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The End of Truth as We Know It – Or Knew It

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | February 21, 2019

The claim (or admission) by the BBC journalist Riam Dalati that the alleged sarin attack on Douma in April 2018, was staged was received by the Russian embassy in London with glee. “Remarkable that the British MSM chose to ignore it’, whoever it was at the embassy wrote. ‘No breaking news, no articles, nothing.’

Remarkable? Not at all, given the endless track record of the media in ignoring news that does not suit its agenda. The real interest lies in the fact that an insider has owned up. His personal opinion only, according to the BBC, which along with the rest of the media, had taken the initial version of the alleged attack for granted, thus setting Syria up for the cruise missile strike by the US, Britain, and France which soon followed.

‘I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged,’ Dalati wrote. Well, enough of the evidence has already been produced to prove that. As for the sarin, in July 2018, the OPCW (Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons) put out an interim report indicating that whatever was used at Douma was not sarin, but most probably chlorine.

The next question is ‘used by whom?’ Again the evidence suggests that the yellow gas cylinders shown in the media propaganda blitz were not dropped from an aircraft but planted at the scene by the ‘activists’ who faked the whole episode.

The OPCW now seems to be reaching the point where it will release its full report. What it might contain opens the doors to endless speculation. It has already indicated that it found traces of chlorine and it may point an accusing finger at ‘the regime’ but without having the proof that it did it.

So expect something ultimately inconclusive, i.e. there is evidence of chlorine having been used, the Syrian regime might have used it but we really can’t say, leaving enough room for western governments to argue that they were right to bomb on the basis of the facts that were known at the time and for E. Higgins and company to argue that their version has not been disproved.

With Idlib, the last redoubt of the takfiris in Syria, now the focal point of political maneuvers and possibly military action, any credibility given by the OPCW to the accusations against the Syrian military might encourage the takfiris to try again, most likely in Idlib province, the location of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaikhun in April, 2017. Without having the proof, the US launched a missile strike against a Syrian air base by way of retaliation.

Another faked attack would give the US and its law-breaking friends the pretext needed to disrupt or forestall any Syrian military campaign to drive the takfiris out of Idlib, which, far from having quietened down following the ‘de-escalation’ agreement reached by Turkey, Iran and Russia, is now an even hotter hothouse of takfiri activity.

The main group, Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) basically still Jabhat al Nusra/Al Qaida in Syria despite the name change, and its allies have routed their ‘moderate’ enemies and taken control of between 70 to 90 per cent of the province, including Idlib city, which lives under a harsh form of sharia law.

The HTS collective has tens of thousands of armed fighters on call. So does the rival Turkish-supported National Liberation Front. The entire province is awash with arms and armed groups refusing to adhere to any agreements drawn up in Astana or Sochi and saying they will fight to the last.

Along with the fighting men are the civilians, the families of the takfiris and the normal civilian population of the province who are helpless in the face of the violence and intimidation all around them and the scheming of powerful actors far from the scene.

At present nothing is clear. The US is apparently planning to withdraw troops from northern Syria but has not withdrawn them. Erdogan and Putin have met to discuss what the US is up to, as well as the situation in Idlib and Turkey’s desire to set up a buffer zone running 460 kms and 32 kms deep along the Syrian border (on the Syrian side).  Russia and Iran have so far refused to support the idea.

The buffer zone would be set up against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), aligned with Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and ‘terrorists’ in the view of the Turkish government but not in the eyes of the US, which, of course, has been using the Kurds in pursuit of its own strategic interests

Turkey has recently been committing itself to the territorial and political integrity of Syria, raising an obvious question: if this is the case, why did you make such strenuous attempts to destroy both over the past eight years?

The US is on the brink of defeat in Syria. Not just defeat but defeat by Russia, which is why Trump’s plan to withdraw is facing furious criticism at home by neocons who want more war, somewhere, anywhere, and ‘liberals’ who hate Trump and will buy into almost anything that brings him down.  In their views on Syria, Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and now Venezuela the two groups are indistinguishable, even if they also affect to hate each other.

Idlib will be liberated sooner or later. If the takfiris are insisting that they will fight to the last drop of their blood that is because they have nowhere else to go. The foreigners among them can’t go back to their own countries. Turkey does not want them on its side of the border although, as the Syrian Kurds claim, it might allow them to move into Afrin, occupied by the Turkish army in March 2018.  As fighters or police, they would have their uses. What happens to them when Afrin is finally returned to the hands of the Syrian state is an issue for the future.

But back to Douma. Was the district being bombed at the time a chemical weapons attack was alleged? Of course, it was. It had been taken over by one of the most murderous takfiri groups in Syria, Jaysh al Islam, and the army was shelling Douma to drive them out. What government and what army would not be constitutionally bound to do the same?

Douma was not under siege by the Syrian army, as the corporate media kept telling the world.  It was being held hostage by a murderous armed group, for which the presence of civilians, deterring the army from a full-on ground military assault, was a prized asset. Civilians died in the shelling but the most likely cause of the breathing difficulties suffered by those given genuine medical treatment was smoke and dust inhalation. Jaysh al Islam and the White Helmets converted their distress into a chemical weapons attack and then ran around a clinic spraying water over everyone to prove the point.

The arguments will continue over the provenance of the yellow cylinders that gave Eliot Higgins something else to do. These were normal industrial gas cylinders that had been filled with chlorine which could only be released if someone opened the valve with a monkey wrench or if the valve had opened on impact.  That a Syrian military helicopter would drop these cylinders in the hope that somehow the valve would open or break on landing is surely nonsensical.

The valves were intact so how the chlorine could have got out of the cylinders without someone manually opening them remains unexplained by those making the claim that the cylinders were dropped from a helicopter. There was no evidence of anyone in the house where the cylinders were found having been affected and as someone has observed, even the chickens running around nearby were unharmed. In short, the whole scenario screams one word: fake.

One thing not to be forgotten is that when the takfiris finally were pushed out of Douma, a makeshift chemical weapons factory, complete with how-to-make instructions and receipts for the machinery and chemical compounds received, was found underground in an elaborate network of tunnels.

Neither the factory nor the tunnels, nor the brutal nature of the takfiris holding Douma, or their previous crimes, including their previous alleged use of chemical weapons were items for show or discussion in the media.

Neither was the story one of armed fanatics taking over a district close to a national capital and holding its citizens hostage. Neither was the story one of foreign governments and the armed groups they were supporting besieging an entire country. The facts were reversed so that it was the Syrian government and army laying siege to its own people and killing them with chemical weapons.

Over the past eight years, the propaganda onslaught by these governments and the corporate media has been total. No authoritarian state or dictatorship could have done a better hatchet job on public opinion but these arch manipulators of public opinion are self-described liberals.

Therein lies their advantage. The citizens of an authoritarian state don’t believe their government or their media in the first place but western media consumers still cling to the illusion of a free press guarding their interests and are thus sucked in all the time. ‘Free for whom?’  and ‘Whose interests is the media really guarding?’ are questions that are rarely asked except by seekers after truth pushed to the margins of public debate.

The worst excesses of the takfiris – Islamic State beheadings, the throwing of people off the roofs of high buildings, the drowning of caged captives in a swimming pool and the burning of a Syrian soldier – had to be reported because they were indescribably inhuman and could not be ignored but the mundane terrorism of groups just a cut below the Islamic State in barbarity was either underplayed, ignored or blamed where possible on the Syrian military.

In the eyes of the media these groups were not terrorists but rather the ‘opposition’ or ‘rebels’ standing up to the ‘regime,’ its barrel bombs and its chemical weapons attacks, all of them, the best evidence suggests, launched by the takfiris with the intent of incriminating the Syrian government and bringing on a US-led air war.

Roughly about the same time as Riam Dalati was uttering his truth on his tweet, a Berlin-based outfit calling itself the ‘Global Public Policy Institute’ was putting out a report on chemical weapon use in Syria entitled ‘Nowhere to Hide: The Logic of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria.’

This ‘institute’ counted the number of such attacks in Syria, 336, of which number it attributed 98 percent to the ‘Assad regime’ and the rest to the Islamic State. The fact that it uses the word ‘regime’ to describe the legitimate government of Syria is the first tell-tale sign of where this report is going to lead.

The next is the sources of information, ‘our friends and partners,’ as the GPPI calls them: the Syrian Archive, the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) Mayday Rescue, the White Helmets, the Syrian Network of Human Rights, the VDC (Violations Documentation Centre) and Human Rights Watch, every single one of them fully engaged in propaganda attacks on the Syrian government if not actually embedded (like the White Helmets) with the takfiri groups.

The 47 pages of this report are beautifully laid out. The graphics and maps are meticulously done. As a school project, the GPPI would get 10 marks for presentation but nothing for content.  On the basis of ‘evidence’ coming from such tainted sources, what makes the authors think that any reasonably well-informed person could believe their claims, and how is it that well-established German charitable foundations can hand over money for the production of such garbage?

The Syrian crisis has spawned an industry of parasites, feeding off its agony. There is no shortage of money for anyone smart enough to harvest it by giving the media what it wants and setting themselves up as a conduit for government propaganda. There is a market for lies and deceit and the laws of supply and demand being what they are, the demand is being met.

There is a truth here about the media that needs to be said. It was never truly independent, never the watchdog of the people’s interests in all seasons but it was arguably a lot better than what it has become. The explanation for this state of affairs lies partly in the death of the independent proprietor and the monopoly corporatization of the media. The proprietor’s or the board’s interest is now immeasurably greater than those of the independent owner who used to wander around the editorial floor once a week to make sure everything was ok and the staff was happy.

The corporation is global, not local, with interests that the small independent owner would hardly be able to comprehend because the leading newspaper or the television station is usually just one small part, and mostly a lesser part, of an empire that spans communications in all its branches. Conflict of interest, affecting news presentation, is inbuilt.

If the newspaper has value, it lies in its use as a weapon against or for a government depending on what the government is willing to give in return. Rupert Murdoch is the past master in using the media this way.  Even if they lose money, he will keep his flagship papers going.

In the past 20 years, we have seen an abrogation of journalistic integrity for which it is hard to find a parallel in modern history. The Vietnam war was launched and maintained on the basis of lies but it did not take long for journalists to emerge who challenged the official narrative and exposed it for what it was. Compare this with Iraq and the way the media ran with the official narrative on ‘weapons of mass destruction’ from the beginning until the very one, when not one could be found.

Seymour Hersh was the leading example of journalistic integrity in Vietnam (which is not to minimize the reporting of others in the small group exposing the official lies) and, amazingly enough, is still the leading example half a century later.

For his audacity in challenging the accusation that the Syrian government was responsible for the apparent chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus in August 2013, and showing that it was the so-called rebels, supported by outside governments, who were most probably responsible for this atrocity, Hersh was pushed to the margins of mainstream journalism in his own country and eventually out of it altogether.

*(Seymour Hersh)

Syria is only part of a broad mosaic of ill intent, however.  It was attacked in the first place because it was a strategic ally of Iran. Russia’s twin successes, in deflecting US penetration of Ukraine and making the Americans look stupid in Syria, was followed by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. There was no proof then and there is no proof now but the same empty accusations are being repeated by the same columnists, anchors and talk show hosts all the time.

We are now facing a multi-pronged assault on truth in which governments and the corporate media are partners. On both sides of the Atlantic, they have lined up against the renewed primary enemy, Russia, wherever it is and whatever it does.

Russia lost the Democrats the US elections. Russia stole Crimea from Ukraine.

Russia saved the Syrian dictator from defeat. Russia is supporting the dictator Maduro. Russia trades with Iran. Russia does not regard Hizbullah and Hamas as terrorists as we do. Russia does not give open-ended support to Israel but rather regards it as a primary fomenter of disorder in the Middle East.

Russia poisoned the Skripals, of course. Skripal senior was a former double agent, double-crossing Russia while working for British intelligence. There is no obvious reason why Russia would want a washed-out former spy dead but of course, it had to be Russia that daubed the door handle of his house with Novichok. There was no proof, but who else could it be but Russia, and if you say ‘British intelligence,’ setting up a new round of Russia-bashing, then wash your mouth out with soap.

Mysterious Russian figures turn up in Salisbury. The British government says they are agents, stopping off at the Skripals’ house to put a few drops of Novichok on the door handle before sauntering off down the main street to look into the window of a shop selling collectibles and rare stamps.

They seemed to be enjoying themselves. They seemed in no hurry at all to get away from the scene of the crime and take the first plane back to Moscow, but isn’t that exactly the way well-trained Russian agents would behave?

Somewhere along the way they dropped what was left of their Novichok into a rubbish bin, cunningly concealed in a hi-tech perfume bottle, Nina Ricci, ‘Premier Jour.’ Enough still left to kill 4000 people, said the newspapers, but failing to kill the Skripals and killing only poor Dawn Burgess, who pulled it out of the bin and apparently sprayed or dabbed herself with some.

We don’t really know who these Russians were and what they were doing in Salisbury but we need proof, not accusations and suppositions, and the British government does not have it.  We can reach conclusions on the basis of what we know or think we know but the lies told by the British government over the attack on Iraq in 2003, plus the death/murder of the UN weapons inspector David Kelly five months after the war was launched, are sufficient reasons not to believe or trust anything this government says.

This new cold war is drifting steadily towards the brink of a hot one. The US is confronting Russia through missile bases, economic sanctions and interference in the politics of states around Russia’s borders.

Trump has just announced the withdrawal of the US from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, accusing Russia of breaching it and saying ‘we will move forward with developing our own military response options.’

In fact, Russia had already accused the US of violating the treaty.  In May, 2018, the US/NATO opened a missile base in Romania where, Russia claimed, the US had simply transferred the launchpad for the Aegis integrated naval weapons system, which utilizes Tomahawk cruise and intermediate range missile banned by the INF treaty, from sea to land.

These missiles have a range of 300-3400 miles and their apparent positioning in Romania was naturally regarded as a direct threat by Russia.

The withdrawal of the US from the INF and Trump’s threat that the US will ‘move forward’ by developing its own options raises the apprehension in Russia that the US will station other cruise and intermediate range missiles in Europe once it finds willing partners.

In his state of the union address, Putin said that such missiles could reach Russia in 10 to 12 minutes and warned of a symmetrical response, if the US deployed them in Europe, directed not just at the US but at the states hosting its missiles.

To those contemplating such measures, he said: ‘Let them count the speed and range of our missiles. That is all I ask.’

It is not just Russia that the US is threatening, however, but China. If China held naval exercises off the US or British coasts the world would quickly be facing another 1962 Cuba crisis, only much more dangerous, but the US and Britain give themselves the right to hold such exercises off the Chinese coast in the South China Sea.

As for Venezuela, the US has reverted to the crude gunboat imperialism of the late 19th century (not that gunboat imperialism ever went away). ‘Do what we want or else’ is the message sent to Maduro and the Venezuelan people. What the US wants is the resurrection of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, and the complete domination of Latin America, including open access to its resources.

In essence, the imperialism of the 21st century is the same as the imperialism of the 20th or the 19th centuries. In the 1940s and 1950s the people of Asia, the Middle East and Africa struggled to lift the yoke of occupation, economic domination and the plundering of their natural resources off their necks. In the third millennium, they are still struggling, especially in the Middle East and Latin America.

The members of the ‘western’ collective fight among themselves but always fall into line when the alpha dog barks at them. Considerations of right and wrong, law, ethics, morality and justice are irrelevant. The alpha dog has barked and the pack must obey. Riam Dalati’s exposure of media deceit is interesting but still a mere detail on a very large and dirty canvas as the ‘west’, its governments and its media, tries to maintain control of a world fast slipping from its hands.

Jeremy Salt has taught at the University of Melbourne, Bosporus University (Istanbul) and Bilkent University (Ankara), specialising in the modern history of the Middle East.  His most recent book is “The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.)

February 21, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Madero to Maduro: Lessons of the Mexican Revolution for 21st Century Venezuela

By Martin SIEFF | Strategic Culture Foundation | 21.02.2019

Just over 100 years ago, Mexico had a popular, much beloved democratically elected President determined to reduce foreign influence and obscene profits flowing out of the country and raise the standard of living for his people. The US financial interests on Wall Street orchestrated a military coup and made sure he was brutally murdered.

The president obviously was not Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, who has been set up to receive the same treatment this year, but his name was remarkably close – Madero not Maduro. The parallels and contrasts between the two men are thought-provoking.

Unfortunately poor Francisco Madero, an idealistic reformer who ruled as President of Mexico from 1911 to 1913 did not have the tough political street smarts and plain common sense that Venezuela’s Maduro has exhibited throughout his long, controversial but undeniably successful career.

Madero naively trusted in the army commander-in-chief he had inherited from his predecessor President Porfirio Diaz, General Victoriano Huerta. Huerta had prospered throughout the long 35-year rule of Diaz from 1876 to 1911 by carrying out genocidal campaigns for him against the Yaqui Indians and the Mayans.

In 1913, Wall Street interests enthusiastically supported Huerta when he carried out a coup against the innocent Madero. Woodrow Wilson, the US president of the day was an exceptionally ugly racist who despised the Mexican people and at first went along with Huerta’s coup.

The huge financial and mining interests in New York were eager to continue plundering Mexico’s resources while more than 90 percent of its people lived virtually as slaves in appalling poverty under Diaz.

In the last decade of Diaz’s rule – securely supported by the Wall Street financial robber barons, as historian Matthew Josephson called them and by the complacent administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft – at least 600,000 people were worked to death as real slaves on the estates of Diaz’s supporters. Not a whisper of disapproval was heard from Washington.

Huerta ruled with his usual mindless thuggish brutality for less than a year and a half before provoking such national revulsion that he was ousted in a brief and bloody civil war. He fled of course to the United States but then made the mistake of alienating US business and military leaders alike by openly embracing Imperial Germany to plot his militaristic comeback.

Huerta died in loose US military custody in 1916 after a night of dining out and carousing. Poisoning by the Americans was widely suspected but the cause may well just have been heavy drinking. His autopsy revealed extreme cirrhosis of the liver.

To this day Huerta is reviled as the murderous mass killer and cowardly murderer and tool of cynical foreign interests he was while the well-meaning, but tragically ineffectual Madero is genuinely loved by the people of Mexico. The days from the start of Huerta’s coup to the president’s murder – gunned down by an impromptu firing squad of assassins by night along with his own brother and vice president are remembered as La Decena Tragica, The Ten Tragic Days.

In the years that followed, Mexico endured all the horrors of a collapsed state with rival feuding bands slaughtering each other and everyone else they came across. The population of the country plummeted from 15 million in 1910 to 11.6 million a decade later. Factoring in how many deaths were masked by the high birth rate, well over four million people, or more than 25 percent of the total population died in the years of anarchic violence that Huerta’s murder of President Madero set in motion.

La Decena Tragica continues to reverberate in Mexico to this day. When current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues to withstand massive pressures from the Trump administration to recognize their preferred puppet, Juan Guaido as Washington’s preferred figurehead president of Venezuela, he is heeding his people’s reverence for martyred President Madero and remembering the bloodbaths and chaos that the hated Huerta unleashed in his place.

Madero naively trusted in the honor of his army commander, the murderous Huerta. By contrast, President Maduro in Venezuela, like his political mentor and predecessor Hugo Chavez, has taken care to always have an army high command loyal to the democratically elected national civilian leadership. Nevertheless, today, US leaders have openly called on Venezuela’s military leaders to scrap their own cherished constitution and political processes and violently topple President Maduro – All of course in the name of their usual mythical and never-defined “freedom.”

However, Bloomberg News pointedly noted in a recent report that in a Venezuelan military establishment of more than 2,000 generals and admirals, only a single officer who did not even command any troops has sworn allegiance to National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaido, the farcical boy toy whom the Trump administration is trying to set up as “president” of Venezuela in Maduro’s place.

It is just as well. The precedent of Mexico more than a century ago teaches us that if the US plot to topple President Maduro were to succeed, as the one to remove and murder President Madero did so tragically 106 years ago, then civil war, chaos and the violent death of multiple millions of innocent people would rapidly follow.

In the seven years following the murder of Francisco Madero, more than a quarter of the population of Mexico were slaughtered or starved to death. The history of states where 21st century US administrations have successfully orchestrated “regime change” makes clear that Venezuela would suffer a similar fate.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, South Sudan and Ukraine remain appalling object-lessons to the world in US criminal incompetence – at the very least – in “nation-building.” The consequences of the endless failed attempts to topple the government of Syria tell the same terrible story.

The bullets that slammed into gentle, naïve little President Madero more than a century ago continue to ricochet in our own bloodstained age.

February 21, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

US Threats to Venezuelan Military Violate UN Charter – Lavrov

Sputnik – 20.02.2019

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Washington’s threats to Venezuela’s military violated the United Nations Charter, and are representative of direct interference in the state’s internal affairs.

He also stated that Moscow grew worried about developments in Venezuela following US President Donald Trump’s recent statement urging the Venezuelan military to accept opposition leader Juan Guaido’s offer of amnesty.

“We are concerned about what is happening around Venezuela. The threats heard from the US, which are actively supported and stimulated by the Venezuelan opposition, which in fact directly invites external intervention, are certainly a violation of the UN Charter and direct interference in the internal affairs of an independent country,” Lavrov said during a press conference following talks with his Zambian counterpart Joseph Malanji.

Lavrov’s remarks come after US President Donald Trump said on Monday in a speech to Venezuelan Americans in Miami that the military of the Latin American country could either accept opposition leader Juan Guaido’s amnesty offer or “lose everything” as there would otherwise be no way out for them.

On 16 February Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who earlier declared himself the country’s interim president, called on the Venezuelan Armed Forces, supporting President Nicolas Maduro, to change sides, giving the military seven days to do so, in the anticipation of humanitarian aid arrivals to the crisis-hit country. Prior to that, Venezuela’s Ambassador to Russia Carlos Rafael Faria Tortosa said US humanitarian aid could be a trap to be followed by military invasion.

Venezuela has long been facing political turmoil and the situation deteriorated on 23 January, when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president, disputing President Nicolas Maduro’s re-election last year. While the United States has openly backed Guaido, the European Union did not issue a joint statement following suit because the motion was vetoed by Italy, according to a diplomatic source. Despite this, however, many European countries have individually voiced their support for the Venezuelan opposition leader.

Russia, China, Mexico, among other nations, voiced support for Maduro, who, in turn, accused Washington of orchestrating an attempted coup.

February 20, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Hispaniola Rising: How the US Coup in Venezuela Is Taking Root in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

For more than a decade Venezuela has aided the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through a preferential system known as Petrocaribe, and the people of those nations are not taking their governments’ support for the US coup in Venezuela lightly.

By Ariel Fornari | MintPress News | February 15, 2019

As Judas betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss for 20 pieces of silver, the institutionally corrupt governments in Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo have written another sad chapter in their nation’s history.

Ironically, it was Venezuela that helped to develop the island’s energy infrastructure in recent years. A key part of this is the REFIDOMSA oil refinery in the Dominican Republic which the Venezuelan government helped to develop and partially owns, and which has also been used to help alleviate increased fuel demands and shortages in Haiti.

For more than a decade Venezuela has aided the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through a preferential system known as Petrocaribe, which provided subsidized crude oil prices to meet the countries critical energy demands.  The Petrocaribe oil agreement, allowed for governments to pay only 60 percent of the oil shipments they purchase from Venezuela. The remaining 40 percent could be financed over 25 years at 1 percent interest, as long as oil prices stayed above $40 per barrel. This allowed for tremendous savings, and money that (according to the agreement) was supposed to be used for socially beneficial purposes.

Countries such as Nicaragua, Jamaica, Cuba, and many islands in the eastern Caribbean have successfully utilized Petrocaribe funds and other Venezuelan support mechanisms, investing in vital infrastructure, education, healthcare, and have used the funding to avoid austerity deals with the IMF and other international financial institutions. Corrupt politicians in Hispaniola, though, whose regimes are closely aligned with Washington, have by contrast become well-known for robbing many of the funds meant for the social needs of their population.

For this reason, the date of January 10, 2019, will go down in the historical memory of the Dominican and Haitian peoples, as an ignominious reminder of the historically aberrant role of the Organization of American States (OAS), when that body was used as a front by neo-conservative policymakers in Washington. It was on that date that the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic voted to no longer recognize Venezuela’s legitimately elected president.

The people of Hispaniola, on both sides of the island, are waking up. They are coming to understand how the political orders in their countries are being managed by Washington and how local corrupt elites are stealing the solidarity funds sent by Venezuela while failing to meet the needs of the local population. Haitians and Dominicans are organizing protests, meeting at homes and schools to discuss what is happening, learning on social media and through news spread over Whats App and Facebook. Hispaniola’s betrayal of Venezuela will not be taken lightly.

The people of Hispaniola know better. They know that it was the U.S., not Venezuela, that twice invaded and occupied the Dominican Republic; they know of the multiple coups and occupations that the U.S. has carried out in Haiti.  The Dominican collective memory still bears the deep scars of the over 2,000 Dominicans that perished during the invasion of Santo Domingo by the U. S. marines in April, 1965. (Dominican historians calculate that the actual figure of deaths including civilians & military during the 1965 invasion & occupation, could have been as high as 5,000). Haitians still march annually protesting the 1991 and 2004 Coup d’états, which cost the lives of so many thousands, as many human rights studies verified, such as a paper in the Lancet Medical Journal that found that upward of 8,000 people were killed as a result of the 2004 coup and pro-US paramilitary violence. A decade prior it was estimated that more than 10,000 were killed in the wake of the 1991 coup.

We need also to remember how the U.S. supported the ruthless Trujillo and Duvalierist dictatorships. We must not forget the first U. S. invasion & occupation of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, that took place in the early 20thcentury during the Era of Gunboat Diplomacy in the Central-American and Caribbean Basin.

It is against this compelling & stark historical background, that we are confronted again with tumultuous events in the region, when the U. S. is once more employing the infamous & wholly discredited OAS, in its theatrical charade to lend an air of “legitimacy” to the recent lopsided vote against Venezuela. While 14 of the CARICOM states, Mexico, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Uruguay, Cuba, Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, India, South Africa, and nearly all of the states in mother Africa continue to recognize the elected government, the U.S. has found support from its rightwing and neoliberal allied governments across Latin America, Europe, and in Israel. Shockingly, the Dominican Republic and Haiti joined with the U.S. in denouncing Bolivarian Venezuela.

This eerily reminds some of us old enough to remember, of those similarly turbulent days in the hemisphere during 1962, when an OAS meeting took place in a beach resort known as Punta del Este, Uruguay as Cuba was removed from the body. It was at that OAS meeting, that the legendary Foreign Minister of Cuba Dr. Raul Roa, forever baptized that odious organization as “The Ministry of Yankee Colonies”.

Dominicans won’t accept their government stabbing Caracas in the back

Precisely because of these historical realities that transpired in Hispaniola & the region, vis-à-vis the “Colossus of the North”, the popular movements & social organizations of the Dominican Republic have again assumed their vanguard roles as national leaders, mobilizing throughout the country, reminding the people of the historic legacy serving as background to current events, once again building up the people’s collective consciousness, illustrating that these latest events have not happened in a vacuum.  Within this context, a broad coalition of popular movements & organizations, scheduled a vigil on February 5, 2019, In Santiago, the heart of the northern Cibao region of the country, comprising 13 key provinces which have played a determining role in this country’s history, going back all the way to its independence in the mid 19thCentury.

The deep solidarity bonds of Venezuela towards the Dominican nation can be traced further back in time, when in 1930 the first outflow of Dominican exiles began arriving in the “Patria de Bolivar”, fleeing the U.S. backed Trujillo’s dictatorship. Professor Juan Bosch, a legendary figure of Dominican history & who in 1962 became the first democratically elected President after the fall of Trujillo, arrived in this first contingent of Dominican exiles in Venezuela. Bolivar’s homeland in turn became the safe harbor of patriotic activism against Trujillo, by the Dominican diaspora. This anti-Trujillo militancy from Venezuela became so intense, that the “Satrap of the Caribbean” as Trujillo was sometimes known, ordered an assassination attempt against President Betancourt of Venezuela in 1960. The Dictator Trujillo was finally assassinated in 1961

After the fall of Trujillo & the ascent to power in Dominican Republic of another lackey of U. S. imperialism-President Joaquin Balaguer, whose elections in 1966 were known to have been financed by the U. S. Department of State according to declassified files, over 2,000 Dominican combatants that participated in the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1965, arrived in Venezuela. Afterwards during the re-election of Balaguer in 1971-72, hundreds of Dominicans also migrated to Venezuela.  The situation in D. R. then became so untenable for many Dominicans due to Balaguer’s fierce persecution of opponents, it is estimated upwards of 60,000 of them migrated to Venezuela. Eventually, the Dominican diaspora in Venezuela became the largest migration inflow from the insular Caribbean, up to the ascent to power of Chavez, at which time Cubans began to increasingly arrive in Venezuela, composing in part the core of Chavez’s “Mision Barrio Adentro” massive health clinics projects, in the poor neighborhoods of the country.

In summary, the brotherly hospitality & solidarity afforded to Dominicans in Venezuela, throughout 20thCentury migratory periods, along with the aforementioned fact of Venezuela’s consistent solidarity with Dominican Republic through the generous Petrocaribe oil agreement, this honorable background stands in stark contrast to D. R.’s “Kiss of Judas” vote at the OAS against Venezuela, on January 10, 2019. This “Kiss of Judas” comes at a time when Bolivarian Venezuela faces a mounting economic war undertaken by the U.S. and its allies, compounded by a huge decline in the international price of oil.

With Dominicans aware of their history and learning the truth about the empire’s actions in the region, in the coming months, it appears very likely that the elite consensus in Dominican politics will begin to be shaken, as Danilo Medina faces a crisis of legitimacy.

Jovenel Moïse’s treason and the oncoming tidal wave of resistance

It was Haitians who stood out within our concert of colonized Caribbean nations, as the people which decisively proved in the field of battle, that the very best of Europe could be defeated in war when it finally gained independence from France in 1804. Venezuela’s & Haiti’s history is also intertwined, when in 1816 Petion gave arms, money & men to Bolivar, for the cause of independence of Venezuela, which in turn eventually liberated Colombia, Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia from imperial Spain.

More recently, during the second Presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Venezuela was one of the only countries which kept providing financial support to the Haitian government as it was embargoed and undermined by the George Bush administration. Furthermore, it was Chavez who was the only Latin American leader who forcefully denounced the 2004 coup against Aristide. Afterwards, during the Preval and then the rightwing Martelly & Moise regimes, Venezuela continued its unconditional solidarity with the people of Haiti, through its Petrocaribe agreement, as well as providing financial assistance for infrastructure projects. Venezuela has never required the conditionalities, nor the political alignment, for its aid, as have the supranational agencies and countries of the north. A true friend.

Regarding Venezuela & Haiti we must remember, that during Chavez’s tenure & following Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution soon thereafter announced Venezuela would “write off” Haiti’s undisclosed oil debts.  At an ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) foreign ministers’ meeting after the earthquake, Chavez remarked that “it wasn’t Haiti that had a debt with Venezuela, but just the opposite Venezuela had a debt with that nation.”  He also mentioned that an initial donation of $10 million would be disbursed to Haiti for emergency energy needs, along with an additional $100 million “for starters” towards infrastructure projects. Additionally, Chavez mentioned, one part of ALBA assistance to Haiti would consist of fuel distribution via “mobile service stations” to be up and running within a few weeks. The ALBA plan of aid for Haiti also included support for such sectors as agriculture production, food imports and distribution, and immigration amnesty for Haitians living illegally in the bloc’s member-states. At that time also, Cuba and Venezuela sent assistance and aid workers to Haiti within days of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that left an estimated 150,000-200,000 dead and more than a million people homeless.

To illustrate that unique internationalist relationship between Venezuela & Haiti, we must witness the Venezolana de Television report of Chavez’s trip to Haiti in 2007,  exemplifying the close emotional bond between these two Caribbean nations, which Chavez in great measure revived as he recuperated its historic memory jogging openly with the peoples of Cite Soleil and Bel Air through the streets of Port-au-Prince. In this report, you will witness the incredible feat of Chavez leaving his vehicle, as he actually joins the joyful masses in Port Au Prince, which are jogging in unison along his motorcade. On the other side of the historical spectrum, when Nixon as Vice President visited Venezuela in 1958 the total opposite occurred at that time. Instead of joyful crowds awaiting Nixon, enraged Venezuelans violently assaulted his limousine, manifesting the people’s rebuke of the U. S.’s close collaboration with the ruthless dictatorship of Perez Jimenez, which had recently ended.

As Moïse’s unpopular government has been caught up in corruption scandals and as complaints grow over the worsening economic situation and a lack of government support for the poor, in recent months the USPGN (Moïse’s own personal security forces) took part in a violent massacre targeting an anti-government slum. With Moïse facing mass protests his government increasingly takes its cues from Washington.

With regards to Jovenel Moïse’s governemnt’s treasonous vote against Venezuela at the OAS, another of its aberrant dimensions was its diametrical position vis-à-vis the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Haiti is a member. CARICOM’s position has been unequivocal in contravention to the virtually neocolonial position of OAS Secretary Almagro, who by all reasonable standards has become a virtual mouthpiece of Uncle Sam at the “Ministry of Yankee Colonies.” CARICOM on the one hand recognizes the legitimacy of President Maduro of Venezuela, while the OAS secretary general Luis Almagro has recognized the so-called “self-proclaimed” interim President of Venezuela, Juan Guaido.

Haiti has long been in the crosshairs of the Empire and its local proxies. In recent years top elites have sought to restructure the county’s economy and political scene. This has come after the U.S. and its allies have essentially neutralized the country’s sovereignty & independence, heavily influencing, installing regimes, or supporting political processes that relied on heavy vote suppression and years of political disenfranchisement (such as in 2016 with one the lowest percentages of voter participation in the world). This is the same unpopular & corrupt regime, which has been the subject of massive nationwide protests against its misuse of Venezuela’s Petrocaribe funds, starting on August, 2018, and which continually burst out throughout the following months & into February, 2019.

These protests were practically made invisible by Western mainstream media, even as their brutal repression has been well documented by citizen journalists and local grassroots groups.

Hispaniola Rising!

In spite of the backstabbing vote of the corrupt Dominican and Haitian administration’s against Venezuela at the OAS, the people of Hispaniola’s solidarity with Venezuela has been manifest in many ways.

Huge marches backed by many grassroots groups and Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party have called for an end to the foreign occupation and new sovereign elections, while a smaller opposition party Pitit Dessalin has planned demonstrations in support of the legitimacy of President Maduro. Already Haitian paramilitary and police forces are being used to brutally attack these demonstrations.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Hispaniola, on February 17, 2019, a massive demonstration in support of Venezuela is scheduled to take place, at the Parque Independencia of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  Student groups and activist circles across the country are being mobilized and are coming to understand the threat that Trump and his neo-con allies present.

In view of all the aforementioned, this writer while not an expert on geopolitics or history, by virtue of the fact of having been born in the Caribbean, & having closely observed its regional history since childhood & comprising many decades, I have reasonably concluded that this recent crisis between Venezuela & the Empire (or the “Colossus of the North”), could perhaps be opening a new threshold in the correlation of forces in the hemisphere, to the point where we could almost start leaning towards the conclusion, that perhaps the United States of America is no longer the absolute master of this hemisphere, say as it was the case prior to the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

What we are witnessing now are key nations such as Venezuela deciding to chart a course in favor of thier own people, implementing the re-foundation of the nation-state, while further steering away from the imperial diktat. At the same time, it is obvious that the Empire while commencing its decline, still exerts plenty of hemispheric muscle, as the treacherous OAS vote of Haiti & Dominican Republic has shown, in spite of Venezuela’s committed and honorable solidarity record with these two sister nations. Informing the younger generations about the history of the U.S. empire in the region, about the role of soft power in the media, and what is happening around the region today is vital. Also vital are creating new bonds and working to unify popular sectors to oppose the plans of Washington and their clients, to once again build south-south bonds and regional development from below.

February 20, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Economics, Corruption, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canadian policy on Venezuela, Haiti reveals hypocrisy that media ignores

By Yves Engler · February 19, 2019

If the dominant media was serious about holding the Canadian government to account for its foreign policy decisions, there would be numerous stories pointing out the hypocrisy of Ottawa’s response to recent political developments in Haiti and Venezuela.

Instead silence, or worse, cheer-leading.

Venezuela is a deeply divided society. Maybe a quarter of Venezuelans want the president removed by (almost) any means. A similar proportion backs Nicolas Maduro. A larger share of the population oscillates between these two poles, though they generally prefer the president to opposition forces that support economic sanctions and a possible invasion.

There are many legitimate criticisms of Maduro, including questions about his electoral bonafides after a presidential recall referendum was scuttled and the Constituent Assembly usurped the power of the opposition dominated National Assembly (of course many opposition actors’ democratic credentials are far more tainted). But, the presidential election in May demonstrates that Maduro and his PSUV party maintain considerable support. Despite the opposition boycott, the turnout was over 40% and Maduro received a higher proportion of the overall vote than leaders in the US, Canada and elsewhere. Additionally, Venezuela has an efficient and transparent electoral system — “best in the world” according to Jimmy Carter in 2012 — and it was the government that requested more international electoral observers.

Unlike Venezuela, Haiti is not divided. Basically, everyone wants the current “president” to go. While the slums have made that clear for months, important segments of the establishment (Reginald Boulos, Youri Latortue, Chamber of Commerce, etc) have turned on Jovenel Moïse. Reliable polling is limited, but it’s possible 9 in 10 Haitians want President Moïse to leave immediately. Many of them are strongly committed to that view, which is why the country’s urban areas have been largely paralyzed since February 7.

In a bid to squelch the protests, government forces (and their allies) have killed dozens in recent months. If you include the terrible massacre reported here and here in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline on November 11-13 that number rises far above 100.

Even prior to recent protests the president’s claim to legitimacy was paper-thin. Moïse assumed the job through voter suppression and electoral  fraud. Voter turnout was 18%. His predecessor and sponsor, Michel Martelly, only held elections after significant protests. For his part, Martelly took office with about 16 per cent of the vote, since the election was largely boycotted. After the first round, US and Canadian representatives pressured the electoral council to replace the second-place candidate, Jude Celestin, with Martelly in the runoff.

While you won’t have read about it in the mainstream media, recent protests in Haiti are connected to Venezuela. The protesters’ main demand is accountability for the billions of dollars pilfered from Petrocaribe, a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela in 2006. In the summer demonstrators forced out Moïse’s prime minister over an effort to eliminate fuel subsidies and calls for the president to go have swelled since then. Adding to popular disgust with Moïse, his government succumbed to US/Canadian pressure to vote against Venezuela at the OAS last month.

So what has been Ottawa’s response to the popular protests in Haiti? Has Global Affairs Canada released a statement supporting the will of the people? Has Canada built a regional coalition to remove the president? Has Canada’s PM called other international leaders to lobby them to join his effort to remove Haiti’s President? Have they made a major aid announcement designed to elicit regime change? Have they asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the Haitian government? Has Justin Trudeau called the Haitian President a “brutal dictator”?

In fact, it’s the exact opposite to the situation in Venezuela. The only reason the Haitian president is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”. Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released a statement  last week “acknowledging the professionalism shown by the Haitian National Police.” The statement condescendingly “reiterated the fact that in a democracy change must come through the ballot box, and not through violence.” The “Core Group’s” previous responses  to the protests expressed stronger support of the unpopular government. As I detailed  10 weeks ago in a story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Ottawa has provided countless forms of support to Moïse’s unpopular government. Since then Justin Trudeau had a “very productive meeting” with Haitian Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant, International development minister Marie-Claude Bibeau‏ declared a desire to “come to the aid” of the Haitian government and Global Affairs Canada released a statement declaring that “acts of political violence have no place in the democratic process.” Trudeau’s government has provided various forms of support to the repressive police that maintains Moïse’s rule. Since Paul Martin’s Liberals played an important role  in violently ousting Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in 2004 Canada has financed, trained and overseen the Haitian National Police. As took place  the night Aristide was forced out of the country by US Marines, Canadian troops  were recently photographed  patrolling the Port-au-Prince airport.

Taking their cue from Ottawa, the dominant media have downplayed the scope of the recent protests and repression in Haiti. There have been few (any?) stories about protesters putting their bodies on the line for freedom and the greater good. Instead the media has focused on the difficulties faced by a small number of Canadian tourists, missionaries and aid workers. While the long-impoverished country of 12 million people is going through a very important political moment, Canada’s racist/nationalist media is engrossed in the plight of Canucks stuck at an all-inclusive resort!

The incredible hypocrisy in Ottawa’s response to recent political developments in Haiti and Venezuela is shameful. Why has no major media dared contrast the two?

February 19, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Russia’s Lukoil Halts Oil Swaps In Venezuela After U.S. Sanctions

By Tsvetana Paraskova | Oilprice.com | February 15, 2019

Litasco, the international trading arm of Russia’s second-biggest oil producer Lukoil, stopped its oil swaps deals with Venezuela immediately after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state oil firm PDVSA, Lukoil’s chief executive Vagit Alekperov said at an investment forum in Russia.

Russia, which stands by Nicolas Maduro in the ongoing Venezuelan political crisis, has vowed to defend its interests in Venezuela—including oil interests—within the international law using “all mechanisms available to us.”

Because of Moscow’s support for Maduro, the international community and market analysts are closely watching the relationship of Russian oil companies with Venezuela.

“Litasco does not work with Venezuela. Before the restrictions were imposed, Litasco had operations to deliver oil products and to sell oil. There were swap operations. Today there are none, since the sanctions were imposed,” Lukoil’s Alekperov said at the Russian Investment Forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Another Russian oil producer, Gazprom Neft, however, does not see major risks for its oil business in Venezuela, the company’s chief executive officer Alexander Dyukov said at the same event.

Gazprom Neft has not supplied and does not supply oil products to Venezuela needed to dilute the thick heavy Venezuelan oil, Dyukov said, noting that the Latin American country hadn’t approached Gazprom Neft for possible supply of oil products for diluents.

Under the new wide-ranging U.S. sanctions, Venezuela will not be able to import U.S. naphtha which it has typically used to dilute its heavy crude grades. Analysts expect that a shortage of diluents could accelerate beginning this month the already steadily declining Venezuelan oil production and exports.

Venezuela’s crude oil production plunged by another 59,000 bpd from December 2018 to stand at just 1.106 million bpd in January 2019, OPEC’s secondary sources figures showed in the cartel’s closely watched Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) this week.

February 18, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela: The Next Move and the Final Word

By Maximilian C. Forte | Zero Anthropology | February 17, 2019

Almost a month after Donald Trump recognized Juán Guaidó as the “interim president” of Venezuela, and the imperial media started to label Nicolás Maduro as the “disputed” president of Venezuela (as if that were a universally accepted statement of fact), nothing has happened to unseat Maduro. The intended coup does not appear to be advancing. Meanwhile the US continues its sanctions, only now they are sanctioning a country they claim is led by someone who is not Maduro. If one mistook rhetoric for reality, US foreign policy would appear to have been conceived in some sort of Twilight Zone. Back in the real world, the US tacitly recognizes that Maduro is in fact the head of government and state in Venezuela, and both the threats of US military intervention and the sanctions themselves prove that point.

Far from a wave of popular condemnation of the Maduro government, Venezuela instead experiences something of a “slow coup,” mostly based on support from foreign right-wing governments. Following ZA’s sketch of the models used for this intended coup, ranging from Ukraine to Libya and Syria, others warned that we should look out for the “7 rules of regime change” that typically constitute the US’ campaigns of foreign destabilization. Libya was actually an appropriate analogy in some key regards, one of them being that the US was actively inciting chaos by trying to create a situation where more than one government claimed legitimacy. As for Ukraine, it was the Ukrainian Foreign Minister himself who drew the analogy between the Maidan protests and events in Venezuela. Also indicative of this approach is the fact that Trump hired the infamous Elliot Abrams (an ardent “Never Trumper” but an even bigger opportunist), one of the original neocons who played a role not just in the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chávez in Venezuela—and has now been called back for an encore—but was also tied to the covert war against Nicaragua, lying to Congress, and providing cover for the notorious death squads in El Salvador during the 1980s. In the US Congress, Democrats in charge of the House Foreign Affairs Committee put together a “team” to deal with Venezuela, including one Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was guilty of rigging electoral processes within the DNC to the disadvantage of Bernie Sanders in 2016—worthy coup experience. (Yet, on that same committee there have been some outstanding exceptions, namely Ilhan Omar.)

Venezuela and the Problem for Trump’s White House

Nicolás Maduro, President of Venezuela

However the problem is that the “slow coup” approach seems to be increasing frustration in the ranks of both the Venezuelan opposition and the White House. How much longer can the US government tolerate its commands being ignored and “defied”? The longer this goes on, the greater the chance that Trump will lose face, at a delicate political time of upcoming US presidential elections and when he has lost so much face already. This is a person who has long boasted that his administration would always be “winning,” winning so much that his supporters would tire of all the winning. What has Trump won with Venezuela? If Trump just lets things continue, Venezuela could learn to survive sanctions the way several other states have also learned to survive them. Venezuela still has some powerful friends: China, India, and Russia chief among them. Venezuela is not under a UN-approved international sanctions regime, the kind imposed on Iraq, North Korea, and Iran. Venezuela still has room for manoeuvre, and even an IOU can carry a lot of weight if it’s based on possession of the world’s largest proven oil reserves. In addition, Venezuela’s armed forces declared their loyalty to President Maduro. The opposition made feeble, legalistic efforts to win over the military’s support (basically promising only to not “prosecute” the military for supporting the legitimate government), but this failed from the outset. Meanwhile the military held prominent exercises under the direction of Maduro’s government. The military continued to hold extensive exercises from February the 10th to the 15th, in practice for a counter-invasion. At this rate, Trump could enter the 2020 electoral campaign with Maduro still in power in Venezuela, and Trump’s opponents lampooning him as a failure: all sound and fury and nothing more than promises made of hot air.

The other option of course, the one that Trump frequently repeats is always “on the table,” is US military intervention in Venezuela. This would then be Trump’s first new war added to the list of the US’ current wars. There now appears to be a straight line of seamless continuity running from George W. Bush to Barack Obama and now Donald Trump, especially where regime change in Venezuela is concerned. Trump, who sometimes feigns awful annoyance at the “Obama legacy,” which he pretends to want to destroy, is only too keen to shore it up in Venezuela. The one “national emergency” about which no one is threatening to sue the White House, a “national emergency” decreed by Obama and still in force, is the one that classes Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”. On his way out the door, Obama renewed and extended that same “national emergency”—and Trump loyally picked up the baton. Yet Venezuela has never threatened the US, and the US Congress has not authorized any military action in Venezuela. Will Trump be reticent about usurping authority by continuing to expand the executive power of the imperial presidency? If he does, another charge will then stick during the 2020 campaign: that he is authoritarian. Not just authoritarian, but one also responsible for starting a new, unpopular and costly war, an illegal war. Far from ending the US’ “foreign entanglements” and “nation building” crusades, Trump will have added to them. This would then become the final word on the Trump presidency.

Trailing a long line of failures and broken promises, Trump would be entering the 2020 presidential campaign (if his administration can survive that long), with a brand new war to place on the shoulders of Americans. Tired of all the “winning” yet?

Trump has engineered quite the situation for himself. If he does nothing more, and Maduro survives, Trump loses face. More than that, he has already lost Venezuelan oil for a whole range of US-based oil refineries and transnational shipping firms, not to mention countless billions bypassing the US financial system, and there is already talk of tapping the national oil reserve. It would be a situation where Trump ends up with less than if he had said nothing at all about the Maduro presidency—an indisputable defeat. On the other hand, if Trump chooses the military option, besides the US facing eventual defeat like it has done regularly since Vietnam, the political backlash at home would be devastating. So which is the way out for Trump?

Trump’s Next Move

There are two significant clues that suggest Trump will choose to go to war with Venezuela. One is a foreign clue, and the other is domestic. The first clue is that February 23 is likely to be the turning point. The US and its Venezuelan force multipliers are constructing a situation that could be used to provoke armed intervention by the US: an innocent humanitarian aid convoy, embraced by democracy-loving innocent civilians in Venezuela, fired upon mercilessly by the forces of the “brutal dictatorship”. Not only is the US ready to sacrifice Venezuelan lives, it is likely ready to sacrifice the lives of the US AID personnel currently in Cucuta, Colombia (poor saps, they had better get their life insurance policies in order). It has to be the kind of event that makes most Americans gasp in shock, and demand immediate justice. I don’t know if this can work, or will happen, especially because the Venezuelan government has so far excelled at playing it cool, and outsmarting the opposition.

The second clue, domestic in focus, is that Trump has recently decided to declare a war on socialism at home, with the aid of Fox News, Breitbart, and various alternative right-wing media. The only way for Trump to sell his war in Venezuela is by simultaneously linking it to a war at home. That way Trump can parade himself among diminished groups of supporters and pretend that his policy in Venezuela is what they want, and what they need: a world free of socialism.

The image of “Venezuela” is thus being instrumentalized for use against “domestic enemies,” suggestively linking the two, and the evidence for that comes directly from Trump himself. In his “State of the Union speech of February 5, 2019, Trump stated the following about Venezuela just before turning back to the US:

“Two weeks ago, the United States officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela—(applause)—and its new President, Juan Guaidó. (Applause.) We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom, and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair. (Applause.)

Here in the United States, we are alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism in our country….”

When one heard the speech, the flow from Venezuela to socialism in the US was both smooth and rapid—it was unmistakable that the suggestive link between the two was deliberately planned. To further applause, including from some Democrats, Trump added: “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country”. What they did not hear, and they should have if they truly listened, was Trump’s declaration of war on Venezuela.

Venezuela: The Final Word on Trump

In reviewing Trump’s foreign policy positions over the past three decades, there was one vital piece of evidence that I either overlooked or whose significance I simply did not realize (and since I have not seen the analysis that follows anywhere else, it seems everyone missed this too). While Trump may sound like he is against “endless wars,” “foreign entanglements,” “nation building” and the overthrow of foreign regimes that involves the US in affairs that do not concern it, and while he preaches respect for “sovereignty” and vows not to impose “American values” on other nations—all seemingly exceptional positions for an American president, enough to get him branded an “isolationist”—all of this is conditional on one key factor: distance/proximity.

If a potential target nation is “far away”—for example, Afghanistan and Syria—then it is wrong for the US to get involved. However, if the nation is “close” to the US—i.e., all the nations of the Western Hemisphere—then it is right for the US to intervene because in areas close to home, the US has a “special responsibility”. It’s a claim to ownership, and it’s a return to the classic neocolonial geopolitics of the Monroe Doctrine (and Trump formally cited Monroe in his 2018 address to the UN General Assembly).

The evidence for this notion of a “special responsibility” tied to proximity, comes from Trump himself. While at a golf course in August of 2017, Trump told reporters:

“We have many options for Venezuela, this is our neighbor. We’re all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary”.

Vice President Mike Pence reiterated this explanation to Fox News, answering a question about why Trump is withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan while intervening in Venezuela:

“President Trump has always had a very different view of our hemisphere… He’s long understood that the United States has a special responsibility to support and nurture democracy and freedom in this hemisphere and that’s a longstanding tradition”.

Not speaking out of turn (for a change), national security adviser John Bolton offered further confirmation: “The fact is Venezuela is in our hemisphere. I think we have a special responsibility here, and I think the president feels very strongly about it”.

Trump views Latin America as the US’ “backyard,” sovereignty thus does not apply to the Western Hemisphere’s states. But if Trump does not respect the sovereignty of Latin Americans, then why should they in turn respect the sovereign borders of the US? If sovereignty does not apply in relations between states in the Americas, then Latin Americans should dismiss US sovereignty, and freely pour across the US’ southern border. Where there is no equality and reciprocity, then invasion and counter-invasion will have to do.

If distance/proximity is one factor limiting, even reversing the scope of Trump’s putative anti-interventionism, civilization is another. On a trip to Poland in July of 2017, Trump delivered a controversial speech that many justifiably understood to be a classic defence of “White, Western, Christian civilization”:

“…. we will never forget who we are…. Americans will never forget. The nations of Europe will never forget. We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations. We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers. We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression…. That is who we are. Those are the priceless ties that bind us together as nations, as allies, and as a civilization”.

Reflecting on this, I argued elsewhere that “Trump respects sovereignty only for those who are qualified to possess it : White Western Christian nations, in loose terms”. I noted that Trump evidenced the most respect for nations that are linked to the US through cultural parentage—“but where cultural affinity is lacking, Trump chooses the American materialist’s preferred substitute for culture: money, and lots of it”. Trump thus has respect for European nations plus Israel (i.e., Euro-America in the Middle East), but also China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia—that is the map of Trump’s world of sovereign states. The rest of the world is inhabited by what he freely calls “animals,” and “monsters,” shit-hole nations usually ruled by “brutal dictators”—this is the wild neocolonial frontier: it is the world beyond the pale, and beyond the pallid.

It is outside of the domain of Trump logic where we find Trump’s supposed anti-interventionist stance on Syria and Afghanistan directly collides with his actions against Venezuela and Iran, a fact noted by many others besides myself. (Except Iran does not fit within Trump’s logic as described above, which shows that it’s not much of a logic at all.) In the world of the critically rational, where people struggle to understand reality and not deny it, where contradictions need to be explained even if they cannot be reconciled, then this is how Venezuela will be the final word on Trump, especially if a war happens—read each sentence on the left, and then interject the word on the right as a corrective:

Donald Trump’s Explicit Position (Myth) The Final Word (Reality)
“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world”… Venezuela
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone”… Venezuela
each nation of the world must decide for itself what kind of future it wants to build for its people”… Venezuela
“America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination”… Venezuela
“I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship”… Venezuela
“Around the world, responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty not just from global governance, but also from other, new forms of coercion and domination”… Venezuela
“Here in the Western Hemisphere, we are committed to maintaining our independence from the encroachment of expansionist foreign powers”… Venezuela
Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived, democracy has ever endured, or peace has ever prospered. And so we must protect our sovereignty and our cherished independence above all”… Venezuela
Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect”… Venezuela
“…you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first”… Venezuela
“The United States of America has been among…the greatest defenders of sovereignty”… Venezuela
“We are going to have to stop being the policemen of the world”… Venezuela
“the United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world.  We don’t want to do that”… Venezuela
“it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”… Venezuela

Before being elected president, Trump spoke specifically about Venezuela and Hugo Chávez in brief comments to the Miami Herald, saying: “Their leaders are not very friendly to our leaders. But, of course, our leaders don’t get along with too many people….” On Chávez he said, “He had some feelings, some very strong feelings, and he did represent a lot of people, and he represented a lot of people that had been left behind”. However, even then, Trump made comments that suggested he wanted to become involved in Venezuela’s affairs. His wish has come true, but it’s Venezuela that will have the final word.

February 17, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Guaido Gives Pro-Maduro Military 7 Days to ‘Take Side of Constitution’

Sputnik – 16.02.2019

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself the country’s interim president, called on the Venezuelan Armed Forces, supporting President Nicolas Maduro, to change sides, giving the military seven days to do so, in the anticipation of humanitarian aid arrivals to the crisis-hit country.

“February 23 is coming, gentlemen from the Armed Forces. It is a very important date for the Venezuelan society not only because we have an opportunity to stop this emergency, which is directly and indirectly killing people, but also to open the doors of change for Venezuela. You have this opportunity, you have eight days to take the side of the constitution,” Guaido said during a forum dedicated to national oil industry.

Guaido suggested that “usurpation” of power by Maduro and his supporters should be ended in order to leave poverty, facing the country, behind.

23 February is the day when humanitarian aid, coordinated by Guaido, is expected to reach Venezuela. Earlier in February, Guaido warned the military that blocking the aid from entering the country would be a “crime against humanity.”

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has been refusing to take in the aid saying it would justify foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs.

Christoph Harnisch, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Columbia, has said his organization would not assist in delivering the goods to Venezuela because the ICRC does not consider the US assistance to be humanitarian aid. Earlier this month, the ICRC warned US officials against politicizing humanitarian assistance and delivering aid without the consent of local authorities.

On 23 January, Guaido, who is the speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, proclaimed himself an interim president until election is held in the country, saying that an article of the Venezuelan constitution allowed him to do this. This claim was subsequently denied by supporters of Maduro.

Guaido was almost immediately recognized by the United States and its allies. Russia, China, Mexico, among other nations, voiced support for constitutionally elected Maduro, who, in turn, accused Washington of orchestrating a coup in the country.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer

By Joyce Nelson | CounterPunch | February 15, 2019

On February 11, Bloomberg News published an astonishing piece about the unfolding Venezuelan turmoil. It was apparently the result of a major investigative effort involving three reporters and five others providing “assistance”. You’ll notice I haven’t called it a piece of news (although that’s what it looks like), but I’m not sure what to call it. It’s a piece of something, but what?

With eight people working on it, the piece is a long one, with plenty of sources. By my count, there were 19 sources. Here are 16 of them:

1-4) “four people with knowledge of the discussions”
5) “another person”
6) “a person familiar with the thinking”
7) “a person with knowledge of the conversations”
8) “another person” (different from the previously cited “another person”)
9) “a foreign military official”
10) “a French official”
11) “another person with knowledge of the deliberations”
12) “a person with knowledge of the internal discussions”
13) “a person familiar with [Juan] Guaido’s thinking”
14) “a person familiar with the discussions”
15) “a senior Turkish official”
16) “another person” (different from the previously cited “another person” and “another person”)

A seventeenth source was Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s special representative for Venezuela. It’s not clear, however, that any of Bloomberg News’ three reporters or the five others providing “assistance” actually interviewed Abrams or were simply quoting from a previous press conference: “Speaking in Washington last week, Abrams said…”

So what was the focus of this piece? The intrepid reporters were picking up on a January 31st tweet by U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who encouraged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to retire to “a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela” while he still had time.

The Bloomberg News piece is entitled: “As Nicolas Maduro digs in, his aides hunt for an emergency escape route out of Venezuela.” It got wide exposure, including in Canada’s National Post. [1] The eight reporters and aforementioned 16 sources imply that Maduro is frantically seeking a bolthole somewhere, anywhere – Cuba? Russia? Turkey? Mexico? France? – while appearing to hang on to power.

Their quote from Abrams is this: “’I think it is better for the transition to democracy in Venezuela that he be outside the country,’ Elliott Abrams, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s special representative for Venezuela, said of Maduro. ‘And there are a number of countries that I think would be willing to accept him,’ he told reporters, citing ‘friends in places like Cuba and Russia’.”

There were two more sources cited in this piece: Andrey Kortunov, head of a Moscow research organization entitled the Russian International Affairs Council, and Russian lawmaker Andrey Klimov, deputy head of the upper house of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee. Both affirmed Maduro’s resilience in the midst of the turmoil, with Klimov telling Bloomberg News that Maduro “is not planning to go anywhere.”

Indeed, Klimov “dismissed talk of Maduro’s evacuation as ‘psychological warfare’ aimed at ‘sowing panic and hysteria’” in Venezuela.

In the old days, according to persons knowledgeable on the matter, psychological warfare was conducted through the CIA’s “Mighty Wurlitzer” – massive propaganda efforts utilizing mainstream media and other outlets. These days U.S. taxpayer-funded organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have taken over much of that function. As The Intercept (Jan. 30) informs us, Elliott Abrams is on the board of the NED. [2]

The Mighty Wurlitzer blares on, but under different management and branding. Has Bloomberg News become part of this effort? At this point, persons familiar with the company’s thinking about the question have yet to come forward.

Footnotes:
[1] Esteban Duarte, Eric Martin, Ilya Arkhipov (Bloomberg News ), “As Nicolas Maduro digs in, his aides hunt for an emergency escape route out of Venezuela,” National Post, February 11, 2019.
https://nationalpost.com/news/world/as-nicolas-maduro-digs-in-his-aides-hunt-for-an-emergecy-escape-route-out-of-venezuela
[2] Jon Schwartz, “Elliott Abrams, Trump’s Pick for Fixing ‘Democracy’ in Venezuela, Has Spent His Life Crushing Democracy,” The Intercept, January 30, 2019.

Joyce Nelson’s sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be ordered at: http://watershedsentinel.ca/banksters. She can be reached through www.joycenelson.ca.<

February 15, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuelan Opposition Raises $100Mln From Intl Donors in DC – Guaido’s Embassy

Sputnik – February 15, 2019

WASHINGTON – Venezuela’s opposition raised more than $100 million from international donors at a fundraiser in Washington, self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido’s embassy in the United States said in a press release.

“The Global Conference on the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela held at the Organization of Americas States Headquarters raised over one hundred million dollars, thanks to the donations of different international delegations”, the release said on Thursday.

The opposition’s envoy to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, was quoted as saying in the release that the meeting goes hand in hand with Guaido’s announcement that humanitarian aid will be delivered into Venezuela on 23 February.

On Monday, Christoph Harnisch, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Columbia, said his organization will not assist because the ICRC does not consider the US assistance to Venezuela to be humanitarian aid. Earlier this month, ICRC officials and the UN Secretary-General’s office called on the Trump administration to refrain from politicizing humanitarian assistance.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has refused to accept aid delivered by the United States to neighboring Columbia, blasting it as a ploy to topple his government.On 23 January, Guaido, with the full support of the US government, declared himself interim president of Venezuela. Constituionally elected Maduro accused Washington of orchestrating a coup and then cut off diplomatic ties with the United States. Russia, China, Turkey and Mexico, among other nations, have reaffirmed their support for Maduro as the only legitimate democratically-elected president of Venezuela.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza announced Thursday that Caracas has established a working group at the United Nations to oppose foreign meddling in the Latin American country’s affairs.

The US-Based media reported earlier that US President Donald Trump is expected to give a speech on the crisis in Venezuela on 18 February. Trump has said in an interview with the CBS broadcaster that US military intervention in Venezuela was “an option”.

READ MORE:

US Special Envoy Says Ending Venezuela Crisis Necessitates Maduro’s Resignation

February 15, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments

Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President

By Joe Emersberger – FAIR – February 12, 2019

The Miami Herald (2/8/19) reported, “Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro continues to reject international aid—going so far as to blockade a road that might have been used for its delivery.“

The “Venezuelan leader” reporter Jim Wyss referred to is Venezuela’s elected president. In contrast, Wyss referred to Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s “interim president.”

Guaidó, anointed by Trump and a new Iraq-style Coalition of the Willing, did not even run in Venezuela’s May 2018 presidential election. In fact, shortly before the election, Guaidó was not even mentioned by the opposition-aligned pollster Datanálisis when it published approval ratings of various prominent opposition leaders. Henri Falcón, who actually did run in the election (defying US threats against him) was claimed by the pollster to basically be in a statistical tie for most popular among them. It is remarkable to see the Western media dismiss this election as “fraudulent,” without even attempting to show that it was “stolen“ from Falcón. Perhaps that’s because it so clearly wasn’t stolen.

Data from the opposition-aligned pollsters in Venezuela (via Torino Capital) indicates that Henri Falcón was the most popular of the major opposition figures at the time of the May 2018 presidential election. Nicolás Maduro won the election due to widespread opposition boycotting and votes drawn by another opposition candidate, Javier Bertucci.

The constitutional argument that Trump and his accomplices have used to “recognize” Guaidó rests on the preposterous claim that Maduro has “abandoned” the presidency by soundly beating Falcón in the election. Caracas-based journalist Lucas Koerner took apart that argument in more detail.

What about the McClatchy-owned Herald‘s claim that Maduro “continues to reject international aid”? In November 2018, following a public appeal by Maduro, the UN did authorize emergency aid for Venezuela. It was even reported by Reuters (11/26/18), whose headlines have often broadcast the news agency’s contempt for Maduro’s government.

It’s not unusual for Western media to ignore facts they have themselves reported when a major “propaganda blitz” by Washington is underway against a government. For example, it was generally reported accurately in 1998 that UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq ahead of air strikes ordered by Bill Clinton, not expelled by Iraq’s government. But by 2002, it became a staple of pro-war propaganda that Iraq had expelled weapons inspectors (Extra! Update10/02).

And, incidentally, when a Venezuelan NGO requested aid from the UN-linked Global Fund in 2017, it was turned down. Setting aside how effective foreign aid is at all (the example of Haiti hardly makes a great case for it), it is supposed to be distributed based on relative need, not based on how badly the US government wants somebody overthrown.

But the potential for “aid” to alleviate Venezuela’s crisis is negligible compared to the destructive impact of US economic sanctions. Near the end of Wyss’ article, he cited an estimate from the thoroughly demonized Venezuelan government that US sanctions have cost it $30 billion, with no time period specified for that estimate. Again, this calls to mind the run-up to the Iraq invasion, when completely factual statements that Iraq had no WMDs were attributed to the discredited Iraqi government. Quoting Iraqi denials supposedly balanced the lies spread in the media by US officials like John Bolton, who now leads the charge to overthrow Maduro. Wyss could have cited economists independent of the Maduro government on the impact of US sanctions—like US economist Mark Weisbrot, or the emphatically anti-Maduro Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodríguez.

Illegal US sanctions were first imposed in 2015 under a fraudulent “state of emergency” declared by Obama, and subsequently extended by Trump. The revenue lost to Venezuela’s government due to US economic sanctions since August 2017, when the impact became very easy to quantify, is by now well over $6 billion. That’s enormous in an economy that was only able to import about $11 billion of goods in 2018, and needs about $2 billion per year in medicines. Trump’s “recognition” of Guaidó as “interim president” was the pretext for making the already devastating sanctions much worse. Last month, Francisco Rodríguez revised his projection for the change in Venezuela’s real GDP in 2019, from an 11 percent contraction to 26 percent, after the intensified sanctions were announced.

The $20 million in US “aid” that Wyss is outraged Maduro won’t let in is a rounding error compared to the billions already lost from Trump’s sanctions.

Former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield, who pressed for more sanctions on Venezuela, dispensed with the standard “humanitarian” cover that US officials have offered for them (Intercept2/10/19):

And if we can do something that will bring that end quicker, we probably should do it, but we should do it understanding that it’s going to have an impact on millions and millions of people who are already having great difficulty finding enough to eat, getting themselves cured when they get sick, or finding clothes to put on their children before they go off to school. We don’t get to do this and pretend as though it has no impact there. We have to make the hard decision—the desired outcome justifies this fairly severe punishment.

How does this gruesome candor get missed by reporters like Wyss, and go unreported in his article?

Speaking of “severe punishment,” if the names John Bolton and Elliott Abrams don’t immediately call to mind the punishment they should be receiving for crimes against humanity, it illustrates how well the Western propaganda system functions. Bolton, a prime facilitator of the Iraq War, recently suggested that Maduro could be sent to a US-run torture camp in Cuba. Abrams played a key role in keeping US support flowing to mass murderers and torturers in Central America during the 1980s. Also significant that Abrams, brought in by Trump to help oust Maduro, used “humanitarian aid” as cover to supply weapons to the US-backed Contra terrorists in Nicaragua.

In the Herald article, the use of US “aid” for military purposes is presented as another allegation made by the vilified Venezuelan president: “Maduro has repeatedly said the aid is cover for a military invasion and has ordered his armed forces not to let it in, even as food and medicine shortages sweep the country.”

Calling for international aid and being democratically elected will do as little to protect Maduro’s government from US aggression as being disarmed of WMD did to prevent Iraq from being invaded—unless there is much more pushback from the US public against a lethal propaganda system.

February 15, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Fiction Plus Coercion Makes Reality: The Illegitimacy of the US-led Coup in Venezuela

By Maximilian C. Forte | Zero Anthropology | February 14, 2019

After considering the economic foundation of current US intervention, designed to erase Venezuela’s economic sovereignty, the purpose here is to focus more on the political side of the equation, not that we can neatly divide the politics from the economics of either the intervention or the defence of sovereignty. What we find is a situation where the anti-government opposition inside Venezuela is limited on three fronts:

(a) it has a narrow base of support among the public, and is thus incapable of producing a “popular uprising,” nor does it command the state machinery;

(b) it relies heavily on foreign support, in other words, the opposite of legitimacy in a democracy—having gone the route of seeking foreign intervention, their real foundation is coercion, not authority; and,

(c) in the absence of any real authority, the leadership is suspended in a web of fiction, which means that it spins fictions of its own power and authority.

Also undermining the legitimacy of the opposition is the US, imposing itself as a supreme tribunal that has arrogated to itself the right to decide on the course of Venezuela’s political future. Right now what we are witnessing is not so much an attempted coup (not yet at least), as much as an intended coup.

Since there is little movement on the ground that would seem to promise anything like an impending removal of the Maduro administration by local forces and by peaceful means, this heightens the possibility of both escalating local violence combined with foreign military intervention. This is especially true since, following the Americans, the opposition rejects dialogue with the government. When claims are exposed as fictions that lack substance, the only way to force them into the domain of reality is through violence.

“Maduro Must Go”: The US as the Ultimate Elector in Venezuela

On February 1 in Miami, in a brazen act of bellicosity that violated international law, US Vice President Mike Pence publicly declared that, “Nicolas Maduro must go,” smearing Maduro as “a dictator with no claim to power” (language oddly reminiscent of the domestic opponents of his own boss). More than that, Pence proceeded to directly threaten Venezuela’s government if it should continue to defy US wishes, in language redolent of classic imperialism:

“Let’s be clear: this is no time for dialogue. This is time for action. And the time has come to end the Maduro dictatorship once and for all…. The United States will continue to assert all diplomatic pressure to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy…. But those looking on should know this: All options are on the table…. And Nicolas Maduro would do well not to test the resolve of the United States”.

“The resolve of the United States”; a US Vice President deciding on whether a foreign leader has the right to stay in power, regardless of those who voted him into power—these examples clearly establish that the real line of conflict here is between the US and Venezuela, and not between Guaidó and Maduro.

Speaking as an official of a rogue state, John Bolton uttered a ridiculously crass threat against President Maduro, in a display of naked imperialism gone wild:

“I wish him [Maduro] a long, quiet retirement on a pretty beach far from Venezuela. And the sooner he takes advantage of that, the sooner he’s likely to have a nice, quiet retirement on a pretty beach rather than being in some other beach area like Guantanamo”.

Interestingly, this is precisely the language of dictatorship: commanding, threatening, abducting, disappearing opponents. The US has a history of not just deposing foreign leaders, but even kidnapping them, when not executing them outright. It is also the speech of a rogue state—no state that respects international law allows its officials to routinely and casually threaten others in this manner. After expressing desires to loot Venezuela’s wealth, they now publicly entertain fantasies of abducting Venezuela’s elected president.

These were not the only times that the Trump administration directly threatened the government of Venezuela with regime change. In July of 2017, then CIA director Mike Pompeo spoke at the Aspen Security Forum about working with Colombia, the Venezuelan opposition, and the CIA in developing “options” for regime change, just a month after Colombia joined NATO as a “Global Partner”. Then on August 5, 2018, an attempted assassination against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro took place. Soon after that, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN at the time, went on a tour to Colombia’s border with Venezuela, covered exclusively by Fox News, in which she advocated for the illegal overthrow of Venezuela’s government. Outside of the UN building in New York, US ambassador Nikki Haley chose to violate the UN Charter itself by openly advocating for the overthrow of a foreign government and hinting loudly that it would happen thanks to strong US intervention. On Thursday, September 27, 2018, Haley shouted into a megaphone in front of demonstrators: “We are going to fight for Venezuela and we are going to continue doing it until Maduro is gone!… We need your voices to be loud, and I will tell you, the US voice is going to be loud”.

“I will tell you, the US voice is going to be loud,” said Haley in reprising George W. Bush’s threat prior to invading Afghanistan (America’s 18-year tale of “success” in Central Asia). The fact of the matter is that the US never imagined that the removal of Maduro’s party from power could ever happen organically and thanks purely to local dynamics. It was always to be something artificial, a fiction brought to life through American violence. The threat of military intervention, which itself flouts international law, was made in the first months of the Trump administration.

From as early as August of 2017 Trump was already suggesting the possibility of a US military coup to overthrow Venezuela’s government. This was before the elections it would discount were even announced. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson repeated the suggestion in February 2018, and said Maduro should leave the country altogether and retire in Cuba, much like Bolton above would later do. (The suggestion that Tillerson was among those “pushing back” against Trump’s move to military conflict with Venezuela, is thus pure fantasy. It’s part of the liberal “resistance” veneration of transnationalist oligarchs like Tillerson as representing one of the “adults in the room”.) Again, even before elections had been called in Venezuela, Trump threatened Venezuela with US military intervention.

Venezuela’s government made it clear that one thing that would never be “discussed” with the US (which wants to discuss nothing) would be Venezuela’s sovereignty, and Maduro announced that the military was ready to fight back against US intervention. As for Trump’s repeated threat military options are “on the table,” Maduro simply replied: “There will be no war or military intervention”. In the meantime, however, Venezuela is preparing to make any US military escalation as costly as possible to the US—something which several forces in the world have successfully done, starting with Vietnam, and then especially since 2001. In addition, Maduro in a letter to Trump, asked if politicians in Washington were ready to send their country’s “sons and daughters to die in an absurd war” (unfortunately, we already know the answer to that question).

However, underlining the illegitimacy of the intended coup, the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans are very far from supporting either Guaidó or the US when it comes to US military intervention and economic sanctions. Even before Trump threw his support behind Guaidó, local polling data from Venezuela showed that 86% of Venezuelans were against any foreign military intervention, and 81% opposed the US’ sanctions. With respect to seeking US intervention, Guaidó represents the 14%. In addition, recently launched was a largely symbolic, political campaign to get 10 million signatures of Venezuelans denouncing US intervention; a large rally came out in support to start the process. Should foreign military intervention happen, done in the name of “helping Venezuelans,” it should be remembered that such intervention has virtually no support in Venezuela itself.

The “Early Elections” Ruse

Call new presidential elections—this has been one of the key commands coming from the Venezuelan opposition’s foreign backers. Before 2019 the command was call early elections. Yet when the US and their Venezuelan force multipliers previously pressed the Venezuelan government to hold early elections—just as their EU counterparts would do again in January 2019—they then turned around and condemned the announcement of early elections. Now once again the demand is for new, early elections: states like Spain instructed the Venezuelan government to declare, within eight days, that new elections would be held, or else Spain and others would recognize Guaidó—an ultimatum on how Venezuela should conduct its domestic politics. Venezuela’s government of course rejected this demand outright.

This then raises a key question: if these outside interests did not accept the last elections, why would they accept the results of the next ones? All previous elections had been widely recognized as free and fair, and it was the same system which produced the opposition’s victory in the now defunct National Assembly. Indeed, as recently as August of 2017, the opposition itself accepted the new Constituent Assembly’s call for gubernatorial elections. It was the same system in which Maduro won his re-election, and would be the same for any new elections. Yet the same governments that oppose Maduro, falsely claim that he “stole” the election—and if he had stolen it, it wasn’t from Guaidó, who did not run as a candidate. Clearly the ultimatum, unacceptable as it was shockingly arrogant, was meant as bait to trigger even further intervention: EU-supervised and EU-designed elections perhaps (and let’s not forget the Haitian elections that were rigged under UN auspices). Those EU states which then officially recognized Guaidó were rightly denounced by Russia for engaging in brazen intervention in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs.

In order to denounce past elections while calling for new ones, the US had to fabricate the myth of illegitimate elections in Venezuela. Thus the Trump administration directly threatened with targeted sanctions a leading opposition candidate, Henri Falcón, who was considering launching a presidential campaign, warning him not to do so. The US’ top diplomat in Venezuela even met with Falcón, to persuade him not to run. Widely reported polls showed that he had a good chance of winning the election too. The Venezuelan opposition was instructed by the US to boycott the election, in order to produce what could then be called a “sham”. Mike Pence thus decided in advance that the elections would be a sham, without a shred of evidence provided. The same argument was made by some of the opposition, that Maduro’s election was illegitimate—an election held using the very same system that won the opposition their own seats. There is no evidence to deny that Maduro’s election followed all of the proper legal procedures, and though the turnout was low, Maduro’s share of eligible voters was higher than that of Trump in 2016 and Obama in 2012.

Now here is where myth-making has taken a new turn. Those states which now recognize Guaidó as the president of Venezuela, cannot very well press the demand for new elections on Maduro. To do so would be to continue legitimizing Maduro as the President. So it is now up to Guaidó to call for early elections. Has he done so? After all, if he really believed he was the interim president, with all of the rights and duties of an interim president, then it was his job to call new elections in 30 days. Guaidó has not done so, and this violates the very Constitution which he claims to be defending. The defunct National Assembly has instead invented some new parts of the Constitution—because they simply do not exist in that document—about “technical conditions” that give Guaidó the right to be interim president not just for 30 days, but for a whole year now. Talk about dictatorship. The idea is to deny Maduro and his whole government any legitimacy, an argument that also fails, and it backfired on the opposition with all of its petty, selective, and inventive legalisms about “the Constitution” (which they themselves violate).

The legitimacy of Maduro’s government was rarely respected by his domestic opposition, and almost never by the more powerful extraterritorial opposition represented by US power. And as Maduro clearly pointed out, Venezuela has had no deficit of elections (six occurred in the past 18 months alone, at different levels of government)—so elections themselves are neither the root of the problem, nor can they be a solution.

The Venezuelan government repeated that it was open to holding talks with the opposition, which the opposition continues to publicly refuse. President Maduro also held out the offer of early elections for the legally constituted Constituent Assembly. That offer has also been rejected.

“No Dialogue” Means Violence, No Democracy

Imagine you claim to be interested in defending democracy. Then imagine you reject any dialogue whatsoever with fellow citizens who have views that differ from yours. Are you really interested in democracy then? Imagine you believe yourself to represent the majority, but still the opposing side represents a significant minority, and yet you refuse to deal with the other side. Does that advance democracy?

The US claims that it is seeking peaceful and diplomatic means of securing regime change in Venezuela, a goal which is neither peaceful nor diplomatic. Unable to reconcile this harebrained contradiction, the US inevitably rejects any dialogue with the government of Venezuela, dismissing an offer of mediation by Mexico and Uruguay. This underscores the perverse definition of “diplomacy” that the US has adopted. For successive US regimes, “diplomacy” is merely a default position—it means everything that is not outright “shock and awe”. Saying there can be no dialogue whatsoever, narrows the avenue of peaceful solutions. Moreover, whatever the US seeks, by seeking it in Venezuela its actions can only go against democracy—Venezuelans did not elect the US government, and did not elect to have it involved in their affairs, let alone usurp the authority of Venezuelans.

Guaidó has dutifully echoed the US line in consistently dismissing dialogue, while Maduro has been just as consistent in offering it. Meanwhile, other top opposition leaders in the country—for example, the two former presidential candidates of the two main traditional parties, Claudio Fermín and Eduardo Fernández—have instead favoured “electoral participation and recognition of the legitimacy of the Maduro government”. Not all of the opposition has chosen the avenue of treason that beckons violence.

One thing is certain, this time Venezuela has reached a turning point and there is no going back. The most tragic and extreme steps have been taken, precisely the kinds which should never have been taken. A number of actors are going to have to pay a very high price for their decisions. On the opposition’s side, those who actively involved a foreign imperial power in the domestic affairs of Venezuela, who behave as if it were natural and normal for the US to have a say in Venezuelan politics, and who proceed like they have the full support of US military power authorizing their actions—the price they will need to pay will have to be the maximum one. On the government’s side, those whose decisions and whose many errors of omission and commission have helped to fan the flames of crisis, may find their own future is not assured.

Temir Porras Ponceleón, who served as chief of staff to Nicolás Maduro from 2007 to 2013, and is now a visiting professor at Sciences Po in Paris, has shared a series of important observations and questions about the election issue and the civil war issue, in a hypothetical post-Maduro Venezuela. In a recent interview, he raised these questions:

“We can imagine the crisis getting deeper. Probably the government collapsing, but what about the day after? What about the military of Venezuela? What about the divisions within the military? What I am concerned is, to have a stable and democratic country the day after. And that requires not provoking each other, political dialogue and understanding”.

About the opposition, if it came to power, he asks:

“Do they have a plan to guarantee that this country remains stable and democratic? The day after, do they guarantee that they will not allow, for instance, the US government or the US troops to enter Venezuela? Do they have a plan to deal with the Venezuelan military?”

Then there is the real possibility of a civil war erupting if Maduro leaves or is forced from power:

“And what guarantees that the departure of Maduro doesn’t create a civil war, for instance? The reality of Venezuela is that it is a very polarized country. It is totally unrealistic or irresponsible to think or to assume that there are all the guarantees for Venezuela to be in a peaceful situation. In order to be an election, you have to agree on the terms of that election. When will the election be held? Who can be allowed to run for those elections? And that’s exactly the problem—saying there will be elections is assuming that the problem is solved before even addressing it”.

Ponceleón thinks that it is “highly likely” that the situation will escalate into a civil war in Venezuela. On one point at least, we can already address his question: the opposition cannot guarantee a democratic Venezuela, because it has chosen the most undemocratic means available to it: foreign military intervention. It would be useful to remember that one of the principal ways of conceiving democracy, that came out of many formerly colonized nations, was that democracy meant freedom from alien domination. Any time a foreign power exercises its might in determining the affairs of another people, no matter what those people produce cannot be democratic because the context in which they operate itself stands against democracy.

US intervention, by definition, cancels out self-determination and that means democracy is impossible under such circumstances.

Fictions: Delusions of Authority

There is a serious problem with the person who was appointed and announced himself as the “interim president” of Venezuela, Juán Guaidó. The problem might be diagnosed as megalomania—having serious delusions of authority. In just the last three weeks, Guaidó has gone on record with the following positions:

With the possible exception of the third point, there is a definite pattern here. It involves a realty-denial problem, that is prone to spin fictions. It is what one can expect from someone, unknown to the vast majority of Venezuelans and whose party controlled only 14 seats of the 167 in the defunct National Assembly. It is the posture of a person who was not elected to be president, claiming that the elected president is a sham. The only thing authorizing Guaidó’s fabrications is the power of the US standing behind him. From not having dialogue with Venezuelans, to not having a dialogue with reality, the program represented by Guaidó is that of a fiction waiting—wanting—to become reality. The only chance it has of becoming reality is that it has to be forced through, with massive violence. Why? Because it is artificial; because it is not a program that arises from its grounding in facts. It is pure ideology, at its worst; it is the kind of ideological stance that leads one to foolishly engage in comical stunts on the one hand, while begging for war on the other hand.

Fictions: Movement on the Ground

“What’s going on within Venezuela itself?” asks Paul Dobson—“The answer, however, is not much”. With all the media noise about governments backing the opposition’s claim to presidential authority (in a transparent violation of international law), there is little to show for the opposition making any headway inside Venezuela itself. In fact, most of the hum-drum of everyday life continues, with a few isolated protests, and no public disorder—“conspicuously absent are any of the tell-tale signs of a genuine power shift that might indicate that the government is about to fall”. As Dobson observes, “the man whose name 81 percent of Venezuelans didn’t even know one month ago has not managed to spur the country into the sort of popular action at all levels of society which he probably needs to make this attempted coup a reality”. Guaidó’s primary base of power is his foreign backing, primarily that of the US; his only claim to authority is acting as a gatekeeper of foreign aid allegedly smuggled into the country. As a real president, little would be different, having vowed to sell off Venezuela’s oil facilities to foreign private interests. Guaidó’s greatest achievement would be to become Venezuela’s version of Ashraf Ghani—a figurehead, propped up by foreign aid, overseeing a badly divided country. The only way for a fiction of authority to become a reality is through massive force (violence), and then it only becomes a farcical reality whose life will be short.

On Saturday, February 2, Guaidó’s loudly touted opposition protests occurred, passing without changing anything in the country and even receiving minimal international media coverage. Loudly denounced as a “brutal dictatorship,” the government did absolutely nothing to “repress” the demonstrations, and nobody was reported as hurt or killed. At the same time, a pro-government march countered the opposition protest, and according to some reports, was much larger. In fact, footage of the pro-government demonstration was dishonestly used by Fox News’ Neil Cavuto as he spoke of the opposition rally—when the screen behind him showed a huge mass of people wearing red, the governing party’s colour, along with members of militias. The BBC was at least able to tell the two apart. The opposition protesters were said to number in the “tens of thousands,” which falls far short of the millions who attended pro-government rallies in the past, or a number rivalling the opposition that turned out for Maduro on the same day. Guaidó clearly lacked faith in the possibility of a popular uprising materializing, and he thus continued to call for high-level military defections and for US intervention (though some of the so-called “defectors” were revealed to be fakers)—and the US was reportedly making direct contacts to persuade Venezuelan officers to “defect”. The Saturday protests followed from those held earlier, on Wednesday, January 30, which were reported to be very small and largely confined to the traditional opposition stronghold. Guaidó called for new opposition protests to be held on February 12, clearly not confident that any change would happen anytime soon. The protests came and went, without incident, and without any change. So now the opposition invented a new milestone: February 23, when they said they would push to unblock “aid” sent by the US, which would indeed be using such aid to provoke a violent confrontation, which is likely one of the US’ original objectives in sending the “aid” against the wishes of the legitimate government. (Meanwhile even Colombia’s International Red Cross views the “aid” as a US ploy and said it would have no part in distributing it.)

Indicative of Guaidó’s own lack of confidence, which stems from his lack of legitimacy and the opposition’s over-reliance on foreign support, he made the absurd declaration that he was not ruling out “authorizing” US military intervention. Apparently he was usurping power in the US too now. Responding appropriately, US Representative Ro Khanna stated: “Mr. Guaido, you can proclaim yourself leader of Venezuela but you don’t get to authorize US military interventions”. Khanna added that US legislators would authorize no such action. In a further attempt to pretend he has authority, Guaidó then “ordered” Venezuela’s military to let in “aid” sent by the US—with no sign whatsoever that the military intends to “obey” him.

The Question of International Recognition

In North America, most of the media instruct us on the names and/or numbers of countries that have called on Maduro to step down, and which have recognized Guaidó’s interim presidency. They say little or nothing about all of the countries which have not done so; instead, they occasionally select a certain few that have been the loudest in denouncing the intended coup. The fact of the matter, however, is that the overwhelming majority of the United Nations’ member states continue to acknowledge President Maduro as the legal and legitimate head of government and state in Venezuela—they have made no move whatsoever to withdraw that recognition.

Note that the US took its attempt to shore up support for its force multipliers—the opposition “led” by Guaidó—to the UN Security Council, and not the UN General Assembly which would have meant allowing all member states a vote. The proportion of those supporting the US is greater in the UNSC than in the UNGA. Americans, great tellers of tall tales and ardent fans of impression management, believe that “optics matter”—any performer of magic tricks would immediately agree.

The US failed in its effort to get the United Nations Security Council to support its coup initiative of delegitimizing Maduro and recognizing Guaidó. China, Russia, Equatorial Guinea, and South Africa were some of the countries that expressed support for the Maduro government at the UNSC on January 26, and blocked the US from passing its resolution. China was in fact one of the countries that sent an official delegation to Maduro’s inauguration earlier in the month. Venezuela’s foreign minister, also speaking at the UNSC, declared: “The United States is not behind the coup d’état, it is in the vanguard”. He also blasted a European ultimatum demanding new elections: “Nobody is going to give us deadlines or tell us if there are elections or not”. Russia’s position at the UNSC was not just correct, it was absolutely correct: Venezuela’s internal affairs should never have been brought to the Security Council for discussion in the first place. As Russia’s foreign minister explained, Venezuela “does not represent a threat to the international community, but Washington’s actions do”. This has apparently not stopped the US from returning to the UNSC with a proposed resolution asking it to intervene in Venezuela’s domestic politics, by demanding a new presidential election. Meanwhile, Guaidó’s imagination knows no limits when it comes time to assuming authority: he reportedly told RT that the UNSC has endorsed his side and its attempted coup, not the only “fake news” which he tried to manufacture in that interview.

The UN has since said it would support, not the “Lima Group,” but the Montevideo dialogue, of which Caribbean states have been a key source of momentum (also in opposition to the OAS’ head). The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, also explicitly condemned any move toward foreign military intervention in Venezuela: “The time for an era of foreign intervention passed long ago”. As for the Lima Group, the main outcome of its Ottawa meeting to discuss ways to screw Venezuela, was essentially to call on the military to engage in a coup—so much for “liberal democracy”. Maduro has rejected all EU intervention and also affirmed his support for the Montevideo dialogue instead. That dialogue, however, had thus far only produced a European-backed resolution which Bolivia opposed. The first meeting thus ended with a non-unanimous statement—the obstacle being the Europeans pressing for new presidential elections.

While about 48 governments have recognized Guaidó (usually not in consultation with their electorates), 141 countries, that is, the vast majority of UN members did not heed the US’ call to recognize him. No wonder the US never took its case to the UN General Assembly, where its defeat would have been even more humiliating, and instructive, than it was at the Security Council. Yet, some of the propagandistic North American media, such as Bloomberg, essentially whited out most of the world in order to claim that “global leaders” have backed Guaidó. The rest simply do not exist on their map. They count as those opposing recognition of Guaidó only those that have openly said they would not do so—dismissing those who also have not offered recognition, but who have stayed quiet on Maduro (which is what actual non-intervention looks like). In addition, Bloomberg’s graphic is suitably small enough that we cannot see more than a dozen Caribbean states that have explicitly rejected foreign intervention and recognition of Guaidó. Bloomberg also fails to question the opposition’s fanciful imagining of Russia, China, and Turkey as being “neutral”—so even those countries’ opposition is rhetorically whitewashed. This is a reality-denial problem. Much better, though not perfect, are Venezuelanalysis’ accurate and up-to-date infographics which demonstrate one basic reality very starkly: the world is mostly divided between the “Global North,” made up mostly of former colonial and imperial powers, and the “Global South,” but even more than that it shows what an increasingly multipolar world looks like.

Among the countries that continue to recognize Maduro are the overwhelming majority of African states (with a single exception), Caribbean states (with a single exception), all of Asia, and the Middle East (with one exception).

“Is Venezuela yours?… How do you oust a person who came to office through elections? How do you hand over presidential [powers] to someone who did not even get elected? Do you know what democracy is?”

Earlier, Erdogan in a message to President Maduro exclaimed: “Maduro, brother, stand tall”. Turkey has developed close economic and political ties with Venezuela, and the two leaders have visited each other’s countries in recent years. As for any possible outreach to Russia, the Venezuelan opposition will find itself immediately blocked. Russia does not respect Guaidó as anything other than an instrument of a foreign power, and thus there is no point in holding talks directly with him.

The Venezuelan government promised to review its ties to states that recognized Guaidó, and also promised a symmetrical response to US sanctions and seizures of Venezuela’s assets. Nothing about Maduro suggested he was either intimidated or considered surrendering to US wishes. Maduro insisted he was still interested in good relations with the US, but explicitly not with its government, saying that relations in areas except diplomacy and politics were welcome. What else does one say to those who will not even speak to you?

Lastly, let’s consider those illustrious members of the US Congress: when interviewed on the subject of intervention in Venezuela, they displayed a remarkable degree of not just dishonesty and hypocrisy, but what could also be easily classed as gross intellectual incompetence and even cowardice. It is difficult to locate a better collection of buffoonery in which alcohol was ostensibly absent.

While on the right, figures like Senator Rand Paul stood out in their opposition to US foreign intervention, on the subject of Venezuela it is a small group of particularly bright and courageous young Democrats who have taken the right stand: Tulsi Gabbard, Ro Khanna, and the unflappable Ilhan Omar, who recently interrogated Elliot Abrams. Abrams, is the neoconservative Never Trumper whom Trump has appointed the US “special envoy” for Venezuela. Omar’s comments were not only accurate and on target, they were long overdue. Fox News could only express “shock” (eloquence usually has that effect on them), repeatedly calling the exchange between Omar and Abrams “stunning” (because facts are loathsome things)—but without ever offering a single substantive point to counter Omar’s presentation. They did, however, raise the issue of her identity.

February 15, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment