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Latin America’s Anti-Intervention Bloc

In Latin America, opposition to military intervention in Syria reflects the wariness of a region long beset with U.S. interventions of its own

By W. Alex Sanchez | Foreign Policy In Focus | October 4, 2013

kirchner-correa-syria-intervention-latin-america

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner with Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa. (Presidencia de la República del Ecuador / Flickr)

As political attention has shifted from a potential U.S. military strike against Syria to a potential agreement on the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons arbitrated by Russia, all eyes are on the United States, the Middle East, and key actors in Europe.

But what has been the reaction in other parts of the world?

In Latin America at least, which holds two rotating seats on the UN Security Council, the reaction reflects the wariness of a region long beset with U.S. interventions of its own.

By and large, Latin American nations have opposed a military operation against Damascus. Regional blocs like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have passed resolutions calling for negotiations and a cessation of hostilities.

A leading opponent of the “military option” is Argentina, which along with Guatemala currently represents the region at the Security Council.

Throughout the years of conflict in Syria, Argentina has maintained an anti-intervention and anti-military approach regarding the international community’s involvement. Specifically, the Argentine government has pushed for dialogue between the warring parties within Syria. Hector Timerman, the Argentine minister of foreign affairs, notes that his country has proposed initiatives such as “a weapons embargo, humanitarian assistance, and an emergency meeting of the General Assembly” to address the ongoing violence.

Allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians did not sway Buenos Aires’ stance. In August, Timerman declared that “Argentina will never propose or support a foreign military intervention. The Argentine people will not be complicit in new deaths.” An August communiqué released by his ministry emphasized that “for the Republic of Argentina, the conditions are not present for a foreign military intervention since in spite of the time that has passed and the hundreds of thousands of victims, all the mechanisms established by international law have not been utilized.”

In early September, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during the G-20 summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She reportedly proposed to the UN leader that the chancellors of the 15 member states on the Security Council travel to Syria to see if a ceasefire could be achieved. At the time of this writing, no further development has been reported on this proposal.

Argentina’s opposition to military intervention in Syria fits with its previous history of keeping out of foreign conflicts. Ariel Gonzalez Levaggi, executive director of the Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales (CAEI), a foreign policy think tank in Buenos Aires, explained that “Argentina has a tradition of neutrality that was modified in the 1990s but has continued during the era of Kirchner rule. The Argentine government was against the invasion of Iraq, the attack against Libya, and now Syria.”

It is worth noting that some Syrian expatriates in Argentina occupy positions in governmental offices. The extent to which this Syrian community is influential enough to affect Argentine foreign policy is under debate. In early September around 50 members of the Syrian community in Buenos Aires protested against U.S. military intervention outside the Syrian embassy.

Some Argentine analysts have declared that escalating the war in Syria could have detrimental effects for Argentina, particularly in terms of energy. In a September 7 article published in the Argentine daily La Nación, experts explained that an expanded war could increase the price of oil, which would hurt the South American state’s already dire economy. One analyst explained how, since 2009, Argentine exports to the Arab world have grown by 20 percent, and prolonged warfare could hurt Arab countries’ demand for Argentine exports.

Argentina’s anti-intervention stance is in line with the positions of most other South American governments. At a UNASUR summit in Suriname on August 30, they signed a declaration condemning “external interventions” in Syria and calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. CARICOM’s Secretariat passed a similar resolution in early September, condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria but also urging the international community not to engage in military actions against the Assad regime.

Not all Latin American nations share this view, however. Guatemala, which holds the region’s other Security Council seat, has openly expressed its support for U.S. intervention in Syria. “We clearly and definitely support the decision that the U.S. president has taken so that chemical weapons, which cause mass deaths, will not be utilized again,” said President Otto Perez Molina on September 1. “That is Guatemala’s position.”

It is unsurprising that Guatemala is siding with Washington, as the country’s government has long had close relations with the United States. Guatemala receives significant amounts of aid from Washington ($110 million in 2011 and an estimated $95 million in 2012) and wants to see this kind of assistance continue. Agreeing with Washington’s foreign policy decisions is an easy way for the country’s right-wing government to maintain ties based on security initiatives (like Operación Martillo) and trade (CAFTA).

As a representative on the UNSC, therefore, Argentina has been accurately reflecting the stance against military intervention held by other South American and Caribbean governments. This fits with the country’s drive to forge a regional politics more independent of Washington. Guatemala’s stance, by contrast, harkens back to an earlier era when Washington’s dictates largely set the tone for the hemisphere.

Nevertheless, the final point that needs to be addressed is whether Argentina, or even a united South America and Caribbean, have had any relevance in the decision making process in Washington, Beijing, London, Paris, or Moscow regarding intervention in Syria. The short answer is no.

In Syria, Buenos Aires, Lima, Montevideo, and Kingston have had little influence (or none at all) in what the powers-that-be have decided. While the aversion of Western military strikes on Syria may be considered a relief, the way it was achieved exemplifies how little weight agencies like the United Nations—and particularly the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the Global South in general—continue to have in global security affairs.

W. Alejandro Sanchez is a Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Follow Alejandro via Twitter.

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO Intends to Explode Latin American Unity, Leaders Warn

Prensa Latina | June 3, 2013

Managua – The supposed initiative to incorporate Colombia in a military group like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an attack on Latin American and Caribbean unity, the governments of Nicaragua and Venezuela denounced today.

The statements by Presidents Daniel Ortega and Nicolas Maduro occurred on Sunday night during a massive event at Revolution Square in the capital, marking the visit of the South American leader.

“When the region seeks more unity through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), it is worrying that initiatives are presented to try to divide and weaken the process”, noted Ortega.

“It is inadmissible and I want to believe that this is not actually happening, I find it hard to believe that President Juan Manuel Santos expressed his decision to join NATO,” highlighted the leader.

“Strength does not lie in filling our countries with foreign military bases, or joining organizations whose focus is bombing, murdering and destroying; that is NATO’s tradition and it has a “keep-on-doing-it” policy, noted the president.

“CELAC has commitments and if anyone breaks them, there will always be other leaders that rectify mistakes and strengthen unity of our peoples”, underlined Ortega.

Maduro warned that Colombia’s attempt contradicts the doctrine and the international law on which regional unity is based. “They want to put dynamite in the heart of the achievements of the unity of Latin America, the Caribbean and South America”, the leader pointed out.


Bolivia Calls UNASUR Summit to Discuss Colombia’s Inclusion in NATO

Prensa Latina | June 3, 2013

La Paz – The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, described Colombia”s decision to join NATO as a threat to the region and called an extraordinary meeting of the Security Council of UNASUR.

During a ceremony in the southern city of Potosi, he considered that the decision of President Juan Manuel Santos to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a violation of the peace treaties signed by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and involves a dangerous possibility of military intervention to the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We can not allow NATO to intervene Latin America. Having NATO is a threat to our continent, to Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

The president asked the General Secretariat of UNASUR to complete the formalities for the Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to take a joint position of rejecting the Atlantic Pact arrival to the region through Colombia.

He believed that the presence of that organization of military powers seeks to destabilize and undermine leftist governments in Latin America, primarily Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia itself.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UNASUR to Create Military Force

By Laura Benitez | The Argentina Independent | May 9, 2013

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has announced that it will create a united defence body to promote democratic stability among its member countries.

Military delegates of Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador concluded a two day meeting yesterday in Quito, and agreed on creating the first South American Defence College (ESUDE) – a safety training centre with the aim of turning “the regions into a zone of peace”.

UNASUR has said that the idea behind ​​the project is to “eliminate outdated visions that have formed our military, with manuals and taxes from foreign powers.

“The goal is to start from scratch and consider a defence doctrine, without starting from the premise of opposing countries. It is important to define our role in the military, to assume responsibility for prevention, border control or emergency responses.

“We want to create a body of higher and postgraduate education to create a regional identity for civilians and our military, and to avoid interference of other countries or geopolitical zones,” a UNASUR spokesperson said.

The ESUDE proposal paper will be presented at the next meeting of the executive body for the South American Defence Council in Lima, Peru on the 16th and 17th May. Members who attended yesterday’s meeting in Quito will meet again during the second week of July in Buenos Aires, to define the Esude proposal.

One of the issues that is expected to be up for debate in the following meetings is the level of participation in the armed forces from each country.

The initiative already has the support of other member countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and Uruguay.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UNASUR Supports Venezuela’s Electoral System

Agencia Venezolana de Noticias | March 28, 2013

Chief of an electoral observation mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Carlos Alvarez said Wednesday that Venezuela possesses a reliable and transparent electoral system that inspires “plenty of confidence”.

Alvarez said Venezuela’s election infrastructure satisfies the requirements of a free and fair democracy, reported Prensa Latina.

On April 14, the UNASUR Electoral Council will again observe Venezuelan elections, after first doing so last October.

On 7 October 2012, Alvarez recalled, there was high participation rate in Venezuela’s presidential elections, even though voting is not compulsory. In that process, Hugo Chavez won with 55.07 per cent of the ballot; 8,191,132 votes.

Secretary of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), Alvarez added that on April 14 he will chair “a neutral mission, which allows UNASUR to gather information, knowledge and experience to have a stronger Electoral Council.”

“As UNASUR has an Electoral Council fully joined to regional tasks, the self-determination of its electoral processes will be… more guaranteed in the region,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez said that initiatives such as the council remove the need for supervision from the so-called developed nations. “Less and less countries request… international observation [from] the developed world.”

Latin America, he said, “has eliminated electoral fraud and the military coup d’etat, which used to be two tools for the [r]ight to prevent popular processes.”

Concerning the recent passing of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, he said that it “obviously left a very big emptiness, as in Venezuela as in Latin America, as in the rest of the world.”

Edited by Venezuelanalysis

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maduro Counters Campaign to Discredit Venezuelan Electoral System

By Ewan Robertson | Venezuelanalysis | March 25th 2013

Mérida – The presidential candidate of the Bolivarian Revolution, Nicolas Maduro, yesterday counter-attacked the opposition’s campaign to discredit Venezuela’s electoral system ahead of the 14 April presidential election.

In recent days the Venezuelan opposition and allied media have been criticising the 14 April presidential election as not being held in “fair and transparent” conditions, in an apparent effort to discredit the Venezuelan electoral system ahead of the vote.

This campaign appears to have intensified following comments made on Friday 15 March by the US’s Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who said that it would be “a little difficult” for “open, fair, and transparent elections” to be held on 14 April.

The conservative opposition has also attempted to reach out to international opinion, with Diego Arria, a former Venezuelan diplomat, writing in the Huffington Post that Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) is “no more than a tool of the regime [sic: Venezuelan government] to maintain its power”.

This discourse marks a break with the opposition’s more conciliatory approach toward Venezuela’s electoral system last year, when the opposition MUD coalition asked the CNE to organise the opposition’s own internal elections, calling the CNE “an excellent example of democratic institutions in the country”.

Polling evidence suggests that the opposition is likely to lose the April election, called after the death of President Hugo Chavez on 5 March. Four polls released by private Venezuelan firms in recent days have given Nicolas Maduro an advantage over the opposition’s candidate Henrique Capriles of between 14 and 22%.

Yesterday, Nicolas Maduro, who is currently interim president, hit back at the opposition’s campaign to discredit the CNE, claiming that it was a strategy being used in light of the opposition’s “clear defeat” on 14 April.

Maduro repeated the claims of other pro-government figures, stating that the “ultra-right wing” within the opposition is also considering the withdrawal of Capriles’ candidacy “as a way of fleeing and then crying out [to the international community]”.

He further argued that his rival Capriles is caught between the opposition’s radical wing, who want to withdraw from the race in order to discredit the election, and the “apparently democratic” wing that wants to maintain an electoral strategy.

The interim president said the Venezuelan electoral system, “guarantees the sovereign decision of the voters” and that the campaign to discredit the CNE “will not favour” the opposition.

Directly addressing the opposition, Maduro said, “If you stay [in the electoral race]; welcome. We’re headed towards a great triumph, that’s how I feel. If you go, not so welcome. We will [still] have a great victory and we’ll maintain the political stability of the country; of that you can be sure”.

The difference in opinion within the opposition toward the electoral system has also become apparent in recent comments made to media.

Hard-line opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado called the Venezuelan government a “neo-dictatorial regime” with a “democratic façade” in an interview yesterday with conservative paper El Universal. She further said the CNE was full of “tricks and irregularities”.

Meanwhile, the president of opposition party COPEI, Roberto Enríquez, said in an interview today that the opposition “recognises” the accuracy of the Venezuelan electoral system.

However, he added, “Elections in Venezuela, like in all democratic systems, are and have to be perfectible”.

UNASUR

Today the CNE signed an agreement with the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) confirming that UNASUR will send an electoral accompaniment mission to Venezuela ahead of the 14 April election.

The mission’s aim, according to the head of UNASUR’s electoral council, Francisco Távara Córdova, is “to witness the electoral process within the framework of solidarity, cooperation and respect for sovereignty, with the aim of generating shared knowledge and experience in electoral matters”.

The mission’s head will likely be Argentine Carlos Alvarez, who led the UNASUR electoral mission to Venezuela for the October 2012 presidential election.

Several Venezuelan electoral NGO’s have also been invited by the CNE to observe the upcoming election.

March 26, 2013 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opposition Intensifies Campaign against Venezuelan Electoral System

By Ewan Robertson | Venezuelanalysis | March 22, 2012

Mérida  – Police, pro-government and opposition students clashed on the streets of Caracas yesterday amid a growing opposition campaign against Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE).

The CNE is currently preparing for the April 14 presidential election, following the death of late President Hugo Chavez on  March 5. Polls suggest that the candidate representing the Bolivarian revolution, Nicolas Maduro, is set to win the election handily against opposition rival Henrique Capriles.

In recent days opposition media and politicians have stepped up a campaign of criticism against the CNE and its president, Tibisay Lucena, alleging that the upcoming election will not be held under “fair” conditions.

Yesterday, opposition students presented CNE officials with a list of demands for a “transparent and fair” election. These included scrapping Venezuela’s automated SAE voting system, eliminating the use of fingerprints in the voting process, and ending the involvement of civilian militias in the election-day public security operation.

According to pro-government newspaper Ciudad CCS, the students were prevented by national police from reaching the CNE’s headquarters due to their violent behaviour. Meanwhile, pro-government students held a counter-protest on the other side of police lines.

The paper reports that opposition students threw stones and flammable devices, before trying a “charge” through police lines, which was contained. According to Venezuelan media, four protestors were injured.

However, conflicting versions have emerged of the day, with private media reporting that the opposition students were “ambushed” by the pro-government demonstrators, with police then intervening to keep the two groups apart.

Also yesterday, representatives of Henrique Capriles’ campaign met with CNE officials to discuss thirteen proposals the opposition argues are necessary for a “fair” presidential election. Four of these proposals were accepted by the CNE.

Opposition spokesperson, Carlos Vecchio, said that the deal was “not enough” for the presidential election to be “fair and transparent”. The CNE has since agreed to further study the remaining proposals.

The criticisms of the CNE build upon previous declarations by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who accused the CNE’s president, Tibisay Lucena, of being favourable to the government.  “We’re not being herded anywhere,” he warned her in relation to CNE rules on presidential candidate registrations.

Further, on Tuesday conservative daily El Nacional published a stinging editorial on Lucena titled “Lady Liar”, in which the CNE head was branded as “foolish” and “absent minded,” while public attention was drawn to her state of health.

The editorial, written by far-right journalist Miguel Henrique Otero, also called the CNE “a team chosen and armed by power [the government] to ambush the voter at every bend in the road”.

The opposition’s discourse toward the CNE in recent weeks is similar to comments made last Friday  by the US’s Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who said that it would be “a little difficult” for “open, fair, and transparent elections” to be held on April 14.

The comments from the opposition, in particular El Nacional’s editorial, have generated anger and condemnation by pro-government and more moderate circles of opinion.

Top CNE official Vicente Diaz, considered to be favourable to the opposition, called El Nacional’s editorial “deplorable and inconsiderate”.

During the presidential election last October the CNE received glowing praise from international electoral observation groups.

Former US president Jimmy Carter, head of the Carter Centre NGO, commented at the time, “Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world”.

He also praised Venezuela’s automated SAE voting system, which utilises manual and electronic security checks to prevent fraudulent voting.

Meanwhile, the electoral observation mission from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) strongly endorsed Venezuela’s electoral system after the  October 7 vote.

“Venezuela has given an exemplary demonstration of what the functioning of democracy is and has taught a lesson to the world, and this is important,” said the mission’s head, Argentine Carlos Alvarez.

Regarding the opposition’s recent criticisms of the CNE and Venezuela’s electoral system, pro-government media expert Oscar Lloreda claimed that this formed part of the opposition’s strategy due to the unlikelihood of them winning on April 14.

Speaking on Latin American news channel Telesur, he argued, “They [the opposition] are calling on people to vote, but on the other hand they’re creating the conditions to not recognise the results in the case of a defeat”.

March 23, 2013 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuelan Electoral Authority Rejects U.S. Government Statements

Telesur –  March 19, 2013

Tibisay Lucena, the president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) rejected statements on Sunday by U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary for Latin America Roberta Jacobson, who said it would be “a little difficult” for Venezuela to have “clean and transparent elections,” next month on April 14.

“We roundly reject the naïve statements of Ms. Roberta Jacobson, for their meddling and disrespectful content,” Lucena said during a speech at the CNE headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela. “Jacobson said that the elections in Venezuela should be free and fair, causing some to believe that Venezuelan elections do not comply with the basic conditions, when our electoral system has been recognized nationally and internationally, both by voters at home and abroad by experts like former President Jimmy Carter, who said that ‘Venezuela has the best electoral system in the world,’” she said.

Lucena called the statements imprudent, “especially when they come from the United States, a country with a fragile and unsafe electoral system that increasingly excludes minorities and low-income sectors.”

She said that Venezuela has an electoral system that guarantees the sovereign decision of voters “and while we audit 54% of the electoral booths at the end of the day, in the United States the results aren’t audited. For a long time, citizens’ groups have been fighting to be allowed to audit three to five percent of the booths after voting.”

She said that Venezuela’s fully automated electoral system, “more than just a technological platform, is the instrument of the expression of all our people.”

Lucena also announced Sunday that tests have already been carried out on the electoral platform ahead of the April 14 presidential vote “and we can guarantee that the machinery is working properly.”

“We guarantee trustworthy, transparent results and the integrity of the Venezuelan electoral system,” she said.

During the testing of the voting equipment, Lucena added, electoral accompaniers were present from the Inter-American Union of Electoral Bodies (UNIORE) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

The CNE announced the date of the upcoming elections on March 9, and began accepting candidacies the next day. Campaigning will occur from April 2 to 11 at midnight.

March 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Chavez in the Crosshairs

By Laura Carlsen | Americas Program | March 12, 2013

You could almost hear the sigh of relief coming out of Washington at the news of Hugo Chavez’s death on March 5.

President Obama issued a brief statement that failed even to offer condolences, forcing a senior State Department official to patch over the evident callousness and breach of diplomacy by offering his personal condolences the following day.

Within moments of Chavez’s death, commercial media and mouthpieces for the U.S. government were verbally dancing on his grave and predicting the imminent demise of Chavismo—Chavez’s political legacy in Venezuela and abroad.

Time headlined its article “Death of a Demagogue.” The New York Times, which bent over backwards to minimize Chavez’s overwhelming victory in Venezuela’s October elections—and later to portray his battle with cancer as a cover-up, mimicking opposition claims—proclaimed that Chávez’s death“casts into doubt the future of his socialist revolution” and “alters the political balance not only in Venezuela, the fourth-largest supplier of foreign oil to the United States, but also in Latin America”—and this in a news article with no sourcing provided.

The Inter-American Dialogue, a U.S. think tank, concluded that “Chavez’s legacy, and the damage he left behind, will not be easily undone,” and predicted that the social gains and regional institutions Chavez built over his political lifetime will soon fall apart and things will soon return to normal—that is, with the United States back in the hemispheric driver’s seat.

Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) came right out and said “Hugo Chávez was a tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear. His death dents the alliance of anti-U.S. leftist leaders in South America. Good riddance to this dictator.”

So why did Washington hate this guy so much?

It never helped that the South American president had a penchant for insulting his adversaries personally. But one supposes that diplomacy rises above name-calling, even if the other guy did it first. The anti-Chavez current in Washington goes far deeper than personal enmity or even political differences.

What scared Washington most about Chavez was not his failures or idiosyncrasies. It was his success.

The official reasons given for demonizing Hugo Chavez don’t hold water. Chavez is accused of restraining freedom of the press in a nation known for its ferociously anti-Chavez private media. And while his Yankee critics called him a dictator, Chavez and his policies won election after election in exemplary electoral processes. You can disagree with his reform to permit unlimited terms in office, but this is the practice of many nations deemed democratic by the U.S. government and considered close allies. And the criticisms of Chavez’s social programs as “patronage” cannot ignore the millions of lives tangibly improved.

Before Chavez turned Venezuela away from the neoliberal model, the nation was a basket case. But throughout his tenure, social indicators that measure real human suffering showed steady improvement. Between 1998, when he was first elected, to 2013 when he died in office, people living in poverty dropped from 43 percent of the population to 27 percent. Extreme poverty dropped from 16.8 percent of the population to 7 percent. According to UNESCO, illiteracy—nearly 10 percent when Chavez took office—has been eliminated. Chavez also reduced childhood malnutrition, initiated pensions for the elderly, and launched education and health programs for the poor.

Venezuela’s human development ranking subsequently climbed significantly under Chavez, reaching the “high” human development category. The programs that Washington scorned as “government handouts” made people’s lives longer, healthier, and fuller in Venezuela.

Now that Chavez is dead, the U.S. press has revived the State Department’s practice of designating the “good left” and the “bad left” in Latin America. Chavez, of course, embodied the “bad left,” while Brazil’s Lula was unilaterally and unwillingly designated the “good left”.

Yet it was Lula da Silva who defended his friend and made the case for Chavez’s lasting positive legacy in the pages of the New York Times. He eulogized the leader and predicted, “The multilateral institutions Mr. Chávez helped create will also help ensure the consecration of South American unity.”

In fact, Chavez’s success in building institutions for alternative regional integration is one of the big reasons Washington hated him. The self-declared anti-capitalist led Venezuela as it joined with regional powerhouse Brazil and other southern cone countries to make a bid to crack the Monroe Doctrine. Along with Andean nations, they also sought, in varying degrees, to wrest control of significant natural resource wealth from transnational corporations to fund state redistribution programs for the poor.

In 2005, Chavez helped scuttle the U.S. goal of a Free Trade Area of the Americas. Later he spearheaded the formation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) in 2008. As a Latin American alternative to the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States, the 12-member Unasur proved its value by successfully mediating the Colombia-Ecuador conflict and the Bolivian separatist crisis in 2008. In 2010, Chavez again played a major role with the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, made up of hemispheric partners, excluding the United States and Canada.

The Bank of the South, also promoted by Chavez, seeks greater South-South monetary and financial autonomy. As Lula writes in his editorial on Chavez´s death, the Bank offers an alternative to the World Bank and IMF, which “have not been sufficiently responsive to the realities of today’s multipolar world”.

With stops and starts, these initiatives have moved regional integration forward outside the historic model of U.S. hegemony.

U.S. Moves and the Principle of Self-Determination

What happens next? Venezuela held an emotional funeral on March 8 and is planning for April elections. Most predict that Vice President Nicolas Maduro, selected by Chavez as his successor, will win easily. He has the advantage of Chavez’s blessing: a common slogan in Caracas these days is “Chavez, te juro, que voto por Maduro” (“Chavez, I swear, my vote is for Maduro”). Another sign that Chavismo lives on was the thousands of people at the funeral chanting “Chavez didn’t die; he multiplied.”

The State Department views dimly the prospect of an improved U.S.-Venezuela relationship under Maduro. On March 6, the State Department held a press call on which “Senior Official One” (a State Department practice for “background” when its officials apparently don’t want to be identified with their own public statements) said the department was optimistic following Chavez’ death, but that “yesterday’s first press conference, if you will, the first address, was not encouraging in that respect. It disappointed us.”

He referred to a 90-minute address by Maduro, stating that “the enemy” attacked Chavez’s health. The Venezuelan government also announced the expulsion of two U.S. military personnel in Venezuela, allegedly for having contacted members of the Venezuela military to stir up an insurrection.

The State Department noted that it plans “to move ahead in this relationship” by holding conversations in areas of common interest, citing “counternarcotics, counterterrorism, economic or commercial issues including energy.” It added, “We are going to continue to speak out when we believe there are issues of democratic principle that need to be talked about, that need to be highlighted.”

During the Chavez years, U.S. officials and the press went into contortions to avoid congruency with the basic principle that democracy is measured by elections. With Chavez having indisputably won some thirteen elections, the U.S. government applied new criteria to Venezuela along the lines of “democracy can be wrong.” Despite his broad-based support, many went so far as to dub Chavez a “dictator.”

The U.S. government’s commitment to democracy falters when Washington doesn’t like the results. It supported the failed coup against Chavez in 2002 and blocked the return of Honduras’s elected president after the 2009 coup there.

Now all eyes will be on Washington to see whether it upholds another value reiterated by President Obama—the right to self-determination. Will U.S. “democracy-promotion programs” under NEDIRI, and other regime-change schemes resist the temptation to meddle in Venezuela’s April 14 elections? Venezuela without Chavez will be a test of moral and diplomatic integrity for the second Obama administration and John Kerry’s State Department, and a challenge for Congress and the citizenry to monitor and prevent covert activities that interfere with the exercise of democracy.

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 Truths about Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution

Venezuelanalysis | March 9th 2013

President Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5, 2013 of cancer at age 58, marked forever the history of Venezuela and Latin America.

1. Never in the history of Latin America, has a political leader had such incontestable democratic legitimacy. Since coming to power in 1999, there were 16 elections in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez won 15, the last on October 7, 2012. He defeated his rivals with a margin of 10-20 percentage points.

2. All international bodies, from the European Union to the Organization of American States, to the Union of South American Nations and the Carter Center, were unanimous in recognizing the transparency of the vote counts.

3. James Carter, former U.S. President, declared that Venezuela’s electoral system was “the best in the world.”

4. Universal access to education introduced in 1998 had exceptional results. About 1.5 million Venezuelans learned to read and write thanks to the literacy campaign called Mission Robinson I.

5. In December 2005, UNESCO said that Venezuela had eradicated illiteracy.

6. The number of children attending school increased from 6 million in 1998 to 13 million in 2011 and the enrollment rate is now 93.2%.

7. Mission Robinson II was launched to bring the entire population up to secondary level. Thus, the rate of secondary school enrollment rose from 53.6% in 2000 to 73.3% in 2011.

8. Missions Ribas and Sucre allowed tens of thousands of young adults to undertake university studies. Thus, the number of tertiary students increased from 895,000 in 2000 to 2.3 million in 2011, assisted by the creation of new universities.

9. With regard to health, they created the National Public System to ensure free access to health care for all Venezuelans. Between 2005 and 2012, 7873 new medical centers were created in Venezuela.

10. The number of doctors increased from 20 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 80 per 100,000 in 2010, or an increase of 400%.

11. Mission Barrio Adentro I provided 534 million medical consultations. About 17 million people were attended, while in 1998 less than 3 million people had regular access to health. 1.7 million lives were saved, between 2003 and 2011.

12. The infant mortality rate fell from 19.1 per thousand in 1999 to 10 per thousand in 2012, a reduction of 49%.

13. Average life expectancy increased from 72.2 years in 1999 to 74.3 years in 2011.

14. Thanks to Operation Miracle, launched in 2004, 1.5 million Venezuelans who were victims of cataracts or other eye diseases, regained their sight.

15. From 1999 to 2011, the poverty rate decreased from 42.8% to 26.5% and the rate of extreme poverty fell from 16.6% in 1999 to 7% in 2011.

16. In the rankings of the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP), Venezuela jumped from 83 in 2000 (0.656) at position 73 in 2011 (0.735), and entered into the category Nations with ‘High HDI’.

17. The GINI coefficient, which allows calculation of inequality in a country, fell from 0.46 in 1999 to 0.39 in 2011.

18. According to the UNDP, Venezuela holds the lowest recorded Gini coefficient in Latin America, that is, Venezuela is the country in the region with the least inequality.

19. Child malnutrition was reduced by 40% since 1999.

20. In 1999, 82% of the population had access to safe drinking water. Now it is 95%.

21. Under President Chavez social expenditures increased by 60.6%.

22. Before 1999, only 387,000 elderly people received a pension. Now the figure is 2.1 million.

23. Since 1999, 700,000 homes have been built in Venezuela.

24. Since 1999, the government provided / returned more than one million hectares of land to Aboriginal people.

25. Land reform enabled tens of thousands of farmers to own their land. In total, Venezuela distributed more than 3 million hectares.

26. In 1999, Venezuela was producing 51% of food consumed. In 2012, production was 71%, while food consumption increased by 81% since 1999. If consumption of 2012 was similar to that of 1999, Venezuela produced 140% of the food it consumed.

27. Since 1999, the average calories consumed by Venezuelans increased by 50% thanks to the Food Mission that created a chain of 22,000 food stores (MERCAL, Houses Food, Red PDVAL), where products are subsidized up to 30%. Meat consumption increased by 75% since 1999.

28. Five million children now receive free meals through the School Feeding Programme. The figure was 250,000 in 1999.

29. The malnutrition rate fell from 21% in 1998 to less than 3% in 2012.

30. According to the FAO, Venezuela is the most advanced country in Latin America and the Caribbean in the erradication of hunger.

31. The nationalization of the oil company PDVSA in 2003 allowed Venezuela to regain its energy sovereignty.

32. The nationalization of the electrical and telecommunications sectors (CANTV and Electricidad de Caracas) allowed the end of private monopolies and guaranteed universal access to these services.

33. Since 1999, more than 50,000 cooperatives have been created in all sectors of the economy.

34. The unemployment rate fell from 15.2% in 1998 to 6.4% in 2012, with the creation of more than 4 million jobs.

35. The minimum wage increased from 100 bolivars/month ($ 16) in 1998 to 2047.52 bolivars ($ 330) in 2012, ie an increase of over 2,000%. This is the highest minimum wage in Latin America.

36. In 1999, 65% of the workforce earned the minimum wage. In 2012 only 21.1% of workers have only this level of pay.

37. Adults at a certain age who have never worked still get an income equivalent to 60% of the minimum wage.

38. Women without income and disabled people receive a pension equivalent to 80% of the minimum wage.

39. Working hours were reduced to 6 hours a day and 36 hours per week, without loss of pay.

40. Public debt fell from 45% of GDP in 1998 to 20% in 2011. Venezuela withdrew from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, after early repayment of all its debts.

41. In 2012, the growth rate was 5.5% in Venezuela, one of the highest in the world.

42. GDP per capita rose from $ 4,100 in 1999 to $ 10,810 in 2011.

43. According to the annual World Happiness 2012, Venezuela is the second happiest country in Latin America, behind Costa Rica, and the nineteenth worldwide, ahead of Germany and Spain.

44. Venezuela offers more direct support to the American continent than the United States. In 2007, Chávez spent more than 8,800 million dollars in grants, loans and energy aid as against 3,000 million from the Bush administration.

45. For the first time in its history, Venezuela has its own satellites (Bolivar and Miranda) and is now sovereign in the field of space technology. The entire country has internet and telecommunications coverage.

46. The creation of Petrocaribe in 2005 allows 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, or 90 million people, secure energy supply, by oil subsidies of between 40% to 60%.

47. Venezuela also provides assistance to disadvantaged communities in the United States by providing fuel at subsidized rates.

48. The creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in 2004 between Cuba and Venezuela laid the foundations of an inclusive alliance based on cooperation and reciprocity. It now comprises eight member countries which places the human being in the center of the social project, with the aim of combating poverty and social exclusion.

49. Hugo Chavez was at the heart of the creation in 2011 of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) which brings together for the first time the 33 nations of the region, emancipated from the tutelage of the United States and Canada.

50. Hugo Chavez played a key role in the peace process in Colombia. According to President Juan Manuel Santos, “if we go into a solid peace project, with clear and concrete progress, progress achieved ever before with the FARC, is also due to the dedication and commitment of Chavez and the government of Venezuela.”

Translation by Tim Anderson

March 10, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

Unasur Creates Electoral Council, Moves toward Greater Economic Cooperation

By Ewan Robertson – Venezuelanalysis – December 3rd 2012

Mérida – The Union of South American nations (Unasur) has created an electoral council, as well as moving forward on initiatives for greater economic integration.

At a meeting yesterday between Unasur nations in Quito, Ecuador, the regional bloc’s newest council was formally inaugurated. The twelve Unasur member countries now cooperate through nine different councils, including defence, energy and health.

According to the Unasur electoral council’s pro-tempore president, Francisco Tavara of Peru, the council’s aim will be “to strengthen the role of Unasur observation and electoral accompaniment missions in regional electoral processes”.

He added that, “The [electoral observation] missions will be a substantial contribution to the creation of a climate of confidence and transparency for the peoples of South America”.

The electoral council was created after the experience of Unasur’s electoral mission to the Venezuelan presidential elections earlier this year. The council’s first official mission will be to the Ecuadorian presidential election in February 2013, when Rafael Correa will seek re-election.

The Unasur electoral council will have a rotating presidency and representatives from a variety of electoral organisations, and can only send an observation mission in response to a member state’s request.

Lenin Housse, the international relations director of the Ecuadorian National Electoral Council, claimed that Unasur electoral observation missions would be different from those of the Organisation of American States (OAS) or the European Union (EU), because they will be “attached to South America’s reality,” with the principle “of establishing mechanisms of accompaniment, information, and joint assessment”.

The electoral council is expected to emit a joint declaration of principles today, which will include “inclusive democracy”, “transparency of electoral processes”, and “promoting citizen democracy”.

New Court, New Bank

The Unasur is also expected to establish South America’s own forum for the settlement of investment disputes, to replace the Washington-based International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

“The issue is very advanced, practically all [Unasur] countries agree with this. It was proposed to finish the analysis and begin operating next year,” said Ecuadorian foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, after a meeting between Unasur heads of state in Lima, Peru, last weekend.

Accusing bodies such as the ICSID of having a “colonialist vision and structure”, he said it would be “good for Unasur to have its own organisation for the resolution of disputes, not to have to go to the ICSID or others so that they tell us how to develop our own systems of arbitration”.

In January this year Venezuela announced its withdrawal from the ICSID, citing the court’s bias against Venezuela in its decisions, and the need “to protect the right of the Venezuelan people to decide the strategic orientation of the social and economic life of the nation”. Fellow leftist governments Bolivia and Ecuador left the ICSID in 2007 and 2009 respectively.

Patiño also confirmed that the Bank of the South, which will fund joint projects and promote regional development, should be functioning by April 2013.

“This is one of Latin America’s most important hopes. It’s about regional growth,” he said in an interview with Venezuelan current affairs program Dossier on Friday.

He reported that the bank currently has two-thirds of the necessary capital to begin activities, and that once launched, could support a range of projects, such as regional rail and food storage networks, joint production of generic pharmaceuticals and greater energy integration.

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Comments Off on Unasur Creates Electoral Council, Moves toward Greater Economic Cooperation

Unasur praise for the reliability and transparency of Venezuelan electoral system

MercoPress | October 8th 2012

The head of the Unasur delegation sent to Venezuela to follow Sunday’s electoral process, Carlos Alvarez said that the country had given the world a lesson of democracy because of its extraordinary electoral system and the attitude of the opposition, among other positive elements.

“Venezuela has given the world a very important lesson because there were important sectors of the international community that had doubts or questioned the functioning of Venezuelan democracy”, said Alvarez during a press conference in Caracas.

On Sunday’s election, President Hugo Chavez won for the fourth consecutive time with a 54.84% support of ballots while the opposition leader Henrique Capriles managed 44.55% according to the official results from the Electoral Council having counted 95% of votes cast.

Alvarez admitted that many members of the international community “had doubts about how elections in Venezuela were won” and described as “ill-intended those who cast doubts over the functioning of the electoral system”, which he went on to describe as “excellent”.

“It’s an extraordinary lesson for the international community” and the fact that turnout was 80% is “a moving event” for a country were voting is not compulsory, and even more “if one looks back into history and remembers that only 25% to 30% of those registered use to vote”, underlined the former Argentine Vice-president and currently secretary general of the Latinamerican Integration Agency, Aladi.

“We have witnessed a process of excellence; the National Electoral council displayed an extraordinary job, parties and candidates admitted the results and we have accumulated a great experience for the creation of a South American Electoral Council”, said the head of the Unasur observers’ mission. “We came across a highly reliable electoral system and of technological excellence”.

Alvarez said that Unasur complied with all of its objectives and was present all over the Venezuelan territory, with forty delegates from ten different countries.

“It was a double challenge, we were one of the few organizations that came to follow the electoral process and at the same time the first such a mission was sent by Unasur. We are a technical mission, committed to transparency and the efficiency of the electoral systems of our countries”, pointed out Alvarez.

“I’m leaving on Wednesday after I present my report and I will with the satisfaction of the job accomplished, and the happiness of having been witness of the Venezuelan democratic festivity and of an historic event”, concluded Alvarez.

October 9, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Venezuela/Argentina sign military cooperation in framework of Unasur Defence Council

Merco Press | July 14, 2012

Venezuelan Defence minister Henry Rangel Silva and his Argentine peer Arturo Puricelli signed on Friday a cooperation agreement to further advance in the integration of the two armed forces in the framework of the Unasur Defence Council.

“For us it is essential, we were really missing having this first agreement with Venezuela” said Puricelli on Friday following the ceremony at the Venezuelan port of La Guaira where the Argentine navy tall ship ARA Libertad on a world tour called specially for the occasion.

Puricelli said that the decision of the Argentine government is to continue advancing in defence cooperation with Venezuela and above all “with the training of our officers”.

“Precisely the presence of our ARA Libertad in Venezuela is part of that integration target which both our countries have established” in the framework of the Union of South American Nations.

The bilateral agreement also includes areas such as science, technology development and joint military exercises between the armed forces of the two countries.

Minister Rangel said that the “first purpose of Unasur and the Defence Council is to ensure peace in South America”, a mission which is already taking place with the visit of an “important vessel from the Argentina Navy”.

The Venezuelan minister also revealed that currently there are over 80 officers from the Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela training in Argentina.

Puricelli on Thursday was received at the Ministry of Defence in Caracas where he said that the current defence situation is entirely different: “we are living in a process of democracy in the whole of Latin America”.

But he also recalled the path of unity displayed by the liberators of South America from the Spanish colonial empire and “which is now reflected by our presidents when they created Unasur”.

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Comments Off on Venezuela/Argentina sign military cooperation in framework of Unasur Defence Council