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Venezuela: Arrest Warrants Issued for Guaido’s Foreign Commissioner & US, UK Reps

By Paul Dobson | Venezuelanalysis | July 6, 2020

Mérida – Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab issued arrest warrants for eleven members of Guaido’s inner circle on Friday, including his US and UK representatives.

The citizens were targeted following their reported involvement in the “plunder” of 31 tonnes of Venezuelan gold held in the Bank of England (BoE) and follows a contested London court ruling blocking the government’s efforts to regain control over the assets.

Guaido’s representatives in London and Washington, Vanessa Neumann and Carlos Vecchio, have both been accused of treason, usurpation of office and criminal association, as has his appointed “special commissioner for foreign relations” Julio Borges, who is based in Colombia.

Warrants on the same charges were also issued for Ricardo Villasmil, Giacoma Cortesia, Manuel Rodriguez, Nelson Lugo and Carlos Suarez, who make up Guaido’s ad-hoc Central Bank (BCV) board, which will now attempt to access the US $1.2 billion assets, and Jose Hernandez, Irene de Lourdes and Geraldine Afiuni from Guaido’s Special Attorney’s office.

In addition to the warrants, Saab announced that any local assets belonging to the citizens are to be frozen, and that his office is considering appealing to international policing bodies to assist in their capture. All of the eleven citizens currently live abroad.

“These criminals have acted in favour of foreign power’s interests, concocting to make the Venezuelan people suffer from food, medicine and fuel shortages so as to enrich themselves at the expense of the country,” the attorney general argued, before going on to describe Borges, Neumann and Vecchio as “false representatives” of the country.

Friday’s charges are just the latest in a number of criminal accusations against Guaido’s team, including embezzlement, corruption, and association with Colombian paramilitaries and US mercenaries.

Both Vecchio and Borges have pre-existing arrest warrants open against them in Venezuela following their alleged roles in failed attempts to overthrow the Maduro government. Borges has been previously linked to the 2018 drone assassination attempt against the president.

For her part, Neumann has been accused of looking to bargain off Venezuela’s historical claim to the oil-rich and disputed Essequibo Strip to the neighbouring Cooperative Republic of Guyana in exchange for diplomatic recognition from London. The US-Venezuelan citizen was additionally accused by the government of “working with paramilitary groups in Colombia in 2009 and 2010” and “being a US government agent” last week.

In response to Saab’s announcement, Guaido’s “Commission for Foreign Relations” described the charges as “repression,” while the opposition leader defended his team’s efforts to “protect Venezuelan gold in the UK.”

Last Thursday, a UK High Court ruling blocked Maduro’s efforts to regain control over the gold, with Judge Nigel Teare arguing that the court was “bound” by 10 Downing Street’s “unequivocal recognition [of] opposition leader Juan Guaido as president.” While the assets remain blocked, Guaido’s ad-hoc BCV board is expected to file for control in the near future.

In response, the Venezuelan Central Bank pledged to appeal the “outrageous” decision. Government lawyers also claim that it fails to recognise the “reality of the situation on the ground,” in which the Maduro government is “in complete control of Venezuela and its administrative institutions.”

The gold was initially frozen by BoE authorities in November 2018 citing “standard” anti-money-laundering measures.

Following Guaido’s self-declaration as “interim president” in January 2019, gaining immediate recognition from Washington and London, the UK foreign office has since supported a number of regime change attempts and formed a special government-run “Venezuela Reconstruction Unit.”

Similarly, the UK followed the European Union in strengthening its sanctions regime against the country last month, applying asset freezes and travel bans on a number of Venezuelan officials in addition to previous measures. Despite its recognition of Guaido, the UK maintains dual diplomatic relations with both his representative and Maduro’s ambassador to the island, Rocio Maneiro.

After previous attempts to repatriate the reserves, Caracas looked to force the BoE to release the gold in May. Under the proposed resolution deal, the gold was to be sold and the funds directly channelled through the United Nations Development Program to acquire food and medicine to assist in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite registering far fewer cases than neighbouring countries, the coronavirus is increasingly taking hold in the sanction-hit Latin American nation. On Sunday, a record 419 coronavirus cases were identified by authorities, taking the total to 7,169, of which 2,100 have recovered and 65 have passed away. With a rapid increase in recent weeks, the country returned to a “strict” nationwide quarantine this week as part of the week-on-week-off lockdown program which Maduro claimed will be in place “until a vaccine appears.”

July 7, 2020 Posted by | Corruption | , | 1 Comment

Venezuela Sets Parliamentary Election Date, Increases Number of Lawmakers

By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | July 2, 2020

Mérida – Venezuela will hold elections for its National Assembly (AN) on December 6.

National Electoral Council (CNE) President Indira Alfonzo held a press conference on Wednesday to announce the timetable for legislative elections, which are constitutionally mandated to be held before the end of the year.

The timetable includes electoral registry sessions from July 13 to 26, with electoral candidates and lists to be presented from August 10 to 19 and the campaign held from November 21 to December 6. An extensive series of audits will begin on August 14 and extend to January 21, 2021.

Alfonzo added that dates are subject to adjustment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s legislative elections will also see important changes in the CNE’s electoral norms as well as in the number of deputies elected to the AN.

Voters will elect 277 deputies for the 2021-2026 period, 110 more than in the current term. The CNE will not change the 87 electoral districts that currently exist. Out of the 277 AN deputies, 48 will for the first time be elected via a national list, and the rest in the 87 constituencies with a 52-48 split between electoral lists and individual nominations.

The reforms follow a ruling by the Supreme Court last month striking down two articles of the country’s electoral law and ordering the CNE to establish new norms for greater proportional legislative representation to ensure more “political pluralism.”

According to the CNE, 28 national political organizations, 52 regional parties and six representing indigenous peoples are currently approved to participate in the December election. The changes to electoral norms had been one of the topics discussed in the National Dialogue Roundtable between the government and a host of small opposition parties.

Following the CNE announcements, President Nicolas Maduro called on Venezuelans to participate in the parliamentary elections, stressing that the government will put safety and healthcare protocols in place.

“We have seen elections held around the world during this pandemic, and Venezuela is no exception,” he said in a televised address. Maduro went on to add that the participation of 86 political organizations “strengthens democracy and peace in the country.”

Leander Perez, an activist with the Homeland for All (PPT) party, told Venezuelanalysis that the new rules can benefit smaller parties and that leftist organizations such as the PPT and the Venezuelan Communist Party had been demanding more proportional representation for years.

“The new rules encourage smaller parties to submit their own national lists and achieve representation in the AN. The previous setup forced them to run in large coalitions, the [government-led] Great Patriotic Pole and the [opposition alliance] MUD,” he explained.

Asked what strategies leftist parties should pursue, Perez urged organizations to take advantage of the more favorable conditions and set up an “independent” bloc in parliament.

“We need to set up a bloc that will act independently from the [ruling] PSUV, in alliance with popular movements, to defend a leftist agenda: demanding higher salaries and the release of imprisoned trade unionists, opposing campesino evictions, denouncing privatizations, among other things,” he said.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Juan Guaido reiterated that he will not take part in the elections, which he called a “farce.”

“There can be no elections in Maduro’s Venezuela,” a statement from Guaido’s press office read.The opposition leader has rejected taking part in elections as long as Maduro remains in office, repeatedly urging Venezuela’s armed forces to oust the president and install him in power.

Major opposition parties Democratic Action and Justice First were subjected to an intervention from the country’s Supreme Court last month, with their new leaders vowing to participate in the December contests. Guaido-aligned leaders have called for a boycott.

For its part, Washington declared it would not recognize the upcoming legislative elections.

Edited and with additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Santiago de Chile.

July 5, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

If US attempts to seize Iranian tankers carrying oil to Venezuela now, de-escalation will be more difficult than ever

By Scott Ritter | RT | July 3, 2020

To expand its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign targeting Iranian oil and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command, the US has a warrant to seize the cargo of four tankers heading to Venezuela. We should expect the worst.

Just weeks ago, in May and June, the world watched with bated breath as Iran dispatched five tankers carrying cargoes of gasoline and chemicals desperately needed by the Venezuelan nation, starved as it was of the ability to refine its own gas, due to the US’ stringent economic sanctions. While protesting the move, Washington did nothing to stop it, beyond sanctioning the ships involved. In what appears to be a replay, the Iranian government has now engaged four ships – the Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna – to deliver approximately 1,163,000 barrels of gasoline to Venezuela.

In an effort to prevent this, the US government sought, and obtained, a federal forfeiture warrant on the grounds that the sale of the cargo violates the law regarding economic activity conducted by or on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command (IRGC), previously designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization. The Iranian government has condemned the issuing of this warrant as an act of piracy.

How exactly the warrant will be executed, and what the consequences of such an action will be are scenario dependent. One possible scenario would be for the US to attempt a replay of last year’s gambit to bribe an Iranian ship’s captain to steer his vessel to a country that would then impound the tanker and its contents on behalf of the US.

The Iranian ship in question, a tanker named the Adrian Darya, had been seized by the UK on suspicion of violating EU sanctions regarding the sale of oil to Syria, and held in the port of Gibraltar. Iran, in retaliation, seized a British tanker operating in the Strait of Hormuz. After behind-the-scenes negotiations, a Gibraltan judge ordered the Iranian vessel to be released – but not before the US Justice Department had issued a warrant for the seizure of the ship.

Using the warrant as a stick, the State Department had its Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, contact the Iranian captain by email and offer him several millions of dollars to, in effect, defect with his ship and its cargo. The State Department was using a 1984 program known as ‘Rewards for Justice,’ which had been expanded under the Trump administration to target the IRGC by offering rewards of up to $15 million for information that led to the disruption of illicit Iranian activity.

In the case of the Adrian Darya, the effort failed. However, according to information contained in the complaint filed in support of the warrant, the owner of two of the ships engaged in the transport of gas to Venezuela, the Bella and Bering, both sailing under Liberian registry, indicated that he was concerned over what he called “the American threat.” The Iranian middlemen involved in the transaction had pressured him into undertaking the voyage and had offered to purchase the vessels outright, if needed. The key question for all involved is how the captains of any of the four vessels currently underway would respond if subjected to a similar solicitation of money as was made to the captain of the Adrian Darya.

Even if the US wasn’t able to entice a defection from one or more, possibly all, of the targeted tankers, the threat of seizure alone might suffice to compel the captains to abort their journeys and either return to their ports of origin, or seek to transfer the contents of their respective vessels to other tankers willing to complete the task of delivering the gasoline to Venezuela.

The consequences of a ship’s defection would more than likely be treated by Iran as the equivalent of having the vessels boarded and seized in international waters, as the end result – the confiscation of the ship’s cargo – would be the same.

Given past precedent, it is highly likely that Iran would conduct a tit-for-tat seizure of a vessel of similar capacity that was either sailing under the US flag or carrying a US-destined consignment. This would be a risky move that would probably lead to some sort of confrontation between the Iranian and American navies and might very well escalate into a general regional conflict.

Another option is that the tankers would seek to complete their mission by sailing in international waters with their onboard automatic identification system – a transponder that enables the ship’s movements to be tracked by other vessels using satellites – turned off.

This has been the practice that Iranian and Chinese vessels have engaged in during the delivery of Iranian oil to China in violation of US sanctions. Considered a very risky and dangerous move that could result in a collision with other vessels, it also makes a ship difficult to track and therefore interdict.

The US could respond by placing a screen of US naval vessels just outside Venezuelan territorial waters, creating a de facto blockade that the four tankers would have to run if their respective deliveries were to be made. Whether or not the US would actually attempt a boarding and seizure is another question, as it could be seen as a violation of international law. Moreover, the potential for direct conflict with the Venezuelan navy and air force would be high, given their practice of seeking to escort Iranian tankers once they arrive in Venezuelan waters.

In the past, both Iran and the US have shown restraint in seeking to avoid any major force-on-force confrontation between their respective militaries, knowing that once initiated, de-escalation would be difficult, and the transition to a general regional war all but assured. The social, economic, and political costs to all parties involved would be prohibitively high – a universally accepted reality that usually serves as a deterrent against rash action by either Iran or the US. But the present time finds US President Donald Trump in the political fight of his life, with polls indicating a difficult, uphill fight for re-election in November.

By undertaking this attempted delivery of gasoline to Venezuela, the Iranian government has placed Trump in a dilemma that he’s worsened by seeking, and getting, a warrant for the seizure of the involved tankers. Any inaction on the part of the US will be seized on by Trump’s political opponents as a sign of his impotence as a national leader, while a seizure that results in a war with Iran would destroy any chance of the post-pandemic economic recovery he’s betting on to help carry him to victory this fall.

Once again, the world is forced to watch while its collective future is decided not in terms of what is best for the global collective, but in terms of how an action is best interpreted from an American domestic political perspective.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Caracas Bashes UK Court for Seeking ‘to Strip Venezuela of Its International Gold Reserves’

By Oleg Burunov – Sputnik – 03.07.2020

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has lambasted the British High Court’s move to recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the president of the Latin American country.

Arreaza tweeted on Thursday that Caracas “rejects the opinion” of the UK court, which “seeks to strip our country of its international gold reserves at the Bank of England, and will initiate the corresponding legal procedures to appeal such an absurd decision.”

According to Arreaza’s attached press release from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, “President Nicolas Maduro […] has requested that Venezuelan judicial bodies initiate the necessary procedures to punish those involved in the theft of Venezuelan gold and to ensure that justice is done.”

The statement comes after the British High Court said in a ruling that the UK government “has unequivocally” recognised Guaido as Venezuelan president, adding that “there is no room for recognition of Mr Guaido as de jure president and of Mr Maduro as de facto president.”

The Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), in turn, argued that London, which maintains diplomatic relations with Caracas, “recognised” the government of the elected president despite calling him “illegitimate.”

The BCV also cautioned that the UK recognising Guaido would be a violation of international laws and an “impermissible intervention in the affairs of Venezuela”.

Right now, the Bank of England holds about $1.13 billion worth of Venezuelan gold, refusing to give Maduro’s government access to it or transfer the gold to another bank.

In May, the BCV filed a legal claim in a commercial court in London to try to force the Bank of England to transfer Venezuela’s gold reserves to fund the nation’s coronavirus response.

Venezuela’s push to release its frozen gold assets in the UK began after the US and other western countries refused to recognise the results of the 2018 presidential election in Venezuela, in which Maduro secured an overwhelming victory for another term amid an economic meltdown in the country.

After the US slapped a raft of economic sanctions against Venezuela, the South American nation’s financial assets were frozen in a number of foreign countries. The situation worsened after Guaido proclaimed himself interim president contesting Maduro’s claim to the country’s gold assets, including those in the UK.

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

UK court recognizes Juan Guaido as ‘unequivocally’ Venezuela’s president in legal fight for tons of gold

RT | July 2, 2020

The UK High Court has ruled that Venezuela’s legitimate president is in fact its self-proclaimed leader Juan Guaido, and not the elected Nicolas Maduro, in a bizarre legal battle for $1 billion of gold bullion.

The Bank of England (BOE) holds close to $2 billion of Venezuela’s gold for safekeeping. With both the Venezuelan government and the opposition laying claim to the fortune, the High Court has been tasked with deciding who deserves the funds, and said on Thursday that the UK “unequivocally recognizes” self-proclaimed leader Guaido as president.

“Whatever the basis for the recognition, her majesty’s government has unequivocally recognized Mr Guaido as president of Venezuela,” Justice Nigel Teare said on Thursday. “It necessarily follows that her majesty’s government no longer recognizes Mr Maduro as president of Venezuela.”

Venezuela’s central bank wants the gold back so it can be sold to buy medicine and equipment to battle Covid-19. It has said the funds would be transferred to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to ensure it isn’t used for anything else, but the opposition objects to this and claims Maduro wants to use the money to pay off his foreign allies.

Guaido, who has self-identified as the country’s interim president since 2019, with backing from Western nations, claims the gold is his to control and alleged the bank would be “financing torture” if Maduro won. The British government is among more than 50 nations that have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s leader.

A lawyer for Venezuela’s central bank said that they would appeal the judgement which “entirely ignores the reality of the situation on the ground.”

The BOE rejected Venezuela’s request to withdraw the gold in January, which was reportedly at the request of US officials. This prompted Venezuela’s central bank to file a claim against the BOE in May. Its case points to the fact that the UK Foreign Office maintains full diplomatic relations with the Maduro government, arguing that the UK can’t have these relations while also recognizing someone else as the head of state.

The Venezuelan government first made moves to remove its gold stores after the 2018 election, which Maduro won and the opposition boycotted. Boris Johnson, who was then the foreign minister, said at the time that the UK “may have to tighten the economic screw on Venezuela,” and with further US sanctions placed on the country, its central bank informed the UK bank that it wished to take its gold back.

July 2, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | 8 Comments

How Venezuela helped defeat Canada’s Security Council bid

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By Yves Engler · June 26, 2020

Was Canada defeated in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council because of Justin Trudeau’s effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government? Its intervention in the internal affairs of another sovereign country certainly didn’t help.

According to Royal Military College Professor Walter Dorn, “I spoke with an ambassador in NYC who told me that yesterday she voted for Canada. She had also cast a ballot in the 2010 election, which Canada also lost. She said that Canada’s position on the Middle East (Israel) had changed, which was a positive factor for election, but that Canada’s work in the Lima Group caused Venezuela to lobby hard against Canada. Unfortunately (from her perspective and mine), Venezuela and its allies still hold sway in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM or G77).”

The only country’s diplomats — as far as I can tell — that publicly campaigned against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council were Venezuelan. Prior to the vote Venezuela’s Vice-Minister of foreign relations for North America, Carlos Ron, tweeted out his opposition: “With its deafening silence, Canada has de facto supported terrorists and mercenaries who recently plotted against Venezuela, threatening regional peace and security. The UNSC is entrusted with upholding the United Nations Charter and maintaining International Peace and Security: Canada does not meet that criteria.”

The post was re-tweeted by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who has 1.6 million followers, and numerous Venezuelan diplomats around the world, including the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN. Joaquín Pérez Ayestarán added, “Canada recognizes an unelected, self-proclaimed President in Venezuela, in complete disregard for the will of the voters. It also tries to isolate Venezuela diplomatically & supports sanctions that affect all Venezuelans. Is the Security Council the place for more non-diplomacy?”

After Canada lost its Security Council bid Ron noted, not surprised with UN Security Council election results today. A subservient foreign policy may win you Trump’s favor, but the peoples of the world expect an independent voice that will stand for diplomacy, respect for self-determination, and peace.” He also tweeted an Ottawa Citizen article titled “Why Black and brown countries may have rejected Canada’s security council bid.”

For his part, UN ambassador Ayestarán tweeted, “losing two consecutive elections to the Security Council of United Nations within a 10-years period is a clear message that you are not a reliable partner and that the international community has no confidence in you for entrusting questions related to international peace and security.”

Over the past couple of years the Trudeau government has openly sought to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In a bid to elicit “regime change”, Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed illegal sanctions, took that government to the International Criminal Court, financed an often-unsavoury opposition and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.

Canada’s interference in Venezuelan affairs violates the UN and OAS charters. It is also wildly hypocritical. In its bid to force the Maduro government to follow Canada’s (erroneous) interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution Ottawa is allied in the Lima Group with President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who openly defied the Honduran Constitution. Another of Canada’s Lima Group allies is Colombian President Ivan Duque who has a substantially worse human rights record.

Reflecting the interventionist climate in this country, some suggested Canada’s position towards Venezuela would actually help it secure a seat on the Security Council. A few weeks before the vote the National Post’s John Ivison penned a column titled “Trudeau’s trail of broken promises haunt his UN Security Council campaign” that noted “but, Canada’s vigorous participation in the Lima Group, the multilateral group formed in response to the crisis in Venezuela, has won it good notices in Latin America.” (The Lima Group was set up to bypass the Organization of American States, mostly Caribbean countries, refusal to interfere in Venezuela’s affairs.) A Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East factsheet regarding “Canada’s 2020 bid for a UN Security Council seat” echoed Ivison’s view. It claimed, “Canada also presents a positive image to Latin American states, likely reinforced by its leadership of the Lima Group in 2019 and by its promise to allocate $53 million to the Venezuelan migration crisis.”

While it is likely that Lima Group countries voted for Canada, a larger group of non-interventionist minded countries outside of that coalition didn’t. Venezuelan officials’ ability to influence Non-Aligned Movement and other countries would have been overwhelmingly based on their sympathy for the principle of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs and respect for the UN charter.

The Liberals’ policy towards Venezuela has blown up in its face. Maduro is still in power. Canada’s preferred Venezuelan politician, Juan Guaidó, is weaker today than at any point since he declared himself president a year and a half ago. And now Venezuela has undermined the Liberals’ effort to sit on the Security Council.

Will Canada’s defeat at the UN spark a change in its disastrous Venezuela policy?

June 26, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 2 Comments

Drifting at Sea: Tankers With Venezuelan Oil Reportedly Unable to Unload Over Threat of US Sanctions

Sputnik – 24.06.2020

Reuters has quoted unnamed industry sources as saying that at least 16 tankers with a total of 18.1 million barrels of Venezuelan oil on board are stuck at sea across the world amid buyers’ fears to contact the vessels to avoid being hit by US sanctions.

The cargo is reportedly the equivalent of nearly two months of Venezuela’s current oil output rate.

“This is our third attempt to find a buyer”, according to a source from an oil firm registered as customer of the national oil and gas company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).Most of the tankers, which were en route to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, or Togo have been at sea for over six months and have failed to unload due to the threat of sanctions.

Some vessels are reportedly managed by the Amsterdam-based company GPB Global Resources, which was cited by Reuters as saying that they are “conducting business in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations, including US sanctions”. PDVSA and the Venezuelan Oil Ministry have not commented on the matter yet.

The developments come after The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported earlier in June that the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) wants to add up to 50 tankers to its blacklist for cooperation with Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro.

This followed the US slapping Venezuela-related sanctions against four entities and four oil tankers sailing under the flags of Panama, Bahamas, and the Marshall Islands.

The sanctions were preceded by Iran sending five fuel tankers to Venezuela in May and pledging more supplies if requested. All ships received a military escort after the US said that it was considering options for responding to the deliveries, which violate Washington’s sanctions imposed on both countries.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, for his part, said at the time that the tracing and tracking of fuel tankers entering Venezuelan waters constituted a violation of international law.

US Sanctions Against Venezuela

The Trump administration started introducing heavy economic sanctions against Venezuela’s economy in 2018 in a bid to oust President Maduro and replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido, supported by Washington.

Washington then moved to freeze the US-based assets of PDVSA as part of its efforts to sanction the South American nation. Caracas condemned the move, saying that it was unlawful and accused the Trump administration of seeking to get its hands on the nation’s oil reserves.

The subsequent shutdown of many PDVSA refineries forced Venezuela to consider importing fuel supplies to cover its domestic shortage.

June 25, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 2 Comments

Biden And His Ventriloquists Keep Out-Hawking Trump

By Caitlin Johnstone | June 22, 2020

Joe Biden keeps trying to out-warmonger Donald Trump, and by Joe Biden I of course mean the team of handlers who are animating the dementia-ravaged corpse of the Biden campaign like a ventriloquist operating a wooden dummy.

In response to Trump suggesting an openness to scaling back his administration’s murderous Venezuela policy and meeting with President Nicolás Maduro, whoever runs Biden’s Twitter account for him seized upon the moment to assert that the former vice president will be doing no such thing if elected commander-in-chief.

“Trump talks tough on Venezuela, but admires thugs and dictators like Nicolas Maduro,” tweeted Biden Incorporated. “As President, I will stand with the Venezuelan people and for democracy.”

“Translation: if Trump retreats from his current policy of trying to sanction and suffocate Venezuela into submission, Biden will make sure to revive it,” journalist Aaron Maté said in response.

“To be clear, Joe Biden is now attacking Donald Trump from the right on Venezuela,” said journalist Walker Bragman.

As FAIR’s Alan MacLeod accurately observed last year, this phrase “the Venezuelan people” is only ever invoked by the political/media class of the US-centralized empire for sloganeering purposes in support of US-led regime change interventionism in that nation, despite an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans opposing all US interventionism including sanctions.

This tactic of attacking Donald Trump for being insufficiently warlike is nothing new for Biden Inc, nor is it limited to Venezuela.

During the primary debates Biden attacked Trump for being insufficiently hawkish toward North Korea, claiming the president was wrong to meet with Kim Jong Un because it gives the leader “legitimacy”, whatever that means.

An  accused the president of being too soft on China by failing to force Beijing to allow US government officials into Wuhan to monitor the governing of a sovereign nation during a pandemic outbreak.

“Trump praised the Chinese 15 times in January and February as the coronavirus spread across the world,” says the ad’s narrator in an ominous voice. “Trump never got a CDC team on the ground in China. And the travel ban he brags about? Trump let in 40,000 travelers from China into America after he signed it. Not exactly airtight.”

Biden has attacked Trump’s partial troop withdrawal from Syria, using talking points from the so-called war on terror to absurdly claim during a primary debate that the president is putting America at risk of a terrorist strike from ISIS.

“We have ISIS that’s going to come here,” Biden said. “They are going to damage the United States of America. That’s why we got involved in the first place.”

And of course Biden & Co have been attacking Trump for being too soft on Russia, despite this administration’s many, many dangerously hawkish new cold war escalations against Moscow.

“We need a President who will stand up to the Kremlin, push back against Putin, and take immediate steps to ensure the security of our elections,” Biden’s Twitter account said last year.

This line of attack is so ubiquitous in the Biden campaign that it sometimes just takes the form of a vague, general swipe at Trump’s unwillingness to be more warlike, with an April tweet reading simply “Donald Trump says he’s a wartime president — it’s time for him to act like one.”

Again, this is Donald Trump these people are talking about. The same president who imprisoned Julian Assange for exposing US war crimes, killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans with starvation sanctions, vetoed attempts to save Yemen from US-backed genocide, is working to foment civil war in Iran using starvation sanctions and CIA ops with the stated goal of effecting regime change, nearly started a full-scale war with Iran by assassinating its top general, occupied Syrian oil fields and implemented devastating sanctions with the goal of preventing Syria’s reconstruction, greatly increased the number of troops in the Middle East and elsewhere, greatly increased the number of bombs dropped per day from the previous administration, killing record numbers of civilians, and reduced military accountability for those airstrikes.

The second-to-last thing the world needs is political pressure placed on Donald fucking Trump to be more warlike. The very last thing the world needs is a US president who ends up being even more warlike than Trump.

America is a war machine on top of a police state on top of a mass media psyop. Only people who are willing to keep these psychopathic mechanisms in place are permitted to ascend to presidential candidacy. While all the news cameras focus on the relatively minor differences between presidents and presidential candidates, you can learn a lot more about America and what drives it by looking at their similarities.

June 22, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Trump slams Guaidó while expressing openness in speaking with Maduro

By Paul Antonopoulos | June 22, 2020

In what potentially could be a radical change in Washington’s policy towards Venezuela, U.S. president Donald Trump confessed that he has had doubts about his decision to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president of the South American country. Trump revealed in an interview with Axios in the Oval Office what he thinks about the self-proclaimed wannabe president of Venezuela, Guaidó, and even confessed that he “would maybe think” of meeting personally with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who has already publicly expressed his willingness to talk with the American president.

“Maduro would like to meet. And I’m never opposed to meetings — you know, rarely opposed to meetings. I always say, you lose very little with meetings. But at this moment, I’ve turned them down,” Trump said.

In a preview of the interview published by Axios, Trump revealed how little confidence he has in Guaidó because the politician failed to take control of the Venezuelan government despite the strong support provided by the U.S. and another 60 countries that recognize him as the legitimate president.

Asked by Axios whether he regretted his decision on backing Guaidó on the advice of John Bolton, his former National Security Advisor, Trump initially said “not particularly,” but then went on to say, “I could have lived with it or without it, but I was very firmly against what’s going on in Venezuela.”

In another part of the interview, Trump speaks directly of the moment when he decided to recognize the opposition leader as president: “Guaidó was elected. I think that I wasn’t necessarily in favor, but I said — some people that liked it, some people didn’t. I was OK with it. I don’t think it was — you know, I don’t think it was very meaningful one way or the other.”

Also, in the preview, Axios quoted a fragment of Bolton’s upcoming book The Room Where It Happened, where he reveals some behind the scenes diplomacy of the Trump Administration and the private feelings the president has about Guaidó. Bolton says that Trump “thought Guaidó was ‘weak,’ as opposed to Maduro, who was ‘strong’” and that “Trump was calling Guaidó the ‘Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela,’ hardly the sort of compliment an ally of the United States should expect.” O’Rourke, who was a Democratic Presidential Candidate and is one of Trump’s biggest critics, was called a “poor bastard” who “quit like a dog” by the American president, a demonstration of just how low Trump thinks of Guaidó.

Trump in the interview described Bolton as a “nutjob” who may be the “dumbest human being on Earth.” Trump could perhaps seek to slowly normalize relations with Maduro and move away from Guaidó, while placing the blame entirely on Bolton for the escalation of hostilities between Washington and Caracas.

In 2019, shocking events were triggered when Guaidó proclaimed himself president. An attempt to forcibly enter a shipment of “solidarity aid” into Venezuela from Colombia that likely had weapons was made; Venezuela suddenly was without electricity after a cyberattack; there was another coup attempt; and, many attacks on military barracks. Yet, Maduro survived the intense pressures from the U.S. and sixty of its allies.

The American President is known to admire authoritarianism and/or strong leaders. Despite sanctions, coup attempts and threats of military invasion, Maduro has not only survived the U.S.-led destabilization, but cemented his positions as leader of Venezuela. Although they may be adversaries, it would not be a wild claim to say that Trump admires Maduro’s strength and determination, especially as Guaidó utterly failed when he had every advantage afforded to him.

If someone had said in 2019 that just a year later Venezuela would not only be more stable than the U.S. when we consider the Black Lives Matter uprising in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, but would also achieve a seat in the UN Human Rights commission, no one would have believed it.

The U.S. could not allow 2019 to confirm the decline of its dominance over Latin America. With the defeat it suffered in Venezuela, the return of Cristina Kirchner in Argentina and the breakdown of neoliberal governments in the region, Washington had to resort to coups to protect its interests, as seen in Bolivia.

Venezuela now has a fragmented opposition to Maduro that is immersed in an internal war. At this point, Guaidó is not guaranteed to be re-elected as president of the National Assembly. For the U.S. however, it does not matter who occupies that position so long as they are serving Washington’s agenda. The so-called Deep State in the U.S. remains pitifully unchanged in their policy to destroy the existence of sovereign governments in the region. However, is Trump attempting to break free of such war hawks by expressing an openness to speak with Maduro? Although Trump may have individual opinions on not wanting to challenge Venezuela, despite public rhetoric, he will be restricted by the main power structures that exist in the U.S. and push for complete dominance no matter the administration in power and what they want to achieve.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

June 22, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Bank of England Set to Decide Who Venezuela’s President is. How Did It Come to This?

Sputnik – 21.06.2020

What was a typical withdrawal request from a customer to a depository bank has turned into a political controversy, given that the government that owns the bank does not recognise the customer.

London’s High Court is scheduled to hear an unprecedented case on Monday regarding Venezuela’s attempts to extract its gold bullion from the Bank of England.

Venezuela’s central bank (BCV), controlled by the government of Nicolas Maduro, has around $1.8 billion worth of gold at the Bank of England. BCV has recently demanded that €930 million ($1.04bn) in gold be released to help Caracas fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The heavily-sanctioned Latin American country is among the 135 nations with beleaguered public health systems which are attempting to secure vital medical supplies under a major initiative led by the United Nations Development Programme.

BCV had wanted to transfer the proceeds from selling the gold directly to the UNDP to acquire medical equipment, medicines and foodstuffs, but the Bank of England “refused to confirm” that it would hand over the bullion, according to court documents filed last month. BCV in response launched legal action.

The UK government, which wholly controls the bank, does not recognise President Nicolas Maduro and backs the self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido. The UK-held assets of two dozen Venezuelan officials linked with Maduro, but not those of BCV, have been frozen.

The Bank of England denied a similar request for the withdrawal of gold in November 2018; at the time, a cabinet minister said that dealing with a customer’s request is up to the bank and not to the government.

Guaido, who appointed a parallel board of BCV directors, last month warned that the bank would effectively be “financing torture” in Venezuela if it honoured its obligations. His lawyers argue that a decision to release gold should be taken by Venezuela’s legislature rather than by the central bank. They also question whether the BCV board has a buyer lined up for the gold.

Lawyers representing BCV maintain that the request in question is meant to deal with a public health emergency and that the Bank of England’s lack of action is “putting lives at risk”.

“Venezuela has been denied access to its resources during an international crisis,” said London-based lawyer Sarosh Zaiwalla. “In effect, the nation’s gold reserves in the BoE are being held hostage to political factors dictated by the foreign policy of the United States and certain of its allies.” The high court ruling is expected before the end of July.

June 21, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

US Rejects Venezuela Legislative Elections as TSJ Intervenes in Two Opposition Parties

By Ricardo Vaz and Lucas Koerner – Venezuelanalysis – June 17, 2020

Mérida – The US State Department has voiced opposition to upcoming parliamentary elections in Venezuela.

In a press statement published on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the recent Supreme Court (TSJ) appointment of a new electoral council (CNE).

“The regime has selected a CNE that will rubber-stamp its decisions and ignore the conditions required for free elections,” the statement said, adding that “elections that represent the will of the people are impossible.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly refused to recognize any elections while President Nicolas Maduro remains in office. In March, the State Department released a “transition” plan with a five-person “Council of State” assuming power and convening presidential and legislative elections. Washington has vowed to ramp up sanctions until Caracas accepts the deal.

The Venezuelan Supreme Court swore in a new CNE on Friday, with former TSJ justice Indira Alfonzo assuming the presidency. While Venezuelan law mandates that the CNE be chosen by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly (AN), the judicial body stepped in following a request from minority opposition parties in order to guarantee elections this year. The TSJ had also appointed the CNE in 2003, 2005, and 2014 when the AN failed to secure the necessary majority.

AD ruling

Pompeo’s statement came amid another pair of controversial rulings by the high court.

On Monday, the TSJ suspended the current leadership of Venezuela’s largest opposition party, Democratic Action (AD), and named a new ad hoc one headed by former Amazonas State Governor Bernabe Gutierrez.

The brother of newly-appointed CNE Rector Jose Gutierrez, Bernabe Gutierrez previously served as the party’s national secretary before he was expelled by AD Secretary General Henry Ramos Allup on Monday for “conspiring” with President Nicolas Maduro to participate in the upcoming elections. The TSJ order provisionally anulls all party expulsions and exclusions.

Ramos Allup lashed out at the move as a “robbery,” challenging Gutierrez to “come here and take [the headquarters of] Democratic Action.”

For his part, Gutierrez released a statement accusing the ex-secretary general of operating a “regime of terror” and announcing a new era of “internal democracy, of the right to opine, to dissent… without fear of being expelled.” The party leader additionally confirmed that AD would participate in parliamentary elections later this year, which Ramos Allup had previously announced in March.

Ramos Allup has long been infamous for authoritarian leadership style and hostility to elections, with US State Department cables describing the party under his tenure as not only “extremely vertically organized” but “dictatorial.”

Hard-right opposition figures have, however, denounced the standoff within Democratic Action as staged, accusing Ramos Allup of ordering Gutierrez to negotiate with the Maduro government in his stead out of fear of US sanctions.

In 2017, the AD boss announced that four governors from the party had “expelled themselves” after they swore in before the National Constituent Assembly. The elected officials remain members of AD to this day.

PJ ruling

The TSJ ruling was followed by a similar one on Tuesday suspending the leadership of the right-wing Justice First (PJ) party. National Assembly Deputy Jose Brito, who broke with opposition leader Juan Guaido over a series of mutual corruption allegations late last year, was named national coordinator of the party. Following his expulsion from PJ in December, the lawmaker filed a TSJ motion for his reinstatement, claiming that his exclusion was “illegal” and demanding internal party elections.

Brito has likewise confirmed that PJ will participate in AN elections, stating that the majority of the party rank-and-file “want to go to elections.”

PJ’s national coordinator Julio Borges blasted the attempt to “steal” the party, adding that the party is “united and in high spirits, with the goal of restoring freedom to Venezuela.” Borges, who serves as opposition representative before the Lima Group, is sought by Venezuelan prosecutors for his alleged involvement in the 2018 assassination attempt against President Nicolas Maduro.

EU weighs in

The European Union also released a statement criticizing the CNE appointment and TSJ rulings.

“These decisions reduce the democratic space in the country to a minimum and create additional obstacles to the resolution of the profound political crisis in Venezuela,” the statement read, before urging the Venezuelan government and opposition to “engage in meaningful and inclusive negotiations” concerning the CNE and electoral participation.

In response, President Maduro blasted the EU’s “colonialist vision” and urged the body to “leave Venezuela alone.”

“Venezuela will have its elections. We do not care about the European Union,” he said in a televised address on Monday.

On Tuesday, Maduro held a conference call with members of the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV), urging the party to nominate fresh candidates for AN elections, to open the door to grassroots candidates and strengthen alliances with other parties.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself “interim president” last year with the support of Washington, has vowed to boycott the elections, proposing to extend the opposition-controlled AN’s mandate through 2021.

Under Venezuela’s constitution, legislative elections must be held before the end of the year.

June 19, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela’s US-backed opposition probed over links to terrorism

By Jesús Silva | Press TV | June 19, 2020

Caracas – Over the past few days, the US-backed Venezuelan opposition parties have been hit by decisions of the country’s Supreme Court of Justice.

The court has ordered an investigation into one party’s possible links to terrorism while appointing new heads for three other parties.

Voluntad Popular, the main opposition party, which is related to politicians Leopoldo López and Juan Guaido, is now being investigated over possible involvement in acts of terror and may be declared a terrorist group by the Judiciary in the upcoming days.

By the same token, Primero Justicia, Acción Democrática and UNT, three of the largest political organizations who oppose President Nicolas Maduro, were sued by many of their own members over impeding internal elections. The nation’s top Court responded by appointing new provisional authorities for the parties and ordering internal elections to be held as soon as possible.

The opposition says the judges are politically biased and some have described the move as an attempt by the government to bring the National Assembly under its control.

However, the court says the decisions were part of a necessary restructuring process. Some say the rulings are all based on the facts and the rule of law.

Persident Maduro has once again accused opposition parties of robbing Venezuela of its wealth and plotting a foreign invasion to end his socialist government.

This year’s parliamentary elections are being organized by Caracas despite Washington’s meddling and boycott threats from the US-backed opposition. Experts say that the socialist ruling party has a good chance of winning the vote since the opposition is divided.

June 19, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment