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Coups and Neo-Coups in Latin America

By Juan Paz y Miño Cepeda |Venezuelanalysis | September 15, 2020

I recently received an article entitled “Coups and neo-coups in Latin America. Violence and political conflict in the twenty-first century” by Carlos Alberto Figueroa Ibarra, a long-time friend and academic at the University of Puebla, Mexico, and Octavio Humberto Moreno Velador, a professor at the same university.

The authors say that since the 1980s, democracy in Latin America has asserted itself across the continent, so much so that the topic has become recurrent in the political sciences. However, during the first seventeen years of the 21st century, new coups resurfaced, which they describe as “neo-coups.”

During the twentieth century, the authors identified 87 coups in South America and the Caribbean, with Bolivia and Ecuador being the most hit countries, while Mexico has only suffered once. The greatest concentration of coups occurred in four decades: 1930-1939 with 18; 1940-1949 with 12; 1960-1969 with 16 and 1970-1979 with 13. Between 1900-1909 and 1990-1999, the fewest coups occurred (3 and 1, respectively). Finally, 63 coups were deemed as military-led; 7 civilian; 8 civic-military; 6 presidential self-coups and three military self-coups. 77 percent of coups had a marked influence of right-wing ideology and party participation, and since the 1960s US intervention has been observed in several coups.

The neo-coups of the 21st century, however, are different from the coups of the twentieth century and with distinct characteristics. Of the seven studied, four have been carried out by the military/police (two which failed in Venezuela/2002 and Ecuador/2010 and two which were successful in Haiti/2004 and Honduras/2009). Likewise, two were parliamentary coups (Paraguay/2012 and Brazil/2016, both successful) and one was a civilian-state-led coup (Bolivia/2008, failed). In three of them, there is evidence of US intervention (Haiti, Bolivia and Honduras).

The intervention of the military or police took place in Venezuela, Haiti, Honduras and Ecuador. In Haiti, Bolivia and Brazil, large-scale concentrations of opposition citizen groups preceded the coups, exerting political pressure. There were also other cases of subsequent concentrations in support of Presidents Hugo Chávez and Rafael Correa, which prevented the success of the coups against them.

In three cases there was clear intervention by the judiciary (Honduras, against Manuel Zelaya; Paraguay, against Fernando Lugo; and Brazil, against Dilma Rousseff), and also of the legislative powers.

In addition, regional and supranational institutions have intervened in defence of democracy, specifically MERCOSUR, UNASUR, CELAC and even the Rio Group.

The authors conclude that “The new coups have sought to evade their cruder military expression in order to seek success. In this sense, the intervention of judicial and parliamentary institutions have represented a viable alternative to maintaining democratic continuity, despite the breakdown of constitutional and institutional pacts.”

To the analysis carried out by the two professors, and which I summarise without going into too many details, some considerations may be added.

All the coups of the 21st century have been directed against rulers of the Latin American progressive cycle: Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, Manuel Zelaya, Rafael Correa, Fernando Lugo, Dilma Rousseff, and Haiti, where the case is particular because of the turbulence that the country has experienced where the military coup was against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had won the election with 91.69 percent of the vote.

Progressive governments aroused furious enemies: business elites, traditional oligarchies, military sectors of old “McCarthyism” anti-communism, the political right, “corporate” media, and, no doubt, imperialism.

There is not a single coup d’état led by “leftist” forces, which reveals an equally new phenomenon: the entire left has accepted democracy as a political system and elections as an instrument through which they may come to power. Historically speaking, this phenomenon represents a continuation of Salvador Allende’s and the Chilean Popular Unity’s thesis, which trusted in the possibility of building socialism through a peaceful path. It is the political and economic right, which have turned to neo-coup mongering, with their discourse of defending “democracy.”

Those same right-wing sectors have not only sponsored “soft coups,” but also promoted the use of two mechanisms that have been tremendously successful to them. Firstly, lawfare, or “legal war,” used to pursue, in appearance of legality, those who have served or identified with progressive governments. Secondly, the use of the most influential media (but also of social media and their “trolls”), which were put at the service of combating “populists” and “progressives,” and defend the interests of persecuting governments, business elites, rich sectors and transnational capital. These phenomena have been clearly expressed in Brazil against Inácio Lula da Silva, Dilma Roussef and the PT Workers’ Party, but also in Bolivia, against Evo Morales and the MAS Movement to Socialism and in Ecuador, where righting forces have achieved the prosecution of Rafael Correa, of figures of his government and of the “correístas.” In Argentina Alberto Fernández’s triumph stopped the legal persecution against Cristina Fernández and “Kirchnerismo”.

But there is, finally, a new element to be added to the neo-coup mongering of the 21st century, which is the anticipated coup d’état. This has been inaugurated in Bolivia and Ecuador.

In Bolivia, not only was the vote count suspended and Evo Morales forced to take refuge outside the country, but [he and his party] have been politically outlawed, and every effort has been made to marginalise them from future elections.

In Ecuador, all kinds of legal ruse have been used to prevent Rafael Correa’s vice-presidential candidacy (he was ultimately not admitted), to not recognise his party and other forces that could sponsor him, as well as to make it difficult for the [Correa-backed] Andrés Araúz team to run for the presidency.

It also has an equally unique characteristic of what happened in Chile. In Chile, despite the protests and social mobilisations, as well as domestic and international political pressure, the political plot was finally manipulated in such a way that the plebiscite convened for October/2020 will not be for a Constituent Assembly (which could dictate a new constitution), but for a Constitutional Convention, which allows traditional forces to preserve their hegemony, according to the analysis carried out by renowned researcher Manuel Cabieses Donoso.

As a result, neo-coup mongering has shown that, while institutional and representative democracy has become a commonplace value and a line of action for the social and progressive lefts, it has also become an instrument that allows access to government and, with it, the orientation of state policies for the popular benefit and not at the service of economic elites.

On the other hand, it has become an increasingly “dangerous” instrument for the same bourgeoisie and internal oligarchy, as well as imperialism, to such an extent that they no longer hold back from breaking with their own rules, legalities, institutions or constitutional principles, using new forms of carrying out coups.

It is, however, an otherwise obvious lesson in Latin American history: when popular processes advance, the forces willing to liquidate them are also prepared. And finally, for these forces, democracy doesn’t matter at all, only saving businesses, private accumulation, wealth and the social exclusiveness of the elites.

Juan J. Paz y Miño Cepeda is an Ecuadorian historian from the PUCE Catholic University of Quito. He is also the former vice-president of the Latin-American and Caribbean Historian’s Association (ADHILAC).

Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.

September 17, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela Arrests ‘CIA Spy’ on Oil Refinery ‘Stakeout’

By Paul Dobson | Venezuelanalysis | September 14, 2020

Mérida – Venezuelan authorities have charged a US citizen with terrorism after he was arrested on a “stakeout” near the country’s largest oil refinery complex.

According to the police investigation, Matthew John Heath is a former US marine who served as a communications operator in a “secret CIA base” in Iraq between 2006 and 2016, where he was hired by Virginia-based private security contractor MVM. MVM services include offering “secret agents […] primarily to the US government.”

Heath was detained by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) on Thursday afternoon in Falcon State alongside three Venezuelans, including a GNB sergeant major and an army soldier.

The four men were reportedly collating information about the nearby Amuay and Cardon refineries, and were caught in possession of “specialised weapons,” including an AT4 84mm grenade launcher, an UZI 9mm submachine gun, four blocks of C4 explosives, large amounts of US dollars, and a satellite phone, which Heath has reportedly refused to unblock. The former marine was allegedly arrested without a passport, but in possession of photos of the refineries and Venezuelan military installations, as well as a badge which “connects him to the CIA.”

Confiscated items from US ex-marine Matthew John Heath. (Tareck William Saab)

During a press conference Monday, Venezuela’s Attorney General Tareck William Saab told reporters that Heath formed part of a “US intelligence operation” which sought to “collect strategic information regarding military, electrical and oil-based installations” in order to “infiltrate US intelligence agents” from Colombia and carry out “acts of sabotage.”

The four detainees, as well as four more Venezuelans who were subsequently arrested in Maracaibo City in connection to the operation, are to be charged with terrorism, illegal arms trafficking and criminal association.

Following the bust, President Nicolas Maduro urged oil workers to “tighten external and internal security” at the refineries to counter the “US imperialist war of vengeance which looks to stop Venezuela from producing oil derivatives.”

US agencies have not commented on the arrests so far.

Thursday’s bust comes only weeks after a Venezuelan court sentenced two former US green berets to 20 years in prison for leading a failed mercenary incursion in May. According to televised confessions from the former soldiers, ‘Operation Gedeon’ looked to kidnap Maduro and trigger a coup. US private security firm Silvercorp was hired by the Juan Guaido-led opposition to carry out the operation.

The Amuay and Cardon refineries form the world’s second largest refining complex, with a joint capacity to produce 955,000 barrels of gasoline a day, but are currently working at 10 percent capacity. With the country facing an increasingly severe nationwide fuel shortage, the government announced efforts to reactivate the refineries in June. However, production has been repeatedly halted by technical failures and queues at the gas stations have worsened since.

Venezuela’s oil output has fallen from 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2017 to 339,000 bpd in August under the weight of punishing US sanctions. In recent years, the industry also has been beset by a range of problems, including corruption, mismanagement, underinvestment and brain drain.

Apart from denouncing the US blockade, Maduro’s government has frequently pointed to acts of “sabotage” against the industry as evidence of US meddling, including the 2012 fire at the Amuay refinery which killed 55 people. US officials have also publicly admitted to targeting the country’s oil industry as part of Washington’s efforts to oust the Maduro government.

September 16, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Iranian Tanker Carrying Gas Condensate Arrives in Venezuela

Sputnik – 14.09.2020

An Iranian supertanker, identified as Honey, has docked at the northeastern Venezuelan port of Jose Terminal with a cargo of 2 million barrels of natural gas liquid (NGL), the Tanker Trackers company said on Monday.

​As explained by Tanker Trackers in a thread of tweets, NGL is a light-weight gas condensate that can be refined into things like high octane gasoline and jet fuel. The company opined, however, that this batch of supply will likely be used as “a blending agent to improve flow of Venezuela’s very heavy crude oil in order to boost production.”

While the Venezuelan authorities have not issued a statement on the matter, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza shared a post on his Twitter account.

Another three Iranian tankers carrying approximately 131 million liters of gasoline are currently in southern Africa en route to Venezuela, according to the tracking company.

If the Honey tanker went with radars off, as it is assumed in the report, it was likely due to concerns associated with earlier US threats to block Iranian fuel shipments to Venezuela, including by confiscating the vessels and imposing sanctions on the crew.

Iran sent several tankers with fuel cargo to Venezuela earlier this spring and early summer as the Latin American country was struggling to keep up its crumbling oil infrastructure.

September 14, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 2 Comments

Political pardon given by Maduro may be a checkmate against Venezuelan opposition

By Lucas Leiroz | September 7, 2020

In Venezuela, Juan Guaidó no longer appears to be the leader of the opposition. The forgiveness of 110 opponents by President Nicolás Maduro completely fragmented the political wing opposing the regime, which, in practice, removes from Guaidó the “monopoly” of militancy against the government. Maduro’s decision to forgive as many opponents as possible seems particularly strategic in an election year. For the December 2020 parliamentary elections, Maduro’s allies represent the only unified and solidly based political wing in the country, while currently his opponents are fragmented into several factions.

Another oppositionist leader, Henrique Capriles has already announced that he will dispute the elections. In recent times, after a long period of silence and inactivity, Capriles has occupied an increasingly prominent place in Venezuelan politics, diminishing Guaidó’s influence on the opposition. Capriles seems to have a more interesting political alternative for some opposition groups than the proposal by Guaidó, who is a politician absolutely aligned with external interests and who openly defends Venezuela’s total subordination to Washington.

Perhaps this was the reason for the fall of Guaidó’s political strength. 2020 was for the opposition leader the year of his abrupt fall. On February 5, Guaidó attended a conference at the Capitol in Washington DC and was applauded by Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi and everyone in attendance. At that time, the illusion that Guaidó was in fact the president of Venezuela was fully consolidated. Guaidó himself believed to be the country’s president, which was the starting point of his downfall.

It seemed inevitable that the invention of the “Guaidó’s presidency” would result in the opposition being closed to the Venezuelan political reality. The history of the opposition leader, since his recognition in January 2019 by Trump, is a succession of errors and deficiencies that denounce his total inability to lead the country. The most notable mistakes so far have been his explicit participation in the landing of Colombian mercenaries on the Venezuelan coast and the leakage of his connections with drug trafficking in South America, which has greatly weakened his public image inside and outside Venezuela.

Guaidó’s decline, at first, had little impact on the Venezuelan opposition, as there was his “recognition” as the country’s president. But this illusion could not last long. The proximity of the parliamentary elections in December aroused in the Venezuelan opposition a strong wave of political realism and led different factions to assume the obvious truth: Guaidó is not the president of the country. This fact becomes even more evident when Maduro pardons and legalizes more than one hundred opponents, creating ties of cordiality in internal disputes – something that Guaidó still refuses to accept. Then a scenario was created in which the opposition is divided between those who recognize the legitimacy of the government and oppose it politically in the elections and, on the other hand, Guaidó, who recognizes himself as president with American support. This new scenario will completely change the way in which political disputes in Venezuela will take place and may even destabilize the opposition’s international alliances.

How long will Washington invest in Guaidó as its ally in opposing Maduro? What makes Guaidó more interesting than, for example, the political figure of Capriles or any other politician who will announce his candidacy for the December elections? Guaidó will not run in the parliamentary elections because he believes he is the president of the country, while other politicians will run and will be able to make real and effective opposition against Maduro. Will international actors interested in the fall of the government really continue to fuel the illusion that Guaidó is the president rather than supporting opponents within Parliament? It is a question that remains unanswered, but we can predict the outcome.

Indeed, there is no future for the Venezuelan opposition as it is today. The entire political wing that opposes Maduro is absolutely fragmented, with no unity of thought among its representatives, much less a solid national project. The only thing in common that opponents want is to overthrow Maduro, but that will not happen so easily. The Venezuelan government remains strong and well-structured, with an effective political apparatus at its disposal, which cannot be seen in the opposition. Opponents’ political forgiveness was a checkmate for the next elections. The weakness of the opposition became clear and all of its representatives were disadvantaged: Guaidó lost political strength and will possibly be without international alliances; the other opponents have broken ties with Guaidó and are not strong enough to face the government, even though they may run for election.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

September 7, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela: Operation Gedeon Organizers Arrested in Colombia

By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | September 5, 2020

Mérida – Colombian security forces announced the arrest of four Venezuelan citizens on Thursday.

Rayder Alexander Russo Marquez, Juvenal Sequea Torres and Juven Jose Sequea Torres were captured in Bogota, while Yacsy Alexandra Alvarez Mirabal was detained in Barranquilla. The operation was jointly carried out by the Colombian attorney general’s office, police, army and migration services, with assistance from the FBI.

Colombian President Ivan Duque held a press conference after the arrests, claiming that the four were “criminals” paid by the Venezuelan government to “destabilize” the country.

The comments drew a sharp rebuke from Caracas, with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza condemning the “nerve” of the Colombian president.

“What nerve from Ivan Duque. Now it turns out that Venezuelan deserting mercenaries were going to destabilize Colombia,” he wrote ironically on Twitter. “We gave the Colombian government information about these terrorists and it chose to do nothing.”

According to Venezuelan authorities, Russo, the Sequea brothers and Alvarez participated in the “Operation Gedeon” failed paramilitary incursion. On May 3 and 4, two speed boats carrying armed men were intercepted by security forces. Search operations in the following days led to over 40 arrests.

The 60-man Operation Gedeon was orchestrated by former US Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, who was hired by the Juan Guaido-led Venezuelan opposition, and intended to take over strategic locations in the capital and capture several high-ranking figures, including President Nicolas Maduro.

Two other US citizens, fellow former Green Berets Airan Berry and Luke Denman, were arrested in the operation, as was a third Sequea brother, Antonio.

The Venezuelan government sustains that Russo, Juvenal and Juven Sequea took part in the Northern Colombia-based training camps where the coup attempt was prepared. The Sequea brothers took part in the April 30, 2019 failed coup attempt before deserting from the Bolivarian National Guard. Russo, aka “Teniente Pico” is accused of involvement in the August 2018 assassination attempt against Maduro.

For her part, Alvarez is said to have been behind the logistics of the operation as well as functioning as liaison between the Americans and retired Major General Cliver Alcala, another organizer behind Operation Gedeon. Alcala, who had been responsible for previous armed incursion attempts featuring Venezuelan deserters, surrendered to US authorities after being indicted on drug charges.

September 6, 2020 Posted by | Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuelan Government Invites International Observers as Opposition Splits Over Elections

By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | September 4, 2020

Mérida – The Venezuelan government has invited the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) to monitor the December 6 National Assembly (AN) elections.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza wrote on Twitter that letters had been sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell explaining electoral guarantees and inviting the bodies to send observers.

“Your participation in this process will have a positive contribution to an atmosphere of democratic understanding between Venezuelans and support political, peaceful and negotiated solutions to existing issues,” the letter read.

At the time of writing there have been no reactions from either the UN or the EU. While both have previously voiced support for dialogue processes, the European bloc recently vowed not to recognize the parliamentary election, which will elect 277 deputies for the 2021-2026 term.

The appeal to the international instances comes on the heels of President Maduro granting pardons to 110 opposition figures. This includes a number of AN deputies and other leaders charged or convicted for taking part in activities such as the violent “guarimba” street protests, the 2018 assassination attempt against Maduro, or the April 30, 2019 failed putsch.

On Thursday, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its allies submitted their electoral candidates, with eight current cabinet members heading the list and subsequently replaced. Current state television VTV president Freddy Nanez replaced Jorge Rodriguez as communications minister, Noris Herrera replaced Blanca Eekhout as communes minister, Carolys Perez took over from Asia Villegas as minister for women, while there were also changes at the prisons, mining, youth, urban agriculture and indigenous peoples ministries.

The electoral scenario has also led to bitter infighting amongst the opposition ranks. On Wednesday, two-time former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles called on opposition leader Juan Guaido to stop “playing at government on the internet.”

“Either you’re the government, or you’re the opposition. You can’t be both,” he said during an online broadcast.

The comments came in response to criticism from Guaido after Capriles and fellow opposition member Stalin Gonzalez held a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu concerning electoral participation and guarantees.

“These negotiations were held without the knowledge and permission of the ‘Interim Government’ and our international allies,” read a statement published by Guaido’s office.

The opposition lawmaker proclaimed himself “interim president” in January 2019 and was immediately backed by Washington and its allies. He went on to lead several unsuccessful efforts to overthrow the government by force, but a host of scandals saw his position increasingly questioned by other high-ranking opposition figures.

Guaido has lobbied for a boycott of the December AN elections and called on opposition figures to join a “unitary path” to oust the Maduro government which would extend his “interim presidency” into 2021.

However, other anti-government politicians have refused to rally behind him, with some urging voters to take to the polls, and hardline figures such as Maria Corina Machado calling for a foreign intervention.

For its part, Washington downplayed talk of a possible military intervention, with the Trump administration’s Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams criticizing opposition leaders “who only think that the magic moment of a military intervention will arrive” in a recent interview.

However, the veteran official, who is known for his role in the Iraq war and the Reagan administration’s Central America policy, has reiterated that the US will continue supporting Guaido while tightening sanctions against the Venezuelan economy.

September 4, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuelan Special Forces Agents Arrested for Extrajudicial Killings

By Manuela Solé | Venezuelanalysis | August 26, 2020

Mérida – Four agents of the Bolivarian National Police’s Special Action Forces (FAES) have been arrested after the extrajudicial executions of two journalists in Cabimas, Zulia State.

Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab informed on Tuesday that FAES officers Jose Contreras and Nestor Olano, who have been charged with premeditated murder, as well as supervisors Freddy Deroy and Deivid Guerrero were in custody.

Four other officers involved in the Friday, August 21 operation reportedly fled after arrest warrants were issued. Public attorney Jackbe Galban was removed from her post and arrested for allegedly collaborating in their escape.

Andres Eloy Nieves Zacarias and Victor Manuel Torres Guerra, 33 and 29 years-old, respectively, were assassinated in a FAES raid on Guacamaya TV, a community media outlet in Zulia State where they worked.

Saab referred to the event as “embarrassing” and decried that FAES agents tried to cover up the extrajudicial killings as an armed confrontation.

“For me, these are infiltrated officers who need to be singled out so this never happens again in a police body,” the attorney general told reporters.

The events were initially investigated by a FAES commission that traveled to Cabimas to take statements from each of the officers participating in the operation.

Saab’s office reported that examinations and autopsy logs showed that the victims were below their shooters, on their knees or sitting, which confirmed the execution hypothesis.

The FAES agents were also accused of stealing the TV station’s equipment after the executions.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol called the procedure an “irregular act” and appointed a multidisciplinary team to carry out an investigation.

“In any situation that constitutes a deviation from the established procedures and protocols, we will be ruthless in the enforcement of the law,” read the official statement issued by the Interior Ministry.

The executions, as well as FAES attempts to present the victims as criminals to the media, have been condemned from various sectors. Several popular and community media outlets, militants of the youth fraction of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and the Francisco de Miranda Front all released communiques, while a hashtag #JusticiaParaAndresYVictor (“Justice for Andres and Victor”) became a trend on social media.

The Inter American Press Society and the International Press Institute likewise made public their condemnation, calling on Venezuelan authorities to thoroughly investigate the killings.

The founder of Guacamaya TV, Franklin Torres, who is also the father of Victor Torres, said that the two journalists were dragged out of the offices by the FAES and ‘vilely murdered’. He went on to claim that the information released about the murder was false and that the weapons allegedly found at headquarters were planted by FAES agents.

“For our murdered kids, we will not rest until justice is served,” read a statement released by the Torres family on Wednesday. The relatives praised the quick response of the Attorney General’s office and demanded a thorough investigation up the Bolivarian National Police’s chain of command.

Nieves and Torres were described by those who knew them as honest workers who were deeply involved with their community. Nieves was also a member of the Francisco de Miranda Front. Tributes painted him as a dedicated Chavista who stood up for just causes and a popular member of the community media scene in Venezuela.

Popular movements have recognized authorities’ response in this case, but the reported increase in heavy handed police tactics and the FAES in particular have been subjects of intense debate. Chavista human rights collective Surgentes launched a campaign in November 2019 to denounce a growing number of police extrajudicial killings in popular neighborhoods and bring back a debate on police reform initiated by former President Hugo Chávez.

Edited and with additional reporting by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.

August 27, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

USA’s Militarization of Latin America

By Yanis Iqbal | Dissident Voice | August 24, 2020

Maj. Gen. Andrew Croft, the commander of 12th Air Force, wrote on 22 August: “I have seen an increasingly contested strategic space where Beijing and Moscow are aggressively investing time and resources in Latin America to support their authoritarian models of governance. The Air Force must reinforce the strength of our longstanding commitment to the Western Hemisphere. We lose ground when we are unable to commit to spending the time and resources to fly our aircraft south and train alongside our partners.”

Croft’s statement reflects the growing American hysteria against the presence of any extra-regional actors in the Latin American continent. For US policy-makers, Latin America is not an aggregation of sovereign nations but a large lump of subordinated states constituting “America’s backyard”. Consequently, this conceptualization of Latin America as a natural extension of the American empire has led to viewing the engagement of any South American country with China, Russia and Iran as a “threat” to peace and security.

On February 7, 2019, Admiral Craig S. Faller – the commander of the United States Southern Command – told the Congress that the Western Hemisphere is facing “a troubling array of challenges and threats”. These threats included alarmist assertions about the growing dominance of China, Russia and Iran and a general demonization of the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua:

“China has accelerated expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative at a pace that may one day overshadow its expansion in Southeast Asia and Africa. Russia supports multiple information outlets spreading its false narrative of world events and U.S. intentions. Iran has deepened its anti-U.S. Spanish language media coverage and has exported its state support for terrorism into our hemisphere. Russia and China also support the autocratic regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests. We are monitoring the latest events in Venezuela and look forward to welcoming that country back into the hemisphere’s community of democracies.”

In response to the perceived threats posed by the China-Russia-Iran nexus, the Secretary of Defense has decided to conduct an assessment of the sufficiency of resources available to the U.S. Southern Command, the U.S. Northern Command, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out their respective missions in the Western Hemisphere. This assessment is required to include “a list of investments, programs, or partnerships in the Western Hemisphere by China, Iran, Russia, or other adversarial groups or countries that threaten the national security of the United States.”

In addition to warlike preparations, USA has also pursued a policy of increased militarization wherein it has tried to ensure “technological superiority” with regard to “anti-US actors”. In March, 2020, USA decided to send additional ships, aircraft and forces to South America and Central America in order to combat the influence of Russia and China. According to Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of Southern Command, “This really was born out of a recognition of the threats in the region,”. Along with the mobilization of the Southern Command, USA has substantially enlarged its security aid to Latin America: From $527,706,000 in 2019, US security aid to Latin America has increased by 10% to $581,270,000.

Chinese Footprint

The present-day US militarization of Latin America is rhetorically driven by an imperialist discourse framing the continent as a possession of the American empire which China, Russia and Iran are trying to appropriate. To take an example, R. Evan Ellis, a Latin America Research Professor at the US Army War College, stated before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that China’s engagement with Latin America “threatens the position of the United States, our security and prosperity, and the democratic values, rights, institutions and laws on which we depend.” To substantiate his statements, Ellis enunciated various strategies through which China is undermining USA’s dominance:

  • “Trade with, loans to, investment in, and other forms of economic and other support to anti-US regimes, indirectly enabling their criminal activities and contributions to regional instability”.
  • “Through providing an alternative to commerce, loans and investment from the West, making governments of the region less inclined to support the US on political, commercial, or security issues, or to stand up for rule of law, democracy or human rights, particularly where it might offend the PRC;”

In both these points, one can observe the imperialistic high-handedness with which Ellis is declaiming his pro-US rhetoric. While Beijing’s efforts to engage with sovereign nations and construct an alternative to the global American empire are regarded as enabling “regional instability”, no questions are asked about USA’s expansionist quest to imperialize the entire world through militaristic tactics.

In order to vilify China and smear its non-aggressive foreign policy, hawkish security experts have framed the country’s diplomatic involvement with various Latin American nations as a type of authoritarian tactic. Using this line of reasoning, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) writes: “Beijing has now officially established its own version of soft power… which emanates from its undemocratic system and rests on its ability to shape the viewpoints of others through co-optation and persuasion.” Not having any empirical evidence to prove its unconvincing statements, NED talks vaguely about the “hypnotic effects” exercised by “Chinese-style warm welcome”: “The Chinese-style warm welcome, the carefully selected tours that include visits to sites with symbolic historical and cultural significance, and ad hoc friendly discourse delivered by the Chinese hosts can have hypnotic effects on their foreign guests.” This is an indication of the extent to which America hysteria against China can reach.

In the same way as NED, the Brookings Institution has also tried to slander China’s diplomatic initiatives in Latin America to preserve the coercive dominance of USA in the continent. As per the think tank, “it would be fair to assume that China’s growing economic power and ambitions of global leadership, coupled with its inherently closed and repressive model of political control, will hurt the region’s prospects for strengthening its liberal democratic systems and respect for human rights.” While saying this, the Brooking Institution conveniently forgets that it the US, with its Western-styled liberal democracy, that has hurt the region most in the form of coups, violence and overt brutality against social movements. Most recently, a US-backed coup in Bolivia has resulted in two massacres and massive repression of social movements.

The Iranian Connection

Like China, Iran, too, experiences American hostility towards its engagement with Latin American countries. Lieutenant Andrew Kramer of the U.S. Navy terms Iranian support for the “economically backward governments” of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as efforts “to maintain pockets of instability and hostility close to U.S. borders.” Echoing this perspective, William Preston McLaughlin, a Colonel (Ret.) of U.S. Marine Corps and Magdalena Defort, an Intern Analyst at the Foundation of Defense of Democracies, argue that “Iran’s presence in Latin America is an imminent threat to peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere because its forces interact with Latin America’s deeply rooted revolutionary ideology and various well-intentioned but flawed “liberation theology” social movements.” Here, both of the analysts are merely parroting the imperialist “Monroe Doctrine” that subverted the sovereignty of Latin American nations and tethered the people of the continent to the whims of the American empire. Through the Monroe Doctrine, USA relegated the entire Latin American continent to the status of the empire’s handmaiden and constantly used its military muscles to overpower any regional initiatives challenging the dynamics of subjugation. Now, when Iran is lending support to the anti-imperialist administrations of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, it has come under the radar of USA for ostensibly destroying peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere. In August 2020, for instance, USA confiscated four Iranian fuel shipments that had been bound for Venezuela, making it clear that it would not tolerate anti-imperialist opposition in Latin America.

In addition to portraying Iran as a threat to global peace, both the analysts also used a shrill, scaremongering rhetoric to over-exaggerate the strength of the country. According to the analysts, “Iran has used every agency within its borders to help extend Iranian tentacles into the political, cultural, economic, and military life of Latin America.” This bears striking resemblance to the traditional war-mongering US narrative that frames Hezbollah as a menace to justify the militarizary raising funds, seeking recruits, probing for our weaknesses and challenging our defenses,”. Through these discourses, USA seeks to unleash a new war against the anti-imperialist axis of Latin America which is standing up to militaristic predatoriness of the global hegemon.

Russian Presence

Besides Iran and China, Russia is another nation perceived as a “threat” to US security. General John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) noted in his Congressional testimony, “it has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian presence” in Latin America. In his command’s 2015 Posture Statement, Kelly added:

“Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.”

John Kelly’s representation of Russia as a military threat has been repeated by the Commander of US Southern Command, Admiral Kurt W. Tidd who said in his February 2018 Posture Statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee that:

“Russia’s increased role in our hemisphere is particularly concerning, given its intelligence and cyber capabilities, intent to upend international stability and order, and discredit democratic institutions… Left unchecked, Russian access and placement could eventually transition from a regional spoiler to a critical threat to the U.S. homeland.”

With the help this narrative, USA has aggressively pushed forward the agenda of greater militarism in Latin America as it strives to maintain “technological superiority” in relation to Russia and expand its already large military expenditure.

On top of depicting Russia as a military threat, US analysts have additionally portrayed the country’s support of socialist governments in Latin America as a danger to the economically empty liberal democracies of the West. According to IBI Consultants, a National Security consulting company specializing in Latin America, Russia’s growing presence in Latin America “is now an integral part of an alliance of state and nonstate actors that have shown their hostility toward the United States in their ideology, criminalized behavior, and anti-democratic nature.” Reiterating this point, on July 9, 2019, Admiral Faller declared before the Congress that “Russia seeks to sow disunity and distrust, propping up autocratic regimes in Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests.” For Faller, those nations which don’t doggedly toe America’s imperialist line automatically become “threats” to democracy and if Russia shows solidarity with these anti-imperialist nations, it, too, classifies as a threat to US interests.

As the USA continues to militarize Latin America, it is increasingly becoming clear that it wants to protect its old, imperial structures from being challenged by anyone. It has been explicitly acknowledged even by pro-US analysts such as Ellis that US military assistance in Latin America “potentially serves U.S. strategic interests by helping to inoculate receiving states against radical or anti-democratic [read “socialist”] solutions which find receptivity when populations lose faith in the ability of a democratic political system and a free market economy to effectively address the corruption, inequality, injustice, and other dysfunctionalities plaguing their country [Emphasis mine].” US military assistance, therefore, is not apolitical and is ideologically tarnished with the objectives of stabilizing free market economies-bourgeoisie democracies and subverting socialist countries.

The United States Intelligence Community’s assessment of threats to US national security had stated in 2019 that “anti-US autocrats [in the Western Hemisphere]will present continuing challenges to US interests, as US adversaries and strategic competitors seek greater influence in the region.” Here, “anti-US autocrats” refers to the socialist administrations of three Latin American countries: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. These three countries have been facing strong US belligerence for their anti-imperialist stance. US sanctions against Cuba have tightened during the pandemic; USA’s hybrid war against Venezuela has intensified as Trump has decided to use frozen funds to topple Nicolas Maduro and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) has strengthened its regime change operations against the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Due to the support lent by China, Russia and Iran to the socialist governments of Latin America, USA has decided to eradicate these extra-regional actors from its “own” backyard and re-proclaim a complete American dominance in the region. In times like these, the international community needs to oppose the militarism of USA against new regional alliances in Latin America.

Yanis Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India.

August 24, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Alliance between Venezuela and Iran evolves into the military sphere

By Lucas Leiroz | August 24, 2020

The alliance between Venezuela and Iran seems to be taking new directions. The ties between the two countries began to strengthen in an economic sphere when, in the first half of 2020, Tehran started sending oil ships to Venezuela, circumventing the international trade rules imposed by Washington with the aim of blocking Caracas economically. Earlier this year, Tehran sent several cargoes of gasoline to Venezuela to help the South American country overcome fuel shortages, as well as equipment to help state oil company PDVSA overcome production and export difficulties during the crisis.

The presence of Iranian ships on the Venezuelan coast has been a real affront to the United States, which has always played a role of naval hegemony in the Caribbean. Recently, the United States claimed to have seized four ships carrying Iranian gasoline en route to Venezuela, prompting Washington to tighten sanctions on both countries. But the US was unable to contain the Iranian advance and now the alliance between Caracas and Tehran has advanced into a military step.

Recently, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro thanked Iran for helping the South American country overcome US sanctions on its oil industry. At the time, he said that Iran is helping to maintain all Venezuelan national governance but did not elaborate on how this cooperation was taking place. He said it was important to maintain secrecy on the topic because of the economic boycott imposed by the US – which he called a “brutal war”. However, Colombian President Iván Duque said last week that Maduro was interested in buying missiles from Iran, which Venezuelan officials denied, but later Maduro responded that Duke’s statement was a “good idea” and that he had not yet considered it .

Shortly thereafter, Maduro confirmed his interest in buying Iranian weapons. According to the Venezuelan president, Iran, possessing advanced military technology, can be a great partner of the South American country in case of possible attacks by the US. According to Maduro, buying Iranian missiles was not in his plans until the moment that Iván Duque gave him this idea by accusing him in a condemning tone of being acquiring such equipment.

“With Iran having tremendous military technology, buying short, medium and long-range rockets and missiles from Iran to defend against imperialist threats seemed like a good idea, [so] I gave the order to Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino to evaluate all potentialities and possibilities, and if it is possible and convenient, we will buy these missiles at the right time”, said Maduro in an interview with the state television channel” Venezolana de Televisión”. According to the Venezuelan president, the Duke’s pronouncement was intended to attack Venezuela to take international attention away from Colombia’s national problems, such as the massacres and murders perpetrated by drug trafficking militias and the great social crisis generated by the new coronavirus, however, it ended up arousing the Venezuelan government’s interest in buying such Iranian missiles.

Now, it seems that the possibility of buying Iranian missiles is being evaluated by Vladimir Padrino, leader of the Venezuelan Defense, and there is a great likelihood for the negotiations to be concluded, considering that there is a willingness on both sides for international cooperation since they have a common enemy. Looking at the case from a realistic point of view, it is very unlikely that negotiations between Iran and Venezuela started due to Iván Duque’s pronouncement. Both countries were probably already discreetly maintaining this dialogue and the accusatory and condemnatory pronouncement served only as an opportunity to make the news public. In fact, it seems that Duque’s words were a flawed blow: Venezuela was expected to deny the accusations and thus create a scenario of tensions and uncertainties, but, contrary to what was predicted by the Colombia-US coalition, Venezuela has made public its intention to acquire the missiles and now the alliance is almost official.

If the missiles are bought by Caracas, this will be a major blow to the American presence in South America and, at the same time, a major milestone for Iranian international projections. The most important thing to note is that this agreement has a much deeper dimension than mere military trade: everything indicates that it will only be the first step in a major military alliance. Venezuela will have its defense system strengthened and will guarantee greater security against possible attacks by both Americans and Colombians. Likewise, in a possible war against Washington, Iran will have the definitive support of Venezuela – a strategically well located ally, with its coastline pointing to the Caribbean Sea, an important area of ​​American influence.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

August 24, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

YouTube Shuts Down New Channels from Venezuela and Cuba

teleSUR | August 21, 2020

Without prior notice, YouTube Thursday removed three Venezuelan channels and two Cuban channels from its platform.

“We were loading to the platform not only live transmissions but also our complete programs. There is no clear explanation for this action,” said Barry Cartaya, a presenter of Venezolana de Television (VTV), a state-run television station based in Caracas.

“This page isn’t available. Sorry about that. Try searching for something else,” is the message popping up when the people try to access VTV channels.YouTube eliminated over 68,000 videos that the Venezuelan media stored in this platform since2011.

The VTV channels affected by the U.S. company are Multimedio VTV (314,000 subscribers), VTV Programs (87,000 subscribers), and VTV Signal Live, which allowed journalists and correspondents to directly post their productions to inform the public.

In Cuba, outlet Cubadebate also denounced the closure of two Youtube channels, namely, Mesa Redonda (19,700 subscribers) and Cubavision Internacional (8,200 subscribers).

Local analysts consider YouTube’s decisions might be related to the sanctions President Donald Trump is applying against individuals, companies, and institutions of both countries.

According to YouTube’s own rules, a channel can be closed when it has committed three serious offenses during a certain period. In the cases of the Venezuelan and Cuban channels, however, these offenses did not exist.

August 22, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela Sentences US Mercenaries to 20 Years in Prison

teleSUR | August 8, 2020

Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab Friday reported that the two former U.S. military officers Luke Denmnan and Airan Berry, who participated in the failed invasion attempt in Venezuela, were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Denmnan and Berry tried to force their way into Venezuela along with 50 other citizens of the Caribbean country to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“The U.S. former military officers confessed to the crimes of conspiracy, association, illicit trafficking of war weapons and terrorism,” Saab tweeted.

These crimes appear in Venezuela’s Penal Code, and for them, the mercenaries were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

“The former U.S. soldiers, who admitted their responsibility in the events, were accused by the prosecutors in the case of serious crimes,” Saab explained.

The U.S. Silvercorp former members were detained in the second attempt of an attack against the Venezuelan coast.

At least eight people died and half a hundred more were arrested during the search and capture of the mercenaries.

Last May, Venezuela’s justice system ordered preventive detention for 40 people due to their involvement in the failed invasion attempt.

August 8, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 5 Comments

‘Coup-Plotters for Hire’: Unearthed USAID Nicaragua Regime Change Doc Puts 2018 Protests in Context

Sputnik – 05.08.2020

An uncovered US Agency for International Development (USAID) document lays out a blueprint for regime change in Nicaragua. An expert told Sputnik the playbook shines a new light on the 2018 protests in Nicaragua as well as similar operations in other countries targeted by the US, such as Venezuela.

A new report by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) has revealed a guide to regime change in Nicaragua by USAID. The document, which dates to March-April of this year, describes in frank terms how the agency, which maintains close ties with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), could create or exploit a variety of scenarios to remove democratically-elected Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his FSLN party from power in or around the upcoming 2021 elections.

Jill Clark-Gollub, assistant editor and translator at COHA, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Wednesday that many of the tactics outlined in the USAID document can be observed in the demonstrations that rocked Nicaragua in the summer of 2018.

‘Code-Speak for a Coup’

“It’s a contract hiring coup plotters – a ‘coup-plotters for hire’-type contract. And it’s really astounding how the whole document is based on the premise that we can impose a better version of democracy for the Nicaraguan people. It talks about a crisis and a transition, and all of this is code-speak for basically bringing about a coup.”

“It talks about three scenarios in which the transition can take place, and it says a transition could take place if our candidate wins the election, but other parts of the document make it clear that they don’t expect their pro-US candidate to win the election. They don’t even have a candidate. Then they talk about creating a crisis for a sudden transition – another code-speak for a coup – and then it talks about a delayed transition in which the FSLN party, the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, wins. And it’s even a free and fair election, and it’s recognized internationally, so it takes a longer time to get them out of there.”

“If you really hadn’t been paying attention at all, you would think there’s this country in crisis and that the US would be doing them a favor to get rid of that government and put in somebody else.”

US Officials Admit to Venezuela ‘Coup’

The news comes amid statements before a Senate committee on Tuesday in which US Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) frankly admitted to having attempted to engineer a coup d’etat against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro beginning in January 2019.

“Our Venezuela policy over the last year and a half has been an unmitigated disaster,” Murphy told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We have to admit that our big play, recognizing [Juan] Guaidó right out of the gate, and then moving quickly to implement sanctions just didn’t work … First, we thought that getting Guaidó to declare himself president would be enough to topple the regime. Then we thought putting aid on the border would be enough. Then we tried to sort of construct a kind of coup in April of last year, and it blew up in our face when all the generals that were supposed to break with Maduro decided to stick with him in the end.”

Josh Hodges, the senior deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), told the panel USAID support has been instrumental in helping Guaidó’s movement to function.

“We are using development assistance to support the interim government and the National Assembly with technical training, staffing support, equipment and communication efforts,” Hodges said. “USAID’s support bolsters the interim government’s ability to effectively operate and interact with constituents, despite the increased repression from the illegitimate regime. Our assistance has enabled increased participation with legitimate officials.”

Manufacturing Crises via ‘Psychological Warfare’

Clark-Gollub told Sputnik that USAID being directly involved in plotting a coup was “interesting,” because “this in the past, I believe, would have been done by the CIA. Now it’s being done by USAID, and as I said, it’s advertised on LinkedIn. It’s like they have no shame anymore.”

“USAID has been funding Nicaraguan opposition and media groups for years,” she said, noting the 2018 civil disturbances were a case study in what the document describes. “You just need to go back two years and look at this document and all of this doublespeak and understand what I mean.”

“It’s almost embarrassing for the people who are allowing themselves to be used for this. The document talks about how they’re going to use NGOs and opposition parties and the media kind of to corral them to do what they need to do for this plot. So it reveals a lot of stuff that we’ve known, and it brings it out in the open. We have known the media is paid by the US; this is recognition that they’re directed by the US. And the shameful thing for people outside of Nicaragua is that our mass media just parrots what the self-serving Nicaraguan opposition media publishes in Nicaragua.”

She further noted the US was “trying to use the [COVID-19] pandemic for this crisis” mentioned in the document as a possible regime change scenario. “They even created their own citizens’ observatory with mysterious ‘scientific experts’ who they would never say who they were, who were publishing their own statistics on the number of infected and dying people in Nicaragua from the pandemic.”

Instead, Nicaragua’s health system, which the FSLN government has spent 13 years rebuilding and expanding, did not collapse on itself under the weight of the pandemic, as the US embassy in Managua predicted it would, but instead has weathered the storm well, with the lowest COVID-19 case fatality rate in Central America and a very low per capita fatality rate.

Clark-Gollub said use of these tactics “amounts to psychological warfare. They are just going to keep trying to build up, dig up things to make things into a crisis, and it’s terrible,” noting Nicaraguans are being “bombarded” with “fake news” about mass deaths and burials that are actually occurring in other countries.

Especially in 2018, the opposition was “on top of social media,” which the document also urges as a tactic. “We know that in 2018, there had been 2,000 young Nicaraguans recruited, mostly through the Catholic Church, to be social media influencers. And these were the ones putting out ‘color revolution’ type posts,” such as urging painting national colors over FSLN symbols. She also noted they would announce police violence at an event before it had happened, which created confusion and drove demonstrations about events that never occurred.

She recalled that former US national security adviser John Bolton called Nicaragua and Venezuela, along with Cuba, a “troika of tyranny,” writing in his recently released memoir that if one of the three falls, so will the others.

“These three countries are working toward a multipolar world, and the US does not want to see that succeed,” she noted.

“The Nicaraguan people got a big education in 2018; they understand that they’re under attack. It’s not as easy for them to be duped again about fake news that comes out, especially on social media. But that said, this does not mean this is not wearing on people, this psychological warfare … I think that the Nicaraguan people are standing firm and are going to continue to build their country.”

August 5, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment