alleged IDF “vacations” on Lewis’ land, his presence in the area has been controversial for other reasons, namely for concerns that he sought to usurp key regional resources. Indeed, journalist Gonzalo Sanchez noted in his 2004 book Patagonia Sold: The New Owners of the Land :

In El Bolsón, there are more than a few locals and city council members that believe that, behind his [Lewis’] generosity, there are other hidden objectives, like the possible control of the water reserves of this part of Patagonia (pg. 50).”

Inklings of the truth in relation to these concerns were evident as soon as Lewis acquired the property surrounding Lago Escondido. This large mountain lake, which Lewis’ property surrounds, is the water basin for two important regional rivers, the Manso and Puelo, which later unite in Chile and drain into the Pacific. It is also the lake which feeds other nearby lakes including the Soberanía Lakes and Montes Lake, among others. Lago Escondido itself is estimated to contain as many as 400 billion liters (~105 billion gallons) of freshwater.

In Argentina, as is also the case in neighboring Chile, water – whether in lakes, rivers or seas – is a public right and public access to all bodies of water is guaranteed by law. This legal concept — likely foreign to Lewis and other Westerners, whose home countries often enshrine private property rights over the public’s right to vital resources — has been the most visible way in which tensions between Lewis and locals have manifested. It was also the first real test of Lewis’ resolve to carve out his “independent state” in Patagonia and keep locals out.

Lewis closed off the public road from the highway to the lake and also closed the private road he built at a separate point from public access. According to several locals interviewed by MintPress who had tried to enter the area, private security in civilian clothing prevent people from using the roads either by vehicle or on foot. Federico Soria, who has himself tried to enter the area on several occasions, described the guards to MintPress as “intimidating” and “aggressive” and also said that the Montero family, the old owners of the land, block one of the roads before it enters Lewis’ property and are “heavily armed.”

The only remaining path is a steep – and in places, dangerous – mountain path that takes at least two days in each direction to traverse. The path is poorly marked and maintained and is only usable in summer, as it is blocked by snowfall in other seasons. Every person interviewed by MintPress who had seen or traversed the path described it as being suitable only for “experienced mountaineers.”

In 2009, Lewis suffered his first major defeat in his efforts to keep locals out of his “parallel state” when the regional court ruled that the Tacuifi road — which connects the lake to the main highway, Route 40, and crosses Lewis’ property — be opened. The ruling stated that this must be done in order to “ensure access to Lago Escondido with appropriate signaling and ensuring transability.” The court gave Lewis 120 days to comply.

However, he didn’t comply and instead his regional associates began openly threatening any who tried to visit “his” lake. The clearest threat came from Van Dittmar himself in 2011, when he publicly stated that he and other Hidden Lake S.A. employees would defend Lewis’ private property by “fighting with blood, if we have to.” Van Ditmar also said that he would keep locals from accessing the lake “with a Winchester [rifle] in hand, with blood if necessary.”

In 2012, the region’s Supreme Court upheld the 2009 ruling, as did Argentina’s national Supreme Court a year later. However, Lewis and Van Ditmar refused to open the Tacuifi road, Van Ditmar saying that the treacherous but “very pretty” mountain path should instead be used to access the lake. Argentine President Macri also stepped in and echoed Van Ditmar, stating that the lake is even more accessible than before Lewis bought the property.

The court battle continues to today, after the Supreme Court of Río Negro in 2016 withdrew its previous ruling and ordered that a new hearing with different judges issue a new ruling. Critics accused Lewis of using extreme “political pressure” at the regional and local level in order achieve this very surprising ruling.

Despite that, locals continue to fight for public access to Lago Escondido and defend Argentina’s sovereignty over Lewis’ private empire. The main manifestation of this effort is an annual “March for Sovereignty,” the most recent of which took place in early February of this year. The march is organized by the Foundation for the Cultural Integration and Promotion of Water (FIPCA), which is run by former Argentine marine Julio Cesár Urien. Like the prior marches of the same name, its participants walked for nearly three days on foot over the mountain trail to arrive on the shore of the lake, which – as mentioned above – they were within their legal rights to do.

Participants in the 2019 “March for Sovereignty” pose for a picture at the beginning of their several-day journey to reach Lago Escondido by foot. Photo | FIPCA PRENSA

Upon arriving, they were met by Lewis’ private security as well as members of the Río Negro police, who cornered them and told them that they couldn’t even go to the bathroom without fear of arrest for trespassing, even though lakeshores are also legally considered public spaces. Guillermo Martín Caviasc —  a journalist for Barricada TV, who was present at the demonstration — called the combination of local police and private security Lewis’ “private army” and remarked that the police officers present were “in a situation of subordination like if they were visiting a foreign state controlled by Lewis.”

Two participants in the march, Andrea Gatabria and David Ramallo, mounted inflatable kayaks with the intention of placing an Argentine flag in a small island in the middle of the lake, itself technically a public space. Before they made it to the island, two speedboats belonging to Hidden Lake S.A. circled the kayaks in an effort to capsize them while taunting them, asking “Do you know what it’s like to die from hypothermia?”

Participants in the 2019 “March for Sovereignty” pose for a picture at the beginning of their several-day journey to reach Lago Escondido by foot. Photo | FIPCA PRENSA

After half an hour of taunts that seemed more like death threats, Lewis’ private security knocked over the kayaks, leaving Gatabria and Ramallo floating in the freezing water. After several minutes, several witnesses stated that one of the security guards told the two kayakers “Well, now do you see what it’s like to die of hypothermia?” Gatabria and Ramallo were, after some time, lifted into the guard boats, but had spent so much time in the frigid water that both had to be hospitalized.

National Senator for Río Negro, Magdalena Odarda, demanded accountability for the actions of Lewis’ private security and local police and FIPCA has begun legal action against Hidden Lake S.A. for threatening the lives of march participants. Neither Hidden Lake S.A. nor Lewis’ Tavistock Group, which oversees his business interests in Argentina and elsewhere, responded to MintPress inquiries regarding the incidents against march participants.

While Argentines have routinely experienced intimidation and aggression when attempting to access the lake, some foreigners have had very different experiences. Take, for instance, Scott Leahy*, an American now living in Chile, who, during a past trip to El Bolsón, was able to waltz right through onto Lewis’ Lago Escondido property when he was in the company of two ex-IDF soldiers who had been there before.

Leahy told MintPress that when he was backpacking through Argentine Patagonia in 2010 with a Chilean friend, he had met and become friends with two young Israelis who had recently finished their service in the IDF and were staying at the same youth hostel. One day, these two Israelis offered to take Leahy and his friend to what they called a “secret beach” nearby.

They all piled into a car and, upon taking a gravel road off of Route 40, arrived at a gate that Leahy confirmed to MintPress was the Tacuifi road entrance to Lewis’ Lago Escondido property (seen in an image earlier in this report). Leahy was unsure about continuing, given that the gate was closed and, as a foreigner, he was unfamiliar with the area. However, the Israelis urged him on, saying that they had been there before and knew where they were going.

When the group of backpackers encountered Hidden Lake S.A. employees and guards, the Israelis explained that they were from Israel and wanted to bring their friends to the beach. The Lago Escondido employees told the pair that the group was not officially allowed to enter the property, but they could pass. Leahy didn’t think anything of it at the time, and told MintPress that he had assumed the pair knew the owner, though the Israelis never mentioned Lewis at all and they showed no interest in meeting with him either. This suggests that they were not personal friends of Lewis, but also shows that they knew that they could access the lake without problem, even in the absence of a formal invitation.

While this anecdote suggests that the claims of Lewis hosting thousands of IDF soldiers annually may indeed have something to them, it also serves as a very troubling comparison to the way Argentines have been treated when trying to access the very same lake. Indeed, if foreigners, Israelis in this case, were amicably waved through despite no invitation from Lewis or Hidden Lake S.A., why are Argentines who try to do the same met with such violence and aggression, particularly when they have a legal right to do so?

Stealing El Bolsón’s resources for his own use

Though public access to Lago Escondido has been a major issue of contention between Lewis and the people of El Bolsón since the late 1990s, concerns that the British billionaire was intent on controlling the region’s water supply multiplied when firms connected to Lewis began to move forward with what is often referred to as simply the “Laderas project.”

As early as 2004, a man named Cipriano Soria started telling his neighbors that he had “sold” his land in an area known as Pampa de Ludden (Ludden’s Plain) to Lewis. However, Soria did not technically own the land, which was a publicly-owned nature reserve, but was granted an easement by the provincial government of Río Negro to use its meadows to graze his livestock as long as he paid a “grazing license.” Despite the fact that it was neither legally nor properly sold to Lewis, Lewis began to make plans for the land — plans that ignored the fact that the area was and technically remains under several legal protections due to its ecological and strategic importance to the region.

Lewis intended to use this land to build a private airport in the area but was met by strong local resistance in 2005, including from the local group Assembly for the Defense of Water and Land (ADAT). Several members of ADAT live in Mallín Ahogado next to Pampa de Ludden, which provides the adjacent farming community of 2,000 with nearly all of its water. Felicitas Libano, who lives in Mallín Ahogado, told MintPress that the importance of this area as a critical water resource — as well as its ecological importance as an old-growth native forest — led it to be named a nature reserve that was supposed to be prevented from falling into private hands.

ADAT’s eforts were successful and Lewis’ plan for the area seemed to have been defeated or, at least, put on hold. Then, in 2009, the town voted on Lewis’ private airport, with more than 79 percent of voters opposing it. However, unluckily for the people of El Bolsón, Lewis had much bigger plans than just an airport and he wasn’t planning on letting local democracy get in his way.

From 2006 to 2009, legal arrangements were made between the ski center’s owner, the Club Andino Piltriquitrón, and the provincial government that opened up the local ski center at the Perito Moreno mountain to “third party” management.

Then, in 2009, Mirta Soria, Cipriano’s daughter, “inherited” the land from her father — land that he technically did not own yet was somehow granted permission to purchase from the state, along with another protected territory between Pampa de Ludden and the ski center, even though the state was forbidden from doing so by regional and local laws. Just six months after she bought this territory and sold more than half of it to Van Ditmar’s brother-in-law Samy Mazza. This new and very large area under Van Ditmar/Lewis control is where El Bolsón’s, in addition Mallin Ahogado’s, water reserves are located.

Soon after the land purchase occurred, two businesses appeared — Laderas of Perito Moreno Association S.A. and Laderas of Parallel 42, both of which are directly connected to Lewis and were given ownership of the lands in Pampa de Ludden and the other area recently purchased by Van Ditmar’s relative. That same year, both of these linked businesses proposed a “lottery” whereby the provincial government would select a private company to manage the local ski center. Laderas of Parallel 42 won the lottery.

Subsequently, the other Laderas company, Laderas of Perito Moreno, began plans to transform the land illegally acquired by Van Ditmar’s brother-in-law, Samy Mazza, as well as the portion still owned by Mirta Soria into a luxury subdivision of more than 1,000 luxury homes for wealthy Argentines and foreigners, along with a golf course, shopping centers, an artificial lake, and a private airport. This planned venture was subsequently promoted by pro-Lewis businessmen and media outlets as necessary for the successful development and improvement of the ski center.

Proposed plan for the Laderas project, a 1,000-home luxury subdivision complete with an artificial lake and a golf course. Lewis’ firm plans to place the private airport (not shown in this image) south of the lake. The project, located right in the center of a nature reserve, is connected to Lewis’ Lago Escondido property and sits atop El Bolsón’s water reserves.

With the court battle underway and the project still lacking approval from El Bolsón’s city council, the regional governor, Alberto Weretilneck – a well-known Lewis ally – teamed up with Lewis-associated local businessmen in an effort to strongly pressure El Bolsón’s mayor at the time, Ricardo García, to sign a pledge that, once legal issues were resolved, the project would be fast-tracked for approval. García refused and Weretilneck along with other Lewis associates in the area began to push for his resignation. However, local protests kept García in power and, before leaving his post as mayor, García issued a decree that temporarily prohibited the Laderas project from advancing.

Clearly unhappy with this turn of events, the Laderas firms challenged the suspension of the project in court. Around this same time, members of local groups that had opposed the Laderas project reported several incidents of violence and intimidating acts, including threatening phone calls, their cars being set on fire, and the burning of a radio station as well as a community center in Mallín Ahogado.

In the case of architect and local politician Luis Martin, he was threatened with “lynching” by two Lewis associates – local businessmen Juan Carlos Martínez and Fabián Tornero – and his home was later broken into by armed thugs, one of whom accidentally cut himself with his machete and later fled the scene. Before escaping, the man had told Martin, “They have you targeted, they are going to kill you.”

In a 2011 article in Tiempo Argentina, Martínez referred to Lewis as “my friend” and was noted as a regular participant in meetings with Van Ditmar. The same article goes on to note that, in those meetings with Van Ditmar, Tornero is “influential” and further notes that Tornero is a known associate of Lewis.

In 2015, after García’s decree was challenged in court by Lewis’ firms, a judge ruled that the decree was legal but had not been written properly and therefore cancelled it. Soon after, a new pro-Lewis mayor and city council took charge and quickly signed a legal agreement with the Laderas companies, allowing them to build a “smaller project,” while claiming that any attempt to block the project – as García had done – could lead to another costly, lengthy legal battle that the municipal government just couldn’t afford. However, as Guido Augello told MintPress, this was hardly accurate, given that the local government could have appealed the decision regarding the decree, suggesting that this was just a convenient excuse to fast-track the project.

A few months after signing this agreement with the Laderas firms, the city council held a public hearing at which the vast majority of attendees from the community overwhelmingly rejected and criticized the project. Not getting the response it had hoped for, the council held a “secret” extraordinary meeting — secret because they declined to give the public the required notice needed to register to attend and participate in the meeting. With no one having registered, Pogliano decided to keep the meeting “closed” and placed police officers at the entrances to keep the townspeople out by force. The council subsequently decided to approve the Laderas project. Angry locals moved to occupy local government buildings in response, where they were targeted by riot police with tear gas.

The move generated several large-scale protests in El Bolsón, which started in 2016 and continued into 2017. Local resistance to the actions taken by the city council and mayor in relation to the Laderas project included a citizen occupation of the main plaza for three months, which was subject to police intimidation and violence, as well as three major protests, including the largest in El Bolsón’s history. That march against the Laderas project attracted an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 participants — quite a feat considering that the town’s urban and rural population boasts little more than 25,000 total inhabitants.

The reason for this mass mobilization, according to Augello, was that “even many of the people that like Lewis or believe his ‘Uncle Joe’ image oppose the Laderas project” and its associated airport. It’s not hard to understand why, considering that electricity and water intended for the townspeople of El Bolsón could soon be diverted to the wealthy outsiders who buy homes in “Lewislandia,” a derogatory term used to describe the Laderas project by some locals.

Yet, not only does Lewis intend to privatize El Bolsón’s water reserves, he and those developing his Laderas project also plan to divert the tourism that keeps its economy alive by instead diverting traffic from the main highway (Route 40) into his newly planned “city,” according to Federico Soria, a member of the Union of Patagonian Assemblies who has extensively researched Lewis’ local businesses. In an extensive 2016 article on the Laderas project and other Lewis-linked ventures, Soria wrote:

It is the intention of the developers of Laderas to unite the complex to Route 40 through two paved roads that they plan to build north and south of El Bolsón…. The Laderas variant road would be an advantageous shortcut [around El Bolsón].… [This] would benefit Lewis but economically endanger the community of El Bolsón…”

Furthermore, in 2016, Lewis completed a hydroelectric plant on the Escondido River — in the name of another of his local firms, Patagonia Energía — which passes through his property and feeds into the lake of the same name. However, he was granted permission to do so only if he connected the plant to El Bolsón in order to help the town resolve its ongoing and highly problematic electricity shortages. Once the plant was connected to El Bolsón, Lewis would become the main electricity provider to El Bolsón, as its current, aging diesel generators would be shut down.

Yet, instead of following the planned route for the power line that would give power to El Bolsón, it was diverted to the planned zone for the Laderas project, where it has remained “stopped” for years, even though his license to use the river for electricity production expired in 2015 owing to his company’s failure to connect the plant to El Bolsón in the time allotted by the license. As in so many other cases, Lewis and his companies have suffered no repercussions and continue to use the river for private power production. This situation has led some locals to speculate that Lewis has no intention of ever providing hydroelectric power to El Bolsón and it is instead a resource being guarded especially for his planned Laderas villa.

In effect, Lewis and his local representatives are working the resources they have acquired — water, electricity and tourism traffic — away from the town of El Bolsón and to the new “luxury” town of Laderas they hope to build to its north, a town that is an extension of Lewis’ own “independent” state. If this project is allowed to be completed, the people of El Bolsón will face a new troubling reality of resource insecurity and see its economy falter, as a crucial stream of revenue is diverted to the personal pet project of a foreign and predatory billionaire.

A satellite image taken last August shows land owned by the Laderas companies (center of photo) Roads for the planned “mini-city” are already being built, despite the fact that the companies are still not legally authorized to begin construction due to ongoing litigation. The already present ski center is seen on the left. Photo | Radio FM Alas, El Bolsón, Argentina via Google Earth

Yet, though Lewis won that particular battle in 2017, he is far from winning the war. Soon after the scandalous way in which the project was approved, the project again found itself challenged in court — placing it in legal limbo, unable to advance. Though the project is supposed to be blocked from moving forward until the conclusion of this latest legal battle, satellite images taken last August and shared with MintPress by local radio station FM Alas (shown above) reveal that Lewis’ businesses have already begun construction on the Laderas project, a clear indication that Lewis and his associates expect their impunity to continue.

Lewis’ Tavistock Group did not respond to MintPress inquiries about the Laderas project or the satellite images shown above.

The Joe Lewis “International Airport” — off-the-radar (literally)

Lewis’ “irregular” acquisition of Lago Escondido, the Laderas property, and his use of private security to block civilian access to the lake that is — by law — public property have long been decried as flagrant affronts to Argentina’s national sovereignty. Yet, while Lewis’ activities in and around Lago Escondido certainly do undermine existing Argentine laws, it is another Lewis-linked property in the Río Negro province that has done far more to erode Argentina’s national sovereignty.

Though Lewis’ plan to build an airport in Lago Escondido was technically approved but has not been able to move forward, Lewis – through his foreman Van Ditmar – purchased a sizeable property at the same latitude as Lago Escondido, but hours away on the Atlantic Coast. The property would soon become the site of Lewis’ private airport as well as a beachfront mansion. That airport, located south of Playas Doradas, was completed in February of 2008 and local media noted that its construction was “systemically hidden” from the public and was not subject to environmental impact assessments as normally required by law.

Most notably, however, there has never been any presence of Argentine customs or any other form of Argentine government control over what or who flies into or out of that airport, even though the airport is capable of receiving international flights. This point is particularly concerning in light of allegations that Lewis receives thousands of IDF soldiers annually on his property.

Joe Lewis’ private airport as seen on Google Maps

Furthermore, the Defense Ministry of Argentina has confirmed that not only is there no formal state control over what lands or takes off from this private airport, but that there are no radars in the area that even allow Argentine authorities to track nearby flight movements, including those of international flights. This means that no one but Lewis and his associates knows for sure how many flights land or take off from this area or where these flights originate or their intended destinations.

More shocking still, in 2010 then-Defense Minister Nilda Garré, in responding to a complaint from local politicians over the flagrant illegality of the airport, defended the airport’s presence by stating that it “could be used to facilitate rapid assistance of the state to locals in the event of disasters or emergencies.” To date, in the more than 10 years of its operation, it has never been used for any such purpose, according to those interviewed for this report.

The airport in Playas Doradas is roughly the same size as the airport in San Carlos de Bariloche (though some say it is larger), and is capable of receiving at least two large commercial-size passenger planes at a time. Much as with Lago Escondido, public access to the airport is denied, owing to the fact that the sprawling 15,000 hectare (~37,065 acres) property surrounding the airport is privately owned by a front company called Bahía Dorada S.A., which itself is legally owned by Lewis’ “foreman” Van Ditmar. However, the airport itself is owned by Westwind Aviation S.A. (formerly owned by Tavistock Aviation Argentina S.A., a subsidiary of Lewis’ Tavistock Group. Westwind Aviation S.A. is based at Lewis’ Lago Escondido property, as is Bahía Dorada S.A.. Neither Westwind Aviation S.A. nor the Tavistock Group responded to inquiries from MintPress regarding the lack of Argentine government oversight over the airport.

In order to realize the project, Van Ditmar – an Argentine citizen – had to be the owner of the property, as the area where the airport is built falls within a “National Security Zone” that prohibits land in that zone from being owned by foreigners on the basis of national security interests. In addition, the airport and the surrounding property, much like Lago Escondido, has a large and sophisticated private security presence.

The airport is estimated to have cost $20 million and Van Ditmar has publicly justified the airport’s existence by stating that Lewis not only “had the money” to build the complex but that it also made his ability to travel to his Lago Escondido property “easier.” This latter point is hard to believe given that the existing airport in San Carlos de Bariloche, which receives both private and commercial planes, is several hours closer to Lewis’ property than is his private airport in Playas Doradas. The notable difference between the two is that the private airport has no Argentine government oversight while the Bariloche airport does.

Few knew of the existence of the airport or the fact that access to the beach in that area had been effectively cut off by the Lewis/Van Ditmar project until a local woman, Elvira Linares, went on the television program “Documentos América,” hosted by Argentine journalist Facundo Pastor. On that program, Linares shared her experience of trying to pass through the now-private territory, noting that access to the ocean had been illegally blocked off. She also shared video footage she had taken of the massive, yet largely unknown to the public, private airport.

Mere hours after the program aired, Linares’ home was filled with bullet holes by still unknown assailants in what local media described as a blatant act of intimidation that led National Senator for Río Negro, Magdalena Odarda, to request that the government extend its protection to Linares, whose life was in danger. Efforts to contact Linares for comment for this report were unsuccessful.

Senator Odarda has arguably been the most well-known figure to demand accountability regarding the numerous irregularities surrounding the private airport. Odarda has, with limited success, repeatedly denounced the airport, on the basis of the fact that there is “no state control” over what or who passes through the airport.

Senator Magdalena Odarda tours the publicly accessible road to Lago Escondido. Photo | Facebook

Odarda has also noted that the area where the airport is constructed is highly “strategic,” which poses a danger given that it is exclusively controlled by a foreigner, an Englishman. Odardo has pointed out that the airport is located on the important 42° parallel, which divides the regions of Río Negro and Chubut, and is only two hours away by plane from the disputed Falkland Islands, which are controlled by the United Kingdom but also claimed by Argentina. This dispute dates back to the 19th century and was the principal factor behind the Falklands War between Argentina and the U.K. in the 1980s, which many Argentines remember quite bitterly for the peace treaty Argentina signed after its defeat by England. Many Argentines have compared the document to the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Notably, there has been considerable evidence that Lewis’ airport has received planes from the Falkland Islands, which was the subject of a formal complaint made in 2010 to Argentina’s defense minister by then-governor of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province, Fabiana Ríos.

A well-oiled machine

Given the numerous laws that Lewis’ activities in Río Negro have broken at both the local and federal level, one would expect that somebody in the government – at least the local government – would hold him accountable. While some politicians like Magdalena Odarda and others have tried, the lack of impunity surrounding Lewis’ activities largely owes to his “friendships” with local and regional politicians as well as the country’s president.

One of the innumerable examples is Sergio Plunket. Plunket, who is in charge of Vial Rionegrina Sociedad del Estado (VIARSE), the regional body in charge of controlling public roads including the road leading to Lago Escondido, also works as a private “ecological consultant” for Lewis’ Hidden Lake S.A. Plunket also authorized the construction of Lewis’ Playas Doradas airport. Another clear example is Bruco Pogliano, El Bolsón’s current mayor, who is also Lewis’ long-time accountant in Argentina.

Another example that Gonzalo Sanchez noted (pp. 50-51) in his book, Patagonia Sold , is how Pablo Verani, ex-governor of Río Negro, started a long tradition of politicians making regular visits to Lago Escondido for Lewis-financed barbeque feasts, when he celebrated his win as the 1997 regional governor on the shores of the magnate’s privatized lake.

In addition to his undeniable influence among key local, regional and even national politicians, Lewis also enjoys considerable influence in the regional press and several former employees of his have become important figures in local and regional media. For example in 2016, according to local media, Dalila Pinacho, who long served as a lawyer and spokeswoman for Lewis’ Lago Escondido firm Hidden Lake S.A., became the director of the Nequén branch of Argentina’s National Radio, apparently through her “close” connections to local politicians.

Another journalist, Julio Álvarez — who described himself, to Gonzalo Sanchez in 2004 at an event in Lago Escondido, as Lewis’ “spokesman” — now works at a radio station in Viedma, Argentina, and was previously the El Bolsón correspondent for the regional newspaper Río Negro. Lewis also funds the local newspaper Ruta 40 and has stakes in other local newspapers such as El Cordillerano, Bolsón Web Patagonia, and El Ciudadano in Bariloche. Eliana Almonacid, who used to work for Ruta 40, told the national outlet Tiempo Argentina in 2014 that the Ruta 40’s director Nancy Aleuy, who also works for Hidden Lake S.A., told her that “Lewis had bought all the media outlets” in the region.

Lewis’ “Parallel State” is just the beginning

Lewis’ control over the local authorities and local press in Río Negro, and the complete impunity of his actions and those of his associates, have made it clear that in Argentina there is a de facto different legal system for oligarchs like Lewis and for the vast majority of Argentina’s citizens. This fact — in combination with the control Lewis and his associates exercise over the region’s key resources, including its water and energy production — has led to the creation of what some like Federico Soria have called a “parallel state” within Patagonia. However, this “parallel state” is, in reality, a microcosm of a much larger project currently underway that is aimed at the domination of the entirety of Argentine Patagonia by predatory oligarchical interests, the majority of which are directly connected to Lewis and his associates.

As will be explored in Part Two of this series, the Soros-led oligarch network, of which Lewis is a part in Argentina, has expanded its efforts to control Patagonia’s vast and strategic resources, including the region’s oil and gas wealth in addition to the domination of its freshwater resources and hydroelectricity production. Subsequent articles will then show that this effort is just the beginning, as this network and its close ties to the International Monetary Fund are being used to transfer ownership of vast state lands to their control in exchange for “debt relief.” The ultimate endgame appears to be the expansion of this “parallel state” — which Lewis has already helped to create in Río Negro and beyond, and which is controlled by small number of mostly foreign oligarchs — into a full-scale operation for extracting the region’s riches and exploiting its people.

Note: An sterisk (*) after a name indicates that a person’s real name was not used after they requested that MintPress not use their real name in this report.

Top Photo | This undated photo shows British billionaire, Joseph C. Lewis, at a Tottenham Hotspurs football game in the United Kingdom. Photo | Reuters

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

March 11, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Happening in Nicaragua?

Task Force on the Americas | July 1, 2018

For over two decades, Nicaragua was:

The safest country in Latin America.[2]Its police force was internationally recognized for its innovative community policing policies. Unlike its neighbors El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, where undocumented immigrants were fleeing to the US border, Nicaragua had kept gang violence and organized drug cartels in check.

Far from a dictatorship.[3] President Daniel Ortega was democratically elected and then twice re-elected, each time with an increasing percentage and number of votes.In 2017, polls showed he had the highest approval rating of any chief of state in the entire hemisphere.[4]

Where social indices were on the rise. [5]Literacy, small businesses promotion, free public education, poverty reduction, and economic growth were among the highest in the hemisphere.[6]

Then on April 18 things suddenly changed dramatically. Triggered by a minor adjustment to the social security program, which was designed to avoid austerity measures promoted by big business and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), violence broke out across Nicaragua.[7]

Incongruously, the opposition was led by students from private universities, who had little material interest in old age pensions, and by rightwing elements that favored draconian cuts in social welfare programs.[8]Despite the government rescinding the adjustment and its attempts to meet with the opposition and negotiate a settlement,[9]the violence has escalated with a death toll of over 200.[10]

Road blocks have been set up on vital streets and highways throughout the country. They are forcefully maintained by young militants, with reports that many are paid.[11]Organized crime, aligned with the violent protests, has infiltrated Nicaragua.[12]Some believe the extreme opposition is intent on escalating the conflict to paralyze or overthrow the elected government.[13]

This is within the larger context the US government targeting[14]independent and progressive governments for regime change.[15]Nicaragua is allied with Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia and has not served as a client state to the dictates of Washington.

The US has poured millions into Nicaraguan private non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in what is called “democracy promotion” but may be better understood as regime change training.[16]Even sources hostile to the Ortega government admit US involvement in the current unrest.[17]Meanwhile the US Senate is considering the NICA Act designed to cripple the Nicaraguan economy.

The Task Force on the Americas:

Recognizes the Nicaraguan people may have legitimate grievances with their elected government. But the rightwing attack is on what the Sandinistas have done right, not what they’ve done wrong.

Believes there is a huge amount of distortion and misinformation in how the situation is being portrayed.

Supports an objective and independent investigation of who carried out and who provoked the violence [18] with all parties held responsible for their actions. [19]

Commends efforts to mediate a peaceful settlement in Nicaragua, including dismantling the barricades and cessation of destruction of public property. [20]

Opposes the NICA Act and US interference [21] in the internal affairs of Nicaragua including through the NED, [22] USAID, and other instruments of intervention.

NOTES and SOURCES

[1]The Task Force on the Americas is a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights organization. http://taskforceamericas.org/

[2]How Central America’s poorest country became one of its safest. 01/28/12. https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2012/01/28/a-surprising-safe-haven

[3]Pérez, Foundations of Democracy,06/25/18.  http://www.redvolucion.net/2018/06/25/cimientos-de-la-democracia/

[4]Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega at 80% approval rate, 10/11/17. https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Nicaraguan-President-Daniel-Ortega-at-80-Aproval-Rating-Poll-20171019-0008.html

[5]Di Fabio, Economic growth in Nicaragua has helped reduce poverty, 04/18. https://borgenproject.org/economic-growth-in-nicaragua-helped-reduce-poverty/

[6]The World Bank on Nicaragua, 04/16/18. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/nicaragua/overview

[7]The reform of the social security system and the interest groups of Nicaragua,04/25/18. http://www.celag.org/la-reforma-del-sistema-seguridad-social-y-los-grupos-de-interes-en-nicaragua/

[8]Fernandez, A Nicaragua spring or an imperial spring cleaning. 05/07/18. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/nicaraguan-spring-imperial-spring-cleaning-180507082508249.html

[9]Tricker, Update on Nicaragua: the national dialogue is back on…for now.06/22/18. https://quixote.org/update-on-nicaragua-the-national-dialogue-is-back-on-for-now/

[10]Perry, After 2 months of unrest, Nicaragua is at a fateful crossroads, 06/22/18.  https:/ /www.thenation.com/article/two-months-unrest-nicaragua-fateful-crossroad/

[11]Kovalik, The US, Nicaragua and the continuing counter-revolutionary war.06/27/18. https://ahtribune.com/world/americas/2316-us-nicaragua.html

[12]Violencia armada en Nicaragua: un product importado (investigación), 06/24/18.http://misionverdad.com/trama-global/violencia-armada-y-paracriminal-exportada-a-nicaragua-investigacion

[13]Tortilla con Sal, Nicaragua’s crisis – the latest stage in a permanent war, 06/17/18.https://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Nicaraguas-Crisis—the-Latest-Stage-in-a-Permanent-War-20180617-0021.html

[14]Kovalik, The US & Nicaragua: a case study in historic amnesia and blindness. 06/15/18. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/15/the-us-nicaragua-a-case-study-in-historical-amnesia-blindness/

[15]Chossudovsky, Social media and the destabilization of Cuba,04/05/14. https://www.globalresearch.ca/social-media-and-the-destabilization-of-cuba-usaids-secret-cuban-twitter-intended-to-stir-unrest/5376720

[16]Blumenthal & Norton, US gov’t regime change machine exacerbates Nicaragua’s violent protests,06/2/18. https://therealnews.com/stories/us-govt-regime-change-machine-fuels-nicaraguas-violent-right-wing-insurgency

[17]Waddell, Laying the groundwork for change: a closer look at the U.S. role in Nicaragua’s social unrest. 05/01/18. https://theglobalamericans.org/2018/05/laying-groundwork-change-closer-look-u-s-role-nicaraguas-social-unrest/

[18]Sweeney, Right-wing militias committing ‘acts of terrorism’ in an effort to destabilize Nicaragua, police say,06/111/18. https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f-lead-nicaraguan-acts-terrorism

[19]Kaufman, Let’s think about the consequences of our actions. 06/06/18. https://afgj.org/nicanotes-lets-think-about-the-consequences-of-our-actions

[20]Mejia, Open letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua from a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience. 06/15/18.https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/15/open-letter-to-amnesty-international-on-nicaragua-from-a-former-amnesty-international-prisoner-of-conscience/

[21]Blumenthal, U.S. gov. meddling machine boasts of ‘laying the groundwork for insurrection’ in Nicaragua.06/19/18. https://grayzoneproject.com/2018/06/19/ned-nicaragua-protests-us-government/

[22]Tricker, Manufacturing dissent: the N.E.D., oppositionmedia and the political crisis in Nicaragua, 05/11/18. https://quixote.org/manufacturing-dissent-the-n-e-d-opposition-media-and-the-political-crisis-in-nicaragua/

July 12, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia is Wary of Borrowing Abroad but Has Increased Foreign Debt by 10% in 2018 Anyway

Sputnik – 12.06.2018

Worried by Russia’s small foreign debt, international creditors are advising it to borrow more, but Russia’s Central Bank believes that investments, not loans, are the way to go.

Russia’s $525-billion foreign debt is dwarfed by $7.5 trillion in Britain, $5 trillion in France, $4.8 trillion in Germany and a whopping $21 trillion in the US.

This tell-tale ratio was not lost on IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde who, when speaking at the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, described Russia’s foreign debt as “considerably small” and said that it should borrow more.

The Russian Central Bank disagrees, arguing that “investments, not debt capital” should be the main source for financing the country’s economic growth.

Big Debt – Big Problems

Foreign debt may become a major problem if market conditions suddenly change for the worse. The smaller the debt, the lesser the chances of a default. Economists say that with Russia’s foreign debt accounting for just 33 percent of GDP, this is a fairly moderate debt burden.

Russia’s entire foreign debt is commensurate with the country’s gold and currency reserves of $450 billion. This means that Russia’s financial system can simply buy it back from foreign holders at any time.

Risk Minimization

Experts also say that Russia’s small foreign debt and its ability to pay it back fast makes it less dependent on foreign financing.

“The developing markets have found themselves in a bad fix with money going out and high dollar-denominated debt negatively impacting the national economies. In Russia this risk is virtually nonexistent,” TeleTrade currency strategist Alexander Yegorov told Sputnik.

A balanced budget is another reason why Russia does not need to borrow abroad.

This year Russia will have a budget surplus – the first in seven years with the Finance Ministry expecting state revenues to exceed outlays by more than half a trillion rubles ($16 billion).

A small foreign debt is also an indicator that the economy is performing well and the country is paying less interest on borrowed money.

There is one downside here, though, as this leads to a shortage of funds needed for economic growth. Russia is ready to borrow, provided that the money goes into useful and profitable projects that allow the country to easily meet its financial obligations to its foreign partners

In the first quarter of 2018, foreign sources lent Russia an estimated $17 billion in the form of sovereign Eurobonds. Another $2.3 trillion rubles ($36 billion) came from foreign investors buying federal loan bonds.

Russia’s Central Bank governor, Elvira Nabiullina, believes that Russia could borrow more abroad and use part of the money to finance various infrastructure projects inside the country.

June 12, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Nicaragua’s Sandinista Achievements Baffle World Bank, IMF

teleSUR | August 31, 2017

No one can take at face value any report, governmental or quasi non-governmental, coming out of the imperialist bureaucracy in Washington. Ideological bias and institutional self-justification prevent these reports from giving a true account of virtually anything.

The latest World Bank report on Nicaragua is no exception.

The implicit but unstated truth in this report is that President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista National Liberation Front have achieved an unprecedented economic turnaround in just seven years, starting in 2010.

Reading the report, it is impossible to ignore the tension between latent ideological and political imperatives and the obligation to report the facts. Put another way, mild conflict clearly prevails between the World Bank’s Washington head office and its reality based local officials. From Washington, the tendency is both to minimize Ortega’s achievement and also to cover up the World Bank’s own lamentable history in Nicaragua. On the other hand, in Nicaragua, local World Bank staff dutifully report the facts as they see them.

A total of 71 people contributed to the report. Supposing those 71 people each worked for a month to prepare the research and say their average salary was about US$80,000, then pro rata a month’s work by that team cost over US$500,000, a very conservative guess. Even so, in summary, that money bought policy recommendations for Nicaragua’s development amounting to little more than better infrastructure; better basic services; more private business investment; more efficient government; better targeted social policies. That’s it, for US$500,000 or more.

In general, the report recognizes Nicaragua’s achievements in reducing poverty and inequality, raising productivity, diversifying economic activity and promoting security and stability. The report’s 130 or so pages include, among the economic and sociological analysis, many self-confessed guesses to fill in “knowledge gaps” and much gerrymandered history to cover up what Harold Pinter in his 2005 Nobel prize winning address justly called “the tragedy of Nicaragua.”

Pinter himself might have remarked the report is almost witty in its audacious, glib omissions. It acknowledges the catastrophic destructive effects of the 1980s war in Nicaragua, but carefully omits the U.S. government’s deliberate role in that destruction, now repeated against Syria and Venezuela.

The report talks about a “democratic transition” starting in 1990. In fact, the Sandinistas organized the first free and fair democratic elections ever in Nicaragua in 1984, but the U.S. government ordered the main Nicaraguan opposition to boycott them. Despite the war, Ortega and the Sandinistas won with 67 percent of the vote, very similar to the most recent presidential elections in 2016.

The heavy ideological bias also explains the World Bank’s curious dating of when Nicaragua’s economic turnaround began, placing it firmly in the neoliberal era prior to 2007. But at just that time, the World Bank was cutting back the public sector as much as they could, pushing, for example, to privatize Nicaragua’s public water utility and its education system.

Back then, Nicaragua’s neglected electrical system collapsed through 2005 and 2006, incapable of generating even 400 megawatts a day, plunging swathes of Nicaragua back into 19th-century darkness for 10 to 12 hours at a time, day after day. That was the World Bank and IMF’s gift to Nicaragua after 17 years of so-called “democratic transition.” That period included Hurricane Mitch, devastating Nicaragua to the tune of 20 percent of its GDP, only for the corrupt neoliberal government at the time to misuse hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster relief. The only structurally significant economic achievement of the neoliberal era in Nicaragua was substantial foreign debt relief.

When Ortega took office in January 2007, he faced four years of domestic crisis with an opposition controlled legislature persistently sabotaging his government’s programs. From 2007 to 2008, Nicaragua and the whole region struggled in vain to contain a balance of payment deficits against oil prices reaching US$147 a barrel in 2008.

That disaster was compounded by the collapse of the Western financial system in late 2008 to 2009, a year when Nicaragua’s economy suffered a 3 percent contraction. Only in 2010, did the Nicaraguan government finally enjoy domestic and international conditions stable enough to be able to consolidate and improve its social programs, improve infrastructure investment, democratize and diversify the economy, extend basic services, and attract foreign investment, among other things.

If that sounds suddenly familiar, it should. It is exactly the development recipe offered up by this latest World Bank report, essentially an embellished review of policies the Nicaraguan government has already been implementing for a decade. Put positively, the government’s National Human Development Plan and other relevant documents suggest that the World Bank’s engagement with the Nicaraguan government has been one of mutual learning. So much so, that the current country program is likely to continue and may even expand.

The political opposition in Nicaragua has seized on parts of the report to try and discredit the Sandinista government’s outstanding achievements. In fact, for 17 years under neoliberal governments implementing World Bank and IMF policies, areas criticized like, for example, access to drinking water and adequate sanitation, or education, suffered chronic lack of investment, compounded by egregious waste and corruption. Now, the World Bank hypocritically criticizes Nicaragua’s government for intractable policy difficulties the IMF and the World Bank themselves originally provoked.

Similarly, when the World Bank report criticizes the targeting of social programs, they omit the unquestionable success of the government’s Zero Usury micro credit program and the Zero Hunger rural family support program, both prioritizing women. These programs have lifted tens of thousands of families out of poverty and, along with unprecedented support for Nicaragua’s cooperative sector, radically democratized Nicaragua’s economy, especially for previously excluded rural families and women. That supremely important national process is entirely absent from the World Bank report.

In its discussions of almost all these issues, the report makes more or less detailed contributions, mostly already identified by the government itself. In every case, the underlying cause of problems or lack of progress, for example, on land titling or social security, has been the legacy of neoliberal governments between 1990 and 2007, that reinstated elite privilege, rolled back the revolutionary gains of the 1980s and failed to guarantee necessary investment.

The World Bank and the IMF were enthusiastic ideological partners in that endeavor. They would have continued their ideological offensive had not Ortega and his government dug in their heels in 2007 and 2008, backed by investment support for social and productive programs from Venezuela as part of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas.

Since then, the World Bank, as this report suggests, seems, at least for the moment, to have learned two key lessons from the Sandinistas. In a world dominated by corporate elite globalization, their report implicitly recognizes the importance, firstly, of a mixed economy under a strong central government and, secondly, the crucial role of broad dialogue and consensus, across all sectors of society, to promote and sustain national stability. Essentially, the World Bank has acknowledged the undeniable success of the Sandinista Revolution’s socialist inspired, solidarity based policies, decisively prioritizing the needs of people over corporate profit and demonstrating the systemic inability of capitalism to meet those needs.

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

The Fine Print: IMF Backs Down on Ukraine Land Reform Ultimatum, But at a Price

Sputnik – 23.07.2017

The International Monetary Fund has slightly relaxed its conditions for the provision of a new loan tranche to Ukraine, removing the demand that Kiev first revise the country’s laws on the privatization of agricultural land. Ukraine watchers Vladimir Zharikhin and Alexander Dudchak say that the IMF’s move is just a ploy designed to entrap Ukraine.

Last week, the IMF confirmed that it would not insist on the immediate implementation of land reform as a precondition for the provision of its next loan tranche to Ukraine in the fall.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, IMF spokesman William Murray confirmed that land reform would not be on the agenda for the program revision meeting next month. “Land reform remains an important condition under the program. However, given the need to design the reform well and reach consensus on key steps ahead, there was a need to reset its timing to later in the year,” he said.

The IMF had earlier insisted that Kiev make changes to its land laws to allow for its privatization. Ukrainian lawmakers have stubbornly and repeatedly rejected these demands.

Other IMF loan conditions remain unchanged, and include pension reform, measures to accelerate privatization, and increased efforts against corruption, including the creation of an independent anti-corruption court. IMF conditions also include the requirement that Kiev continues with fiscal reform and restructuring of the energy sector, programs which have led to severe cuts in public spending, and skyrocketing utilities prices.

Ukraine has received four loan tranches worth $8.5 billion from the IMF since March 2015, when the program – worth $17.5 billion, was approved. Every successive tranche has been accompanied by long delays due to Kiev’s reticence to comply with the IMF’s requirements. The latest tranche, originally scheduled to be delivered in May, has now been postponed until September, pending Kiev’s compliance with the conditions.

In recent weeks and months, some Ukrainian authorities have tried to downplay the significance of the IMF loan program, signaling that it was needed mainly for the purpose of strengthening investor confidence in the country.

Last week, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman tried a different approach, complaining that Kiev does not have enough money to carry out the promised reforms, since most of the budget is spent on servicing foreign debt, defense and the pension fund. According to Groysman, Kiev now spends approximately 100 billion hryvnia – or 4% of its GDP, on debt servicing, with another 5% spent on security and defense.

Kiev is also expecting assistance from the EU in the form of a 600 million euro loan program. This program has its own conditionalities, including a cancellation of the moratorium on the sale of forestry products, and the lifting of import duties on certain goods. Kiev has until October to meet these conditions.

Experts say that without loans from the IMF, Brussels and the US, Kiev will have a more difficult time servicing its gross foreign debt, which currently stands at about $113 billion – or 66.8% of the country’s GDP. Public debt amounts to about $72 billion, 70% of that consisting of currency loans.

Speaking to the Svobodnaya Pressa online newspaper, Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute of CIS studies, said he was certain that the IMF would end up giving Ukraine its next loan tranche, since the money is needed to help shore up the current regime in Kiev. At the same time, he warned that the IMF will take every opportunity to squeeze Kiev along the path of austerity reforms.

“The IMF has a pulse on the situation in Ukraine,” Zharikhin said. “They have come to understand that pension reforms can be carried out, because pensioners feel intimidated, and do not pose a serious threat to the regime. As for corruption, this [conditionality] is always restricted to broad terms. A Special Committee on Corruption is functioning, but for some reason does not prosecute anyone. Basically this is just idle talk, while corruption increases. And in fact the IMF does not actively object to this.”

However, in the case of land reform, this is a sensitive issue for the authorities, according to the analyst, because it “affects the interests of a certain section of Ukraine’s political elite… The radical nationalist section of the elite and society opposes abolishing the moratorium on the sale of land, since they fear that land will be bought up by foreigners, including…Russian oligarchs. Therefore, the IMF decided to postpone land reform.”

In any case, the observer stressed that it was impossible to delay allocating the next loan tranche for long. “The IMF understands that doing so could lead to the complete collapse of the Ukrainian economy and the fall of the current regime.” This, Zharikhin emphasized, would not be in the interests of either the Fund itself, or its US sponsors.

Put crudely, the observer said that IMF tranches are allocated mainly “to keep Kiev’s pants from falling down,” and little else. “Factually, this is what they’ve been doing in the last few years now.”

Nonetheless, Zharikhin stressed that in the end, the IMF will never back down from any of its austerity demands for good, instead working more closely with Ukraine’s political and economic elite to return to the trouble spot when the time is right.

For his part, Ukrainian political scientist and economist Alexander Dudchak told Svobodnaya Pressa that whatever else happens, Kiev’s “addiction” to IMF loans, and specifically their requirement for major socioeconomic reforms, will have disastrous long-term consequences for Ukraine, even if the country’s Maidan-installed authorities were to be removed from power.

In the meantime, Dudchak noted that while all of the IMF’s conditions will continue to have a painful impact on ordinary Ukrainians’ lives, the land issue is a particularly sensitive one.

“If the moratorium [on the sale of land] is lifted, nothing will remain of Ukrainian lands. They will not belong to the state or the people. Ukrainian agro-holdings, which today are considered among the country’s strongest enterprises, will not be able to compete against transnational capital. Ukraine will be deprived of its land and its population gradually returned to the status of serfs.”

As far as the current government is concerned, they are delaying land reform only because they would like to write the new laws on privatization with their own interests in mind, Dudchak said. But whatever they end up doing, “it will be hard for them to prevent foreigners from gaining control over farmland and growing whatever they want there, up to and including genetically-modified foods.”

As for the latest IMF tranche, the economist stressed that it will be spent in its entirety on servicing Ukraine’s massive debts. Otherwise, “for Ukraine as a state the benefit from this loan is zero.”

July 23, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , | Leave a comment

How the Clinton’s Longstanding Ukrainian Donor Allegedly Sponsored Hillary’s Run

Sputnik – July 14, 2017

CyberBerkut hackers believe that the Clinton Foundation’s donor Victor Pinchuk, a son-in-law of former Ukrainian President Kuchma, could have been behind the money laundering scheme involving IMF funds intended for Ukraine. The hackers alleged that these funds were then redistributed to the Clinton charity through offshores.

While the American mainstream media is struggling to find Russian “traces” in the US 2016 presidential campaign, the story of the Ukrainian interference in the election remains largely neglected.

During his testimony at the Senate Confirmation Hearing on Russia future FBI Director Christopher Wray said that he would be interested in looking into Kiev’s alleged meddling in the electoral process in the United States.

For her part, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier that there was “real collusion” between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Ukraine during the campaign.

On July 12 the CyberBerkut hacker group released what it called the email exchange of Thomas Weihe, the head of the board of the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, assuming that the Pinchuk entity threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton during the US 2016 presidential campaign.

Victor Pinchuk is one of the most influential Ukrainian oligarchs and a son-in-law of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

In addition, Victor and his wife Elena Pinchuk (also referred to as Olena Franchuk) are well known for their longstanding cooperation with the Clinton Foundation.

According to the Clintons’ charity website, the Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation established a partnership with the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) back in September 2006.”The two Foundations have committed a total of $2.5 million dollars to support CHAI’s HIV/AIDS work in Ukraine over the five-year period of 2006 through 2010,” the official press release read.

Still, according to Elena Pinchuk Foundation’s site, her cooperation with CHAI actually started in 2004 when Elena Pinchuk, the daughter of then-Ukrainian President Kuchma, “initiated the negotiations between the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative and Ukraine.”

The emails hacked by CyberBerkut have indicated that the Pinchuk-Clinton cooperation has not waned over the years.

“On behalf of CGI, we are delighted to kick off preparations for the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative [CGI] with you and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation. We very much appreciate all of your Victor and Elena Pinchuk’s continued support of the work of the Clinton Global Initiative and look forward to working with you,” one of the emails said.

Furthermore, citing the Clinton Foundation’s website, the hacker group called attention to the fact that “over the past 5 years the Victor Pinchuk Foundation transferred to the Clinton Foundation from 10 to 25 million dollars.”

What is more interesting, however, is that “the largest tranches from the Pinchuk Foundation to the Clinton Foundation were held in 2015 and 2016,” according to CyberBerkut.

“By a ‘fortune chance,’ Hillary Clinton fought for the Oval at the exact same time,” the hacker group highlighted.

Interestingly enough, just two weeks before Hillary Clinton officially announced her decision to run for the presidency, Victor Pinchuk “relentlessly” sought to meet Bill Clinton wanting him to “show support for Ukraine,” as one of the Podesta emails published by WikiLeaks indicated.

“Victor Pinchuk is relentlessly following up (including this morning) about a meeting with WJC [Bill Clinton] in London or anywhere in Europe. Ideally he wants to bring together a few western leaders to show support for Ukraine, with WJC probably their most important participant. If that’s not palatable for us, then he’d like a bilat with WJC,” the email allegedly written by Ami Desai, the Clinton Foundation’s foreign policy director on March 30, 2015, said.

It appears that the Pinchuks and their Ukrainian allies were interested in Hillary Clinton’s victory in the 2016 presidential run given their longstanding and close collaboration. However, that is not all.

Cyberberkut assumes that the funds given to the Clinton Foundation by Pinchuk could have originated from vanished IMF loans allocated for Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian investigation case connected to commercial banks that laundered the IMF’s money from the National Bank of Ukraine is still going on. According to the investigation, such banks as Tavrika, Pivdenkom Bank, Avtokraz Bank, CityCommerce Bank, Finrost Bank, Terra Bank, Kyivska Rus Bank, Vernum Bank, Credit Dnepr Bank, Delta Bank were involved in the criminal scheme. Funds were transferred through Austrian Meinl Bank AG,” the CyberBerkut site reads.

The hacker group highlighted that Credit Dnepr Bank and Delta Bank, related to Victor Pinchuk, offshored much more money than their counterparts.

“As it turns out, the offshore organizations that received the IMF’s money such as Melfa Group LTD (Belize), Tandice Limited (Cyprus), Tosalan Traiding Limited (Cyprus), Agalusko Investment Limited (Cyprus), Winten Trading LTD (Cyprus), Silisten Trading Limited, Nasterno Commercial Limited, are also connected to this gentleman,” CyberBerkut wrote.

“Moreover, most of the money went to the account of his main money laundering machine — the Victor Pinchuk Foundation,” the hacker group suggested.

The hackers also noted that at that time (from 2014 to 2016) the Ukrainian Finance Ministry was run by Natalie Jaresko who served as the First Chief of the Economic Section of the US Embassy in Ukraine (1992 —1995) under President Bill Clinton.

“Coming back to the Credit Dnepr Bank which belongs to V. Pinchuk it is worth to mention that his supervisory board includes former IMF managing director D. Strauss-Kahn who probably still has an influence on the international credit organization,” the hacker group remarked.

SEE ALSO:

Ukraine May Have a New President in Waiting, But He’s Another Oligarch

July 14, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt hikes electricity prices by more than 40% as demanded by IMF

Press TV – July 6, 2017

Egypt has decided to raise electricity prices by more than 40 percent as demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to receive a $12 billion bailout loan.

Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker said on Thursday the new charges would apply as of July, which are likely to further deepen the economic woes of most Egyptians.

He said households would now be paying between 18 and 42 percent more on their bills depending on the category and level of their consumption but some of the subsidies would remain in place.

Under the IMF-devised austerity plan, Cairo is obliged to cut subsidies as a condition to receive installments of the three-year loan.

“We were supposed to have been completely done with the (electricity) subsidy in the current and next fiscal years,” Shaker said.

“But considering the special situation related to the large increase in the exchange rate, we extended this period to an additional three years,” he added.

Since November, Egyptian authorities have floated the country’s currency, slashed fuel subsidies twice, and adopted a value added tax as part of the program, which has led to soaring consumer prices.

The value of the Egyptian pound has since plummeted. One US dollar which was worth 8.8 pounds at the official exchange rate in November sells for more than 17 pounds now. Annual inflation reached 30.9 percent in May.

Egypt’s economy has hugely suffered since long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power in 2011, and the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was toppled in 2013.

The current president and former head of the armed forces, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, came to power following a military coup.

The country has seen a rise in violence under Sisi and the once-booming tourism sector of Egypt has suffered greatly due to a hike in terrorism.

People also blame Sisi for wasting billions of dollars on mega-projects such as the controversial expansion of the Suez Canal.

The cash-strapped Sisi administration has tried to persuade the public that painful austerity measures would be to the benefit of the country.

However, frustration is high among Egypt’s 90 million population, especially in the wake of a controversial agreement to transfer the sovereignty of two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | 2 Comments

Kosovo Spent IMF Funds on Pensions for Veterans Now Fighting for Daesh

Sputnik – 30.11.2016

Over the past two decades, the Kosovar government has spent over $2 billion on payments to former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) paramilitary organization. Kosovo received the money from the United States and the European Union and since 2009 mostly from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Kosovo Liberation Army was formed during the mid-1990s by Kosovo Albanians seeking independence from Serbia and the creation of a monoethnic state. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.

There have been numerous reports of abuses and war crimes committed by KLA members during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war, including massacres of civilians, prisons camps, allegations of organ theft etc. A special court in The Hague has been established to investigate those crimes. According to different estimates, currently at least 500 KLA veterans are fighting in the ranks of Daesh in Syria.

“Compared to the entire population of Kosovo, this number is the fifth-largest among other European countries. Many of the KLA veterans fighting for Daesh receive payments from the Kosovar budget which [is] regularly funded by the US, the EU and the IMF,” journalist Brankica Ristic wrote for Sputnik Serbia.

Currently, there are 46,000 KLA veterans in Kosovo. A list was made up to identify those who deserve pensions from the budget. The IMF unveiled €106 million ($113 million) for the initiative.

The first payments were made in 2015. Some 12,000 former KLA members, who fought against the Yugoslavian government and law enforcement agencies in the 1990s, received €170 ($181) each.

However, since that time the number of officially registered veterans has increased fourfold. Pristina had to ask the IMF to unveil more funds. The Kosovar budget for 2017 is €2 billion ($2.1 billion), including money to transform the Kosovo security forces into full-fledged armed forces, which will be funded by the IMF. However, the IMF does not want to give money for pensions for 46,000 KLA veterans. The fund asked Pristina to clarify the number of veterans. The government hopes that if the IMF rejects giving the money the US could do [so]. But the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election has put this into question.

“After the 1999 war Kosovo received $3.8 billion of international aid. According to different sources, between 2000 and 2010 the region received up to $40 billion. Part of this money could have been paid to those fighting now in the ranks of Daesh,” the journalist wrote.

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Energy Price Hike Leaves Whole Sectors of Ukrainian Economy on Brink of Collapse

Zaporozhstal, one of Ukraine's largest steel makers

© Photo: Facebook/Zaporizhstal Europe
Sputnik – 11.11.2016

IMF-mandated hikes in electricity prices for businesses have made whole sectors of the Ukrainian economy uncompetitive, making it more profitable to shut factories down than to keep them operating, says Ukraine’s oldest and largest business association.

Speaking in Kiev on Thursday at the Ukrainian League of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs’ annual conference, president Anatoly Kinakh pointed out with dismay that authorities in Kiev did not bother to carry out the necessary economic calculations when they decided to raise tariffs. “Where are the necessary technical and economic calculations?” the official asked.

“Where were the forecasts about how this will affect the competitiveness of our economy? How does the tariff increase correlate to consumers’ ability to pay? There are no answers to these questions. And this is very serious, because all we are doing is seeing the decline of citizens’ standard of living.”

For example, Kinakh noted, the massive Zaporozhye aluminum plant has recently been forced to stop operations completely due to the high cost of electricity; its energy-intensive production has been made uncompetitive thanks to whopping 40% electricity price hikes and the end of subsidies.

“If before, the plant was able to purchase electricity at a special rate, now this is impossible; the plant is being offered electricity at the same price as other companies, making it uncompetitive,” the official lamented.

The legendary Zaporozhye aluminum plant, established in 1930, was once one of the largest aluminum smelters in the world, and famous for its unique production methods.

Producing over 100,000 metric tons of aluminum a year in its heyday, the plant played a crucial role in contributing to many key industries, including the Soviet and post-independence Ukrainian aerospace industry, which has suffered its own tragic decline in recent years. Antonov, once a legend of global civilian and military aircraft production, isn’t expected to produce even one plane this year.

Ukraine’s International Monetary Fund-mandated austerity measures, combined with the loss of Russian markets for Ukrainian goods, have also hit ordinary Ukrainians hard. The IMF has insisted on further cuts to subsidies on utilities for low-income citizens, leaving millions uncertain where they will get the money to heat their homes this winter.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

How the Australian, British, and US Governments Shamelessly Helped Kill Countless People in Indonesia in 1965

Asia-Pacific Research – July 23, 2016

The Hague-based International People’s Tribunal has ruled that the Indonesian regime that replaced Indonesian President Sukarno committed crimes against humanity in 1965. The governments of Australia, Britain, and the United States have also been pronounced guilty as complicit partners in the massacre of 500,000 to 1000,000 people or more in Indonesia. People were murdered in Indonesia due to their principles, political ideology, ethnic backgrounds, and opposition to foreign influence. Albeit the ruling is an important historical acknowledgment, the assistance that the Australian, British, and US governments provided to the coup and played in the massacres is not a secret.

Asia-Pacific Research presents these excerpts from the Australian journalist John Pilger’s book The New Rulers of the World, which was published by Verso in 2002, in the interest of providing the historical background about the massacres that took place in Indonesia. Reading them will educate one on the despicable and criminal roles that Australia, Britain, and the US played. ”There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust,” for example Pilger writes. In his work John Pilger also notes that the US was directly involved in the operations of the death squads and helped compile the lists of people to be murdered while the Australian, British, and US media were used as propaganda tools to whitewash the coup and bloodbaths in Indonesia. A key point, however, that is emphasizes is that the underlying economic motivations and plunder hidden behind the ideological discourse of the Cold War that really motivated the massacres in Indonesia. – Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Asia-Pacific Research Editor, 22 July 2016.

indonesians-buried-alive-by-us-supported-regime

 Indonesians preparing to die in a mass grave

Excerpts from The New Rulers of the World (Verso)

John Pilger, 2002

… according to a CIA memorandum, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and President John Kennedy had agreed to ‘liquidate President Sukarno, depending on the situation and available opportunities’. The CIA author added, ‘It is not clear to me whether murder or overthrow is intended by the word liquidate.’

Sukarno was a populist, the founder of modern Indonesia and of the non-aligned movement of developing countries, which he hoped would forge a genuine ‘third way’ between the spheres of the two superpowers. In 1955, he convened the ‘Asia-Africa Conference’ in the Javanese hill city of Bandung. It was the first time the leaders of the developing world, the majority of humanity, had met to forge common interests: a prospect that alarmed the western powers, especially as the vision and idealism of nonalignment represented a potentially popular force that might seriously challenge neo-colonialism. The hopes invested in such an unprecedented meeting are glimpsed in the faded tableaux and black-and-white photographs in the museum at Bandung and in the forecourt of the splendid art deco Savoy Hotel, where the following Bandung Principles are displayed:

I – Respect for fundamental human rights and the principles of the United Nations Charter.

2 – Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.

3 – The recognition of the equality of all peoples.

4 – The settlement of disputes by peaceful means.

Sukarno could be a democrat and a demagogue. For a time, Indonesia was a parliamentary democracy, then became what he called a ‘guided democracy’. He encouraged mass trade unions and peasant, women’s and cultural movements. Between 1959 and 1965, more than 15 million people joined political parties or affiliated mass organisations that were encouraged to challenge British and American influence in the region. With 3 million members, the PKI was the largest communist party in the world outside the Soviet Union and China. According to the Australian historian Harold Crouch, ‘the PKI had won widespread support not as a revolutionary party but as an organisation defending the interests of ‘the poor within the existing system’. It was this popularity, rather than any armed insurgency, that alarmed the Americans. Like Vietnam to the north, Indonesia might ‘go communist’ .

In 1990, the American investigative journalist Kathy Kadane revealed the extent of secret American collaboration in the massacres of 1965-66 which allowed Suharto to seize the presidency. Following a series of interviews with former US officials, she wrote, ‘They systematically compiled comprehensive lists of communist operatives. As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the Indonesian army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured.’ One of those interviewed was Robert J Martens, a political officer in the US embassy in Jakarta. ‘It was a big help to the army,’ he said. ‘They probably killed a lot of people and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.’ Joseph Lazarsky, the deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta, said that confirmation of the killings came straight from Suharto’s headquarters. ‘We were getting a good account in Jakarta of who was being picked up,’ he said. ‘The army had a “shooting list” of about 4,000 or 5,000 people. They didn’t have enough goon squads to zap them all, and some individuals were valuable for interrogation. The infrastructure [of the PKI] was zapped almost immediately. We knew what they were doing . . . Suharto and his advisers said, if you keep them alive you have to feed them.’

Having already armed and equipped much of the army, Washington secretly supplied Suharto’s troops with a field communications network as the killings got under way. Flown in at night by US air force planes based in the Philippines, this was state-of-the-art equipment, whose high frequencies were known to the CIA and the National Security Agency advising President Johnson. Not only did this allow Suharto’s generals to co-ordinate the killings, it meant that the highest echelons of the US administration were listening in and that Suharto could seal off large areas of the country. Although there is archive film of people being herded into trucks and driven away, a single fuzzy photograph of a massacre is, to my knowledge, the only pictorial record of what was Asia’s holocaust.

The American Ambassador in Jakarta was Marshall Green, known in the State Department as ‘the coupmaster’. Green had arrived in Jakarta only months earlier, bringing with him a reputation for having masterminded the overthrow of the Korean leader Syngman Rhee, who had fallen out with the Americans. When the killings got under way in Indonesia, manuals on student organising, written in Korean and English, were distributed by the US embassy to the Indonesian Student Action Command (KAMI), whose leaders were sponsored by the CIA.

On October 5, 1965, Green cabled Washington on how the United States could ‘shape developments to our advantage’. The plan was to blacken the name of the PKI and its ‘protector’, Sukarno. The propaganda should be based on ‘[spreading] the story of the PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality’. At the height of the bloodbath, Green assured General Suharto: ‘The US is generally sympathetic with and admiring of what the army is doing.” As for the numbers killed, Howard Federspiel, the Indonesia expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research in 1965, said, ‘No one cared, as long as they were communists, that they were being butchered. No one was getting very worked up about it.’

The Americans worked closely with the British, the reputed masters and inventors of the ‘black’ propaganda admired and adapted by Joseph Goebbels in the 1930s. Sir Andrew Gilchrist, the Ambassador in Jakarta, made his position clear in a cable to the Foreign Office: ‘I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change.’ With more than ‘a little shooting’ under way, and with no evidence of the PKI’s guilt, the embassy advised British intelligence headquarters in Singapore on the line to be taken, with the aim of ‘weakening the PKI permanently’ .

Suitable propaganda themes might be: PKI brutality in murdering Generals and [Foreign Minister] Nasution’s daughter . . . PKI subverting Indonesia as agents of foreign Communists . . . But treatment will need to be subtle, e.g. (a) all activities should be strictly unattributable, (b) British participation or co-operation should be carefully concealed.

Within two weeks, an office of the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department (IRD) had opened in Singapore. The IRD was a top-secret, cold war propaganda unit headed by Norman Reddaway, one of Her Majesty’s most experienced liars. It would be salutary for journalists these days to study the critical role western propaganda played then, as it does now, in shaping the news. Indeed, Reddaway and his colleagues manipulated the press so expertly that he boasted to Gilchrist in a letter marked ‘secret and personal’ that the story he had promoted – that Sukarno’s continued rule would lead to a communist takeover – ‘went all over the world and back again’ . He described how an experienced Fleet Street journalist agreed ‘to give exactly your angle on events in his article … . i.e. that this was a kid glove coup without butchery.’

Roland Challis, the BBC’s South-East Asia correspondent, was a particular target of Reddaway, who claimed that the official version of events could be ‘put almost instantly back to Indonesia via the BBC’. Prevented from entering Indonesia along with other foreign journalists, Challis was unaware of the extent of the slaughter. ‘It was a triumph for western propaganda,’ he told me. ‘My British sources purported not to know what was going on, but they knew what the American plan was. There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust. It was only much later that we learned the American embassy was supplying names and ticking them off as they were killed. There was a deal, you see. In establishing the Suharto regime, the involvement of the IMF and the World Bank was part of it. Sukarno had kicked them out; now Suharto would bring them back. That was the deal.’

With Sukarno now virtually powerless and ill, and Suharto about to appoint himself acting president, the American press reported the Washington-backed coup not as a great human catastrophe, but in terms of the new economic advantages. The massacres were described by Time as ‘The West’s Best News in Asia’. A headline in US News and World Report read: ‘Indonesia: Hope . . . where there was once none’. The renowned New York Times columnist James Reston celebrated ‘A gleam of light in Asia’ and wrote a kid-glove version that he had clearly been given. The Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, who was visiting the US, offered a striking example of his sense of humour: ‘With 500,000 to a million communist sympathisers knocked off,’ he said approvingly, ‘I think it’s safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.’

Holt’s remark was an accurate reflection of the complicity of the Australian foreign affairs and political establishment in the agony of its closest neighbour. The Australian embassy in Jakarta described the massacres as a ‘cleansing operation’. The Australian Ambassador, KCO Shann, enthused to Canberra that the Indonesian army was ‘refreshingly determined to do over the PKI’, adding that the generals had spoken approvingly of the reporting on Radio Australia, which he described as ‘a bit dishonest’.’ In the Prime Minister’s Department, officials considered supporting ‘any measures to assist the Indonesian army … cope with the internal situation’.

In February 1966, [British] Ambassador Gilchrist wrote a report on the scale of the massacres based on the findings of the Swedish Ambassador, who had toured central and eastern Java with his Indonesian wife and had been able to speak to people out of earshot of government officials. Gilchrist wrote to the Foreign Office: ‘The Ambassador and I had discussed the killings before he left [on the tour] and he had found my suggested figure of 400,000 quite incredible. His enquiries have led him to reconsider it a very serious under-estimate. A bank manager in Surabaya with twenty employees said that four had been removed one night and beheaded . . . A third of a spinning factory’s technicians, being members of a Communist union, had been killed … The killings in Bali had been particularly monstrous. In certain areas, it was felt that not enough people [emphasis in the original] had been killed.’

On the island of Bali, the ‘reorientation’ described by Prime Minister Holt meant the violent deaths of at least 80,000 people, although this is generally regarded as a conservative figure. The many western, mostly Australian, tourists who have since taken advantage of cheap package holidays to the island might reflect that beneath the car parks of several of the major tourist hotels are buried countless bodies.

The distinguished campaigner and author Carmel Budiardjo, an Englishwoman married to a tapol and herself a former political prisoner, returned to Indonesia in 2000 and found ‘the trauma left by the killings thirty-five years ago still gripping many communities on the island’. She described meeting, in Denpasar, fifty people who had never spoken about their experiences before in public. ‘One witness,’ she wrote, ‘who was 20 years old at the time calmly told us how he had been arrested and held in a large cell by the military, 52 people in all, mostly members of mass organisations from nearby villages. Every few days, a batch of men was taken out, their hands tied behind their backs and driven off to be shot. Only two of the prisoners survived . . . Another witness, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian, gave testimony about the killing of 103 people, some as young as 15. In this case, the people were not arrested but simply taken from their homes and killed, as their names were ticked off a list.’

[…]

‘In the early sixties,’ he said, ‘the pressure on Indonesia to do what the Americans wanted was intense. Sukarno wanted good relations with them, but he didn’t want their economic system. With America, that is never possible. So he became an enemy. All of us who wanted an independent country, free to make our own mistakes, were made the enemy. They didn’t call it globalisation then; but it was the same thing. If you accepted it, you were America’s friend. If you chose another way, you were given warnings, and if you didn’t comply, hell was visited on you. But I am back; I am well; I have my family. They didn’t win.’

Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s, described the terror in Indonesia from 1965 – 66 as a ‘model operation’ for the American-run coup that got rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later. ‘The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders,’ he wrote, ‘[just like] what happened in Indonesia in 1965.’ He says Indonesia was also the model for Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, where American-directed death squads assassinated up to 50,000 people. ‘You can trace back all the major, bloody events run from Washington to the way Suharto came to power,’ he told me. ‘The success of that meant that it would be repeated, again and again.’

[…]

Indonesia, once owing nothing but having been plundered of its gold, precious stones, wood, spices and other natural riches by its colonial masters, the Dutch, today has a total indebtedness estimated at $262 billion, which is 170 per cent of its gross domestic product. There is no debt like it on earth. It can never be repaid. It is a bottomless hole.

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July 23, 2016 Posted by | Book Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments