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Ecuador: Galapagos Islands Will Now Serve US Military as Airfield

teleSUR | June 12, 2019

Ecuador’s right-wing government has agreed for the United States (U.S.) to use the airport of San Cristobal, in the Galapagos Islands, as an airfield for U.S. air force and navy Pacific ocean operations, according to the Minister of Defense Oswaldo Jarrin.

“Galapagos is Ecuador’s natural aircraft carrier because it ensures permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and is 1,000 kilometers from our coasts,” he assured, explaining that now U.S. military planes will also have access to it based on “cooperation” agreements signed under Lenin Moreno’s administration to “fight drug trafficking.”

On September 2018, a Lockheed P-3 Orion intelligence-gathering plane from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency began to operate from Ecuador. While a Boeing 707 aircraft from the U.S. air force, carrying a long-range radar surveillance and control center (AWAC), will now also be “patrolling” the Pacific. Both operations are reminiscent of those made by the U.S. government from the Base in Manta from 1999 to 2009.

“A base means permanence, there will be no permanence of anyone, the P3 and Awac will meet periods no longer than a week,” Jarrin argued. Yet he himself said on Aug. 27, 2018, that “the important thing is to recognize that everything that the base did in its time, can now be done by just one plane, because of the advance of technology.”

Despite the technicalities of such “cooperation” any presence of foreign armies in Ecuadorean territory is unconstitutional. According to article five of the 2008 Constitution, Ecuador declares itself as a territory of peace, where “the establishment of foreign military bases or foreign installations for military purposes will not be allowed. In addition, it is prohibited to cede national military bases to foreign armed or security forces.”

No, Mr. Minister. Galapagos is not an “aircraft carrier” for the gringos to use. It is an Ecuadorean province, world heritage, patriotic ground.

In what seems like an attempt to appease critics, the defense official, emphasized that the readjustments to the airfield will be paid by the U.S. Yet once again history warns that this is no sort of “assurance.”

In 1942, as the U.S. was just entering World War II both in the Pacific as the western front, another right-wing government in Ecuador allowed the U.S. army and navy to use the Island of Baltra, in the Galapagos, as an airfield. An airstrip was constructed, houses, barracks, movie theaters and dining halls for the armed personnel and families, all paid by the U.S.

However, in 1946 as the U.S. left they bombed and destroyed everything leaving nothing behind for the Ecuadorans.

June 15, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

‘We need points!’ US must invade Venezuela to scare Iran & N. Korea, Graham claims

RT | June 15, 2019

Sen. Lindsey Graham has suggested President Trump “put military force on the table” by invading Venezuela (and possibly Cuba) in order to scare North Korea and Iran into doing what they’re told. What could possibly go wrong?

“Give Cuba an ultimatum – without Cuba, Maduro doesn’t last one day – tell Cuba to get out of Venezuela. Do what Reagan did in Grenada – put military force on the table!” Graham told a Fox News host, going from zero to invasion in ten seconds flat in response to a question about how Trump should handle his foreign conflicts.

“We need points on the board,” the South Carolina senator insisted. “Start with your own backyard… Fix Venezuela and everybody else will know you’re serious.” North Korea and Iran, he implied, would fall right into line after Venezuela was put in its place.

While Graham paid lip service to the president’s non-military accomplishments, reluctantly congratulating him on slowing down North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, his advice didn’t include much by way of diplomacy: “When it comes to Rocketman, letters don’t matter anymore to me, it’s performance.” Graham notably called for Trump to “end the nuclear threat” mere hours after the president’s Hanoi summit with the North Korean leader collapsed.

Graham’s Monroe-doctrine-on-steroids patter isn’t exactly unfamiliar to those who’ve been following his bellicose ravings – the Republican senator dropped a Grenada reference just last month as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro prepared to meet his US-backed would-be replacement Juan Guaido in Oslo for negotiations, perhaps seeing his chance for a war in South America slipping away.

It’s easy to see why Graham would take such a fond view of Reagan’s bullheaded 1983 Grenada invasion. While it was universally condemned – the UN deemed it a “flagrant violation of international law” by a vote of 108 to 9, and even UK PM Margaret Thatcher privately disapproved (though she backed her ally in public) – Americans supported the invasion, having been convinced via a well-orchestrated propaganda campaign that a few hundred American medical students on the island were in mortal danger under the island’s new government.

Reagan hoped the neat and tidy four-day invasion would shore up Americans’ faith in their own military, which had been on a steady downhill slide since Vietnam, and Graham appears to believe the US would similarly receive a morale boost from Venezuela, despite the obvious differences in population and military power.

June 15, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 2 Comments

Cuban Aid: What HBO Didn’t Mention In Their ‘Chernobyl’ Series

teleSUR | June 9, 2019

HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’ has been criticised for being historically inaccurate, but on Sunday, Cuba pointed out that their crucial role in providing free treatment to the victims is being airbrushed out of history.

The recent HBO series takes a look at the events of the 1986 tragedy in Chernobyl, where an explosion at a nuclear facility in the former USSR caused huge damage in loss of life and radiation poisoning. The series, featuring entirely British actors, has been accused of being an anti-soviet smear piece aimed at portraying the Soviets as selfish and incompetent, one Russian outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta said.

“The people are depicted as drunken lowlifes, to the extent that you find in some Hollywood movies, where Slavs show up as these disgusting, repulsive characters.”

Furthermore, Russian media has accused the show of multiple historical inaccuracies, journalist Alexander Kots says that a helicopter crash that appears in the series in fact happened at an entirely different time, and that the way the treatment of miners is depicted has no basis in historical fact.

However, Cuban media has now waded into the row, accusing HBO of airbrushing the socialist island’s role in providing free treatment to those affected by the disaster. Cuban outlet Cubadebate laid out the extent to which Cuba helped Chernobyl victims.

At the beaches of Tarara, 30 kilometres from Havana, Cuba had converted an elite holiday village into an enormous health center for children who had been affected by the nuclear disaster.

The health complex contained hospitals, schools and recreational areas, where children could recover in a holistic setting. Cubadebate reported on Sunday that over 25,000 children were treated for radiation poisoning between 1990 and 2011, mainly for cancer, deformations, muscle atrophy and other conditions related to radiation.

The comprehensive treatment that was provided also fell within Cuba’s ‘special period’ of intense economic hardship that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaving Cuba without its main export customer.

Despite the economic difficulties of those years, the treatment center in Tarara continued to operate. One Cuban doctor spoke to teleSUR about the programme in 2017, saying, “Although Cuba went through economically difficult times, our state continued to offer specialized treatment to minors, fulfilling a commitment of solidarity.”

June 10, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

Nicaragua Approves Amnesty Law To Bring Peace

teleSUR | June 9, 2019

In an effort lead by the FSLN, to bring peace and reconciliation, Nicaragua’s National Assembly has approved a law that will provide amnesty for those involved with right-wing violence during the distabilization process last year.

The new law will grant a one off amnesty to those who committed crimes during the right-wing protests last year, it will apply equally to those with or without active cases against them. However, article 3 of the constitution states that the amnesty is conditional and will be withdrawn if the perpetrators re-offend.

The law was proposed by 70 lawmakers of the ruling Sandinista party, the FSLN, who hold a majority in the Assembly, Edwin Castro, a FSLN lawmaker said; “this is a sovereign act that seeks peace, reconciliation, that seeks forgiveness with justice, with reparation, and with no repetition.”

Castro continued; “it hurts us to have to grant amnesty to confessed assassins of policemen, to torturers of the San Jose school in Jinotepe, who murdered Bismarck Martinez, but we are aware that we have to put our country first.”

The right-wing opposition in Nicaragua, who have allegedly received funds and training from the U.S. government’s NED, have been responsible for a number of criminal offenses in their bid to overthrow the elected government led by Daniel Ortega. Most recently, the remains were found of an elderly Sandinista supporter, Bismarck Martinez, who was kidnapped and tortured to death in Jinotepe by opposition activists. Another high profile offense was in 2018 when demonstrators set fire to the leftist “Radio Ya” station whilst journalists were still inside.

However, the government hopes that they can bring peace to the country by granting amnesty on the condition of not re-offending. This is part of wider efforts to bring the country together, other initiatives have included the establishment of peace talks between government and the opposition, which the government has remained committed to despite the failure of the opposition coalition, Alianza Civica, to condemn US economic sanctions, which was an early request from the FSLN.

June 9, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Canada Closes Venezuela Embassy as Guaido Promises Maduro Out by End of Year

By Paul Dobson | Venezuelanalysis | June 3, 2019 

Merida – Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has announced the “temporary” closure of her country’s embassy and the withdrawal of diplomatic personnel from Venezuela, claiming Ottawa had “no choice.”

In a Sunday press statement, Freeland accused the Maduro government of having “taken steps to limit the ability of foreign embassies to function” by failing to renew visas for diplomatic personnel. No evidence was provided to support the claim. She additionally claimed that that the Caribbean country is “slid[ing] deeper into dictatorship.”

The measure is to take immediate effect, with diplomatic visas reportedly due to expire at the end of June. All embassy and consular services are to be transferred to the Colombian capital of Bogota over 1,500 kilometers away.

Freeland also indicated that Ottawa will “evaluate” the status of Venezuelan diplomats in Canada “appointed by Maduro.”

Canada was the second country to recognise Juan Guaido after he swore himself in as “interim president” on January 23. It has since continued to back Guaido’s attempts to oust the Maduro government and has begun to forge diplomatic relations with the opposition leader’s representative in Canada, Orlando Viera Blanco, who has held a number of meetings with government representatives and members of parliament in Ottawa and Vancouver. The Trudeau administration has also followed US President Donald Trump in imposing several rounds of sanctions on Venezuela.

It is unknown how many Canadian citizens in Venezuela this measure will affect, but recent opposition-led estimates suggest that there are up to 50,000 Venezuelans living in Canada.

The latest diplomatic spat follows a similar confrontation in March, when the United States and Venezuela both withdrew their diplomatic teams, severed diplomatic relations and vacated the embassies. The United States had likewise recognised Guaido envoy Carlos Vecchio as Venezuela’s representative in the country.

The diplomatic standoff came to a head in Washington when US government forces violated the Vienna Convention and breached the Venezuelan embassy building to evict a group of US citizens safeguarding it with the backing of the Caracas government, leading to a number of arrests.

Brazil snubs Guaido representative

The diplomatic scuffle comes as Guaido’s team faces a setback in its efforts to replace Maduro’s diplomatic representation in Brazil.

The far-right Bolsonaro government, which similarly recognises Guaido as the legitimate Venezuelan president, had previously invited his envoy, Maria Teresa Belandria, to present her credentials at the Presidential Palace last Tuesday, only to later inform that the invitation had been withdrawn.

“I was uninvited,” she told Reuters, downplaying the political impact of the news.

Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of foreign relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, suggests, however, that the move may suggest Brasilia is losing faith in Guaido’s efforts to oust Maduro.

“[The government] realize[s] Brazil has to deal with the reality that Maduro is not going anywhere right now,” he explained.

Brazilian diplomat Paulo Roberto de Almeida also shares this idea, claiming that the snub shows increasing friction between Brazil’s civilian and military leaders.

“Recognition of Guaido’s envoy was never agreed to by the military,” he said.

Guaido promises Maduro will go this year

Guaido, for his part, told supporters in Venezuela that he will achieve his objective to seize power by the end of the year.

Speaking at a small gathering in Barinas State, Guaido proclaimed, “We are in times of definitions, of advances, of actions (…) This didn’t start in 2019, but I’ll tell you something, it will end in 2019.”

Guaido has previously promised supporters that he would force humanitarian “aid” into Venezuela, convince the armed forces to join his cause, and call new presidential elections. He also led a failed putsch in April.

Taking to Twitter Monday, Guaido further reiterated his pledge to do “what is needed” to oust Maduro, echoing Washington’s statements that “all options are on the table” regarding Venezuela.

Guaido has openly called for a foreign intervention into Venezuela, and is currently calling for Venezuela’s reincorporation into the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), a mutual defense pact involving sixteen countries in the hemisphere which has been cited as a possible legal justification for US military action.

Edited by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.

June 4, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Trudeau government squeezes Cuba

By Yves Engler | June 3, 2019

Ottawa faces a dilemma. How far are Trudeau’s Liberals prepared to go in squeezing Cuba? Can Canadian corporations with interests on the island restrain the most pro-US, anti-socialist, elements of the ruling class?

Recently, the Canadian Embassy in Havana closed its Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship section. Now most Cubans wanting to visit Canada or get work/study permits will have to travel to a Canadian embassy in another country to submit their documents. In some cases Cubans will have to travel to another country at least twice to submit information to enter Canada. The draconian measure has already undercut cultural exchange and family visits, as described in a Toronto Star op-ed titled “Canada closes a door on Cuban culture”.

It’s rare for an embassy to simply eliminate visa processing, but what’s prompted this measure is the stuff of science fiction. Canada’s embassy staff was cut in half in January after diplomats became ill following a mysterious ailment that felled US diplomats sent to Cuba after Donald Trump’s election. Four months after the first US diplomats (apparently) became ill US ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis met his Canadian, British and French counterparts to ask if any of their staff were sick. According to a recent New York Times Magazine story, “none knew of any similar experiences afflicting their officials in Cuba. But after the Canadian ambassador notified his staff, 27 officials and family members there asked to be tested. Twelve were found to be suffering from a variety of symptoms, similar to those experienced by the Americans.”

With theories ranging from “mass hysteria” to the sounds of “Indies short-tailed crickets” to an “outbreak of functional disorders”, the medical questions remain largely unresolved. The politics of the affair are far clearer. In response, the Trump Administration withdrew most of its embassy staff in Havana and expelled Cuban diplomats from Washington. They’ve rolled back measures the Obama Administration instituted to re-engage with Cuba and recently implemented an extreme measure even the George W. Bush administration shied away from.

Ottawa has followed along partly because it’s committed to overthrowing Venezuela’s government and an important talking point of the anti-Nicolás Maduro coalition is that Havana is propping him up. On May 3 Justin Trudeau called Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel to pressure him to join Ottawa’s effort to oust President Maduro. The release noted, “the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Lima Group [of countries hostile to Maduro], underscored the desire to see free and fair elections and the constitution upheld in Venezuela.” Four days later Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland added to the diplomatic pressure on Havana. She told reporters, “Cuba needs to not be part of the problem in Venezuela, but become part of the solution.” A week later Freeland visited Cuba to discuss Venezuela.

On Tuesday Freeland talked with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Venezuela and Cuba. Afterwards the State Department tweeted, “Secretary Pompeo spoke with Canada’s Foreign Minister Freeland to discuss ongoing efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela. The Secretary and Foreign Minister agreed to continue working together to press the Cuban regime to provide for a democratic and prosperous future for the people of Cuba.”

Ottawa supports putting pressure on Cuba in the hopes of further isolating/demonizing the Maduro government. But, the Trudeau government is simultaneously uncomfortable with how the US campaign against Cuba threatens the interests of some Canadian-owned businesses.

The other subject atop the agenda when Freeland traveled to Havana was Washington’s decision to allow lawsuits for property confiscated after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The Trump Administration recently activated a section of the Helms-Burton Act that permits Cubans and US citizens to sue foreign companies doing business in Cuba over property nationalized decades ago. The move could trigger billions of dollars in legal claims in US courts against Canadian and European businesses operating on the island.

Obviously, Canadian firms that extract Cuban minerals and deliver over a million vacationers to the Caribbean country each year don’t want to be sued in US courts. They want Ottawa’s backing, but the Trudeau government’s response to Washington’s move has been relatively muted. This speaks to Trudeau/Freeland’s commitment to overthrowing Venezuela’s government.

But, it also reflects the broader history of Canada-Cuba ties. Despite the hullabaloo around Ottawa’s seemingly cordial relations with Havana, the reality is more complicated than often presented. Similar to Venezuela today, Ottawa has previously aligned with US fear-mongering about the “Cuban menace” in Latin America and elsewhere. Even Prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who famously declared “viva Castro” during a trip to that country in 1976, denounced (highly altruistic) Cuban efforts to defend newly independent Angola from apartheid South Africa’s invasion. In response, Trudeau stated, “Canada disapproves with horror [of] participation of Cuban troops in Africa” and later terminated the Canadian International Development Agency’s small aid program in Cuba as a result.

After the 1959 Cuban revolution Ottawa never broke off diplomatic relations, even though most other countries in the hemisphere did. Three Nights in Havana explains part of why Ottawa maintained diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba: “Recently declassified State Department documents have revealed that, far from encouraging Canada to support the embargo, the United States secretly urged Diefenbaker to maintain normal relations because it was thought that Canada would be well positioned to gather intelligence on the island.” Washington was okay with Canada’s continued relations with the island. It simply wanted assurances, which were promptly given, that Canada wouldn’t take over the trade the US lost. For their part, Canadian business interests in the country, which were sizable, were generally less hostile to the revolution since they were mostly compensated when their operations were nationalized. Still, the more ideological elements of corporate Canada have always preferred the Cuban model didn’t exist.

If a Canadian company is sued in the US for operating in Cuba, Ottawa will face greater pressure to push back on Washington. If simultaneously the Venezuelan government remains, Ottawa’s ability to sustain its position against Cuba and Venezuela is likely to become even more difficult.

June 3, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , | 10 Comments

Guyana Could be the United States’ ‘Secret Weapon’ Against Venezuela – Scholar

Sputnik – June 1, 2019

In 2015, ExxonMobil discovered large oil fields just off the coast of Guyana. The reserves are estimated at 5.5 billion barrels. What does this hold in store for the Latin American country’s future? And what does Venezuela have to do with this?

Today, Guyana is the second poorest country in the region. According to some estimates, over the next few decades, it may become one of the world’s largest oil producers per capita. However, the availability of resources doesn’t always mean economic prosperity. The small Caribbean country could just become another piece of the puzzle that the United States is putting together in the region, said Tamara Lajtman, an expert at the Latin American Strategic Centre for Geopolitics (CELAG).

The entire history of relations between the United States and Latin American nations and the Caribbean region indicates that American transnational companies will be the ones who will benefit most from this discovery.

Guyana vs Venezuela

Lajtman shared the viewpoints of American experts who believe that Washington can replace Venezuelan oil from a “regional petroleum regime” with a much more stable supplier.

The expert said that at the end of last year, the American Security Project (ASP) organised a conference called “Guyana: Building Sustainable Security”. This organisation studies national security issues, among the members of its board, are former US Secretary of State John Kerry and former US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel. The participants in the said event included Vice Admiral Kevin Green, the former head of US Naval Forces Southern Command.As a result of the meeting, a document was drafted in which it was suggested that American politicians establish closer relations with Guyana in order to guarantee long-term security. The report also noted that since the crisis in Venezuela continues to escalate, a prosperous and developing Guyana could become an axis of stability in the Caribbean, Lajtman added.

According to the Stratfor agency [an American private intelligence and analysis company], some major oil producing companies in the United States have already begun working in Guyana. However, although the revenues of Guyana’s government will increase, a large part of the country won’t feel the economic benefits of oil production, since basically all the jobs in the sector have been designated for foreigners.

Military Presence

In early May, the US Navy Southern Command began New Horizons drilling in Guyana. According to the ASP (American Security Project), they are being held at just the right moment, “when Guyana is at the very centre of regional geopolitics”.

There are two reasons for this: the crisis in neighbouring Venezuela and the energy future of the Caribbean country. The situation is aggravated by a land dispute between Caracas and Georgetown over the Essequibo River. A zone of 160,000 km2 has been claimed by Venezuela for several centuries and the dispute is still unresolved. The United States sees a threat to drilling operations near the maritime border between the two countries.

Economic Aspect

For many decades, Guyana was considered a transit country for cocaine on its way from Colombia to the United States. In light of this, the government has implemented various anti-drug assistance programmes and enacted laws to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. With the growth of oil revenues more could be done about this.

In July 2018, Guyana joined China’s New Silk Road initiative, which includes investments in the construction of ports and roads. This would be the largest project ever carried out in the country. It is of key geostrategic importance since it will reduce the time of transportation for goods to northern Brazil (China’s main trading partner in the region) and make the route to the Panama Canal faster.The expert also noted that one of China’s largest national oil companies —  CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation), owns a 25% stake in ExxonMobil’s Stabroek block.

June 1, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

US boycotts arms control conference in protest at Venezuela

RT | May 28, 2019

The United States walked out of a UN disarmament forum in protest after Venezuela took up the conference’s rotating chairmanship, insisting it would not participate in a conference led by a “rogue state.”

“Whatever is discussed in there, whatever is decided, has absolutely no legitimacy because it is an illegitimate regime presiding over that body,” US ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) Robert Wood told reporters Tuesday after he stormed out of the meeting.

Wood ditched the forum as soon as his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Valero was granted the conference’s presidency – which rotates on a monthly basis – calling Valero’s acceptance speech a “diatribe of propaganda.”

The US and its allies in the Lima Group – comprised of more than a dozen Latin American allies including Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Chile – will boycott the CD for the next four weeks, until the new chair takes over, Wood said in a statement after the meeting.

The CD was established in 1984 to provide an international forum for arms control negotiations, and is held three times a year in Geneva. Sixty-five countries currently participate in the conference, including all states with a declared nuclear arsenal.

Washington, along with a handful of allies, supports Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself ‘interim president’ in January, with US recognition. The pro-Guaido bloc considers Venezuela’s elected president, Nicolas Maduro, to be illegitimate.

Wood demanded the CD chairmanship be granted to a member of the opposition.

“A representative of Juan Guaido, the interim president, should be in this body, should be sitting in that chair right now,” he said, adding that the Maduro government “is in essence dead, it just doesn’t want to lay down.”

US President Donald Trump has ramped up sanctions on Venezuela in recent months, crippling energy exports of a country already in dire straights and depriving the socialist government of much needed revenue. Washington considers sanctions part of another “maximum pressure campaign,” designed to coerce the Maduro government into compliance.

The US endorsed an opposition coup attempt in late April, but the uprising failed to inspire mass defections from the security forces and fizzled out within days, leaving Washington and the Guaido faction frustrated.

Ambassador Wood staged a walkout at last year’s CD as well, in that case over Syria’s elevation to the chair position. Wood worked off a similar script then, ditching the meeting as the Syrian ambassador began his address and complaining to reporters outside the chamber.

May 28, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

NYT Parrots US Propaganda on Hezbollah in Venezuela

Lucas Koerner and Ricardo Vaz | FAIR | May 24, 2019

Judith Miller and Michael Gordon published their now infamous New York Times article on September 8, 2002, falsely claiming on the basis of unnamed “American officials” that Iraq had acquired “aluminum tubes” with the aim of producing “an atomic bomb.”

Disgraced by her regurgitation of bogus claims, Miller left the Times in 2005, but her spirit is “alive and well” at the “paper of record.” Nicholas Casey follows faithfully in Miller’s footsteps, authoring dubious, anonymously sourced stories that coincidentally happen to further US regime-change objectives.

In a recent piece headlined “Secret Venezuela Files Warn About Maduro Confidant” (5/2/19), the Times’ Andes bureau chief claimed, on the basis of a leaked Venezuelan intelligence “dossier” that only his paper has seen, that Venezuela’s Industry minister and former Vice President Tareck El Aissami has active links to Hezbollah and drug trafficking. Casey wrote:

The dossier, provided to the New York Times by a former top Venezuelan intelligence official and confirmed independently by a second one, recounts testimony from informants accusing Mr. El Aissami and his father of recruiting Hezbollah members to help expand spying and drug trafficking networks in the region.

Unsurprisingly, the article has been endorsed by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, widely considered the point man for Trump’s Latin America policy, and whose zeal for regime change in Caracas appears unperturbed by elementary facts or international law. In a May 16 tweet, Rubio openly celebrated the fact that Venezuelan President Maduro “can’t access funds to rebuild electric grid,” thereby dispensing with any pretence that US sanctions are not directly aimed at the Venezuelan population.

The claims of an alleged relationship between Caracas and Hezbollah are, however, entirely unoriginal, having been repeated by corporate journalists and national security pundits without evidence for years.

The Hill: Meet Venezuela's new VP, fan of Iran and Hezbollah

Attempts to tie Venezuela to Hezbollah are not new (The Hill, 1/13/17)

“Hezbollah has a long and sordid history in Venezuela,” wrote Foreign Policy (2/2/19) earlier this year. Newsweek claimed in a 2017 article (12/8/17) that the Lebanese political party “was involved in cocaine shipments from Latin America to West Africa, as well as through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States,” while The Hill (1/13/17) labeled El Aissami a “fan of Iran and Hezbollah,” rehashing US allegations going back to 2008.

Likewise, corporate media claims about Hezbollah presence in Latin America have not been exclusive to Venezuela, with similar baseless rumors circulating about the Lebanese political party operating in the so-called Tri-Border Area of Paraguay (Extra!, 9–10/07).

Such stories just happen to buttress similar unsupported claims by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Hezbollah has “active cells” in Venezuela. Pompeo and other senior administration officials have repeatedly warned that a military option to remove the Maduro government is “on the table,” while self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó has requested “cooperation” from the Pentagon’s US Southern Command.

Casey himself has a long-established track record in dodgy Venezuela reporting, ranging from ludicrous stories about Cuban doctors (FAIR.org, 3/26/19) to false claims that private media like Globovision and El Universal “toe a government line.” (See FAIR.org, 5/20/19.)

Suspect sources

According to Casey’s “dossier,” Tareck El Aissami conspired with his father, Carlos Zaidan El Aissami,

in a plan to train Hezbollah members in Venezuela, “with the aim of expanding intelligence networks throughout Latin America and at the same time working in drug trafficking.”

We should begin by recognizing that Casey provides no proof of the authenticity of the alleged documents, and there is no reason why readers should take the assurances of unnamed “former top Venezuelan intelligence official[s]” at face value, especially those currently outside Venezuela collaborating with Washington. Similar sources were used to craft the fraudulent case for war in Iraq.

For instance, former Venezuelan intelligence czar Hugo “El Pollo” Carvajal, who broke with the Maduro government in 2017, is facing extradition to the US from Spain on cocaine-smuggling charges. In February, the ex-general gave an interview to Casey and the Times (2/21/19) in which he accused El Aissami of similar drug trafficking and Hezbollah links. Nowhere in the article did Casey think it relevant to mention that Carvajal plans to cooperate with US authorities, and thus has reasonable motive to fabricate information that improves the conditions of his plea bargain.

Taking refuge in anonymity, which the Times’ own handbook describes as a “last resort,” Casey leaves open the question of whether his source is Carvajal or another ex-official collaborating with the US who authored the dossier after leaving Venezuela, since no date is provided. From “Curveball” to North Korean defectors, corporate media have been consistently guilty of not examining sources’ motives so long as their “information” bolsters US foreign policy interests, even at the cost of tens or hundreds of thousands of lives.

Urea-gate?

Beyond the issue of sourcing, the alleged “dossier” has a troubling number of logical and factual inconsistencies. A case in point is the alleged testimony from an unnamed National Guard officer about a 2004 raid near the border with Brazil, which reportedly found more than 150 tons of urea in a warehouse. Casey disingenuously refers to urea as a “precursor substance used to make cocaine,” when in fact over 90 percent of industrially produced urea is used for fertilizer. Casey does concede later on that urea has non-cocaine purposes, but cannot conceive of the possibility of the substance being stored in a given location only to be used elsewhere.

The narrative function of the urea bust, which for some reason was not reported until a mysterious dossier was handed to the New York Times 15 years later, is to provide a link to Walid Makled, allegedly the owner of the urea warehouses, and a drug trafficking kingpin of sorts. Even assuming that the urea was meant for cocaine production, and not for more mundane agricultural purposes, a key fact is that Makled is currently serving a jail sentence in Venezuela for drug trafficking. This inconvenient reality, noted but not explained by the Times, on its face seriously undermines the idea that the current Industry minister, supposedly a close associate of Makled, is a powerful figure running a drug ring at the heart of the Venezuelan state.

That aside, it’s worth reviewing the “links” that Casey presents between Makled and El Aissami:

  • According to the “dossier,” El Aissami’s brother, Feraz, went into business with Makled.
  • The government gave “contracts” to a company “tied to Mr. Makled.” (Casey doesn’t think it relevant to explain the nature of these “ties” or “contracts”)
  • The US government offered a similarly vague level detail regarding El Aissami’s alleged “ties” to drug-running when it sanctioned the then-vice president in 2017, and even Casey admits that Washington “never revealed the evidence.”
  • “Two people familiar with [El Aissami’s] family” identified Haisam Alaisami as being El Aissami’s cousin, with Alaisami supposedly telling prosecutors he was a legal representative of Makled’s company. Beyond the anonymous genealogy, no concrete evidence is presented linking El Aissami to Alaisami, and hence to drugs.

In the absence of any externally verifiable evidence, what Casey presents as bombshell revelations of solid links to drug trafficking come out looking like 15-year-old gossip from unnamed sources.

Hezbollah hysteria

While Casey’s story provides very questionable allegations on links to drug trafficking and to Hezbollah, the connection between both is even more dubious.

The dossier concludes with informant testimony on the family’s ties to Hezbollah…. One of the sources of the information was the drug lord, Mr. Makled, who described Mr. El Aissami’s involvement in the scheme, according to the intelligence memo.

After establishing highly questionable ties between Tareck El Aissami and Walid Makled, largely based on their shared Syrian ancestry, Casey’s “dossier” then claims it is none other than Makled who “reveals” El Aissami’s supposed Hezbollah plot.

According to the alleged “documents,” El Aissami and his father were “involved in a plan to train Hezbollah members in Venezuela, ‘with the aim of expanding intelligence networks throughout Latin America and at the same time working in drug trafficking.’”

The unspoken assumption is that Hezbollah, which is a resistance movement and political party that forms part of the the elected Lebanese government, would be interested in conducting such illicit activities halfway around the world. Here Casey displays a geopolitical illiteracy on par with top Trump administration officials since, according to Middle East expert As’ad AbuKhalil, “there is no agenda or reason for Hezbollah to have an international presence.”

“For what purpose? Doesn’t the party have enough on its plate in Lebanon itself?” he asked, while acknowledging that the party does have sympathizers and supporters worldwide.

On the assertion that Hezbollah is engaged in drug trafficking, the University of California at Stanislaus professor is equally skeptical. “There has been no credible story in Arabic or in Western languages about Hezbollah’s involvement in drugs,” he stressed:

Hezbollah publicly and organizationally took a stance against drugs and issues fatwas against drugs not only among members but even in Shiite areas of Lebanon.  Hezbollah has even allowed Lebanese government agencies to penetrate deep into its strongholds [this year] to search for drug traffickers.

Casey and his editors cleverly shield themselves from any reputational damage over the ludicrous nature of these allegations with a rather significant proviso buried in the 14th paragraph of the article:

Whether Hezbollah ever set up its intelligence network or drug routes in Venezuela is not addressed in the dossier. But it does assert that Hezbollah militants established themselves in the country with Mr. El Aissami’s help.

In other words, what was originally presented as anonymously sourced claims about Hezbollah spying and drug trafficking in Venezuela turn out to be little more than speculation about intent to carry out such activities.

In giving credence to these allegations, the Times repeats the propaganda of top Trump administration officials and the Israeli government about the “global terrorist ambitions” of Iran/Hezbollah, which is in league with Venezuela’s socialist “narco-dictatorship.”

Having played a key propaganda role in recent US regime change operations in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, corporate media outlets like the New York Times are all too eager to beat the drums of war once again. With Washington actively threatening military force in both Iran and Venezuela, Nicholas Casey lends a hand in manufacturing public consent for not one but two illegal wars.

May 27, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Canada’s meddling in Venezuela: the case of Ben Rowswell

Ben Rowswell in Afghanistan with Auditor General Sheila Fraser
By Yves Engler · May 24, 2019

Why does the dominant media pay so much attention to Russian “meddling” in other countries, but little to Canada’s longstanding interference in the political affairs of nations thousands of kilometres from our borders?

The case of Ben Rowswell illustrates the double standard well.

The current Canadian International Council President has been the leading non-governmental advocate of Ottawa’s quest to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In dozens of interviews, op-eds, tweets and ongoing speaking tour the former ambassador has put a liberal gloss on four months of naked imperialism. But, Rowswell has been involved in efforts to oust Nicolas Maduro since 2014 despite repeatedly claiming the president’s violation of the constitution two years ago provoked Ottawa’s recent campaign.

A March 2014 Venezuela Analysis story suggested the early adopter of digital communications was dispatched to Caracas in the hopes of boosting opposition to a government weakened by an economic downturn, the death of its leader and violent protests. Titled “New Ambassador Modernizes Canada’s Hidden Agenda in Venezuela”, the story pointed out that Rowswell immediately set up a new embassy Twitter account, soon followed by another titled SeHablaDDHH (Let’s Talk Human Rights), to rally “the angry middle classes on Twitter.” The article noted that “Rowswell is the best man to encourage such a ‘democratic’ counterrevolution, given his pedigree” in digital and hotspot diplomacy. According to a March 2014 Embassy story titled “Canada dispatches digital diplomacy devotee to Caracas”, just before the Venezuela assignment “Ottawa’s top digital diplomat … helped to establish a communications platform for Iranians and Iranian emigrants to communicate with each other, and occasionally the Canadian government, beyond the reach of that country’s censors.” Previously, Rowswell was chargé d’affaires in Iraq after the 2003 US invasion and headed the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar during the war there. An international strategy advisor in the Privy Council Office during Stephen Harper and Jean Chrétien’s tenure, Rowswell created Global Affairs Canada’ Democracy Unit. Rowswell also worked with the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies, whose board of trustees includes Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the National Democratic Institute, which is part of the US National Endowment for Democracy that performs work the CIA previously did covertly.

Believing he was sent to conspire with the opposition, Caracas refused to confirm Rowswell’s appointment as ambassador. Former vice president and foreign minister José Vicente Rangel twice accused Rowswell of seeking to overthrow the government. On a July 2014 episode of his weekly television program José Vicente Hoy Rangel said, “the Embassy of Canada appears more and more involved in weird activities against the Venezuelan constitutional government.” The former Vice President claimed Canada’s diplomatic mission helped more than two dozen individuals of an “important intelligence organization” enter the country. Three months later Rangel accused Canadian officials of trying to destabilize the country by making unfounded claims Maduro supported drug trafficking and gave passports to terrorists.

In early 2015 then president of the National Assembly (not to be confused with Venezuela’s president) Diosdado Cabello accused the Canadian embassy of complicity in a failed coup. According to Cabello, an RCMP official attached to the embassy, Nancy Birbeck, visited an airport in Valencia with a member of the UK diplomatic corps to investigate its capabilities as part of the plot.

The president of the National Assembly also criticized Rowswell for presenting a human rights award to anti-government groups. Cabello said the ambassador “offered these distinctions to people of proven conspiratorial activity and who violate the fundamental rights to life of all Venezuelans.” At the embassy during the award ceremony were the lawyers and wife (Lilian Tintori) of Leopoldo López who endorsed the military’s 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez and was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust Maduro. Forty-three Venezuelans died, hundreds were hurt and a great deal of property was damaged during the “guarimbas” protests. Lopez was a key organizer of the recent plan to anoint Juan Guaidó interim president and Tintori met Donald Trump and other international officials, including the prime minister and many others in Ottawa, to build international support for the recent coup efforts.

Rowswell appears to have had significant contact with López and Guaidó’s Voluntad Popular party. He was photographed with Voluntad Popular’s leader in Yaracuy state, Gabriel Gallo, at the embassy’s 2017 human rights award ceremony. Gallo was a coordinator of NGO Foro Penal, which was runner-up for the embassy’s 2015 Human Rights Award. (The runner-up for the 2012 award, Tamara Adrián represents Voluntad Popular in the national assembly.)

The embassy’s “Human Rights Prize” is co-sponsored with the Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos. The director of that organization, Raúl Herrera, repeatedly denounced the Venezuelan government, saying, “the Venezuelan state systematically and repeatedly violates the Human Rights of Venezuelans.”

The “Human Rights Prize” is designed to amplify and bestow legitimacy on anti-government voices. The winner gets a “tour of several cities in Venezuela to share his or her experiences with other organizations promoting of human rights” and a trip to Canada to meet with “human rights authorities and organizations.” They generally present to Canadian Parliamentary Committees and garner media attention. The Venezuelan NGOs most quoted in the Canadian media in recent months criticizing the country’s human rights situation — Provea, Foro Penal, CODEVIDA, Observatorio Venezolano de la Conflictividad, Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones, etc. — have been formally recognized by the Canadian embassy.

During Rowswell’s tenure at the embassy Canada financed NGOs with the expressed objective of embarrassing the government internationally. According to the government’s response to a July 2017 Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade report on Venezuela, “CFLI [Canadian Funding to Local Initiatives] programming includes support for a local NGO documenting the risks to journalists and freedom of expression in Venezuela, in order to provide important statistical evidence to the national and international community on the worsening condition of basic freedoms in the country.” Another CFLI initiative funded during Rowswell’s tenure in Caracas “enabled Venezuelan citizens to anonymously register and denounce corruption abuses by government officials and police through a mobile phone application.”

Just after resigning as ambassador, Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

Can you imagine the hue and cry if a Venezuelan ambassador said something similar about Canada? In recent months there have been a number of parliamentary committee and intelligence reports about Russian interference in Canada based on far less. Last month Justin Trudeau claimed, “countries like Russia are behind a lot of the divisive campaigns … that have turned our politics even more divisive and more anger-filled than they have been in the past.” That statement is 100 times more relevant to Canada/Rowswell’s interference in Venezuela than Russia’s role here.

Recently Rowswell has been speaking across the country on “How Democracy Dies: Lessons from Venezuela and the U.S.”

I wonder if the talk includes any discussion of Canadian diplomats deployed to interfere in other country’s political affairs?

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel launches massive recruitment drive for social media warriors

MEMO | May 23, 2019

Israel has embarked on a massive recruitment drive to support the country’s online propaganda campaign one day after its companies were exposed for spreading disinformation and meddling in the elections of several African, Asian and Latin American countries.

The new initiative, which would see the government funding pro-Israel groups overseas, was unveiled by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, a government arm set up to combat the global rise of pro-Palestinian activism and Israel’s poor global image.

Launching the initiative, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who is also the public security minister, was quoted by the Times of Israel saying: “I’m proud to launch the first [government] program to support pro-Israel organizations and activists around the world.”

The plan will “encourage grassroots events and online initiatives against the BDS [boycott] movement and in support of Israel. I’m certain that this program will give a significant boost to all our supporters around the world who are battling this anti-Semitism and the boycott activists,” added Erdan.

Details of the tendering process for recruiting pro-Israeli activists was published in the Jewish Chronicle on 17 May a day after Israeli firms were kicked out by social media giant, Facebook, for spreading disinformation by posing as local journalists and influencers working in several African, Asian and Latin American countries.

“The Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy has announced the opening of submission process for application for grants in 2019 in relation to the topics listed below,” an ad in the Jewish Chronicle said.

The two areas in which the Israeli government was seeking new recruits were in “support for pro-Israeli activities abroad” and “support for pro-Israeli activities on the internet aimed at target audiences abroad.”

$1.6 million was being offered to successful candidates for creating online campaigns battling BDS and supporting pro-Israel events abroad.

Questions over the legality of such a programme were raised by the Times of Israel. “Many of the advocacy organizations that may be a good fit for support from the initiative are registered nonprofits in the United States and other Western nations, thus facing tight restrictions on receiving funds from foreign states.”

These concerns came to light in the UK last summer at the height of the anti-Semitism row within the Labour party when a pro-Israeli British charity, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), was found to be leading a fierce campaign against the party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The group was formed during “Operation Protective Edge” in the summer of 2014 when over 2,000 Palestinians, including 551 children were killed by Israeli missile attacks and shelling of civilian areas.

The group’s activities prompted the Charity Commission and police to launch an investigation into its behaviour.

In addition to Britain, advertisements for the program are said to have been placed in a number of other countries, including the United States, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina.

The initiative is likely to fuel concerns over Israel’s nefarious online activities which have caught the attention of Facebook. It will also raise speculations in the UK where “infowar techniques” are said to have been deployed by pro-Israel groups to fuel the anti-Semitism crises.

An investigation by The Electronic Intifada documented 10 fake Twitter profiles posing as Corbyn supporters posting virulent anti-Semitism. The accounts are said to share sufficient similarities to indicate that the same person – or group – is running them.

Read also:

Source of pro-Israel guerrilla warriors on social media exposed

May 23, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Partial History of US Ignominy in Latin America

By Steve Brown | The Duran | May 19, 2019

Argentina:

In 1976 the democratically elected president of Argentina Isabel Perón was ousted by a military coup d’état, beginning the military dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla, known as the National Reorganization Process. The coup resulted in 30k+ people dead or missing. Both the coup and subsequent authoritarian regime were actively endorsed and supported by the United States government, with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger frequently visiting Argentina during the Videla dictatorship.

El Salvador:

In El Salvador, repressive governments under control of US interests like the United Fruit Company were opposed by peasant and worker’s revolts for many years. When Farabundo Martí’s social revolts were violently crushed in 1979, efforts to take power democratically were thwarted by US intervention. The United States provided $1–2 million per day in military aid to the government of El Salvador during the Reagan and Carter regimes, with human rights abuses extant, and mainly attributed to the US-supported government. Civil war spread in El Salvador when US-endorsed far-right governments brutally oppressed/suppressed the population.

Mexico, Francisco I. Madero:

Madero was an advocate for social justice and democracy and Mexico’s youngest president. Madero sparked the Mexican revolution and challenged Mexican President Porfirio Díaz in 1910. Henry Lane Wilson the US ambassador to Mexico was deeply involved in ousting Madero. In February 1913, a military coup led by General Victoriano Huerta, the military commander of the city, and supported by the United States, resulted in Madero’s arrest and execution, along with his Vice-President, José María Pino Suárez, on 22 February 1913, following the series of events known as the Ten Tragic Days.

Nicaragua, Augusto Sandino:

Sandino was a Nicaraguan anti-colonialist leader, revolutionary, and leader of the rebellion to end the U.S. military occupation of Nicaragua, between 1927 and 1933.  Sandino disarmed his troops when US Marines withdrew from the country. Sandino was subsequently assassinated in 1934 by Anastasio Somoza, a Philadelphia-educated Nicaraguan run by the US and CIA, who seized power in a coup d’état two years later. Somoza maintained Falange/fascist rule in Nicaragua for many years, while amassing a huge personal fortune.

Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman:

An elected president of Guatemala, Guzman continued the social reform policies of his predecessor, which included an expanded right to vote, the ability of workers to organize, legitimizing political parties, and allowing public debate. He authored agrarian reform law under which uncultivated land-holdings were expropriated in return for compensation, and redistributed to poverty-stricken agricultural laborers. Approximately one-half million people benefited from the decree, the majority of them indigenous. Árbenz was ousted in 1954 by a coup d’état engineered by the US Department of State and Central Intelligence Agency. Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, a lackey of the US, replaced Arbenz as president. Árbenz went into exile via several countries; his daughter committed suicide and Guzman descended into alcoholism and insanity, eventually dying in Mexico. In October 2011, the Guatemalan government issued an apology for Árbenz’s overthrow.

Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic):

Rafael Trujillo was murdered In May 1961 with weapons supplied by the CIA. An investigation by the Office of Inspector General into the murder disclosed “quite extensive [CIA] Agency involvement with the plotters”. The CIA described its role in Dominican Republic regime change as a ‘success’ by transforming the Dominican Republic into a ‘Western-style democracy’ from a dictatorship. Eisenhower approved the coup when Castro deposed Batista in Cuba; Eisenhower believed that a communist regime might succeed in deposing Trujillo’s corrupt rule. Trujillo’s son hurried home to replace his murdered father, however US State didn’t like the son either. Young Trujillo was deposed and replaced by Joaquin Balaguer, who was replaced by the elected Juan Bosch. But Bosch was deemed too leftist and was deposed, again by U.S. clandestine intervention.

Chile, Salvador Allende:

The president of Chile was killed in a military coup engineered by the United States CIA, and carried out by Augusto Pinochet, on September 11, 1973. At the time, Henry Kissinger informed President Nixon that the US was not involved in the coup, however the CIA had been plotting against Allende ever since Allende came to power. Pinochet’s subsequent military rule was particularly brutal.

May 19, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment