Aletho News


US Treasury Authorizes Chevron’s Transactions With Venezuela

Samizdat – 26.11.2022

The US Treasury granted Chevron a general license allowing transactions by the California-based energy major that service oil production in Venezuela and its export to the United States.

Transactions performed by Chevron’s joint ventures with Venezuelan state oil giant PdVSA are authorized as long as they are related to “production and lifting of petroleum or petroleum products produced by the Chevron JVs.”

Sale to, exportation to, or importation into the US of petroleum produced by the Chevron JVs will be allowed as long as it is first sold to Chevron.

Joint ventures will also be allowed to buy and import petroleum production-related goods into Venezuela, including diluents, condensates, petroleum, or natural gas products.
The license does not authorize transactions if the oil is exported anywhere other than the US, payments of taxes or royalties to the Venezuelan government, or transactions involving entities linked to Russia, among other caveats.

The United States is also willing to provide targeted sanctions relief to Venezuela in order to encourage negotiations between the Venezuelan government and the opposition, a senior US administration official said on Saturday.

“We have long made clear that we believe the best solution to Venezuela is a negotiated one between Venezuelans, and Venezuelan-led, and in order to encourage that… we are willing to provide targeted sanctions relief based on concrete steps that alleviate the suffering of Venezuelan people and bring them closer to a restoration of democracy through free and fair elections,” the US official said during a conference call.

Earlier this month, sources told Sputnik that the Biden administration is looking at Venezuela as an additional source for crude oil amid global energy market volatility, but has no intention of a blanket lifting of sanctions.

The US hopes to lower gasoline prices for US consumers following production cuts made by the Saudi-led OPEC+ group to stabilize the global market, the source said.

November 26, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Iran bans imports of French cars unless damage redressed

Press TV – November 21, 2022

Iran has banned the imports of French cars until France’s automobile manufacturers, namely Renault, Peugeot and Citroen, compensate the damage caused by leaving the Islamic Republic.

The withdrawal imposed a lot of costs on Iran’s automobile and parts manufacturing industry and left many investments in ruins after the US imposed new sanctions in August 2018, targeting the Islamic Republic’s car industry, trade in gold and other precious metals, and purchases of US dollars.

Although the withdrawal forced Iranian manufacturers to pool their resources and produce locally-made cars, compensation for the damage caused by the pullout is a central demand.

The ban announced by Ministry of Industry, Mining and Trade spokesman Omid Qalibaf comes as Iran is reintroducing foreign car imports in order to both improve the pool of quality automobiles and meet consumer demand.

Iran prohibited the import of Western cars in 2017 to counter the impending reimposition of US sanctions. The idea was part of Tehran’s efforts to develop a “resistance economy” that could both serve Iranians’ demands for cars, lessen dependence on foreign technology, and potentially boost export revenue.

“Those in the process of importing cars are dealing with the related issues and are concluding their contracts one by one, with the first cars expected to enter the country with the conditions that have been announced to the importers.

“However, what is certain is that French cars will not find a way to our market for now, because French companies such as Renault and Peugeot do not have a good history during the time of sanctions, when they easily left our country despite having committed to joint ventures and investments,” Qalibaf said.

Before the sanctions, French carmaker PSA Group had signed a framework deal with Iranian counterpart SAIPA to produce and sell vehicles for its Citroen brand in the country.

Under the agreement, Citroen and its Iranian partner would invest 300 million euros ($330 million) over five years in manufacturing, research and development, with the first of three planned new Citroen models due to be launched in Iran in 2018.

PSA Group, the maker of Peugeot and Citroen cars, had finalized a similar production deal with major Iranian automaker Iran Khodro under a 50-50 joint venture to invest up to 400 million euros ($451 million).

Renault had signed a new joint venture deal that included an engineering and purchasing center to support the development of local suppliers as well as a plant with an initial production capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year.

“In the middle of the road, however, they left the Iranian automakers alone and caused a lot of damage to our country’s automobile industry,” Qalibaf said.

“As long as the French car manufacturers do not compensate for these damages, they will not have any share in the large car market of our country, and the import of any car from France will be prohibited,” he added.

The ban, however, will not include South Korea, Japan and other countries, because they were not involved in any joint projects with Iranian industrialists when the new sanctions were imposed, Qalibaf stated.

The auto industry forms the second biggest sub-sector of the economy behind oil, accounting for some 10 percent of the gross domestic product and 4 percent of employment.

When the former Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran in August 2018, it reserved Washington’s first hammer blow for the car industry to hurt as many Iranians as possible.

However, the US pressures forced domestic manufacturers to mobilize their resources to fulfill some of the tasks which were an exclusive competence of foreign companies.

Last week, Venezuelan Minister of Transport Ramón announced the shipment of 1,000 cars built in Iran to Venezuela, stating that they were among 80,000 requests registered for the products of an Iranian car manufacturer in his country.

“We have a very high demand for Iranian car products, where we were able to register about 80,000 requests in the first stage,” he said in Tehran where he was at the head of a large delegation.

With the exports, Iran is staking out a niche in South America’s automotive marketplace which has a lot of space for growth and expansion, given the uneasy relationship of some of the countries of the region with the United States.

It followed the Iran-Venezuela 2022 Expo Fair held on Sept. 14-18 in Caracas where President Maduro announced the assembly of four Iranian models at Venirauto car manufacturing plant, a joint venture between the Venezuelan government and Iran Khodro.

November 21, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela Stops Oil Shipments To Europe As Alternatives To Russian Energy Dry Up

Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | August 19, 2022

The writing is on the wall for Europe in terms of this coming winter – It’s going to get ugly. With natural gas imports from Russia cut by 80% through Nord Stream 1 along with the majority of oil shipments, the EU is going to be scrambling for whatever fuel sources they can find to supply electricity and heating through the coming winter. Two sources that were originally suggested as alternatives were Iran and Venezuela.

Increased Iranian oil and gas exports to the west are highly dependent on the tentative nuclear deal, but as Goldman Sachs recently suggested, such a deal is unlikely anytime soon as deadlines on proposals have not been met and the Israeli government calls for negotiators to ‘walk away.’

Venezuela had restarted shipments to Europe after 2 years of US sanctions under a deal that allows them to trade oil for debt relief. However, the country’s government has now suspended those shipments, saying it is no longer interested in oil-for-debt deals and instead wants refined fuels from Italian and Spanish producers in exchange for crude.

This might seem like a backwards exchange but Venezuela’s own refineries are struggling to remain in operation because of lack of investment and lack of repairs. Refined fuels would help them to get back on their feet in terms of energy and industry. Some of Venezuela’s own heavy oil operations require imported diluents in order to continue. The EU says it currently has no plans to lift restrictions on the oil-for-debt arrangement, which means Europe has now lost yet another energy source.

Sanctions on Venezuela along with declining investments have strangled their oil industry, with overall production dropping by 38% this July compared to a year ago. Joe Biden’s initial moves to reopen talks with Maduro triggered inflated hopes that Venezuelan oil would flow once again and offset tight global markets and rising prices. Europe in particular will soon be desperate for energy alternatives, which will probably result in a scouring of markets this autumn to meet bare minimum requirements for heating.

If this occurs and no regular sources of energy can be found to fill the void left by Russian sanctions, prices will rise precipitously in the EU. Not only that, but with European countries buying up energy supplies wherever they can find them, available sources will also shrink for every other nation including the US. Get ready for oil and energy prices to spike once again as winter’s chill returns.

August 19, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | 2 Comments

US asks Argentina to confiscate aircraft linked to Iran

MEMO | August 3, 2022

The US Department of Justice said on Tuesday that it has asked the government in Buenos Aires for permission to seize an Iranian plane that was sold to new owners in Venezuela but is being held in Argentina on suspicion of being linked to international terrorist groups.

The unannounced arrival of the plane in Argentina on 8 June raised concerns within the Argentinian government about its relations with Iran, Venezuela and companies that the US has imposed sanctions on. The Justice Department said that the seizure request followed the disclosure of a warrant in the District Court for the District of Columbia dated 19 July to take the aircraft for violating export control laws.

According to the department, the US-made Boeing 747-300 is under sanctions because Iran’s Mahan Air sale to Emtrasur last year violated US export laws. Both companies are subject to US sanctions over their alleged cooperation with terrorist organisations.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said that, “The department will not tolerate transactions that violate our sanctions and export laws.” Mahan Air faces sanctions for its ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, which the US has listed as a terrorist organisation.

There were 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians travelling on the aircraft when it landed in Buenos Aires. Seven of the passengers are still being held by the Argentinian authorities.

August 3, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuelan ruling party leader accuses US of gas pipeline ‘sabotage’

Samizdat | July 19, 2022

CARACAS – The vice president of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Diosdado Cabello, accused the United States of “sabotage” at state-run Venezuelan oil facilities.

On Sunday, Venezuelan Petroleum Minister Tareck El Aissami said that a Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) gas pipeline in the northern state of Monagas was attacked, which triggered a fire at one of its sites. In June, the country’s authorities said that there was an attempted sabotage at the El Palito refinery in the northern state of Carabobo, which could have caused “catastrophic damage” to these facilities. Additionally, a massive fire broke out at the Cardon refinery in the northern state of Falcon in May.

“This is part of the US imperialism policy: attacking oil facilities, sending mercenaries here, some of whom were detained, while others were convicted of coup attempt and murder in our country. These are US government envoys,” Cabello said at a press conference in Caracas on Monday.

The recent “sabotage” at the PDVSA pipeline shows that the US government does not stop in its goal to destabilize the situation in Venezuela, according to Cabello.

“Such events should teach us that imperialism does not rest, they would like to see us torn apart and begging for mercy. It will not happen because our nation is not used to it, our nation does not give up,” Cabello said, adding that the security authorities will take responsibility for any act of aggression in Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had previously implicated Colombian President Ivan Duque in attacks on oil and electricity infrastructure of Venezuela.

July 19, 2022 Posted by | Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | 1 Comment

Petro Government in Colombia Poised to Return Key ‘Stolen’ Asset to Venezuela

By José Luis Granados Ceja | Venezuelanalysis | July 11, 2022

Troubled agrochemical company Monómeros, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned Pequiven, could return to Venezuelan control, Colombian President-elect Gustavo Petro told local radio Tuesday.

The Colombia-based agrochemical producer is considered Venezuela’s second most important foreign-held asset. It came under the control of Venezuela’s hardline opposition in May 2019 alongside a number of other foreign assets following the recognition of Juan Guaidó as “interim president” by Washington and its allies as part of efforts to oust the Nicolás Maduro government.

Since being handed over to the opposition, Monómeros has been plagued by scandals and corruption allegations, which has severely impacted its productivity and has generated serious problems for Colombia’s rural producers.

Colombian Senator Luis Fernando Velasco Chaves, a member of Petro’s transition team managing the Presidential Administrative Office file, reiterated concerns about the management of the firm following a meeting Tuesday with officials from the government of outgoing president President Ivan Duque.

“I am very concerned that Monómeros is still in the hands of Guaidó, Monómeros in the hands of Guaidó was a disaster, it disappeared,” said Velasco.

The senator also ridiculed Guaidó’s management of Monómeros, saying the incoming government could not negotiate with “ghosts that do not exist”.

The agrochemical enterprise, which has two main plants, played a major role in Colombia’s food chain, previously supplying nearly half of the fertilizers and 70 percent of the agrochemicals used by coffee, potato and palm oil production, according to local sources.

“Please look at what is happening to us, ask our peasants, ask our farmers, we are not producing and we are paying three times the [previous] cost of supplies,” said Velasco.

Mismanagement and infighting by the Venezuelan opposition eventually led Colombia’s Corporation Superintendency to assume control of Monómeros. Colombian law allows the corporate watchdog to employ such a process when an enterprise is in a critical “judicial, accounting, economic or administrative” situation.

The Maduro government called the superintendency’s takeover a “flagrant theft” of Venezuela’s assets and demanded they be returned to its rightful owner, the state-owned petrochemical company Pequiven. Maduro has said that Venezuela was engaged in “permanent diplomatic, political and legal activity” to recover the country’s foreign assets and the government has made the return of seized foreign assets a condition of a return to talks with the opposition.

The agrochemical producer did not fare much better under control by Colombian officials, with Petro claiming the company was driven into the ground, leading to a sharp increase in costs for Colombia’s agricultural sector.

“The company ended up practically closing its operations and lost the market it had in Colombia,” said the president-elect in a recent interview.

Monómeros faced yet another scandal after officials from the US Embassy to Venezuela revealed to Guaidó insider Enrique Sánchez Falcón that the company’s board had hired a lobbyist with ties to former US Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich without the knowledge or authorization of Guaidó’s team.

Sánchez Falcón told the outlet Efecto Cocuyo that the lobbyist was allegedly working to renew Monómeros’ sanctions waiver with the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) but that the effort was “unnecessary” since the license was likely forthcoming anyway. Guaidó subsequently announced an investigation into the irregular hire of the lobbyist. The OFAC license was eventually renewed in late June.

The current leadership of the firm has apparently failed to even update officials from Guaidó’s team about the status of the Monómeros. Guaidó ally Yon Goicoechea said he believes the secrecy is tied to a hostile takeover effort. The US-backed “interim president” has pledged to overhaul the management of the corporation but the efforts have led to corruption accusations and further infighting amidst the opposition camp.

A press spokesperson from Guaidó’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the possible return of Monómeros to Venezuelan state management.

Outgoing Colombian President Iván Duque has steadfastly refused to return control of Monómeros to Venezuela, given that he does not recognize Maduro as president.

Duque recently said that he would also decline to extend an invitation to Maduro for Petro’s inauguration. The president-elect has said invitations are the purview of the outgoing government but said Maduro’s attendance would be “prudent”.

Petro, who has committed to reestablishing diplomatic and economic ties between Colombia and Venezuela, takes office on August 9.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Mérida.

July 13, 2022 Posted by | Corruption, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , | Leave a comment

Biden Faces Backlash for Venezuela Talks as Caracas Demands Recognition

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Félix Plasencia argued the US needs to recognize Maduro and lift sanctions before oil shipments can restart

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Félix Plasencia participates in the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey. (@plasenciafelixr / Twitter)
By José Luis Granados Ceja – Venezuelanalysis – March 14, 2022

The Biden administration faced strong bipartisan criticism over recent direct talks with the Venezuelan government.

News outlets reported that in light of criticism from hardline sympathizers of the Venezuelan opposition, the Biden administration had suspended its direct talks with the Venezuelan government but that a deal to lift some US sanctions in exchange for restarting oil sales to the US was still on the table.

Washington recently ordered the suspension of Russian oil imports, leaving the US desperate to find other sources of crude as rising energy prices threaten to create a domestic crisis for the Democrats ahead of midterm elections in November.

Despite the lack of diplomatic relations stemming from the US’ refusal to recognize the results of the 2018 presidential election, Caracas and Washington have maintained back-channel communications. These talks led to the first direct exchange between the US and Venezuelan governments in years, which came at Washington’s request.

News of the encounter was met with a vehement condemnation from both Republican politicians such as Senator Marco Rubio and fellow Democrats such as Florida’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a longtime supporter of the Venezuelan opposition.

Rubio, one the most vocal champions of Venezuela’s self-declared “interim president’ Juan Guaidó, has gone on the offensive to try to preemptively stop any deal and introduced legislation to ban the import of oil from Venezuela and Iran.

Various politicians from Florida sent a letter to Biden criticizing the administration’s decision to hold direct talks with Maduro. Florida’s large Cuban and Venezuelan population and status as a “swing state” in US elections has led politicians to cater their foreign policy toward Latin America in the interest of pleasing this comparatively small constituency.

However, skyrocketing energy costs inside the US as a result of global geopolitical situation in light of the Russian military operation in Ukraine and the subsequent ban of Russian oil imports have put the Maduro government in Venezuela, which counts on the world’s largest oil reserves, in a more favorable bargaining position.

Until recent developments, the Biden White House had largely maintained its predecessor’s “maximum pressure” policy aimed at ousting Maduro, though the Financial Times reported that the administration had already been considering a change in strategy.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki tried to downplay the March 5 meeting that counted on the presence of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Vice President Delcy Rodríguez as well as Biden Latin America adviser Juan González.

The direct talks led to the release of US citizens Gustavo Cardenas and Jorge Fernández on Tuesday, however US State Department spokesman Ned Price denied their release was tied to a deal regarding Venezuelan oil.

For his part, Maduro called the engagement “respectful, cordial and very diplomatic” and said that the US had committed to a follow-up meeting.

The direct talks with the Venezuelan leader have undermined the US’ strategy in Venezuela and its support for Juan Guaidó, who the Biden administration insists they still recognize as “interim president.”

With Guaidó’s position under increased scrutiny, the opposition has come to rely on the US almost exclusively for its legitimacy. Senator Rubio recently admitted that a deal would mean the opposition would be “finished”.

Guaidó was not part of the talks and reportedly only learned of the high-level meeting between the US and Venezuelan governments the day of the meeting.

Sources in Venezuela’s opposition told the Miami Herald that the potential deal would involve granting a special license to Chevron to ramp up activities in Venezuela. Chevron has previously lobbied the US State Department for a rollback of sanctions against Venezuela.

Caracas demands recognition, sanctions relief

Venezuelan officials have likewise commented on the possibility of restarting the oil trade with the US, with Foreign Minister Félix Plasencia stating that any deal to supply oil would be contingent on Washington and Brussels recognizing Nicolás Maduro as president.

“We have a 100-year oil business relationship with the United States. We have not taken them out of the business, they left in order to impose coercive measures. Now they want to return. Fine, if they accept that the only and legitimate government of Venezuela is the one led by President Nicolás Maduro, then US and European oil companies would be welcome,” said Plasencia at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum held this past weekend in Turkey.

Plasencia added that a “respectful relationship” would also require the lifting of coercive measures that deepened the country’s economic crisis.

EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell held a bilateral meeting with Plasencia on the margins of the forum that both described as “good,” with Borrell’s team indicating a willingness on the part of the European bloc to normalize relations and lift sanctions.

Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, had a steady crude production of around 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd) and exported approximately 500,000 bpd to US markets until sanctions targeted the sector and crippled production.

The Venezuelan oil industry has lately shown signs of improvement with Plasencia stating that the country could produce up to 2 million barrels per day by the end of the year thanks to the assistance of “reliable partners, such as Russia, China and Iran.”

The recent diplomatic summit also saw Plasencia and Vice President Delcy Rodríguez both meet with a Russian delegation led by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“We held a meeting with our good friend Sergei Lavrov. We reviewed our bilateral strategic relations and the complex international scenario,” Rodriguez said via Twitter.

The March 5 high-level meeting between the US and Venezuela was likewise driven by Washington’s efforts to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin from his allies in Latin America. US officials were reportedly seeking a public condemnation of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine by Maduro. Caracas has called for a “peaceful resolution” to the ongoing crisis but has stopped short of criticizing the Russian military operation.

The Venezuelan leader spoke directly by phone with Putin, with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reporting that the Venezuelan president expressed his “firm support” for Russia and condemned destabilization efforts by the US and NATO.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.

March 14, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

US Officials Meet Maduro, Fail to Drive Wedge Between Venezuela and Russia

By José Luis Granados Ceja | Venezuelanalysis | March 7, 2022

Mexico City, Mexico – A high-level United States (US) government delegation that visited Venezuela on Saturday failed to produce an agreement with the government of Nicolás Maduro.

News of the delegation was first broken by the New York Times, which described the trip as the highest-level visit by US officials in years. Outlets subsequently reported that no agreement was reached. Caracas had not publicly commented on the meeting at the time of writing.

According to Reuters, the US team was led by White House Latin America adviser Juan González and made “maximalist” demands concerning electoral guarantees. Citing three people familiar with the matter, Reuters reported that the US was seeking new presidential elections, a larger participation of foreign private capital in Venezuela’s oil industry and a public condemnation of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. The Biden administration representatives reportedly offered Venezuela a temporary return to the SWIFT financial transaction system.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, who directly participated in the meeting, instead demanded broader sanctions relief and the return of foreign assets such as oil subsidiary CITGO. US officials reportedly brought up the cases of US citizens jailed in Venezuela, including six oil executives imprisoned for corruption and two former Green Berets who took part in a failed coup effort.

The meeting in Caracas was the latest US effort to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin from his allies in the region. US officials told the Times that Washington views Russia’s Latin American allies as a potential “security threat” should the tensions continue to escalate in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which has ratcheted up conflict between the US and Russia.

Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with the US in 2019 after the latter recognized opposition figure Juan Guaidó as “interim president.” The US and its allies refused to recognize the results of the 2018 election that saw Maduro reelected to a six-year term. Washington then proceeded to engage in and support a series of unsuccessful coup plots, ultimately failing to oust Maduro from power.

US strategy toward Venezuela has more recently been focused on isolating Maduro, imposing crippling sanctions on the country’s energy sector and seizing, together with its allies, the country’s assets abroad. In public statements, the Biden administration has expressed its unwillingness to seriously negotiate with Caracas absent new elections.

Nonetheless, due to the failure of the US to successfully install Guaidó as an authority with any real power inside Venezuela, Caracas and Washington have maintained back-channel communications despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations. Guaidó, despite being recognized by the US as the country’s president, was only informed of the high-level delegation the morning of the meeting.

Venezuelan geopolitical analyst Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein told Venezuelanalysis that the leak of the news of the visit of senior US officials was motivated by an effort to drive a wedge between Caracas and Moscow and leave the impression that there was a “chill” in relations between the two countries.

Rodríguez maintained that Washington and Caracas would nonetheless leave the door open to dialogue.

“I believe that there will be continued attempts at rapprochement, especially because the Mexican [dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition] was exhausted,” he said. “The Mexico talks were totally absurd since the opposition was being directed from within the United States, any step they took had to be consulted with Washington. In that sense it is much more feasible for the United States to negotiate directly with Venezuela.”

President Maduro has repeatedly expressed a willingness to negotiate an end to US-led sanctions on the country. The lack of a deal stemming from the visit by the senior-level delegation suggests Venezuela did not find it to be a workable proposal. Reuters reported that US officials agreed to a follow-up meeting.

It would take a considerable reversal of US policy toward the Caribbean nation to get the country to walk away from its Russian ally. Relations between the two countries have only grown in light of US efforts to isolate Caracas. Russian assistance has played an important role in Venezuela’s efforts to attend to the economic crisis in the country, providing support and expertise to the country’s key industries as well as steady investment in Venezuela’s energy sector.

Venezuela likewise recently strengthened its ties with Russia following a visit by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov in February.

Caracas has called for a “peaceful resolution” to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine but has stopped short of condemning the Russian military operation. Venezuela did not vote in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s resolution concerning the Russian offensive in Ukraine. The country’s voting rights have been suspended as a result of unpaid UN membership dues due the impact of sanctions.

In light of coercive measures applied on Russia by the US and the European Union, Maduro has insisted that Venezuela will maintain its commercial relations with the Eurasian nation.

The Venezuelan leader also spoke directly by phone with Putin last week, with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reporting that the Venezuelan president expressed his “firm support” for Russia and condemned destabilization efforts by the US and NATO. Maduro has publicly called NATO’s handling of the Minsk Agreements a “mockery” and argued that their “derailment” constituted a violation of international law.

The Russian ambassador in Caracas Sergey Melik was invited to greet the opening 5th Congress of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, held this Saturday, and was met with strong applause from the delegates.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.

March 11, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela backs Russia despite tempting US offers

MEMO | March 10, 2022

The US has been trying to tempt Venezuela into increasing its oil production, but President Nicolas Maduro insists on standing by his traditional ally and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. US officials have visited the country with the promise of continued access to US markets.

Venezuela and other South American countries were surprised by the visits by the officials from the White House and the State Department as soon as the Russian military operation against Ukraine started. Venezuelan newspapers reported that the American justification was the difference in the vision of the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden compared with its predecessor run by Republican President Donald Trump, who once threatened to wage war against Venezuela’s socialist President Maduro to remove him from power.

Venezuela wants to regain its share of oil sales to the US market, which was its main market before sanctions were imposed by Washington. However, it said that this must be done without engaging in any policy hostile to Russia. US companies increased their imports of Russian oil when the embargo on oil from Venezuela was imposed.

Despite the US offers, Venezuela has stressed that any increase in its oil quota will be made in coordination with OPEC. It will not submit to US demands.

Although it is in contact with the Biden administration, Venezuela has made its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine very clear. President Maduro, for example, has told Putin that Russia has the right to defend its security in the face of NATO expansion. Moreover, the Venezuelan representative in the Human Rights Council in Geneva has condemned the punitive measures taken against Russia, while his country abstained during the UN General Assembly vote on a resolution condemning the invasion.

March 10, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , | 11 Comments

Plan Puma: When Argentina Ran Military Drills at the Behest of the US to Invade Venezuela

By Julian Cola | MintPress News | March 1, 2022

BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s Defense Minister Jorge Tayana and his Venezuelan counterpart, Minister of People’s Power for Defense Vladimir Padrino López, have agreed to cooperate in pursuing their investigation of Puma, a series of military exercises conducted in Argentina in 2019 with the aim of invading Venezuela and overthrowing the government. The military drills – which were overseen by Argentina’s former rapid deployment force army commander and current head of the army, General Juan Martín Paleo – were undertaken between April and July 2019, during the presidency of Mauricio Macri.

As an active member of the Lima Group, Macri’s government demonstrated an interventionist attitude in relation to Venezuela,” said Tayana.

With the overall goal of overthrowing the Bolivarian Revolution, the objective of the military drills was to train a swift action battalion ready and available to the U.S. military’s Southern Command. Seven military exercises were conducted at the Campo de Mayo garrison and by videoconference. Participants included Córdoba’s Parachute Brigade, the Tenth Mechanized Infantry Brigade of La Pampa, and commandos from Argentina’s Special Operations Force, also located in Córdoba. After the initial incursion into Venezuelan territory, a multinational task force would follow to provide military support and consolidate the occupation.

The Communist Party of Argentina has called for Paleo’s removal.

Revealed by Argentinean journalist Horacio Verbitsky, operation Puma also uncovered maps of Venezuela with military installations and positions. Not so unassuming codewords and acronyms were used to describe different countries in the region. “South America is called South Patagonia. Venezuela is referred to as Volcano and its officials in conflict are NM and JG, otherwise, Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó,” said Verbitsky. The map also showed Colombia referred to as “Ceres”; the two Guyanas and Suriname are “Tellus”; Brazil is “Febo”; Peru and Ecuador are “Fauno”; Chile is “Juno”; Uruguay is “Baco”; and Paraguay and Bolivia are nonexistent.

It also has been noted that the first Puma military exercises were conducted in April 2019, just 15 days prior to Operation Liberty, a failed attempt to seize a military base east of Caracas. The operation was coordinated by the disgraced former president of Venezuela’s National Assembly and self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaidó, and opposition figurehead Leopoldo López.


Macri was a regional head of state who recognized Guaidó as president of Venezuela. He also was a signer to the Organization of American States’ (OAE) Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance. During heightened tensions against the Venezuelan government, this treaty made it permissible to activate the armed forces of regional countries if any member state suffered an attack.

Venezuela’s National Assembly has approved an agreement, signed by the government and opposition, on three principal aspects regarding the protection of its national territory: (1) Coordinate and reject any pretense of military intervention; (2) Incentivize investigations to determine responsibility and impose sanctions on those who attempt to undermine or weaken the national territory; (3) Strengthen internal laws related to security and defense of the national territory.

Argentina’s current president, Alberto Fernández, withdrew from the Lima Group in March 2021. “The Republic of Argentina has formalized its withdrawal from the so-called Lima Group, considering the actions promoted by the group internationally, to isolate Venezuela and its representatives, have achieved nothing,” noted Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The official press release also stated that the Lima Group was composed of “Venezuelan opposition members,” as if they were equal parties to the group. Their presence has “led to the adoption of positions that our government can’t undertake and will not support.”

Established by 13 countries – including Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru – with support from the United States, the Lima Group’s stated purpose is to “denounce the rupture of the democratic order in Venezuela.” Despite not officially being a participating member, the U.S. government attended several Lima Group conferences via videoconference.

“In May 2019, as Paleo commanded the second and third sessions of the Argentine Armed Forces exercise to invade Venezuela,” said Verbitsky, “[t]he (U.S.) Southern Command published” a white paper entitled “Enduring Promise for the Americas.” The publication of the document coincided not only with Operation Puma military drills but also an official visit by the Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, Craig Faller, to Argentina in June 2019. During his stay, the career military official convened with Venezuela’s former Minister of Defense Oscar Aguad to discuss issues involving cyber-defense, narco-trafficking, and organized crime.

March 2, 2022 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia & China may be ready to challenge America’s ‘Monroe Doctrine’

By Paul Robinson | RT | February 1, 2022

For 200 years, the Monroe Doctrine – asserting a US sphere of influence over Latin America – has been a cornerstone of American policy. But as Russia and China assert their opposition to the US-led world order, American dominance in the region is beginning to look a little shaky.

As the “Russian invasion” scare enters its fourth month, and Russian tanks still fail to roll into Kiev, the parameters of Moscow’s likely response to the West’s rejection of its security demands are becoming a little clearer. Frustrated with what it sees as decades of Western contempt for its concerns, Moscow has demanded that the US offer it security guarantees, including a promise not to expand NATO further to the east. As has become clear through America’s negative response this week, the US has no intention of doing as Russia desires. The issue is now how the Kremlin will react.

Despite hysterical headlines in the Western media about a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has categorically ruled this option out. “Our nation has likewise repeatedly stated that we have no intention to attack anyone. We consider the very thought that our people may go to war against each other unacceptable,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev this week.

This is not surprising. Russian officials and security experts have repeatedly made clear that Ukraine is a secondary issue and that their primary concern is a much broader one – the general nature of the international system and of the security architecture in Europe. The idea that failure to achieve agreement on the latter would lead to the invasion of the former was never very logical. Instead of targeting Ukraine, Russia’s response to the current diplomatic impasse is much more likely to be directed at the party deemed by Moscow to be most responsible for the problem, namely the US.

And what better way to do this than to challenge America in its own back yard? Since President James Monroe declared his famous “doctrine” in 1832 – according to which any foreign interference in the politics of the Americas is deemed a hostile act against Washington – the US has fiercely asserted its primacy in both North and South America.

Nowhere has this been clearer than in successive US administrations’ efforts to depose the government of Cuba, as well as the imposition of sanctions on that country for over 60 years. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Washington made it clear that it was willing even to risk nuclear war to prevent potentially hostile weaponry being deployed close to its borders. Meanwhile, elsewhere it has used other methods to undermine or overthrow Latin American governments deemed insufficiently friendly. These include supporting coups and insurgencies, such as aiding the Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

But Washington’s ability to bend Latin America to its will appears somewhat weakened. Support for regime change in Bolivia and Honduras has backfired, with members of the deposed governments having returned to power. Meanwhile, China is expanding its Belt and Road Initiative into South America, with seven countries having signed up to join and negotiations under way with Nicaragua to add an eighth. The US is no longer the only player in town.

Russia has now stepped into the mix. In the past few weeks, President Vladimir Putin has held telephone conversations with the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, all countries with whom Washington has very poor relations. According to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, agreement was reached with all three “to deepen our strategic partnership, with no exceptions, including military and military-technical.”

Asked if this meant deploying Russian troops to those countries, Lavrov’s deputy Sergey Ryabkov failed to rule it in, but failed to rule it out also. “The president of Russia has spoken multiple times on the subject of what the measures could be, for example involving the Russian Navy, if things are set on the course of provoking Russia, and further increasing the military pressure on us by the US,” he said.

A much-discussed extreme option would involve going back to 1962 and placing missiles in Cuba or Venezuela. Given that Russia now has missiles with hypersonic capabilities, this would give it the capacity to strike the US in a matter of minutes, rendering any defense impossible.

It seems unlikely, though, that the Russian government would take such a provocative step unless the US first did something similar in Ukraine or elsewhere close to the Russian border. Even the option mentioned by Ryabkov of some Russian naval deployment to the region is far from certain. “We can’t deploy anything” to Cuba, said former president Dmitry Medvedev this week, arguing that it would harm that country’s prospects of improving its relations with the US and “would provoke tension in the world.”

Still, the threat of such action now dangles in the air. So, too, does the possibility of lesser options, such as additional arms sales as well as economic assistance to enable the Cubans and others to resist American sanctions. For now, we will have to wait and see exactly what “military and military-technical” measures Moscow has in mind. But it is likely that whatever it is will not be to the Americans’ liking. Nor will Russia’s more general support of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Reacting to talk of Russian military deployments in the Americas, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has promised that the Americans would respond “decisively.” This is somewhat ironic, since Sullivan and his peers in the US government seem to deny Russia the right to respond to American deployments close to its borders. But that is by the by. In reality, it’s hard to see what Washington could actually do, short of starting a catastrophic war. Efforts to overthrow the Cuban and Venezuelan government having failed, and economic ties having been almost fully broken, its leverage against those countries is weak.

Washington now has to face the reality that while it remains the foremost power in the world, it can no longer be fully confident of its hegemony even close to home. Its decline is a very gradual process. Nothing very dramatic will likely result from Russia’s latest announcement. It is also possible that Moscow would have decided to cooperate more deeply with Cuba and others even in the absence of current East-West tensions. But had relations been good, one can imagine that the Kremlin might have been inclined not to challenge the US in its own neighborhood.

As it is, the news highlights the fact that pressuring Russia is not a cost-free option from Washington’s point of view and may well rebound to its disadvantage. That’s something that the authorities in the White House could do well to consider.

Paul Robinson is a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history and military ethics, and is author of the Irrussianality blog.

February 1, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russian roulette: as croupier at this particular casino table, I invite you to place your bets

By Gilbert Doctorow | January 14, 2022

The Russia-US-NATO-OSCE meetings this week have come and gone.  The Russian verdict was succinctly delivered by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Ryabkov, who explained even before the OSCE session was over that the talks have come to “a dead end” and it was unlikely the Russians will participate in any follow-on talks.

This opens the question to what comes next.

Official Washington feels certain that what comes next is a Russian invasion of Ukraine, which could come in the next few weeks and thereby fall within the timetable for such an operation suggested by State Department officials when they met with NATO allies ahead of Biden’s December 7 virtual summit with Putin. The logic put out then was that January-February would be very suitable for a land invasion given that the frozen ground would well support tank movements.  One might add to that argument on timing, one further argument that was not adduced:  in midwinter it is questionable how long the Russians would want to keep 100,000 soldiers camped in field conditions near the border; such stasis in these severe conditions is not conducive to maintaining morale.

In what I would call a rare show of failing confidence in the predictive powers of the Biden Administration, U.S. media admit to uncertainty over Russia’s next moves. However, they cleverly present this by pointing to the uncertainty of the analysts and commentators on the Russian side.

A featured article in The New York Times a couple of days ago by their Moscow correspondent Anton Troianovsky says it all in the title: Putin’s Next Move on Ukraine Is a Mystery. Just the Way He Likes It”

Indeed, all the best known Russian experts appear to be stymied, none more so than the ubiquitous Fyodor Lukyanov, host of the weekly television show “International Overview” and long time research director of the Valdai Discussion Club, where his peers in the front ranks of American international affairs specialists have gotten to know him.  Lukyanov has in recent days humbly admitted he hasn’t a clue to what comes next.  Another leading figure in the Russian foreign affairs think tank community, Andrei Kortunov, director of the Russian International Affairs Council, has shown in recent interviews that he is no better informed about what is going on in the Kremlin and what comes next.

Western experts are also shown by our media to be clueless. Today’s Financial Times article “Russia writes off security talks…” ends with a quote from Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace: “Nobody knows Putin’s next move. And we’ll all find out at the same time.”

By definition, ‘experts’ cannot declare they know nothing and be taken seriously. This reminds me of the saying of my boss for five years at ITT Europe in the 1980s, Georges Tsygalnitzky. Each time we sat down to prepare the annual Business Plan he told us that if we calculated the sales forecasts badly, we could be up to 100% off, but if we failed to deliver a Plan we would be “infinitely wrong.” The same rules apply to government defense planning.

No right-thinking person likes the idea of a major war coming to the middle of Europe, as the Ukrainians consider themselves to be.  The United States has still more reason to worry about a looming war between Russia and Ukraine, because the outcome of total rout for the Kiev military forces equates to a bloody nose for Washington: its acknowledged 2.5 billion dollar investment in arming and training the Ukrainian military will have been in vain, and the loss would rival the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan in terms of American global prestige. The Biden administration would enter the midterm electoral period reeling from its losses in international relations.

Without wishing the Biden administration ill, I believe their scenario of a Russian invasion is wrong-headed and unimaginative. It fails to come to terms with the Russians’ imperatives on altering the security architecture in Europe as drivers of their current policies, not settling scores with Ukraine, or bringing them back to a common homeland, as Blinken & Company repeat ad nauseam.

So what comes next?  In successive articles on this website, I have set out several scenarios, or algorithms. My most recent prognosis in yesterday’s piece was that Putin’s Plan B would likely be purely “military-technical” in the sense of roll-out of medium range nuclear capable missiles in Kaliningrad and Belarus, to place all of Europe under threat of attack with ultra-short warning times, such as Moscow finds unacceptable coming from U.S.-NATO encirclement of its territory.

At the same time, Moscow might announce the stationing off of the American East and West Coasts of its submarines and frigates carrying hypersonic missiles and the Poseidon deep sea nuclear capable drone, all to the same purpose, namely putting a pistol to the head of the U.S. leadership. And now there is even talk of Russia building military installations in Venezuela, likely to host Russian strategic bombers capable of swift attack on the Continental United States without having to fly half the world. And a Cuban delegation is reportedly in Moscow, no doubt talking about posssible installation of missiles there. This is all very reminiscent of the goings-on in 1962.

One reader of this essay has written in, saying that news of Russian submarines posted off the coast of New York and Los Angeles could sink the S&P. Yes, indeed, and this financial damage is an aspect of policy that the Russians have taken into account. The sensitivity of Wall Street to bad news was mentioned specifically by Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov earlier in the week in Q&A. The American middle classes may be indifferent to foreign affairs generally but they are very attentive and politically active when the value of their 401k pension fund is hit. It is not for nothing that wealth fund managers in the City of London, board members of leading U.S. banks and insurance companies are readers of my essays as reposted on my LinkedIn account.

I imagine that Russia’s Plan B could begin implementation in the next couple of weeks and would be given three or four weeks to take effect on Western public consciousness.  If the United States and NATO still resisted coming to terms over changes to the Alliance that satisfy Russian demands, then I envision a Plan C which would indeed be kinetic warfare, but quite different from the invasion that figures in U.S. public statements and approaches to its allies.

Without putting a single soldier on the ground in Ukraine or contemplating direct overthrow of its regime and occupation, Russia could by “military-technical means,” such as missile and air attacks destroy the Ukraine’s command and control structure as well as “neutralize” the most radical nationalist militias and other hostile units now threatening Donbas. The destruction of Ukraine’s military infrastructure would by itself put an end to Washington’s plans for extensive war games there later in the year.  We may assume that Russian forces will remain massed at the border till such operations are completed.

The clean-up of Ukraine, ending its potential to threaten Russian national security, would be a very strong signal to all of Europe to back off in practice even if no formal treaties are signed with Russia at present.

In an exchange with a close colleague in Washington this morning, we agreed a bet on whether my prediction holds. And in this casino of international politics, I invite readers to place their own bets on what comes next.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022

January 15, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | 3 Comments