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US Sends Navy Ships to Caribbean in ‘Anti-Drug’ Mission Targeting Venezuela

By Ricardo Vaz and Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | April 2, 2020

Mérida  – The Trump administration is dispatching US Navy warships to the Caribbean Sea in an effort to turn up the pressure on Venezuela.

The initiative was announced by President Donald Trump and other high ranking officials in a press conference Wednesday.

The move is allegedly part of a wider “anti-narcotics” operation in the region, which in addition to Navy destroyers will reportedly involve AWAC surveillance aircraft and on-ground special forces units. The Associated Press reported that the operation is one of the largest in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama.

“We must not let malign actors exploit the [coronavirus] situation for their own gain,” Trump said.

The military deployment came on the heels of the Department of Justice (DoJ) levying “narco-terrorism” charges against top-ranking Venezuelan officials, as well as a “democratic transition” plan unveiled by the State Department.

On March 26, the DoJ accused President Nicolas Maduro, National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello and several other officials of conspiring with FARC rebels to “flood” the US with cocaine.

Critics have pointed to the dearth of concrete evidence implicating top Venezuelan leaders and to the fact that data from US agencies shows that only a small fraction of drug routes pass through Venezuela, with most cocaine entering US territory via Central America and Mexico.

A map produced by the US Southern Command shows the main drug-smuggling routes connecting Colombia and Ecuador with Guatemala and Mexico via the Pacific Ocean.

On Tuesday, the State Department unveiled a “framework for a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela,” calling for Maduro’s resignation and the establishment of a transition government headed by opposition and Chavista officials to oversee new elections.

The Trump administration pledged to lift sanctions against Venezuelan individuals and key economic sectors, but only after Maduro left office and all security agreements with Russia and Cuba were terminated.

The US has vowed to ramp up unilateral sanctions until the Maduro administration accepts the deal.

For its part, the Venezuelan government blasted the military deployment, with Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez calling it “an attempt to attack Venezuela with lies and threats.”

Rodriguez added that Venezuela has “robust” anti-narcotics policies and would be ready to “coordinate” actions against drug trafficking in the region.

Washington’s naval operation comes days after the controversial sinking of a Venezuelan coast guard boat off the coast of the Caribbean island of La Tortuga.

According to the Venezuelan Ministry of Defense, the patrol ship “Naiguata” located a Portuguese cruise ship, the “RCGS Resolute,” in Venezuelan territorial waters and ordered the vessel to accompany it to port. The “Resolute” allegedly refused the instructions and proceeded to ram the “Naiguata,” which subsequently sank as a result of the impact.

The cruise ship owner, Columbia Cruise Services, has disputed this account, insisting that the “Resolute” was “subject to an act of aggression by the Venezuelan Navy in international waters,” while carrying no passengers.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro suggested the ship “was being used to transport mercenaries.” He also claimed that “someone from the north called” to prevent Dutch authorities from inspecting the “Resolute” at its current mooring in the Curacao port of Willemstad.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, for his part, has pledged to collaborate with Venezuela and Holland in the investigation of the “unfortunate” incident.

April 3, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 2 Comments

Crisis & Critique: US Ramps up Aggression amid Pandemic

By Ociel Alí López – Venezuelanalysis – April 1, 2020

Venezuela has been one of the countries least affected by the coronavirus pandemic in the region so far. Nevertheless, the US government is attempting to exploit the situation in order to force a violent outcome to the country’s political standoff, putting a price on the head of Maduro and other top functionaries as well as pushing a new “transition” plan to depose the government in exchange for sanctions relief. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s attorney general has summoned Guaido for questioning on April 2. Far from bringing about a truce, the coronavirus has raised tensions to new heights.

On the verge of a truce

The pandemic has caught Venezuela’s opposition in a rather uncomfortable position. Their strategy of not recognizing Maduro and the never ending simulacrum that is Guaido’s “interim presidency” is, fourteen months later, an abject failure in terms of concrete achievements. Guaido’s virtual staying power is owed almost exclusively to Donald Trump, who invited him to the White House at the close of his international tour in February.

But this strategy leaves a vacuum in the opposition. The existence of an “interim president” precludes that of an opposition leader who can channel requests, critiques, and demands toward the government. Guaido is instead forced to speak as a president but without any state resources at his disposal to confront the COVID-19 crisis. Some of Guaido’s spokespeople such as his foreign relations envoy, Julio Borges, issue statements that are woefully out of touch with the gravity of the international conjuncture: “The coronavirus is Maduro and there will be no cure until he leaves power.”

For his part, Maduro, comfortable and without internal resistance, rapidly implemented the World Health Organization’s guidelines, decreeing a national quarantine within days of the first case being reported on March 13. Maduro also managed to meet not only with the country’s principal chamber of commerce, FEDECAMARAS, but also with Colombia’s health authorities, a fact which Colombian President Ivan Duque publicly denied. He additionally secured aid from Cuba and China, which have emerged as global leaders in COVID-19 response. Meanwhile, the United States and Guaido’s other Western sponsors are mired in an unprecedented health crisis due to the number of dead and infected.

On March 23, the European Union publicly called for the International Monetary Fund to accept emergency loan requests from Venezuela and Iran and for relief from US sanctions, which according to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, “block them from receiving income by selling oil.” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also urged the lifting of unilateral coercive measures in the face of the pandemic.

The situation seemed favorable for Maduro’s struggle against the US economic blockade.

In this context, the coronavirus was on the verge of bringing about the unthinkable: an agreement between the opposition and the government. Henry Ramos Allup, the president of Venezuela’s main opposition party, announced on March 10 that Democratic Action would abandon its prior abstentionism and compete in parliamentary elections scheduled for 2020. Amid the global COVID-19 hysteria, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles opened the possibility for an agreement with Maduro when he stated on March 25:

This pandemic must create an opportunity to pursue some kind of agreement that looks after people’s wellbeing… Let’s work together: you have internal control, and I have international support. You are willing to come to an agreement to join hands. Could it be that difficult? I don’t think so.

That very night, there were two, almost parallel reactions. Maduro said, “I agree with Capriles’ proposal,” and asked the Vatican’s representative in the country to mediate and open its offices for a meeting with the different opposition factions as soon as possible.

Minutes later, Guaido stated, “we are willing to do everything we have to do,” implicitly recognizing the need for an agreement to address the health emergency. However, he did enumerate certain conditions regarding the distribution of humanitarian aid, which should be managed by multilateral organisms and not the Maduro government.

Venezuela’s dueling political factions appeared to be on the verge of engaging in substantive talks, but it was not to be.

Escalating US assault

The next day, on the morning of March 26, US Attorney General William Barr gave a press conference announcing “narco-terrorism” charges against Maduro and other senior government officials.

As expected, the charges were endorsed by Trump in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, effectively torpedoing negotiation efforts and once again raising tensions to a boiling point.

This is hardly the first time that the US has blocked dialogue. When in early August 2019 rumors were circulating of something resembling an electoral pre-agreement emerging from Norway-brokered talks, the United States ramped up sanctions with an August 5 executive order banning all dealings with the Venezuelan state and freezing its assets in what some analysts have linked to the Cuba embargo. The next day, Maduro abandoned talks.

The government had also previously claimed in February 2018 that a last minute call by then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the head of the opposition negotiating team, Julio Borges, led the opposition to walk out in lieu of signing a finalized electoral deal. This was the fruit of months of negotiations mediated by former Spanish President Jose Rodriguez Zapatero and the Dominican government, and the agreement concerned guarantees for the 2018 presidential elections, which the main opposition parties opted to boycott.

With this latest decision, Trump ups the ante. On top of punishing economic sanctions, the US now places a multi-million dollar bounty on the head of Maduro and other top officials, giving the green light to renewed violent actions aimed at killing or capturing them.

But the move also aborts the nascent negotiation efforts recently underway. Rather than paving the way for an invasion, indictments open the way for paramilitary operations of the sort one might find in a Hollywood movie. Recall that neighboring Colombia is a country littered with irregular armed outfits. Just a few days ago, following the seizure of an arms cache in northeastern Colombia, retired Major General Cliver Alcala confessed to a plot to overthrow Maduro in coordination with Guaido and US advisors. Paradoxically, the general confirmed the coup plan only after he was indicted by the US Justice Department, subsequently turning himself in to Drug Enforcement Agency officials and traveling from Colombia to the US.

Several days later, on March 31, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a more conciliatory but equally arrogant tone, unveiled a “transition” plan proposing the creation of a “council of state” comprised of opposition and Chavista representatives, with both Guaido and Maduro stepping aside and new elections called. The Venezuelan constitution contains no provisions permitting such an arrangement, which has already been rejected by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.

The government did not delay in rolling out its response. The attorney general summoned Guaido to appear for questioning on April 2 and it is very possible that he could be taken into custody after Alcala publicly named him as responsible for terrorist actions to be carried out with the arms confiscated in Colombia. With Guaido behind bars, another scenario opens up, and all that is left is to await a more decisive response from the US.

Meanwhile, we must not forget the arena that has taken center stage at present: healthcare.

Coronavirus and the collapse of the health sector

This escalation of conflict comes not only in the context of coronavirus, but also at a moment of deep crisis in Venezuela’s healthcare system, which could be rapidly overwhelmed if Venezuela’s curve mirrors that of other countries.

In a November 2019 report, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock observed:

I have seen myself how the health system is on the verge of collapse, with many hospitals lacking the most basic water and electricity infrastructure. Hospital patients, many of whom are already critically ill, are at high risk of losing their lives from new infections they are acquiring while they are in hospital, because basic cleaning and disinfection cannot be done. This is exacerbated by a lack of medicines, and a shortage of doctors and nurses to administer them. Preventable diseases including malaria and diphtheria are back with a vengeance. People with chronic health conditions, pregnant and nursing women, infants and those living with disabilities are among the most vulnerable.

No matter how much the government emphasizes its strength in the health sector owing to the support of its allies, the reality is that the system has suffered severe deterioration. If we project an Italy or Spain-style curve in Venezuela, the result could be not just a health sector collapse, but a catastrophe in every arena of life.

For this very reason, Washington’s bellicose measures provoke widespread animosity among diverse national and international constituencies. On the one hand, Chavismo automatically closes ranks behind the government, which implements stronger security measures that block efforts to open up the political field. On the other, the opposition factions that were engaged in or calling for dialogue with the government are now shut out of the game because it will be very difficult for them to compete in parliamentary elections to be held later this year. And if the main opposition parties do not participate, like in the last few elections, they will lose the only real power they have left: the National Assembly. The majority of opposition political actors have reacted with caution and have not automatically supported the US’ actions.

Washington’s latest maneuvers also fly in the face of positions taken by US allies like the European Union, as well as other multilateral bodies, which have called for lifting sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. Washington’s “kick them while their down” approach may appear disproportionate in the face of the current crisis, but we must remember that the US presidential campaign looms large and the Venezuela issue is key to winning the critical state of Florida.

For his part, Guaido may try to dust off the “humanitarian aid” discourse that he had dropped from his political repertoire after the opposition’s US-backed effort to force food and other supplies across the Colombian border in February 2019 ended not only in failure but in a corruption scandal that has dogged the “interim president” ever since. The US, Colombia, and Guaido’s other allies could make a fresh attempt at “humanitarian intervention” amid the current situation of international panic. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Cuba and Venezuela Carrie Filipetti recently prepared the ground for this possibility, stating that the COVID-19 contagion in Venezuela could pose a regional threat.

This discourse is illogical given that according to official figures Venezuela has far fewer cases than its neighbors, while the US is now the global epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. But when it comes to US-Venezuela relations, official discourses have little concern for facts. Anything can happen, above all, if elections require putting a face on the “invisible enemy.”

Ociel Alí López is a Venezuelan researcher who has published numerous written and multimedia works. He is dedicated to analyzing Venezuelan society for several European and Latin American media outlets. He is a co-founder of alternative Venezuelan state television station Avila TV in 2006. He is the recipient of the CLACSO/ASDI researcher prize and the Britto Garcia literature award.

April 3, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Regime Change through the Drug War

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | April 1, 2020

The Justice Department’s securing of a criminal indictment of Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro reminds us that when it comes to the U.S. government’s regime-change operations, coups, invasions, sanctions, embargoes, and state-sponsored assassinations are not the only ways to achieve regime change. Another way is through a criminal indictment issued by a federal grand jury that deferentially accedes to the wishes of federal prosecutors.

The best example of this regime change method involved the president of Panama, Manuel Noriega.

Like many corrupt and brutal dictators around the world, Noriega was a partner and ally of the U.S. government. In fact, he was actually trained at the Pentagon’s School of the Americas, which is referred to in Latin America as the School of Assassins. He later served as a paid asset of the CIA. He also served as a conduit for the U.S. government’s illegal war in Nicaragua, where U.S. officials were using the Contra rebels to effect a regime change in that country.

But like other loyal pro-U.S. dictators, Noriega fell out of favor with U.S. officials, who decided they wanted him out of office and replaced with someone more to their liking.

The big problem, of course, is the one that always afflicts U.S. regime-change aspirations: Noriega refused to go voluntarily.

U.S. officials knew that it would look bad to simply invade the country and effect a regime-change operation through force of arms. Undoubtedly, they considered a state-sponsored assassination through the CIA, which specialized in that form of regime change, but for whatever reason that regime-method wasn’t employed.

So, the regime-changers turned to the U.S. Justice Department, which secured a criminal indictment against Noriega for supposedly violating America’s drug laws. The U.S. rationale was that the U.S. government, as the world’s international policeman, has jurisdiction to enforce its drug laws against everyone in the world.

On December 20,  1989, the U.S. military invaded Panama to bring Noriega back to the United States to stand trial on the drug charges. One might consider the invasion to be one gigantic no-knock raid on an entire country as part of U.S. drug-war enforcement.

An estimated 23-60 U.S. soldiers were killed in the operation while some 300 were wounded. An estimated 300-800 Panamanian soldiers were killed. Estimates of civilian deaths ranged from 200 to 3,000. Property damage ranged in the billions of dollars.

But it was all considered worth it. By capturing Noriega and bringing him back for trial, U.S. officials felt that they had made big progress in finally winning the war on drugs. Equally important, they had secured the regime change that had been their original goal. At the same time, they sent a message to other rulers around the world: Leave office when we say or we’ll do this to you.

Noriega was convicted and received a 40-year jail sentence. When his lawyers tried to introduce evidence at trial of his close working relationship with the CIA and other elements of the U.S. national security state, not surprisingly federal prosecutors objected and the judge sustained their objections. Better to keep those types of things as secret as possible.

Alas, Noriega’s conviction and incarceration did not bring an end to the war on drugs, as this crooked, corrupt, failed, and racially bigoted government program continues to this day. Moreover, as Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro might soon find out., the drug war continues to provide an effective way for U.S. officials to effect regime change.

April 1, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Beyond Chutzpah: US Charges Venezuela with Nacro-Terrorism

By Roger D. Harris | Dissident Voice | March 29, 2020

According to the parable, the ungrateful son takes out a life insurance policy on his parents, murders them to collect, and is caught and found guilty. At his sentencing, the judge asks if he has anything to say on his behalf. The son replies: “Have mercy upon me because I am an orphan.” That’s chutzpah.

US Attorney General Barr’s indictments on March 26 against the government of Venezuela for narco-terrorism go beyond chutzpah. For starters, William P. Barr was chief counsel for the CIA airline Southern Air Transport implicated in the 1980s for running illicit drugs and related narco-terrorism during Iran-Contra.

The US charges of drug trafficking against Venezuela are the height of hypocrisy. The world’s leading source of heroin is US-occupied Afghanistan; the US is the world’s largest cocaine market.

The president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), is the latest in a line of corrupt presidents since the 2009 US-backed coup there. JOH was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in October by a US federal court for smuggling multi-million dollars’ worth of cocaine into the US.

Colombia is the chief regional US client state, distinguished by being the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere. Hillary Clinton called Plan Colombia a model for Latin America. Yet this model is the planet’s largest supplier of illicit cocaine. And that’s only scratching the surface of the US’s history of complicity in international narcotrafficking.

The false criminal charges by the US government against fourteen high-ranking Venezuelan officials are for alleged involvement in international drug trafficking. The US government has, in effect, put a $15 million bounty on Venezuelan President Maduro and bounties of $10 million each for the head of the National Constituent Assembly and other leading officials and former officials.

Thirty years ago, the US posted a $1 million reward on the head of Manuel Noriega, then president of Panama, on charges of narcotrafficking. Noriega had long been a US security asset assisting in the US’s dirty Contra war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Noriega had also used his US patronage to consolidate his rule in Panama as well as his ties with Colombian drug cartels. However, toward the end of his tenure, Noriega did not demonstrate a sufficient level of servility to his US handlers and was deposed in the US invasion of Panama in 1989, taking the lives of many uncounted civilians.

As RT warns: “The US indictment of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his subordinates on narcotrafficking charges echoes the rationale used to invade Panama and kidnap its leader.” Unlike the Noriega case, where the Panamanian president was convicted of massive drug trafficking with the knowledge and full protection of the CIA and other US security agencies, the US lacks evidence against the Venezuelans.

The US claims that Venezuelan officials are conspiring to “flood the United States with cocaine” are thoroughly groundless. Even the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a Washington-based think tank that supports regime change for Venezuela, found in a recent detailed report using the US government’s own data that the facts do not support such bogus claims.

The authoritative US interagency Consolidated Counterdrug Database reports, in fact, that 93% of US-bound cocaine is trafficked through western Caribbean and eastern Pacific routes, not through Venezuela’s eastern Caribbean coast. Over six times as much cocaine flowed through the US-allied Guatemala than Venezuela in 2018.

Yes, some illicit drugs flow through Venezuela – a minor amount compared to those emanating from US client states – but the culprits are criminal gangs that the very indicted officials are fighting. The coca is grown and manufactured into cocaine in neighboring Colombia, not Venezuela. While supporting US government actions to undermine Venezuelan state institutions, WOLA recognizes: “Venezuela’s state institutions have deteriorated… In this environment, armed groups and organized criminal structures, including drug trafficking groups, have thrived.”

Yet WOLA’s conclusion is: “US government data suggests that, despite these challenges, Venezuela is not a primary transit country for US-bound cocaine. US policy toward Venezuela should be predicated on a realistic understanding of the transnational drug trade.”

The US indictments against the government of Venezuela are a ramping up of a policy of regime change. Ever since Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and launched the Bolivarian Revolution, the hostile US government has floated consistently unsubstantiated accusations of narcotrafficking.

More recently the Trump administration has sought to replace the democratically elected president of Venezuela with a US-chosen and groomed security asset. Juan Guaidó, the man anointed by Trump to be president of Venezuela, had never run for the presidency nor served as president and was unknown to 81% of the Venezuelan population at the time of his self-declaration as president. Besides these dubious qualifications, Guaidó collaborated with the right-wing Colombian drug cartel and paramilitary group known as Los Rastrojos and even posed for pictures with some of their operatives, which were posted on Twitter. 

The ever-tightening unilateral coercive measures on Venezuela by the US have created a blockade, costing Venezuela over 100,000 lives. Sanctions are not an alternative to war but an economic form of warfare and just as deadly. As such, unilateral economic sanctions are an explicit violation of international law under the charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States and even under US law.

Unfortunately, Venezuela is not alone. The rogue empire’s sanctions now blight a third of the world’s population in 39 countries.

This latest escalation of the US hybrid war against Venezuela takes place within the context of the global coronavirus pandemic, which the US empire sees as an opportunity to further attack the Venezuelan people made more vulnerable by the health crisis. Indeed, the US State Department has declared “Maximum-pressure March” against Venezuela. In service of the empire, Twitter has closed the accounts of the Venezuelan ministries of health, science, education, and housing.

Meanwhile, Cuba, Russia, and China are all materially supporting the Maduro government’s successful efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Venezuela. In contrast to this internationalist solidarity, the US is in the midst to the largest war games in 25 years, Defend Europe 20, in contravention of World Health Organization quarantine protocols.

Words cannot sufficiently describe the inhumane perfidy of the US empire’s response to the pandemic. This should be a time for the US government to:

  • Drop the unsupported indictments against President Maduro and other Venezuelan officials.
  • Lift the inhumane and illegal sanctions on Venezuela so that Venezuela can purchase medicines and equipment to better fight the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Restore normal relations with Venezuela based on respect for national sovereignty.

Roger D. Harris is with the Task Force on the Americas, a human rights group working in solidarity with social justice movements in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1985.

March 29, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy – Book Review

House of Mirrors, by Yves Engler. (Photo: Book Cover)
By Jim Miles | Palestine Chronicle | March 23, 2020

(House of Mirrors – Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy. Yves Engler. RED Publishing, Saskatoon/Black Rose Books, Montreal. 2020)

Some book covers are better than others, and that of Yves Engler’s House of Mirrors is beautifully expressive of the contents of his latest work. It shows a very friendly face and happy smiling Justin Trudeau in an iconic pose that says it all: America first.

This is Engler’s eleventh book exposing the downside of Canadian politics. It covers two main themes, the obvious first one is that of Canada’s involvement in the U.S. imperial-hegemonic demands around the world.

The second, more domestic, is that the Liberal’s and Conservatives, Canada’s two main parties, are essentially the same thing when it comes to foreign policy. Whereas the Conservatives are much more aggressive with their terminology while the Trudeau Liberals couch their words in a fancier more humanistic sounding language, the end results are the same: following the U.S. corporate-industrial-military complex and in certain cases being ahead of that curve.

With that as its underlying theme, Engler covers many topics concerning the Trudeau Liberals. The first long section deals with “The Canadian Monroe Policy” discussing how Canada fits into U.S. initiatives throughout Latin America with the overthrow, attempted overthrows, and manipulations of various organizations (OAS) in order to control the western hemisphere.

While paralleling U.S. interests, in terms of Venezuela, Canada, under Chrystia Freeland’ tutelage, has taken a leading interest with its support of the Lima Group (all sycophantic governments to U.S. corporate interests) against Venezuela.

A long essay on the Middle East, “Loving Monarchies, Hating Palestinians” discusses how Canada relates to the Arab countries, Israel, and the Palestinians. An earlier chapter, “The Sun Never Sets on the Canadian Military”, ties in with this chapter in exploring the numerous military sales and security contacts with Middle Eastern countries.

Large orders of military materials are sent to the likes of Saudi Arabia in support of its war on Yemen. Much information and technological information for security is exchanged between Canada and Israel (fun fact: Canada developed apartheid long before South Africa and Israel). The official position for Palestine is the stillborn two-state peace process while the actual position is more one of asking why the Palestinians do not acquiesce to Israeli demands.

Many other important topics are presented: around the world from China and North Korea through to Freeland’s favorite bogeyman, Russia, and on into Africa (military and mining interests); around the world from its domestic carbon dioxide/environmental policies; another hit on Canada’s mining interests in particular with South America; and the language of “Judge What I Say, Not What I Do”.

It is interesting how often Chrystia Freeland’s name rises in connection with Trudeau’s foreign policy. She is foremost in using the platitude about “international order based on rules” and the “rule of laws”. Whatever the foreign policy, as Foreign Affairs Minister and now as Deputy Prime Minister (a conveniently invented position), she carries considerable sway concerning Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Syria and other global hotspots (coronavirus notwithstanding). She inverts the colonial role, making Canada a victim rather than a colonizer and exploiter, “Canada has never been an imperialist power…we’ve been the colony.”

In his conclusion, Engler reprises comments about Canadian banks, the mining industry, Russia, Israel, Iran, the military, and business in general. He summarizes, “corporate Canada is highly international” with “segments… tied to extreme capitalism.” Extreme capitalism being capitalism dominated by and supported by the military-industrial complex with assistance from the financial community and the mainstream media.

As with all of Yves Engler’s books, House of Mirrors is tightly written, with little philosophizing, allowing the information to speak for itself, information that is highly notated and well referenced. The smiling man on the cover, Justin Trudeau, is essentially another true believer in an oligarchic world order (along with Ms. Freeland) supported by an international array of corporate and military liaisons.

– Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles.  His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization and economic subjugation of the global community and its commodification by corporate governance and by the American government.

March 23, 2020 Posted by | Book Review | , , , | Leave a comment

Africa, Latin America Fragile Targets for Coronavirus Spread

teleSUR | March 20, 2020

The West African nation of Mali has roughly one ventilator per 1 million people — 20 in all to help the critically ill with respiratory failure. In Peru, with more than 32 million people, about 350 beds in intensive care units exist.

Many of their nations are slamming shut borders and banning large gatherings in the hope of avoiding the scenes in wealthier countries such as Italy and the U.S., but local transmission of the virus has begun.

Containing that spread is the new challenge. Africa has more than 900 confirmed cases and Latin America more than 2,500, but an early response is crucial as fragile health systems could be quickly overwhelmed.

With such limited resources, experts say identifying cases, tracing and testing are key.

“We have seen how the virus actually accelerates that after a certain … tipping point. So the best advice for Africa is to prepare for the worst and prepare today,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.

“We have different and significant barriers to health care in Africa, which could be a real challenge,” said Dr. Ngozi Erondu, a senior research fellow at the Chatham House Center for Global Health Security.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa do not have the isolation wards or large number of health care workers to respond to a surge of COVID-19 patients, she said.

Liberia and Burkina Faso only have a few ventilators for their millions of people.

Dr. Bernard Olayo, founder of the Kenya-based Center for Public Health and Development, said most countries in Africa can’t afford ventilators. Even if ventilators were provided by other countries, it’s not sufficient because of the lack of qualified people to use them.

“It’s complex, it’s very very complex because the patients that end up on ventilators require round the clock care by larger teams,” he said.

Many patients could do well with just oxygen, he said, but close to half of health facilities in African countries don’t have reliable oxygen supplies. Oxygen concentrators can be used, but given the frequent electricity cuts in many countries, oxygen generators and pressure cylinders are needed because they can function while power is out.

The WHO regional Africa director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said the lack of ICU facilities and ventilators is one of the biggest challenges facing the continent.

“We have been able to identify importing a field hospital-type of facility that can be set up and equipped with some of the key items needed, such as ventilators,” she said. Training has begun in Republic of Congo and Senegal so health care workers will be ready to operate it, and World Bank funding is being made available, she said.

Several countries in Latin America are also among the least prepared in the world for a pandemic, with healthcare systems already stretched thin.

Peruvian Minister of Defense Walter Martos told local America TV on Monday that the nation has less than 400 respirators available.

“It’s not a lot,” he said. “Really, we don’t have the infrastructure that developed nations do.”

Peru and other nations in Latin America are looking to the experience in Europe as a cautionary tale and hoping to curtail the spread of coronavirus cases before they overwhelm hospitals.

Epidemiologist Cristian Díaz Vélez said those measures could potentially create a slower rise in cases that is more manageable for Peru’s medical system. He said the country has around 300 to 350 beds in intensive care units, half of which are now in use.

“It will overwhelm our healthcare system,” he said, if cases skyrocket.

Other countries in Latin America could fare far worse.

March 21, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Former Farc Combatant Astrid Conde Murdered in Bogota

Former guerrilla member Astrid Conde

teleSUR | March 6, 2020

Astrid Conde, a former guerrilla fighter in Colombia, was shot dead last Thursday in Bogotá.

Conde’s murder occurred at the entrance to her home, located in the El Tintal sector in the southwest of the city.

The Colombian party, the Alternative Revolutionary Force of the Common (FARC), published on its official Twitter profile, that this is one of the first crimes against former members in Bogotá. Still, until now, 191 former combatants have endured violent deaths.

According to the Legal Solidarity Corporation, which protected Astrid Conde, the ex-guerrilla member was complying with her social reintegration process and belonged to the women’s group Defense and Rights.

The murder of Astrid Conde occurred after the FARC denounced the growing violence against its former members who were being reintegrated into society and the lack of guarantees for them. The former guerrillas have said: “We don’t only need who shoots, we also need who gave the order.”

The political group also challenged the irresponsibility of the government of Iván Duque for allowing a lack of protection for its former members and the failure to comply with the Peace Accords, a situation that would endanger the maintenance of peace in Colombia.

Also recently, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Michel Forst, highlighted the impunity of the murders of social leaders and the lack of preventive administrative measures against the crimes. The UN representative stated that “Colombia is the country with the highest rate of murders of human rights defenders.”

March 7, 2020 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Brazil is adopting Israel’s terror narrative, which is anything but democratic

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | March 5, 2020

Brazilian federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of right-wing dictatorship fanatic President Jair Bolsonaro, announced recently that the country will be moving to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. “Inside the government, we are debating the ways to stop terrorist groups from coming to Brazil,” Bolsonaro stated. “We are going to follow Argentina, declaring that Hezbollah is a terrorist group.”

Not only Hezbollah is being targeted with this designation. Bolsonaro’s son has also declared that the Brazilian government will be “considering a harsher stance on terrorist groups Hamas, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram.” Israel praised Brazil’s decision as part of the fight against “Iranian-sponsored terrorism”. Since the US declared its war on terror following September 11, Israel has appropriated the narrative and used it to gain diplomatic leverage for its murderous colonial policies, while strangling Palestinian resistance in the process. Unsurprisingly, Brazil will be joining other countries supportive of Israel’s security narrative in blurring the distinction between legitimate resistance movements and terrorist groups. That narrative is anything but democratic.

For the right wing Israeli and Brazilian governments, resistance movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah on one hand, and the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) are terrorists, as Bolsonaro declared recently in one of his usual tirades. In defence of Israel’s purported security narrative, Brazil will be employing a designation on Hezbollah and Hamas which has nothing to do with terrorism and everything with how state terror seeks to delegitimise anti-colonial struggle.

As democracy moves even further away from its principles, becoming a label utilised by the right-wing in its quest to annihilate opposition, resistance movements become even more marginalised politically. Needless to say, Brazil’s move will endear it to the US and Washington’s own dissemination of Israel’s security versus terror narrative. Criminalising resistance movements has one main aim, to delegitimise resistance and, as a result, alter the understanding of what constitutes “terrorism”.

Categorising Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, alongside terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram builds upon the US-Israeli narrative of seeking to undermine Iranian influence in Latin America. Paraguay, Colombia and Honduras have already adopted this narrative since last year. It ignores the simple fact that Hamas has never carried the struggle for freedom from Israeli occupation beyond the borders of historical Palestine.

The right-wing surge in the region is not conducive to diplomatic support for Palestine, let alone Palestinian resistance. Hamas is already ostracised politically, but the US-Israeli scheming will continue to seek unanimous support for the narrative which allows the far-right to define terror at the expense of the occupied and oppressed.

Bolsonaro has stated on occasions that he seeks further alignment with the US in terms of policy. The latest decision strikes at the heart of Palestinian resistance at a time when Palestinians are in need of diplomatic support due to Trump’s deal of the century versus the two-state compromise dead ends in terms of opportunity. The more that Palestinians are obscured from the political process, the easier it is to simplify, albeit erroneously, the Palestinian cause into an issue between a “democratic state” and “terror”. This is part of the strategy that the US and Israel are pursuing, which is to have a monopoly over who decides that the definition of state-sponsored terror of the kind practiced by Israel and other right-wing governments is somehow “democratic”. That is far from the truth.

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Trudeau’s extraordinary campaign to overthrow Maduro

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By Yves Engler · February 26, 2020

The effort Justin Trudeau’s government is putting into removing Venezuela’s President is remarkable. So is the utter hypocrisy of their campaign.

On Thursday Ottawa hosted the Lima Group, a coalition of countries supporting Washington’s bid to overthrow the Venezuelan government. A CBC headline noted, “Ottawa attempts to reboot campaign to remove Maduro from power in Venezuela.” For more than a year the Lima Group has openly pushed Venezuela’s military to overthrow the government. Thursday’s summit was the third held in Canada of a coalition instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017.

During the recent Munich Security Conference Trudeau discussed the South American country with a US Senate and House of Representatives delegation led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. The Prime Minister’s release noted, “the Congressional delegation thanked Canada for its leadership on the Lima Group and for supporting Interim President Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan National Assembly in their efforts to achieve a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela.”

Similarly, the Prime Minister discussed Venezuela at a meeting with Austria’s Chancellor on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. According to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Canada and Australia “have many shared goals such as the empowerment of women and our support for free & fair elections in Venezuela.” According to this formulation, the empowerment of half the world’s population is of similar import to purported electoral discrepancies in Venezuela.

Foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne also discussed Venezuela with International Crisis Group President Robert Malley at the Munich Security Conference.

Last month Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa. The self-declared president met the Prime Minister, deputy PM, international development minister and foreign minister. Trudeau called him “Interim President Guaidó” and Champagne sometimes referred to him simply as “President”.

Over the past couple of years, the government has put out hundreds of press releases, tweets and public statements critical of the Venezuelan government. They hired a Special Advisor on Venezuela to oversee the government’s coup efforts and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers gave Patricia Atkinson, Head of the Venezuela Task Force at Global Affairs, its Foreign Service Officers award in June 2019 for her role in overseeing a team of diplomats that organized Lima Group meetings, sanctions, etc. The government has implemented four rounds of sanctions against Venezuelan officials and it’s brought that country to the International Criminal Court, shuttered its Embassy in Caracas, funded opposition groups and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.

A look at Canada’s Lima Group allies highlights the hypocrisy of their campaign against Venezuela. The constitutional legitimacy of Honduras’ President is far weaker than Maduro’s; Far more dissidents were assassinated in Colombia last year; The government of Chile is facing greater popular contestation; The electoral legitimacy of Haiti’s President is much weaker; Honduras’ president has clearer links to drug runners; Violence is worse in numerous countries in the Hemisphere.

It is true that Venezuela’s economic downturn – and concurrent outward migration – is substantially worse than other Lima Group members. But, the sanctions imposed by the US and Canada have contributed to Venezuela’s economic collapse as much as any action of the government.

Canada is engaged in an extraordinary effort to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro. But, it isn’t designed to advance democracy or human rights in Venezuela.

February 26, 2020 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 2 Comments

Brazil in Search for False Enemies

By Lucas Leiroz | February 25, 2020

Recently, the Brazilian Ministry of Defense published a dossier on possible threats to national security over the next two decades. The document, however, is far from showing any sign of seriousness, being full of unfounded predictions, which call into question even the quality of the academic training of the military involved – or their commitment to the truth.

In the document, the Brazilian military set up a series of hypothetical scenarios and warn that France could become a real threat to Brazil in the coming years. The reason is due to a brief tension and war of words between the Presidents Jair Bolsonaro and Emmanuel Macron over the past year, due to the environmental crisis and bushfires in the Amazon Rainforest. For Brazilian generals, this is already a sufficient basis to see France as a real threat to national security, ignoring notable facts, such as that both countries are the biggest trading partners in military industry and that the tension between Bolsonaro and Macron has already calmed down months ago, in addition to the fact that the French interest in starting a transcontinental war over the Amazon territory is absolutely minimal.

Continuing with forecasts, the document testifies to a future of great tensions in South America, with Venezuela and Guyana fighting conflicts in the north and Bolivia and Chile in the south, in addition to the installation of Chinese and American military bases across the continent. Brazil, aligning itself with the USA, will act as a mediator of regional conflicts and will receive advanced armaments from Washington. The document also foresees the installation of three American military bases in Colombia and a conflict between this country and Venezuela. It is also speculated that Argentina will grow economically with oil exploration and that it will align with China, but that Brazil will veto the installation of Chinese bases in the neighboring country.

Brazil’s role in internal tensions and international geopolitics will depend exclusively on its good relations with the United States. The dossier speculates that China will overtake the United States as an economic power, but that Washington will remain the global military leader. Brazilian alignment with American hegemonic power, then, will be a matter of survival and will allow Brazil to mediate regional conflicts, pacify neighboring countries and curb Chinese influence in South America. The generals go even further with their unfounded speculations and claim that Brazil will arouse the fury of “ultranationalist groups in Southeast Asia” that, in retaliation, will launch biological weapons against the Brazilian population on the occasion of the musical festival “Rock in Rio” in its 2039 edition.

In brief summary, the document creates a hypothetical scenario in which Brazil’s alignment with the United States will no longer be a matter of political will, but of necessity and survival. In practice, a group of more than 500 military researchers created a myth to justify alignment with Washington, using predictions that lack meaning and material bases. The ultimate goal is simply to forcibly instill the belief that Brazil should become an American ally.

But the Brazilian military does not stop there. Recently, the Russian ship Yantar approached the Brazilian coast, having anchored for a few days in the state of Rio de Janeiro. When the ship was about 50 miles away from the beaches of Rio, the Brazilian Navy issued a communication signal that was not answered immediately. It happens, however, that the vessel responded to the communication attempts issued later, which was not enough for the Brazilian Navy to retreat in its false alarm that the Russian ship would be performing espionage services on the Brazilian coast, spreading the lie through several media agencies and creating an unnecessary tension atmosphere.

The scandal made by the Brazilian Navy would make any specialist in military and intelligence operations laugh. Do they really believe that such a vessel would be used for espionage purposes with such public exposure? Would the Brazilian State be irresponsible to the point of creating such an atmosphere of tension with Russia for absolutely nothing?

The scenario leads one to believe that it is not a collective idiocy of Brazilian generals, but rather a very well-designed project to create an environment of fear in relation to everything that is not of interest to the United States. Chinese military presence in South America, Russian espionage, French threat, regional wars, biological terrorism – these are all imaginary threats meticulously created by the military who are no longer interested in national defense, but in the country’s subordination to the hegemonic global power.

Brazil seems to be experiencing one of the worst moments in its history. Again, the higher generals are more committed to external interests than to the defense of their own country and seem to be willing to do anything to see Brazil become an American dependency.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

February 25, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Switzerland at the Heart of a Far-Reaching Surveillance Network Facilitating the U.S.-Backed Operation Condor

By Ramona Wadi | Strategic Culture Foundation | February 24, 2020

The atrocities of Operation Condor – the U.S.-backed covert plan by Argentina, Chile, Brazil Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia to eliminate left-wing influence in Latin America – have been gradually revealed through declassified documents that detail the diplomatic maneuvering and state terror that left tens of thousands of people killed, tortured and disappeared.

Argentina is estimated to have the highest death toll with over 30,000 dictatorship opponents killed and disappeared. The Videla dictatorship in Argentina worked in close collaboration with Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet, who had ushered in a violent neoliberal experiment in Chile and a far reaching network of international surveillance to keep tabs on, and eliminate, any traces of organised resistance to the dictatorship that had the potential to form abroad.

U.S. intelligence was deeply involved in the propping of dictatorships in Latin America in particular after Chile’s Unidad Popular led by Salvador Allende triumphed at the polls. Declassified documents have shown that the U.S. knew about the tactics used by the Argentinian dictatorship – emulated after Chile’s practice of disappearing opponents into the ocean, packaged and thrown off helicopters provided by the U.S. In some cases, the death flights also served as a murder practice – some victims were thrown into the ocean drugged, yet still alive.

Recently, it has also been revealed that U.S. intelligence surveillance over the extent of human rights violations in Latin America was aided by Germany and Switzerland. A Swiss company, Crypto AG, was jointly owned by the U.S. and West Germany. The company was then acquired by the participating countries in Operation Condor and later incorporated into the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) technology.

News reports have revealed that the Swiss government was knowledgeable about the CIA operations conducted through Crypto AG, which makes the country complicit in the dealings of Operation Condor and sheds doubt about Switzerland’s purported political neutrality, a stance which has enabled it to embrace duplicity and serve both oppressor and the oppressed.

Eventually, the surveillance technology targeted over 100 countries. Swiss media have reported that along with Sweden, Israel and Britain, Switzerland was privy to the information compiled through the operation. The Swiss government has launched an investigation into the case and the company’s licence has been suspended.

Among the intelligence gathered by the U.S. through the surveillance programme was the plan for the assassination of Chilean diplomat and ambassador to the U.S. in the Allende era, Orlando Letelier, who was murdered by a car bomb in Washington in 1976. Michael Townley, a CIA agent who also worked for the Pinochet dictatorship’s National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) was responsible for placing the bomb underneath Letelier’s vehicle. The murder was directly ordered by Pinochet. Operation Silence, in which efforts were made to prevent judges from investigating dictatorship crimes in the 1990s, resulted in the murder of Townley’s DINA partner, Eugenio Berrios, a chemist tasked with producing sarin gas for the dictatorship. Berrios’s body was discovered, heavily mutilated, in Uruguay, thus eliminating the possibility of further evidence being given in the Letelier case.

The link between Chile and Argentina in terms of dictatorship cooperation to eliminate opponents resulted in the killing and disappearance of Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) militants.

Revelations regarding Crypto AG will likely add to the level of U.S. complicity in Operation Condor, apart from other forms of political violence globally which were aided by the CIA. In Latin America, particularly given the current turbulence from coups, such as in the case of Bolivia, to popular mobilisation as we are seeing in Chile, the news regarding surveillance is likely to have an impact on both current happenings and in terms of the region’s collective memory.

February 24, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Correa Will Return To Ecuador To Register His Candidacy

teleSUR | February 21, 2020

The former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, will return to his country at the end of the year to register his candidacy for vice president or as a member of the assembly, facing the 2021 presidential elections, Fausto Vase, his lawyer, told Reuters.

“We intend for his return to Ecuador; once he registers his candidacy, he would immediately be protected by electoral immunity (…) he will return this year, in November or December,” Vase said.

In August, Correa declared that he intended to be a candidate for the vice presidency of his country or to occupy a seat in the National Assembly.

According to Ecuador’s Constitution from 2008, Rafael Correa could aspire to any candidacy other than the Presidency, as long as a court of law does not sentence him.

Correa has said he is not interested in power, but instead in preventing the elites from controlling Ecuador for the next 30 years. “We have to react and thus return the State to the people, to the citizens,” he said at the time.

Ecuador’s former president has indicated that the most important thing “is to fulfill the historical role of recovering the homeland,” after asserting that the current Government has set back the country at least 15 years.

February 22, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment