Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Russia Warns US Against Economic Blockade on Venezuela – Deputy Foreign Minister

Sputnik – August 20, 2019

Russia has warned the United States against any attempts to impose an economic blockade on Venezuela, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in a statement.

“We will certainly study the situation related to Washington’s boosting of illegal, illegitimate sanctions pressure and attempts to impose blockade [on Venezuela]. We warn Washington against incautious steps in this sphere”, Ryabkov said.

According to the diplomat, the issue of US sanctions against the Latin American nation will be discussed during the course of talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez scheduled for 21 August.

Ryabkov said that Rodríguez has already held several rounds of talks and will continue to communicate with Russian officials on various subjects.

Speaking about the bilateral ties between Russia and Venezuela, the diplomat said that the two nations will boost economic cooperation, including in mining and machine engineering.

“We are not discussing economic assistance, but economic cooperation”, Ryabkov said, when asked whether Russia possibly increasing its aid to the Latin American country was on the agenda during Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez’s visit to Moscow. “We’re continuing work on a range of projects. New possibilities have emerged in some areas, such as the mining industry and … machine engineering. We’re continuing work on Russian grain deliveries to Venezuela in quite significant amounts. As I see it, the government already started … such discussions yesterday”.

Earlier this month, Washington imposed a new round of sanctions on Venezuela with National Security Adviser John Bolton saying that the pressure sent a direct signal to all enablers of “Maduro’s dictatorship”. Caracas decried the sanctions as “another serious aggression by the Trump administration through arbitrary economic terrorism against the Venezuelan people”.

Venezuela has suffered a political crisis since the beginning of this year when opposition figure Juan Guaido proclaimed himself interim president of the country just days after legitimate President Maduro was inaugurated for a second term.

Washington as well as other nations immediately recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s leader. However, Russia among several other nations refused to recognise the legitimacy of the self-styled president’s claim.

President Maduro, for his part, slammed the opposition leader as a US “puppet”, saying Guaido’s recognition by global leaders was a coup attempt staged by the United States.

August 20, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Punishing the World With Sanctions

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 15, 2019

Sanctions are economic warfare, pure and simple. As an alternative to a direct military attack on a country that is deemed to be misbehaving they are certainly preferable, but no one should be under any illusions regarding what they actually represent. They are war by other means and they are also illegal unless authorized by a supra-national authority like the United Nations Security Council, which was set up after World War II to create a framework that inter alia would enable putting pressure on a rogue regime without going to war. At least that was the idea, but the sanctions regimes recently put in place unilaterally and without any international authority by the United States have had a remarkable tendency to escalate several conflicts rather than providing the type of pressure that would lead to some kind of agreement.

The most dangerous bit of theater involving sanctions initiated by the Trump administration continues to focus on Iran. Last week, the White House elevated its extreme pressure on the Iranians by engaging in a completely irrational sanctioning of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The sanctions will have no effect whatsoever and they completely contradict Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that he is seeking diplomacy to resolve the conflict with Iran. One doesn’t accomplish that by sanctioning the opposition’s Foreign Minister. Also, the Iranians have received the message loud and clear that the threats coming from Washington have nothing to do with nuclear programs. The White House began its sanctions regime over a year ago when it withdrew from the JCPOA and they have been steadily increasing since that time even though Iran has continued to be fully compliant with the agreement. Recently, the US took the unprecedented step of sanctioning the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is part of the nation’s military.

American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear that the sanctions on Iran are intended to cause real pain, which, in fact, they have succeeded in doing. Pompeo and his accomplice in crime National Security Advisor John Bolton believe that enough pressure will motivate the starving people to rise up in the streets and overthrow the government, an unlikely prospect as the American hostility has in fact increased popular support for the regime.

To be sure, ordinary people in Iran have found that they cannot obtain medicine and some types of food are in short supply but they are not about to rebel. The sanctioning in May of Iranian oil exports has only been partially effective but it has made the economy shrink, with workers losing jobs. The sanctions have also led to tit-for-tat seizures of oil and gas tankers, starting with the British interception of a ship carrying Iranian oil to Syria [?] in early July.

Another bizarre escalation in sanctions that has taken place lately relates to the Skripal case in Britain. On August 2nd, Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing a package of new sanctions against Moscow over the alleged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in March 2018. The order “prohibit[s] any United States bank from making any loan or providing any credit… except for loans or credits for the purpose of purchasing food or other agricultural commodities or products.” The ban also includes “the extension of any loan or financial or technical assistance… by international financial institutions,” meaning that international lenders will also be punished if they fail to follow Washington’s lead.

The sanctions were imposed under the authority provided by the US Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act adopted in 1991, which imposes penalties for use of chemical weapons. Novichok, which was reportedly used on the Skripals, is a chemical weapon developed in the labs of the Soviet Union, though a number of states are believed to currently have supplies of the agent in their arsenals. Russia can appeal the sanctions with 90 days by providing “reliable assurance” that it will not again use chemical weapons.

Russia has strenuously denied any role in the attack on the Skripals and the evidence that has so far been produced to substantiate the Kremlin’s involvement has been less than convincing. An initial package of US-imposed sanctions against Russia that includes the export of sensitive technologies and some financial services was implemented in August 2018.

Venezuela is also under the sanctions gun and is a perfect example how sanctions can escalate into something more punitive, leading incrementally to an actual state of war. Last week Washington expanded its sanctions regime, which is already causing starvation in parts of Venezuela, to include what amounts to a complete economic embargo directed against the Maduro regime that is being enforced by a naval blockade.

The Venezuelan government announced last Wednesday that the United States Navy had seized a cargo ship bound for Venezuela while it was transiting the Panama Canal. According to a government spokesman, the ship’s cargo was soy cakes intended for the production of food. As one of Washington’s raisons d’etre for imposing sanctions on Caracas was that government incompetence was starving the Venezuelan people, the move to aggravate that starvation would appear to be somewhat capricious and revealing of the fact that the White House could care less about what happens to the Venezuelan civilians who are caught up in the conflict.

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez condemned the move as “serious aggression,” and accused the Trump Administration of trying to impede Venezuela’s basic right to import food to feed its people.

One of the most pernicious aspects of the sanctions regimes that the United States is imposing is that they are global. When Washington puts someone on its sanctions list, other countries that do not comply with the demands being made are also subject to punishment, referred to as secondary sanctions. The sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, for example, are being globally enforced with some few exceptions, and any country that buys Iranian oil will be punished by being denied access to the US financial and banking system. That is a serious penalty as most international trade and business transactions go through the dollar denominated SWIFT banking network.

Finally, nothing illustrates the absurdity of the sanctions mania as a recent report that President Trump had sent his official hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien to Stockholm to obtain freedom for an American rap musician ASAP Rocky who was in jail after having gotten into a fight with some local boys. The Trumpster did not actually know the lad, but he was vouched for by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, both of whom have had nice things to say about the president. The negotiator was instructed to tell Sweden that if they did not release Rocky there would be “negative consequences.” Who can doubt that the consequences would undoubtedly have included sanctions?

It has reached the point where the only country that likes the United States is Israel, which is locked into a similar cycle of incessant aggression. To be sure Donald Trump’s rhetoric is part of the problem, but the indiscriminate, illegal and immoral use of sanctions, which punish whole nations for the presumed sins of those nations’ leaders, is a major contributing factor. And the real irony is that even though sanctions cause pain, they are ineffective. Cuba has been under sanctions, technically and embargo, since 1960 and its ruling regime has not collapsed, and there is no chance that Venezuela, Iran or Russia’s government will go away at any time soon either. In fact, real change would be more likely if Washington were to sit down at a negotiating table with countries that it considers enemies and work to find solutions to common concerns. But that is not likely to happen with the current White House line-up, and equally distant with a Democratic Party obsessed with the “Russian threat” and other fables employed to explain its own failings.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Food Shipment Destined For Venezuela Seized Due to US Blockade

teleSUR | August 7, 2019

Venezuela’s Vicepresident Delcy Rodriguez denounced Wednesday that a ship containing 25 thousand tonnes of Soya has been seized in the Panama Canal due to the U.S. blockade while calling on the United Nations to take action against the “serious aggression” that impede Venezuela “right to food”.

“Venezuela denounces before the world that a boat that holds 25 thousand tons of Soya, for food production in our country, has been seized in the Panama Canal, due to the criminal blockade imposed by Donald Trump,” the vice president said in a tweet.

“Venezuela calls on the UN to stop this serious aggression by Donald Trump’s govt against our country, which constitutes a massive violation of the human rights of the entire Venezuelan people, by attempting to impede their right to food.”

In a subsequent tweet, the Venezuelan senior official explained that the owner of the vessel carrying the merchandise of food was informed by the insurance company that it was prevented from moving that cargo to Venezuela.

The shipment seizure comes just days after Trump signed an executive order Monday that imposes a near-total blockade on government assets in that country, which includes an embargo against food suppliers, among other basic inputs. This is the first time in 30 years that Washington has taken such an action against a sovereign country.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Will Mercenaries Fight America’s Wars?

By Philip Giraldi | American Free Press | August 6, 2019

President Donald Trump’s pre-election pledge to end America’s useless wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan just might turn out to be somewhat less than what was promised if some political allies of the president have their way. For the past year there have been rumors circulating in Washington about the possibility of using mercenaries rather than American soldiers to keep the lid on a volatile Afghanistan and to arrange for regime change in countries like Venezuela.

It perhaps should surprise no one that a country dedicated to “free markets” should at least somewhat embrace the idea of using mercenaries to fight its wars. The concept is already embedded in the federal government, increasingly so since 9/11. A majority of the workers in the intelligence community as well as in the civilian ranks of the Pentagon are already paid contractors who work for the “Beltway bandit” firms that specialize in national security. A substantial number of those hires are armed paramilitaries operating in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Mideast and Africa.

The logic for going with contractors rather than employees has been that budgets go up and down, so it is the smart thing to have a lot of people working for you who are on one-year contracts and can be let go if the money to pay them is not authorized. The downside is that the average federal employee costs roughly $125,000 per year in pay and benefits. A contractor costs three times as much, which means that the taxpayer pays the piper for something that is a convenience for the government.

The most prominent advocate for mercenary armies is Erik Prince, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater. Blackwater was a major private military contractor in Iraq, where it provided security for State Department operations and facilities. Notoriously, in 2007, Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square in Baghdad. One of Prince’s employees was eventually convicted of murder and three others have been convicted of manslaughter. Prince subsequently renamed the Blackwater security company and then sold it in 2010.

Prince, the scion of a wealthy Midwestern family that made its money selling auto parts, is himself a former Navy SEAL. Many of his Blackwater employees were drawn from the special operations community. His sister is Betsy DeVos, the conservative secretary of education, which certainly helps make sure that his views will be conveyed to the White House.

Two years ago, Prince was lobbying heavily in Washington in support of his plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan. He claimed that mercenaries operating in the special ops mode and not requiring a huge logistical tail could be more cost and manpower effective at fighting the similarly armed Taliban. But Prince did not see that as their primary mission, which would be training Afghan national forces while at the same time running the key elements in the country’s government that would support the effort, namely the treasury and national security team. In other words, it would be the foreign mercenaries in charge with the Afghan government going along for the ride until the situation would improve. Having the paid soldiers and their administrators in charge would also eliminate the pervasive Afghan government corruption, which has to this point crippled the war and training efforts.

It was a neat and also creative package that would at a stroke end direct U.S. involvement in the Afghan war, in a manner of speaking. It would also be quite lucrative for the company providing the mercenaries and the other support. Empirically speaking, however, it was always a nonstarter. The ability of a group of mercenaries to multitask in a difficult environment like Afghanistan has never been tested at this level, and it is impossible to imagine that the Afghan government would cede its authorities to a band of Americans and Europeans.

More recently, Prince has been supporting something similar, a private mercenary army of a few thousand men that would bring down the government of Venezuela’s socialist President Nicholas Maduro. Having learned from the Afghan experience that it is necessary to come up with the money before coming up with a plan, Prince has been discussing Venezuela with conservative Republican donors as well as with Miami-based Venezuelan millionaires, the so-called “bankers and oligarchs” that ran the country before the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998 forced many of them to go into exile. He has been seeking $40 million in seed money for the operation.

In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. He has argued that a dramatic step is necessary to break through the standoff between Guaido and Maduro. Prince’s pitch detailing how he would accomplish a change in government features intelligence operations preceding deployment of those 5,000 mercenaries recruited in Latin America to conduct “combat and stabilization operations.”

The White House is cool to the plan, particularly in the wake of the poor intelligence that led to the badly bungled and embarrassing Venezuelan coup in May. It is currently more inclined to tighten sanctions to create more unrest, particularly as there are already reports of starvation in some parts of the country.

There also has been concern in Washington policy circles that the introduction of foreign soldiers in Venezuela could lead to civil war, something like a replay of what has been experienced in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Libya. But the most interesting aspect of the discussion is the fact that it is taking place at all. The United States of America, hostile to the ability of kings to initiate wars on their own authority, was founded in part in opposition to any permanent standing army beyond what was necessary for self-defense.

Now, the U.S. may be considering major military operations using mercenary armies to deal with undeclared and illegal wars thousands of miles away that do not even threaten the homeland. It is, unfortunately, just one more indication of how the United States has been changed beyond all recognition in the past 20 years.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 3 Comments

Light oil set to flood global market

RT | August 3, 2019

According to the report, the US accounted for 88 percent of this growth in global oil production, while OPEC recorded a production decline overall, on the back of US sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, which took off a combined 800,000 bpd from the cartel’s production in 2018.

While the US became the world’s largest oil producer last year thanks to shale and found a place among the top ten oil exporters in the world, it changed the blend mix on global markets, Eni said in its report. Thanks to shale, the portion of light sweet crudes on international markets increased to more than 20 percent. At the same time, because of sanctions against Venezuela and declining production in Mexico, the portion of medium sour crudes fell below 40 percent of the total for the first time ever.

This change in crude oil grade availability is changing the dynamics in prices, too. Earlier this year, the prices of some heavy crude grades touched a premium to lighter grades on concerns about a heavy crude supply crunch resulting from sanctions and OPEC cuts: most OPEC members reduced their heavier crude production in favor of light and sweet grades used to produce gasoline.

This supply crunch helped US exports: in early June, Reuters reported that as many as six Very Large Crude Carriers were waiting to load medium sour crude from the Gulf of Mexico for export markets. At the same time, Gulf Coast refiners struggled with an excess of light crude produced from the shale plays nearby: the Permian and the Eagle Ford.

Interestingly enough, despite the looming new emissions rules of the International Maritime Organization that will go into effect next January, Eni reported that the global production of medium sour crude, which has a higher sulfur content than light sweet crudes, increased last year to come to account for 11.8 percent of the total from 9.9 percent a year earlier. At the same time, total sweet crude production inched down to 35.6 percent of the total from 36.3 percent in 2017.

Amid these changing patterns of production, demand for crude oil last year continued to grow despite the flurry of climate emergency declarations prompted by protests and demands by environmental organizations for governments to do more about climate change. According to Eni, global oil demand rose by 1.4 million barrels daily, with Asia—and specifically China and India—unsurprisingly leading the way. The two largest economies on the continent accounted for half of that demand growth. At the same time, in increasingly renewable Europe, oil demand remained virtually unchanged from a year earlier.

Refining capacity also increased last year, with Asia once again leading the way: as much as 75 percent of the new global refining capacity of 1 million bpd was built there, the Italian supermajor said. This year, more new refining capacity is expected, especially in China: new additions of almost 900,000 bpd are expected this year from the current 15 million bpd.

August 3, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 4 Comments

Venezuela: Six Chavista Militants Killed in Fresh Rural Violence

By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | July 30, 2018

Caracas  – Six activists from the grassroots Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Current (CRBZ) were assassinated in Barinas State on Saturday.

The victims, including one pregnant woman, were part of the so-called Hugo Chavez Popular Defense Brigades organized by the CRBZ in Barinas, Tachira, and other states regularly plagued by landowner violence against campesinos.

No information is yet known about the assailants, with the CRBZ claiming in a statement that they had “military training.”

“We want to denounce to the country and the world the murder of six comrades, presumably by mercenaries paid by right-wing landowners in the region,” the group declared, before adding that the six would remain present “in every battle and in every day of struggle.”

The incident reportedly took place on Saturday morning as the Chavista militants were repairing a motorbike in the Ticoporo Reserve, Barinas State.

The killings sparked immediate outrage and shows of solidarity from Venezuelan and international activists alike, with participants in the Sao Paulo Forum demanding justice.

“On behalf of the Patria Grande movement [in Argentina] I want to express my solidarity and repudiate this action of landowners who want to subjugate campesinos,” said Silvana Broggi during the meeting currently taking place in Caracas.

Chavista popular movements likewise voiced their solidarity and cry for justice in a Twitter storm, with the hashtag “no more Chavista killings” (#NoMásChavistasAsesinados) becoming the top trend in Venezuela on Monday evening.

For his part, National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said that paramilitary violence in the countryside was not something new and demanded an investigation into the assassinations.

“We strongly condemn this violence and demand a thorough investigation to find the culprits,” the Chavista leader said on Sunday, vowing that the crimes would not go unpunished. The Attorney General’s Office has yet to issue a public statement, though the CICPC investigative police has appeared on scene to gather evidence.

The Venezuelan countryside has seen a recent increase in targeted killings of campesinos in the context of escalating disputes over land rights. Landowner violence was one of the issues driving the Admirable Campesino March in July 2018 which saw dozens of campesinos march over 400 kilometers on foot to demand a meeting with President Maduro in order to change the state’s rural policies. A high-profile televised meeting took place, and Maduro ordered the creation of commissions to resolve land disputes and end impunity for rural violence.

However, campesinos have repeatedly denounced that little to no progress has been made, with several new campesino murders taking place since then. The continued setbacks have led campesino activists to return to Caracas and set up a vigil at the Land Institute to demand answers from authorities.

According to campesino groups, since the inauguration of Venezuela’s revolutionary land reform law in 2001, over 300 small farmers have been murdered by hired guns in the employ of large landowners. While in some cases the assassins have been convicted of their crimes, impunity continues with respect to the role of landed elites financing the killings.

July 31, 2019 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | | Leave a comment

Venezuela blames nationwide blackouts on ‘electromagnetic attack’

RT | July 22, 2019

Massive power outages all across Venezuela were likely caused by an “electromagnetic attack,” the government of President Nicholas Maduro said, stressing that authorities are working to restore the service as soon as possible.

The blackout affected the entire nation, Minister of Communication and Information Jorge Rodríguez said on Monday evening, claiming that the power was knocked out by outside interference. The government has activated all the necessary protocols to provide safety for Venezuelans and work crews are already working to restore power.

Preliminary probe into the incident has suggested the “existence of an electromagnetic attack that sought to affect the hydroelectric generation system of Guayana, the main provider of this service in the country,” the minister told state channel VTV.

While authorities are struggling to resolve the crisis, the US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido has used the power outage to once again attack his political opponent, accusing President Maduro of “destroying” the country’s electrical system.

In March, Venezuela suffered two major blackouts that sent the country into darkness for days. At the time, Caracas blamed it on cyberattacks on the Guri Hydroelectric generation and distribution system and accused the US-backed local opposition of sabotaging the power grid. Maduro also accused Washington of waging an “electricity war” to bring Guaido to power.

July 22, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | 2 Comments

“US Causes Instability Anywhere It Sets Foot”

Al-Manar | July 20, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday that the United States causes instability and insecurity everywhere in the world it sets foot, including the Persian Gulf and South America.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in the Venezuelan capital early Saturday after a six-day stay in New York.

Speaking to reporters upon arriving in Caracas, Zarif said that “anywhere the United States sets foot in, it causes instability there.”

“At the moment, the US is causing insecurity with its presence in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and also the South American region,” said Zarif.

He went on to add that, “I don’t know any place in the world where the US’s presence has brought stability.”

“Anywhere the US has set foot on, it led to pressure on the people and caused extremism and terrorism,” stressed the Iranian top diplomat.

While in Caracas, Zarif is slated to take part in the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Coordinating Bureau (CoB) on 20-21 July under the theme: “Promotion and Consolidation of Peace through Respect for International Law.” He will also meet with a host of Venezuelan officials before making a visit to Nicaragua and Bolivia.

July 20, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Newspeak at the Media Freedom Conference

Joint UK-Canada Event Littered With Insidious Undertones

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian  | July 16, 2019

OffGuardian already covered the Global Media Freedom Conference, our article Hypocrisy Taints UK’s Media Freedom Conference, was meant to be all there was to say. A quick note on the obvious hypocrisy of this event. But, in the writing, I started to see more than that. This event is actually… creepy.

Let’s just look back at one of the four “main themes” of this conference:

building trust in media and countering disinformation

“Countering disinformation”? Well,that’s just another word for censorship.

This is proven by their refusal to allow Sputnik or RT accreditation. They claim RT “spreads disinformation” and they “countered” that by barring them from attending.

“Building trust”? In the post-Blair world of PR newspeak, “building trust” is just another way of saying “making people believe us” (the word usage is actually interesting, building trust not earning trust).

The whole conference is shot through with this language that just feels… off.

Here is CNN’s Christiane Amanpour:

Our job is to be truthful, not neutral… we need to take a stand for the truth, and never to create a false moral or factual equivalence.”

Being “truthful not neutral” is one of Amanpour’s personal sayings, she obviously thinks it’s clever.

Of course, what it is is NewSpeak for “bias”.

Refusing to cover evidence of The White Helmets staging rescues, Israel arming ISIS or other inconvenient facts will be defended using this phrase – they will literally claim to only publish “the truth”, to get around impartiality… and then set about making up whatever “truth” is convenient.

Oh, and if you don’t know what “creating a false moral equivalence is”, here I’ll demonstrate:

MSM: Putin is bad for shutting down critical media.
OffG: But you’re supporting RT being banned and Wikileaks being shut down.
BBC: No. That’s not the same.
OffG: It seems the same.
BBC: It’s not. You’re creating a false moral equivalence.

Understand now? You “create a false moral equivalence” by pointing out mainstream media’s double standards.

Other ways you could mistakenly create a “false moral equivalence”:

  • Bringing up Gaza when the media talk about racism.
  • Mentioning Saudi Arabia when the media preach about gay rights.
  • Referencing the US coup in Venezuela when the media work themselves into a froth over Russia’s “interference in our democracy”
  • Talking about the invasion of Iraq. Ever.
  • OR Pointing out that the BBC is state funded, just like RT.

These are all no-longer flagrant examples of the media’s double standards, and if you say they are, you’re “creating a false moral equivalence”… and the media won’t have to allow you (or anyone who agrees with you) air time or column inches to disagree.

Because they don’t have a duty to be neutral or show both sides, they only have a duty to tell “the truth”… as soon as the government has told them what that is.

Prepare to see both those phrases – or variations there of – littering editorials in the Guardian and the Huffington Post in the coming months. Along with people bemoaning how “fake news outlets abuse the notion of impartiality” by “being even handed between liars the truth tellers”. (I’ve been doing this site so long now, I have a Guardian-English dictionary in my head).

Equally dodgy-sounding buzz-phrases litter topics on the agenda.

“Eastern Europe and Central Asia: building an integrated support system for journalists facing hostile environments”, this means pumping money into NGOs to fund media that will criticize our “enemies” in areas of strategic importance. It means flooding money into the anti-government press in Hungary, or Iran or (of course), Russia. That is ALL it means.

I said in my earlier article I don’t know what “media sustainability” even means, but I feel I can take a guess. It means “save the government mouthpieces”.

The Guardian is struggling for money, all print media are, TV news is getting lower viewing figures all the time. “Building media sustainability” is code for “pumping public money into traditional media that props up the government” or maybe “getting people to like our propaganda”.

But the worst offender on the list is, without a doubt…

“Navigating Disinformation”

“Navigating Disinformation” was a 1 hour panel from the second day of the conference. You can watch it embedded above if you really feel the need. I already did, so you don’t have to.

The panel was chaired by Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian Foreign Minister. The members included the Latvian Foreign Minister, a representative of the US NGO Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Information

Have you guessed what “disinformation” they’re going to be talking about?

I’ll give you a clue: It begins with R.

Freeland, chairing the panel, kicks it off by claiming that “disinformation isn’t for any particular aim”.

This is a very common thing for establishment voices to repeat these days, which makes it all the more galling she seems to be pretending its is her original thought.

The reason they have to claim that “disinformation” doesn’t have a “specific aim” is very simple: They don’t know what they’re going to call “disinformation” yet.

They can’t afford to take a firm position, they need to keep their options open. They need to give themselves the ability to describe any single piece of information or political opinion as “disinformation.” Left or right. Foreign or domestic. “Disinformation” is a weaponised term that is only as potent as it is vague.

So, we’re one minute in, and all “navigating disinformation” has done is hand the State an excuse to ignore, or even criminalise, practically anything it wants to. Good start.

Interestingly, no one has actually said the word “Russia” at this point. They have talked about “malign actors” and “threats to democracy”, but not specifically Russia. It is SO ingrained in these people that “propaganda”= “Russian propaganda” that they don’t need to say it.

The idea that NATO as an entity, or the individual members thereof, could also use “disinformation” has not just been dismissed… it was literally never even contemplated.

Next Freeland turns to Edgars Rinkēvičs, her Latvian colleague, and jokes about always meeting at NATO functions. The Latvians know “more than most” about disinformation, she says.

Rinkēvičs says disinformation is nothing new, but that the methods of spreading it are changing… then immediately calls for regulation of social media.

Nobody disagrees.

Then he talks about the “illegal annexation of Crimea”, and claims the West should outlaw “paid propaganda” like RT and Sputnik.

Nobody disagrees.

Then he says that Latvia “protected” their elections from “interference” by “close cooperation between government agencies and social media companies”.

Everyone nods along.

If you don’t find this terrifying, you’re not paying attention. They don’t say it, they probably don’t even realise they mean it, but when they talk about “close cooperation with social media networks”, they mean government censorship of social media. When they say “protecting” their elections… they’re talking about rigging them.

It only gets worse.

The next step in the Latvian master plan is to bolster “traditional media”. The problems with traditional media, he says, are that journalists aren’t paid enough, and don’t keep up to date with all the “new tricks”.

His solution is to “promote financing” for traditional media, and to open more schools like the “Baltic Centre of Media Excellence”, which is apparently a totally real thing. It’s a training centre which teaches young journalists about “media literacy” and “critical thinking”.

You can read their depressingly predictable list of “donors” here.

I truly wish I was joking.

Next up is Courtney Radsch from CPJ – a US-backed NGO, who notionally “protect journalists”, but more accurately spread pro-US propaganda. (Their token effort to “defend” RT and Sputnik when they were barred from the conference was contemptible). She talks for a long time… without saying much at all. Her revolutionary idea is that disinformation could be countered if everyone told the truth. Inspiring.

Beata Balogova, Journalist and Editor from Slovakia, gets the ship back on course – immediately suggesting politicians should not endorse “propaganda” platforms. She shares an anecdote about “a prominent Slovakian politician” who gave exclusive interviews to a site that is “dubiously financed, we assume from Russia”.

They assume from Russia. Everyone nods. It’s like they don’t even hear themselves.

Then she moves on to Hungary.

Apparently, Orban has “created a propaganda machine” and produced “antisemitic George Soros posters”. No evidence is produced to back-up either of these claims. She thinks advertisers should be pressured into not giving money to “fake news sites”. She calls for “international pressure”, but never explains exactly what that means.

The stand-out maniac on this panel is Emine Dzhaparova, the Ukrainian First Deputy Minister of Information Policy. (She works for the Ministry of Information – nicknamed the Ministry of Truth, which was formed in 2014 to “counter lies about Ukraine”. Even The Guardian thought that sounded dodgy.)

She talks very fast and, without any sense of irony, spills out a story that shoots straight through “disinformation” and becomes “incoherent rambling”. She claims that Russian citizens are so brainwashed you’ll never be able to talk to them, and that Russian “cognitive influence” is “toxic… like radiation.”

Is this paranoid, quasi-xenophobic nonsense countered? No. Her fellow panelists nod and chuckle.

On top of that, she just lies. She lies over and over and over again.

She claims Russia is locking up Crimean Tartars “just for being muslims”, nobody questions her.

She says the war in Ukraine has killed 13,000 people, but doesn’t mention that her side is responsible for over 80% of civilian deaths.

She says only 30% of Crimeans voted in the referendum, and that they were “forced”. A fact not supported by any polls done by either side in the last four years, and any referenda held on the peninsula any time in the last last 30 year. It’s simply a lie.

Nobody asks her about the journalists killed in Ukraine since their glorious Maidan Revolution.

Nobody questions the fact that she works for something called the “Ministry of Information”.

Nobody does anything but nod and smile as the “countering disinformation” panel becomes just a platform for spreading total lies.

When everyone on the panel has had their ten minutes on the soapbox, Freeland asks for recommendations for countering this “threat” – here’s the list:

  1. Work to distinguish “free speech” from “propaganda”, when you find propaganda there must be a “strong reaction”.
  2. Pressure advertisers to abandon platforms who spread misinformation.
  3. Regulate social media.
  4. Educate journalists at special schools.
  5. Start up a “Ministry of Information” and have state run media that isn’t controlled, like in Ukraine.

This is the Global Conference on Media Freedom… and all these six people want to talk about is how to control what can be said, and who can say it.

They single only four countries out for criticism: Hungary, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Russia…. and Russia takes up easily 90% of that.

They mention only two media outlets by name: RT and Sputnik.

This wasn’t a panel on disinformation, it was a public attack forum – a month’s worth of 2 minutes of hate.

These aren’t just shills on this stage, they are solid gold idiots, brainwashed to the point of total delusion. They are the dangerous glassy eyes of a Deep State that never questions itself, never examines itself, and will do anything it wants, to anyone it wants… whilst happily patting itself on the back for its superior morality.

They don’t know, they don’t care. They’re true believers. Terrifyingly dead inside. Talking about state censorship and re-education camps under a big sign that says “Freedom”.

And that’s just one talk. Just one panel in a 2 day itinerary filled to the brim with similarly soul-dead servants of authority.

Truly, perfectly Orwellian.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

July 16, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , | Leave a comment

Guaido Security Arrested for Selling Stolen Venezuelan Army Weapons

Telesur | July 13, 2019

Venezuelan Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez reports that two security guards of the self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido have been captured for trying to sell weapons stolen from the National Guard in the run up to Guaido’s failed coup d’état attempt of the government April 30.

At a press conference, Rodriguez presented “overwhelming” evidence of the direct involvement of Guaido in the theft of official weapons used in his failed overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro.

Security personnel of Guaido carried weapons during the April 30 attempted putsch, similar to the ones stolen the same day from the National Guard Park located in the Federal Legislative Palace.

Rodriguez reported that Erick Sanchez and Jason Parisi, in charge of security for the U.S.-backed opposition member, were carrying weapons similar to the ones stolen from the nation’s military.

The minister says the two were arrested while attempting to sell the arms for US$35,000. Along with the Sanchez and Parisi arrests, Eduardo Javier Garcia, cousin to Sanchez, was also taken into custody for aiding the failed transactions.

Investigators confiscated five AK-103 rifles with the serials matching those stolen from the National Guard Park in Caracas.

“This investigation continues its course and in the coming hours we will know more details,” said Rodriguez during the Saturday press conference.

“It can’t be that we are in a permanent dialogue toward peace (with Guaido) and it turns out those in his closest circle are in possession of weapons that belong to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to protect the people, not to attack them,” asserted the communications director.

“Play clean or play fair” Rodriguez stated to the opposition that the Venezuelan government has been in talks with since late May, mediated by Norway, in order to come to accords and stabilize the nation.

In 2018, the opposition abandoned years-long dialogues between Maduro and opposition parties mediated by former Spanish Prime Minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, former Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, former Panamanian head of state, Martin Torrijos.

July 14, 2019 Posted by | Corruption | | 3 Comments

Norway, Bachelet, and the Twilight of Guaido’s Insurrection

By Ociel Lopez | Venezuelanalysis | July 10, 2010

Guaido’s uprising is going through its terminal phrase. He does not yet appear to have reached his end as leader, as he still produces and consolidates an important consensus among the opposition. What has decisively failed is his attempt to form a government without elections with the backing of the hawks in Washington. In almost six months since his self-swearing in as “interim president,” it has become palpable that his governing is truly impossible. The coup de grace was delivered by Michelle Bachelet when she visited the National Assembly, of which he is president and a deputy. The UN high commissioner for human rights did not recognize him as president of the republic, but she did propose a roadmap for pressuring the Maduro government, which Guaido accepted even though it represents a deviation from Washington’s strategy.

The Trump administration invested a large part of its political and diplomatic capital in overthrowing Maduro, especially in the first six months of 2019. And it didn’t achieve it. Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Abrams squandered a valuable amount of time with disastrous results. Since talks began in Norway, the hawks have opted to wash their hands of the matter and leave Guaido to his own fate.

The fracture in the opposition deepens with every defeat. The faction of the opposition favored by the US government is stronger online than it is in the streets, where it grows weaker every day. Voluntad Popular (VP), Leopoldo Lopez and Juan Guaido’s minoritarian radical party with only 14 seats in the 165-seat legislature, was chosen by the hawks to lead a new offensive that has not only been defeated on its own terms, but VP has been accused of “appeasement” by its own radical sectors after promoting dialogue with the Maduro government under the auspices of Norway. As the Venezuelan popular saying goes, “they were left without the goat and without the leash.” That is, the much-anticipated invasion never came and the actors that could maneuver in the national political sphere, namely the large opposition parties, were displaced by those who imposed a media-driven politics that looks to foreign powers for solutions. And now what?

The anti-government march on July 5 demonstrated that the opposition now does not even mobilize the bases of its own parties. Looking at the social media feeds of the most radical and mobilized opposition currents, it’s clear that they blame Guaido for failing in his attempt to govern and for his inefficient endeavor to secure foreign military intervention. Also weighing heavy are the allegations of corruption on the part of his team in the provision of humanitarian aid, exposed by opposition media outlets.

From January of this year, when Guaido swore himself in, it was foreseeable that street mobilizations would not be enough to oust Maduro, not even those of January 23, whose widespread support was even evident in hardcore protests in some Caracas barrios. What was anticipated was some kind of direct action by the US armed forces, or those of a neighboring country, so that the escalation of the conflict in the media actually reached the national territory. The climax, which took place on February 23 around the attempted forced entry of humanitarian aid, quickly petered out. The same thing happened on April 30 with the coup attempt. They were very weak movements that drew Maduro and the armed forces closer together – the opposite of what was sought.

But the decline of Guaido does not mean a definitive victory for Chavismo. It can even debilitate it as we will see.

Bachelet’s report

The three-day visit to Venezuela by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on June 19-21 and subsequent release of her report on July 5 can be read as a change of scene in the Venezuelan conflict.

During her stay, Bachelet met with President Maduro in the presidential palace and with Juan Guaido in the National Assembly. This may surprise us if we remember that since January over fifty foreign governments have recognized Guaido as “interim president,” although he has not been able to exercise any functions beyond naming “ambassadors.” Bachelet put an end to the farce and showed things as they really are, something which the international community has not dared to do: she removed the virtual throne from under Guaido and recognized Maduro as the only president.

Bachelet’s report effectively displaces the conflict to the political arena because it is accepted enthusiastically by the opposition, even though the document doesn’t repeat its mantra of the “end of the usurpation,” and is welcomed by Maduro, who made two important gestures: the release of 22 “political prisoners” and the rumored proposal for Bolivarian deputies to return to their seats in the National Assembly, which they had abandoned since the emergence of the National Constituent Assembly in August 2017. In this way, Maduro opens up the possibility of negotiation, in which the Norway experience can play a pivotal role.

The report presents interesting options for both parties in the conflict. For Maduro, it legitimates his refusal to recognize Guaido’s “interim presidency” and it sidelines Washington in the dispute for hegemony over the Venezuela question. For the opposition, which suffered another defeat and internal division following Bachelet’s recognition of Maduro, the report allows it to double down on its call for foreign military intervention. The radicals on either side have simultaneously launched a broadside of criticisms at the ex-president, but significant sectors in both camps have recognized the legitimacy of the report, which sets the table for Norway-mediated talks.

Chavismo in its trench

The elements of cohesion in Chavismo are more external than internal. Chavismo closes ranks when confronting an enemy force of the proportions of the governments of the US or Colombia, or when the opposition resorts to violence. Once the “Guaido effect” is exposed as an impotent act, the Maduro government is left standing without tangible opponents and begins to face a crisis situation in which it is itself completely helpless. That is when the seams in the institutional armor covering the government become visible, due to its inability to control an economy that is already liberalized.

What has also become apparent recently is the government’s lack of control over state security forces. Obviously, Chavismo resents having to confront situations like the death by alleged torture of Captain Acosta Arevalo on June 29, as well as the arrest of grassroots Bolivarian militant Jose Ramon Rodriguez on July 5. In the first case arrests have been made, and in the second, Ramon Rodriguez has been freed. However, the accusations of grave misconduct on the part of the security forces, detailed in the Bachelet Report, are a concern shared by some currents of Chavismo.

Other sectors, including the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, reject the Bachelet report. Even now Maduro has demonstrated – and Bachelet has recognized it – that he is making moves to set the stage for negotiations: is there movement towards a power-sharing agreement or rather tactical maneuvers to remain in power?

Regardless, it is undeniable that negotiations driven by Norway open the way for a scenario that can overcome the stalemate in the internal political game. A shift in political and diplomatic relations is needed in order to extricate Venezuela from its current economic quagmire, which is impacting the region.

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

July 10, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Why the US Puppet President of Venezuela is Toast

Photograph Source: The White House – Public Domain
By Roger Harris | CounterPunch | July 5, 2019

Even the corporate media are losing enthusiasm for the US government’s ploy to replace the democratically elected President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela with the US-anointed security asset Juan Guaidó. Reuters reports in a July 1 article, “Disappointed Venezuelans lose patience with Guaidó as Maduro hangs on,” that the US-backed “military uprising” has “unraveled.” A critical reading of the article explains why.

Reuters correctly notes that “the 35-year old (Guaidó) had risen to prominence three months before,” though a little more background information would have been helpful. For instance, Guaidó was unknown to 81% of Venezuelans a little more than a week before he got a telephone call from US Vice President Pence telling him to declare himself interim president of Venezuela, which Guaidó dutifully did the following morning at a street rally flanked with US and Israeli flags. A member of a marginal far-right Venezuelan political party, Guaidó was not even in the top leadership of his own grouplet.

For background, Reuters tells the reader that President Maduro “took office in 2013 following the death of his political mentor, Hugo Chávez,” but fails to mention that Maduro took office via a democratic national election. Guaidó has never stood in a national election. He was elected to the National Assembly but became head of that body through a mechanism where the political parties in the legislature rotate which party’s representative occupies the office.

Reuters continues that after Maduro took office, he “has overseen an economic collapse that has left swaths of the once-wealthy country without reliable access to power, water, food, and medicines.” Not mentioned by Reuters is the economic war being waged against Venezuela by the US and its allies that has employed unilateral coercive measures – sanctions – responsible for taking the lives of some 40,000 people.

This illegal collective punishment of the Venezuelan people by the US government has diverted legitimate funds of the Venezuelan government. Reuters obliquely mentions “Guaidó has gained control of some of the Venezuelan assets in the United States.” In fact, the US government seized those assets, which would have gone to preventing the “economic collapse” that Reuters supposedly laments.

Reuters reports: “The opposition’s momentum has slowed since the April 30 uprising. Attendance at Guaidó’s public rallies has dropped and the opposition has held no major protests since then.” Reuters hints why Guaidó’s fortunes are eclipsing: “the opposition says it is…seeking to build a grassroots organization.” That is, the US surrogate does not have a meaningful grassroots presence.

This is further confirmed by Reuters’ admission that Guaidó’s organization is now “focused on expanding a network of Help and Freedom Committees…to organize at the local level – something the ruling Socialist Party has done successfully.” Reuters continues, “so far the committees have gotten little traction.” That is, Guaidó lacks significant organized popular support outside of Washington and its allies.

Guaidó visited Washington shortly before his self-appointment and subsequently toured a number of Latin American countries but has “only traveled to 11 of Venezuela’s 23 states,” according to Reuters. Guaidó’s handlers have directed him to “travel to at least five more this month to motivate his supporters.”

Recent polls cited by Reuters show support for Guaidó is falling. Reuters quotes a paid political consultant for Guaidó: “We can expect Guaidó’s popularity to continue to erode the longer he is not exercising power.”

President Maduro, according to Reuters, had waged a “crackdown on the opposition.” That is, the Venezuelan government has defended itself against US-backed assets who have actively engaged in attempts to violently overthrow the democratically elected government and assassinate key government and social movement leaders.

In the alternative universe of corporate media, which ignores the economic war being waged against Venezuela, Reuters bemoans that the “crackdown” on Guaidó’s agents has failed to receive “significant retaliation from the international community.” In reality, Venezuela has massively suffered from the US-orchestrated punishments for resisting reverting to the status of a client state.

While not consulting anyone associated with the elected government of Venezuela, Reuters gives full voice to an anonymous “US administration” official as is the practice of the corporate media. The US official states: “The United States continues to execute the president’s strategy of maximum pressure to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy in Venezuela.” Not mentioned is that the “military option” is a prominent part of the “peaceful transition”; deposing a democratically elected president is part of the “transition to democracy”; and “maximum pressure” is preventing vital foods and medicines from reaching Venezuela.

The anonymous US government official further claims, “Only Maduro wishes for the US to give up now.” Reuters does not question how incredibly circumscribed is the universe occupied by that official, which renders invisible the two-decade-old Bolivarian grassroots movement in Venezuela in support of their elected government and its international allies. The Venezuelans most adversely hurt by the US sanctions are those most militantly in support of their government.

Nor does Reuters question why in the US, with the conceit of a supposedly free press, the government is allowed to hide behind a cloak of anonymity. Reuters cites the names of a Venezuelan taxi driver, doctor, former police student, and teacher to give a patina of authenticity to the article but can’t name an official US government functionary who is quoted authoritatively.

Reuters reports Guaidó’s supporters “have demanded that Guaidó shift strategy and request a US-led military intervention.” So much for democracy! “We can’t get rid of Maduro with votes. It will have to be a violent exit.” Meanwhile, the polling firm Datanalisis, according to Reuters, tells us that less than 10% of Venezuelans support such an action.

In short, a critical reading between the lines of the Reuters article confirms that Washington has failed to cobble together a united opposition in Venezuela that is popular enough to win in the polls, so the alternative is violent regime-change supposedly in the name of “democracy.” The lesson that the Venezuelans themselves are the best agents of history to address their own destiny has yet to be learned by the world’s hegemon and its media apologists.

More articles by:

Roger Harris is on the board of the Task Force on the Americas, a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights organization.

July 5, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 2 Comments