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Venezuela protests are sign that US wants our oil, says Nicolás Maduro April 8, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: the US government since the end of WWII, in a foreign policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean basically defined and determined by the CIA, has used the same script for regime change, with success in Guatemala, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Chile, Brazil, Haiti Dominican Republic, Grenada … the list goes on.  Countless millions of dollars have been covertly channeled into pro-US “opposition” groups and mainstream corporate media  in order order to create disorder and instability leading to one form of coup or another.  In the cases of Panama, Grenada and the Dominican Republic, there was direct military intervention.  In Cuba (Bay of Pigs), Nicaragua, Honduras and Haiti, the preferred method of material and diplomatic support to local insurrectionists.  When things “stabalize,” such as in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, etc. the US goes on supporting repressive dictatorships or repressive democratically elected governments such as is the case today with Colombia and Mexico (you may have noticed by now that I have named nations that make up probably90% of the population of the southern half of the western hemisphere).

In all cases, the motive is to preserve, protect or restore US economic interests and access to natural resources.

This is Venezuela today.

The Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.

Thank you, Mr. Obama.

 

 

 

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Venezuela’s president claims the Obama administration is fomenting unrest with the aim of provoking a Ukraine-style ‘slow-motion’ coup

(Click to see video: http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/apr/08/venezuelan-president-nicolas-maduro-video-interview

Venezuela‘s president has accused the US of using continuing street protests to attempt a “slow-motion” Ukraine-style coup against his government and “get their hands on Venezuelan oil”.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Nicolás Maduro, elected last year after the death of Hugo Chávez, said what he described as a “revolt of the rich” would fail because the country’s “Bolivarian revolution” was more deeply rooted than when it had seen off an abortive US-backed coup against Chávez in 2002.

Venezuela, estimated to have the world’s largest oil reserves, has faced continuous violent street protests – focused on inflation, shortages and crime – since the beginning of February, after opposition leaders launched a campaign to oust Maduro and his socialist government under the slogan of “the exit”.

“They are trying to sell to the world the idea that the protests are some of sort of Arab spring,” he said. “But in Venezuela, we have already had our spring: our revolution that opened the door to the 21st century”.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Nicolás Maduro has remained defiant after months of protests against his government, which he describes as ‘a revolt of the rich’. Photograph: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images The conflict has claimed up to 39 lives and posed a significant challenge to Maduro’s government. On Monday, the Venezuelanpresident agreed to a proposal by the South American regional group Unasur for peace talks with opposition leaders, who have up to now refused to join a government-led dialogue.

The US denies involvement and says Venezuela is using the excuse of a coup threat to crack down on the opposition. Human Rights Watch and Venezuela’s Catholic hierarchy have also condemned the government’s handling of the protests, while Amnesty International has alleged human rights abuses by both sides.

Maduro claimed Venezuela was facing a type of “unconventional war that the US has perfected over the last decades”, citing a string of US-backed coups or attempted coups from 1960s Brazil to Honduras in 2009.

Speaking in the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, the former bus driver and trade union leader said Venezuela’s opposition had “the aim of paralysing the main cities of the country, copying badly what happened in Kiev, where the main roads in the cities were blocked off, until they made governability impossible, which led to the overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine.” The Venezuelan opposition had, he said, a “similar plan”.

“They try to increase economic problems through an economic war to cut the supplies of basic goods and boost an artificial inflation”, Maduro said. “To create social discontent and violence, to portray a country in flames, which could lead them to justify international isolation and even foreign intervention.”

Venezuelan police clash with demonstrators in Caracas Venezuelan police clash with demonstrators in Caracas last month. Photograph: Santi Donaire/EPA Pointing to the large increases in social provision and reduction in inequality over the past decade and a half, Maduro said: “When I was a union leader there wasn’t a single programme to protect the education, health, housing and salaries of the workers. It was the reign of savage capitalism. Today in Venezuela, the working class is in power: it’s the country where the rich protest and the poor celebrate their social wellbeing,” he said.

Venezuela’s protests have been fuelled by high inflation, which reached a peak of 57% but has now fallen to a monthly rate of 2.4%, and shortages of subsidised basic goods, a significant proportion of which are smuggled into Colombia and sold for far higher prices. Opposition leaders accuse the government of mismanagement.

Recent easing of currency controls appear to have had a positive impact, and the economy continues to grow and poverty rates fall. But Venezuela’s murder rate – a target of the protests – is among the highest in the world.

About 2,200 have been arrested (190 or so are still detained) during two months of unrest, which followed calls by opposition leaders to “light up the streets with struggle” and December’s municipal elections in which Maduro’s supporters’ lead over the opposition increased to 10%.

Responsibility for the deaths is strongly contested. Eight of the dead have been confirmed to be police or security forces; four opposition activists (and one government supporter) killed by police, for which several police officers have been arrested; seven were allegedly killed by pro-government colectivo activists and 13 by opposition supporters at street barricades.

Asked how much responsibility the government should take for the killings, Maduro responded that 95% of the deaths were the fault of “rightwing extremist groups” at the barricades, giving the example of three motorcyclists killed by wire strung across the road by protesters. He said he has set up a commission to investigate each case. The global media was being used to promote a “virtual reality” of a “student movement being repressed by an authoritarian government”, he argued. “What government in the world hasn’t committed political or economic mistakes? But does that justify the burning down of universities or the overthrow of an elected government?”The protests, often led by students and overwhelmingly in well-off areas, have included arson attacks on government buildings, universities and bus stations. From a peak of several hundred thousand people in February, most recent demonstrations have dwindled in size and are restricted to opposition strongholds, such as Tachira state on the Colombian border.

A hardline opposition leader, Leopoldo López, who participated in the 2002 coup, and two opposition mayors have been arrested and charged with inciting violence. Another backer of the protests, María Corina Machado, was stripped of her post in parliament.

This was not “criminalising dissent”, Maduro insisted. “The opposition has full guarantees and rights. We have an open democracy. But if a politician commits a crime, calls for the overthrow of the legitimate government and uses his position to block streets, burn universities and public transport, the courts act.” Critics, however, insist the courts are politicised.

Leopoldo Lopez Leopoldo López is escorted by Venezuela’s national guard after surrendering in Caracas. Photograph: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Last month, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, claimed Venezuela was waging a “terror campaign” against its own citizens. But the Organisation of American States and the South American Unasur and Mercosur blocs of states backed the Venezuelan government and called for political dialogue.

Asked for evidence of US intervention in the protests, the Venezuelan president replied: “Is 100 years of intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean not enough: against Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Brazil? Is the coup attempt against President Chávez by the Bush administration not enough? Why does the US have 2,000 military bases in the world? To dominate it. I have told President Obama: we are not your backyard anymore”.

Maduro pointed to evidence of past and present US intervention in Venezuela in Wikileaks cables, the whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations and US state department documents. They include cables from the US ambassador outlining US plans to “divide”, “isolate” and “penetrate” the Chávez government, and extensive US government funding of Venezuelan opposition groups over the past decade (some via agencies such as USAid and the Office for Transitional Initiatives), including $5m (£3m) of overt support in the current fiscal year.

Maduro’s allegations follow last week’s revelation that USAid covertly funded a social media website to foment political unrest and encourage “flash mobs” in Venezuela’s ally Cuba under the cover of “development assistance”. White House officials acknowledged that such programmes were not “unique to Cuba”.

Maduro has called a national peace conference – though opposition parties have so far refused to participate, arguing it will be skewed to endorse the government.

Cuban Twitter USaid covertly funded a social media website to foment political unrest in Cuba. Photograph: Franklin Reyes/AP The president also says he will agree to Vatican conciliation if the opposition condemns violence. But he rejects criticism that he and the Chavista movement have been too polarising.”I don’t think polarisation in a democracy is something wrong. That seems to be trendy now, to try to turn polarisation into some sort of disease. I wish all democratic societies would polarise. A democracy can only truly function if its society is politicised.”

“Politics is not only for the elite, for centre-right and centre-left parties, while the elites distribute power and wealth among themselves”, Maduro said. “Venezuela has a positive polarisation because it is a politicised country where the large majority take sides over public policies. There is also negative polarisation that doesn’t accept the other and wants to eliminate the other – we must get over that with national dialogue.”Venezuela has been central to the radical political transformation of Latin America over the past decade, and Maduro insists that regional process will continue. When Chávez said “the 21st century is ours” in 1992, he says “it was a romantic idea. Today it is a reality and no one is going to take it away from us”.

Challenged over whether Venezuela’s 2009 referendum to abolish limits on the number of times presidents can stand for election meant he would like to continue indefinitely, Maduro countered that Venezuela had a right to recall elected officials, unlike in Europe. “In the UK, the prime minister can run as many times as he wants to, but not the royals. Who elected the queen?

“The people will decide until when I can be here. Be certain that if it is not me it will be another revolutionary. What will be indefinite is the popular power of the people”.

Under My Presidency, Chávez’s Revolution Will Continue April 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Venezuela has lost an extraordinary leader, but his democratic and socialist project of transformation is more alive than ever

 

A month ago Venezuela lost a historic leader who spearheaded the transformation of his country, and spurred a wave of change throughout Latin America. In Sunday’s election Venezuelans will choose whether to pursue the revolution initiated under Hugo Chávez – or return to the past. I worked closely with President Chávez for many years, and am now running to succeed him. Polls indicate that most Venezuelans support our peaceful revolution

 

.Supporters cheer Nicolás Maduro as he brings his election campaign to a close at a rally in Caracas. Photograph: Santi Donaire/ Santi Donaire/Demotix/Corbis

Chávez’s legacy is so profound that opposition leaders, who vilified him only months ago, now insist they will defend his achievements. But Venezuelans remember how many of these same figures supported an ill-fated coup against Chávez in 2002 and sought to reverse policies that have dramatically reduced poverty and inequality.

To grasp the scale of what has been achieved, it’s necessary to recall the state of my country when Chávez took office in 1999. In the previous 20 years Venezuela had suffered one of the sharpest economic declines in the world. As a result of neoliberal policies that favoured transnational capital at the expense of people’s basic needs, poverty soared. A draconian market-oriented agenda was imposed through massive repression, including the 1989 massacre of thousands in what is known as the Caracazo.

This disastrous trend was reversed under Chávez. Once the government was able to assert effective control over the state oil company in 2003, we began investing oil revenue in social programmes that now provide free healthcare and education throughout the country. The economic situation vastly improved. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced dramatically. Today Venezuela has the lowest rate of income inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean.

As a result our government has won almost every election or referendum since 1998 – 16 in all – in a democratic process the former US president Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world“. If you haven’t heard much about these accomplishments, it may have something to do with the influence of Washington and its allies on the international media. They have been trying to de-legitimise and get rid of our government for more than a decade, ever since they supported the 2002 coup.

We have also worked to transform the region: to unite the countries of Latin America and work together to address the causes and symptoms of poverty. Venezuela was central to the creation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), aimed at promoting social and economic development and political co-operation.

The media myth that our political project would fall apart without Chávez was a fundamental misreading of Venezuela’s revolution. Chávez has left a solid edifice, its foundation a broad, united movement that supports the process of transformation. We’ve lost our extraordinary leader, but his project – built collectively by workers, farmers, women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and the young – is more alive than ever.

The media often portray Venezuela as on the brink of economic collapse – but our economy is stronger than ever. We have a low debt burden and a significant trade surplus, and have accumulated close to $30bn in international reserves.

There are of course many challenges still to overcome, as Chávez himself acknowledged. Among my primary objectives is the need to intensify our efforts to curb crime and aggressively confront inefficiency and corruption in a nationwide campaign.

Internationally, we will continue to work with our neighbours to deepen regional integration and fight poverty and social injustice. It’s a vision now shared across the region, which is why my candidacy has received strong support from figures such as the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva and many Latin American social movements. We also remain committed to promoting regional peace and stability, and this is why we will continue our energetic support of the peace talks in Colombia.

Latin America today is experiencing a profound political and social renaissance – a second independence – after decades of surrendering its sovereignty and freedom to global powers and transnational interests. Under my presidency, Venezuela will continue supporting this regional transformation and building a new form of socialism for our times. With the support of progressive people from every continent, we’re confident Venezuela can give a new impetus to the struggle for a more equitable, just and peaceful world.

Nicolás Maduro

Nicolás Maduro was Venezuela’s vice-president and foreign minister under Hugo Chávez, and was made interim president after the death of President Chávez on 5 March 2013. Maduro was the ruling party’s candidate for the presidency in the elections of April 2013.

Bogus Honduran Elections Today: Hypocrites Washington, Costa Rica, Panama, Perú, Colombia & Israel the only nations to recognize the illegal elections November 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Foreign Policy, Honduras.
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By Eva Golinger
The Chavez Code
Sunday, Nov 29, 2009

 

“What are we going to do, sit for four years and just condemn the coup?” a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters in Washington.

The true divides in Latin America – between justice and injustice, democracy and dictatorship, human rights and corporate rights, people’s power and imperial domination – have never been more visible than today. People’s movements throughout the region to revolutionize corrupt, unequal systems that have isolated and excluded the vast majority in Latin American nations, are successfully taking power democratically and building new models of economic and social justice.

Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador are the vanguard of these movements, with other nations such as Uruguay and Argentina moving at a slower pace towards change. The region has historically been plagued by brutal US intervention, seeking at all costs to dominate the natural and strategic resources contained in this vast, abundant territory. With the exception of the defiant Cuban Revolution, Washington achieved control over puppet regimes placed throughout Latin America by the end of the twentieth century. When Hugo Chávez won the presidency in 1998 and the Bolivarian Revolution began to root, the balance of power and imperial control over the region started to weaken. Eight years of Bush/Cheney brought coup d’etats back to the region, in Venezuela in 2002 against President Chávez and Haiti in 2004 against President Aristide. The former was defeated by a mass popular uprising, the latter succeeded in ousting a president no longer convenient to Washington’s interests.

Despite the Bush administration’s efforts to neutralize the spread of revolution in Latin America through coups, economic sabotages, media warfare, psychological operations, electoral interventions and an increasing military presence, nations right across the border such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala elected leftist-leaning presidents. Latin American integration solidified with UNASUR (the union of South American nations) and ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas), and Washington’s grip on power began to slip away. Henry Kissinger said in the seventies, “if we can’t control Latin America, how can we dominate the world?” This imperial vision is more evident today than ever before.

Obama’s presence in the White House was erroneously viewed by many in the region as a sign of an end to US aggression in the world, and especially here, in Latin America. At least, many believed, Obama would downscale the growing tensions with its neighbors to the south. In fact, he himself, the new president of the United States, made allusion to such changes. But now, the Obama administration’s “Smart Power” strategy has been unmasked. The handshakes, smiles, gifts and promises of “no intervention” and “a new era” made by President Obama himself to leaders of Latin American nations last Spring at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad have unraveled and turned into cynical gestures of hypocrisy. When Obama came to power, Washington’s reputation in the region was at an all-time low. The meager attempts to “change” the North-South relationship in the Americas have made things worse and reaffirmed that Kissinger’s vision of control over this region is a state policy, irrespective of party affiliation or public discourse.

Washington’s role in the coup in Honduras against President Zelaya has been evident from day one. The continual funding of coup leaders, the US military presence at the Soto Cano base in Honduras, the ongoing meetings between State Department officials and the US Ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, with coup leaders, and the cynical attempts to force “mediation” and “negotiation” between the coup leaders and the legitimate government of Honduras, have provided clear evidence of Washington’s intentions to consolidate this new form of “smart coup”. The Obama administration’s initial public insistence on Zelaya’s legitimacy as president of Honduras quickly faded after the first weeks of the coup. Calls for “restitution of democratic and constitutional order” became weak whispers repeated by the monotone voices of State Department spokesmen.

The imposition of Costan Rican president Oscar Arias – a staunch ally of neoliberalism and imperialism -to “mediate” the negotiation ordered by Washington between coup leaders and President Zelaya was a circus. At the time, it was apparent that Washington was engaging in a “buying time” strategy, pandering to the coup leaders while publicly “working” to resolve the conflict in Honduras. Arias’ insincerity and complicity in the coup was evident from the very morning of Zelaya’s violent kidnapping and forced exile.

The Pentagon, State Department and CIA officials present on the Soto Cano base, which is controlled by Washington, arranged for Zelaya’s transport to Costa Rica. Arias had subserviently agreed to refuge the illegally ousted president and to not detain those who kidnapped him and piloted the plane that – in violation of international law – landed in Costa Rican territority. Today, Oscar Arias has called on all nations to “recognize” the illegal and illegitimate elections occurring in Honduras. Why not? he says, if there is no fraud or irregularity, “why not recognize the newly elected president?” The State Department and even President Obama himself have said the same thing, and are calling on all nations – pressuring – to recognize a regime that will be elected under a dictatorship. Seems that fraud and irregularity are already present, considering that today, no democracy exists in Honduras that would permit proper conditions for an electoral process. Not to mention that the State Department admitted to funding the elections and campaigns in Honduras weeks ago. And the “international observers” sent to witness and provide “credibility” to the illegal process are all agencies and agents of empire.

The International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute, both agencies created to filter funding from USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to political parties abroad in order to promote US agenda, not only funded those groups involved in the Honduran coup, but now are “observing” the elections. Terrorist groups such as UnoAmerica, led by Venezuelan coup leader Alejando Peña Esclusa, have also sent “observers” to Honduras. Miami-Cuban terrorist and criminal Adolfo Franco, former USAID director, is another “heavyweight” on the list of electoral observers in Honduras today.

But the Organization of American States (OAS) and Carter Center, hardly “leftist” entities, have condemned the electoral process as illegitimate and refused to send observers. So have the United Nations and the European Union, as well as UNASUR and ALBA. Washington stands alone, with its right-wing puppet states in Colombia, Panamá, Perú, Costa Rica and Israel, as the only nations to have publicly indicated recognition of the electoral process in Honduras and the future regime. A high-level State Department official cynically declared to the Washington Post, “What are we going to do, sit for four years and just condemn the coup?” Well, Washington has sat for 50 years and refused to recognize the Cuban government. But that’s because the Cuban government is not convenient for Washington. The Honduran dictatorship is.

The Honduran resistance movement is boycotting the elections, calling on people to abstain from participating in an illegal process. The streets of Honduras have been taken over by thousands of military forces, under control of the coup regime and the Pentagon. With advanced weapons technology from Israel, the coup regime is prepared to massively repress and brutalize any who attempt to resist the electoral process. We must remain vigilant and stand with the people of Honduras in the face of the immense danger surrounding them. Today’s elections are a second coup d’etat against the Honduran people, this time openly designed, promoted, funded and supported by Washington. Whatever the result, no justice will be brought to Honduras until Washington’s intervention ceases.

South America to Slam US-Colombia Base Deal August 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Published on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 by Agence France Presse

SAO PAULO – South American presidents are expected to slam a US plan to use military bases in Colombia when they gather for a summit in Argentina at the end of the week specifically to discuss the issue.

The anti-US leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have already vociferously criticized the announcement that Washington wanted to expand its military presence in Colombia to access seven bases.

 

[Colombians fill up a motorbike with smuggled gasoline in Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Venezuela. In Venezuela the price of oil is 50 times cheaper than in Colombia, and due to the crisis between both countries, Colombians started smuggling along the border. Venezuela will not renew a recently-expired deal that provided Colombia gasoline at cut-rate prices. (AFP photo)]Colombians fill up a motorbike with smuggled gasoline in Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Venezuela. In Venezuela the price of oil is 50 times cheaper than in Colombia, and due to the crisis between both countries, Colombians started smuggling along the border. Venezuela will not renew a recently-expired deal that provided Colombia gasoline at cut-rate prices. (AFP photo)

The more moderate presidents heading up Brazil, Chile and Argentina have likewise expressed concern at the decision, first announced last month by Bogota. 

The Union of South American Nations (Unasur) summit in the Argentine ski resort of Bariloche on Friday is to examine claims by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez that the increased US deployment could be used to invade his country.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is to attend, after having snubbed the previous Unasur meeting in Ecuador early this month because of regional friction over the deal.

Ahead of that last meeting, Uribe embarked on a tour of South America to speak to leaders one-on-one about the bases deal, but failed to win any support except from Peruvian President Alan Garcia.

US officials say that, while the deal on the bases was finalized this month, the agreement with Colombia has yet been signed.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she expected to ink the accord soon.

She also insisted that the beefed-up US military presence was exclusively aimed at “narco-traffickers, terrorists, and other illegal armed groups in Colombia.”

But Chavez on Sunday charged that “they are turning all of Colombia into a (US) base.”

He said in his weekly broadcast he had a document that showed the US military intended to operate unhindered “in strategic areas” — which he interpreted as including the Orinoco Delta in eastern Venezuela and Brazil’s northern Amazon basin.

The US aim was to “dominate South America and act freely across the continent,” he alleged.

Brazil’s defense minister, Nelson Jobim, was to travel to Colombia on Tuesday to talk over the bases decision with his counterpart, Gabriel Silva Lujan.

On Monday, he met with Ecuadorian Defense Minister Javier Ponce. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim also met with Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconi.

Falconi said Colombia had requested that several agenda items be discussed in conjunction with the bases issue at Friday’s summit, including other military deals in South America.

That latter point could touch on Venezuela’s recent purchases of billions of dollars of Russian weaponry, including sophisticated fighter jets and tanks, and Brazil’s deal with France to buy five submarines, one of which will be outfitted as a nuclear-powered vessel. Brazil is also poised to buy 36 new fighter aircraft from France, the United States or Sweden.

“There are no off-limit subjects at the meeting,” Falconi said.

“We think that all aspects linked to security in the region need to be tackled by the presidents. It’s not about accusing anybody, only holding transparent dialogue with the aim of strengthening regional unity,” he said.

Unasur groups Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guayana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Last week, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva urged US President Barack Obama to attend a Unasur summit to hear the grievances.

Obama said only he would “look at possibilities” and would next meet with Lula on September 24-25, at a G20 summit in Pittsburgh, in the US state of Pennsylvania.

Under a current cap exercised by the US Congress, the number of US citizens deployed to bases in Colombia cannot exceed 800 uniformed and 600 civilian personnel.

The US daily The Washington Post claimed in an editorial on Monday that Chavez was stirring up trouble over the bases to distract attention from his alleged support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a rebel organization deemed a “terrorist” group by Washington.

The newspaper, which has good sources in US defense and political circles, asserted that giving the US military access to seven bases in Colombia was an “unremarkable” expansion of existing US operations in the country.

© 2009 Agence France Presse

Observations on Latin America August 8, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Foreign Policy, Honduras, Mexico, Right Wing, Venezuela.
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Published on Saturday, August 8, 2009 by CommonDreams.org by Miguel Tinker Salas

The recent events in Honduras are not isolated, but rather part of a conservative counterattack taking shape in Latin America. For some time, the right has been rebuilding in Latin America; hosting conferences, sharing experiences, refining their message, working with the media, and building ties with allies in the United States. This is not the lunatic rightwing fringe, but rather the mainstream right with powerful allies in the middle class that used to consider themselves center, but have been frightened by recent left electoral victories and the rise of social movements. With Obama in the White House and Clinton in the State Department they have now decided to act. Bush/Cheney and company did not give them any coverage and had become of little use to them. A “liberal” in the White House gives conservative forces the kind of coverage they had hoped for. It is no coincidence that Venezuelan opposition commentators applauded the naming of Clinton to the State Department, claiming that they now had an ally in the administration. The old cold-warrior axiom that the best antidote against the left is a liberal government in Washington gains new meaning under Obama with Clinton at the State Department.

Coup leaders in Honduras and their allies continue to play for time. Washington’s continuing vacillation is allowing them to exhaust this option, but so are right-wing governments in Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Peru. After all, this coup is not just about Honduras but also about leftwing success in Latin America, of which Honduras was the weakest link. It is increasingly becoming obvious that there is no scenario under which elites in Honduras will accept Zelaya back. I do not think that they have a plan “B” on this matter and this speaks to the kind of advice they are getting from forces in the U.S. and the region. If Zelaya comes back, the Supreme Court, the Congress, the military and the church all lose credibility and it opens the door for the social and political movements in Honduras to push for radical change that conservative forces would find more difficult to resist.

But Honduras is only part of the equation. Colombia’s decision to accept as many as 7 new U.S. military bases (3 airbases, including Palanquero, 2 army bases, and 2 naval bases one on the Pacific and one on the Caribbean), dramatically expands the U.S. military’s role in the country and throughout the region. The Pentagon has been eyeing the airbase at Palanquero with its complex infrastructure and extensive runway for some time. This is a very troubling sign that will alter the balance of forces in the region, and speaks volumes about how the Obama administration plans to respond to change in Latin America. A possible base on the Caribbean coast of Colombia would also offer the recently reactivated U.S. Fourth Fleet, a convenient harbor on the South American mainland. In short, Venezuela would be literally encircled. However, Venezuela is not the only objective. It also places the Brazilian Amazon and all its resources within striking distance of the U.S. military, as well as the much sought after Guarani watershed. After public criticism from Bachelet of Chile, Lula of Brazil and Chávez of Venezuela, Uribe refused to attend the August 10 meeting of UNASUR, the South American Union, where he would be expected to explain the presence of the U.S. bases. The meeting of the UNASUR security council was scheduled to take up the issue of the bases and Bolivia’s suggestion for a unified South American response to drug trafficking. Instead, Uribe has launched his own personal diplomacy traveling to 7 different countries in the region to explain his actions. In addition, Obama’s National Security Advisor James Jones is in Brazil trying to justify the U.S. position on the bases.

The recent media war launched by Uribe against Ecuador and Correa, once again claiming financing of the FARC, and the more recent offensive against Venezuela concerning 30 year old Swedish missiles, that, like the Reyes computers, cannot be independently verified, have filled the airwaves in Venezuela, Colombia and the region. The current Colombian media campaign was preceded by Washington’s own efforts to condemn Venezuela for supposed non-compliance in the war against drug trafficking. In addition, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, also traveled throughout Latin America in July claiming that Venezuela is a destabilizing force in the region and in the Middle East.

Lost in all this is the fact that Uribe is still considering a third term in office and his party has indicated it will push for a constitutional reform. So conflicts with Ecuador and Venezuela serve to silence critics in Colombia and keep Uribe’s electoral competitors at bay. All we need now is for Uribe to ask the Interpol to verify the missiles’ origins and Interpol director Ron Noble to give another press conference in Bogota. Déjà vu all over again!

The right and its allies in the U.S. are also emboldened by the electoral victory in Panama and the very real prospects of leftist defeats this year in Chile and even Uruguay. Obviously they are also encouraged by the humiliating defeat of the Fernández / Kirchners in Argentina. These developments could begin to redraw the political map of the region. Correa of Ecuador has already expressed concern about being the target of a coup and Bolivia will undoubtedly come under intense pressure as they are also preparing for an election later this year.

All this is occurring with an increased U.S. military commitment in Mexico with Plan Mérida which seeks to build on the lessons of Colombia: maintain in power a president whose economic and social policies are highly unpopular, but who relies on conflict, in this case the so-called war on the drug cartels, to maintain popularity. Parts of Mexico are literally under siege, including Michoacán, Ciudad Juarez, and Tijuana. The backdrop for this is a divided left; the PRD was the biggest loser in recent midterm elections, and social movements remains localized and unable to mount a national challenge.

None of these developments are forgone conclusions, but they nonetheless speak to the fact that conservative forces in Latin America and their allies in the U.S. are mounting a concerted counter offensive that could increase the potential for conflict in the region.  

Miguel Tinker Salas is professor of History, Latin American and Chicano/a Studies at Pomona College. He is the author of several books including In the Shadow of Eagles, Sonora and the Transformation of the Border during the Porfiriato by the University of California Press. The book has been translated and is being published in Mexico by the Fondo de Cultura Económica. In addition, he also has published articles on transnational migration, ethnic identity and labor matters in Latin America. His current research examines the interconnection between politics, culture and oil in Venezuela. With Steve Ellner he co-edited, Venezuela, Hugo Chávez and the Decline of an Exceptional Democracy published by Rowman and Littlefield. On the eve of the Mexican Presidential election he co-edited with Jan Rus, The Mexican Presidency, Neoliberalism, Social Movements and Electoral Politics (Latin American Perspectives) which appeared in both English and Spanish (Porrua and Universidad de Zacatecas). His new book, The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture and Society in Venezuela, was published by Duke University Press in May of 2009.

Fluent in both Spanish and English, Professor Miguel Tinker Salas is often asked by the national and international media to provide analysis on political issues confronting Mexico, Venezuela, and Latin America. He has been interviewed by CNN, CNN Spanish, ESPN, the PBS New Hour, the Associated Press, Reuters, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Univisión, Telemundo, and many other radio, television and print media outlets. His expertise includes: US-Latin American Relations, contemporary Venezuelan politics, oil policy, Mexican Politics, Mexican border issues, Immigration, and Latinos/as in the United States. He is often asked to speak on college campuses and community events on the important issue facing Latin America and Latinos/as in the US.

Obama and Latin America: What He Really Promises November 25, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Latin America.
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www.upsidedownworld.org

Written by Diana Barahona   

Tuesday, 25 November 2008
U.S. hegemony in Latin America ha been maintained historically through military and paramilitary force, economic coercion, and since the mid-1980s through the additional strategy of manipulating civil society through a complex of programs implemented under the banner of “democracy promotion.” Democracy promotion is the topic of William Robinson’s 1996 book, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge University Press).

Although the motor behind imperialism is first and foremost capitalist accumulation, public opinion requires that the government justify such violent and undemocratic actions as overthrowing and assassinating presidents and propping up dictatorships with liberal rationales; since WWII this cover has always been the defense of “freedom” from communism. However, since the USSR disappeared as an ideological enemy, the Clinton administration justified its considerable military support to Colombia as fighting the war on drugs; Clinton also escalated corporate globalization under the guise of democracy promotion. When the Bush administration decided to carry out military coups against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, it needed a more convincing justification, so it presented the narrative that both presidents had been overthrown by popular uprisings—a story that was planted in the media by the same “democracy promotion” networks that were orchestrating the coups on the ground.

With the 1998 victory of Chavez, however, U.S. hegemony had met its match, and he is now the region’s uncontested leader. His radical political, economic and social initiatives set off a powder keg of discontent over Washington’s neoliberal economic impositions, which exploded in one leftist electoral victory after another. Bourgeois democracy, which since independence restricted electoral choice to ruling class parties, is no longer capable of maintaining the traditional power structures of exclusion and is being replaced through constitutional changes in a number of countries with popular participatory democracy. Other signs of declining U.S. influence are countries withdrawing from the IMF and forming a South American trade bloc (MERCOSUR) and a South American union (UNASUR). The traditional instruments of U.S. hegemony such as the Organization of American States are becoming irrelevant. But if bourgeois democracy is on the ropes, it isn’t because the United States has “neglected” the region. On the contrary, the “democracy promotion” machinery—and intelligence and military agencies—have never ceased working to defeat authentic popular forces.

Barack Obama seems to be oblivious to the sea change in Latin America, portraying the advance of the left as a threat which came about through the incompetence of the Bush administration, who allowed a “dangerous demagogue” like Hugo Chavez to rise to power. Here is what Obama said in his May 23 speech to the Cuban American National Foundation:

“No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum. His predictable yet perilous mix of anti-American rhetoric, authoritarian government, and checkbook diplomacy offers the same false promise as the tried and failed ideologies of the past. But the United States is so alienated from the rest of the Americas that this stale vision has gone unchallenged, and has even made inroads from Bolivia to Nicaragua.

It should be noted that Obama dismissed socialism as a “tried and failed ideology” and a “stale vision” to a group of aging thugs and cutthroats who cling to the dream of restoring Cuba to its prerevolutionary past of white supremacy and gangster capitalism. The reference to Chavez stepping into the vacuum presupposes that the United States is the natural leader of the region and that only an illegitimate “strongman” would have the impertinence to dare to usurp this position.

If Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua are the bad guys, the good guys are represented by the Uribe government in Colombia, easily the biggest human rights violator in the hemisphere and the most corrupt (and for some reason embraced by the Clinton administration). Obama defended Colombia’s illegal March 1 attack on a guerrilla camp in neighboring Ecuador, where 25 people (including four Mexican students) were pulverized by aircraft artillery as they slept. His official statement: “The Colombian people have suffered for more than four decades at the hands of a brutal terrorist insurgency, and the Colombian government has every right to defend itself.” This is almost exactly what he said about Israel during its last invasion and bombing of Lebanon.

But maybe Obama has some sympathy for Haiti, the first independent nation in the Caribbean, born out of a slave rebellion, and the poorest. Haiti’s first democratic president, Aristide, was deposed in a U.S.-Canadian-French coup in 2004 and is still not allowed by the United States to return to his own country. Yet Obama sided with the coup plotters, recycling their slander that Aristide had lost the support of his people and was illegitimately clinging to power: “The Haitian people have suffered too long under governments that cared more about their own power than their peoples’ progress and prosperity.”

The theme of Obama’s speech before the CANF was “Renewing U.S. Leadership in the Americas.” He said the word, leadership, six times, in defiance of the strong majority sentiment in Latin America, expressed in numerous elections and statements by leaders and civil society, that they don’t want the United States to lead them any more. How Obama could have missed this message is testimony to how far inside of Washington he has gone, and how far Washington is from reality.

On Nov. 13, Andres Oppenheimer wrote in the Miami Herald about Obama’s Latin America team—a group of centrists from the Clinton administration. One campaign advisor since February 2008 was Frank Sanchez, a Tampa corporate lawyer who served under Clinton promoting democracy and free trade. Not much is known about Sanchez, a “Hispanic,” who announced Obama’s appearance at the CANF luncheon. Obama’s other top advisor is Dan Restrepo, a lawyer who served on the staff of the House International Relations Committee from 1993 to 1996. He is currently director of The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic Party think tank.

Other people mentioned—Robert S. Gelbard, Jeffrey Davidow, Arturo Valenzuela and Vicki Huddleston—are foreign service functionaries who promote the policies they are told to promote. None of these individuals, Sanchez and Restrepo included, appears to offer any fresh perspectives. They have not expressed support for Latin American sovereignty, development for human needs, and certainly not for socialism.

President Obama has a decision to make: either he will be on the side of the people and ecological sustainability, or on the side of transnational capital. He cannot steer a neutral course because he will be in charge of two enormous bureaucracies–the State Department and the National Security Agency–which have as their mission the removal of all obstacles to the accumulation of corporate profits. If he decides to switch sides, it will be in defiance not only of powerful economic and military interests, but of the team of advisors he has so far relied on. He will have to let them all go and bring in an entirely new group of people. The chance of that happening is next-to-none.

 

 

Bolivia a Powder Keg? September 17, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
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Bolivia a Powder Keg?

 

The news today from Bolivia appears to contradict itself.  On the one hand it is reported that the government and the opposition have agreed upon a political truce that will re-open negotiations on the question of provincial autonomy.  For the government’s part, President Evo Morales has committed to postponing for another month the planned referendum for the ratification of a new constitution.  The opposition appears ready to re-open blocked highways and abandon occupied government offices, and cease from attacking oil lines.  Just hours before the signing, talks appeared to have broken down over the government’s arrest of Leopoldo Fernández, Prefect (governor) of the separatist Province of Pando, whom the government has accused of fomenting the attacks against pro-government peasants that have left sixteen dead.

 

Morales’ hand has been strengthened in his confrontation with the right wing governor’s of five separatist provinces by the support of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which is meeting in Chile.  This may have been what has brought the opposition, who appeared to be provoking outright civil war, back to the negotiating table.

 

On the other hand, ominous statements have been coming out of Washington.  The Bush government is advising U.S. citizens to stay out of Bolivia and has sent two airplanes to Bolivia to evacuate those already there.  It is also talking about calling back its DEA agents there who are working to limit narcotraficking as well as its Peace Corps volunteers.

 

These are clearly signs of expected civil strife and come on the heels of Morales having expelled the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia for activities promoting the recent spate of opposition terrorist-like attacks, and a report from the Washington D.C. based Center for Economic and Policy Research indicating that the U.S. government is refusing to publish recipients of USAID funding in Bolivia, which implies that such funding may be going to clandestine opposition terrorists.

 

Like it Andean nieghbors, Ecuador and Venezuela, the people of Bolivia have given strong democratic electoral support to a president and government that are committed to recovering control of the nation’s natural resources, achieving a degree of social and economic justice, alleviating poverty and hunger, and investing in social programs, education and health.  Sadly, this places Bolivia directly in conflict with United States geopolitical interests, which, since the days of the infamous Monroe Doctrine, have had disastrous consequences for the people of the Latin American world.

 

With progressive governments in power in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, Bolivia has regional support that would have been unthinkable even five years ago; and this will make U.S. direct intervention that much more difficult, especially given that its military is badly bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Nonetheless, the recklessness of the Bush administration should not be underestimated.  In agreeing to a temporary truce, the Bolivian right wing opposition may simply be buying time as a strategic manoeuvre.  With the eyes of an entire continent upon them, their options may be limited.  However, as in Venezuela and Ecuador (where a popular referendum is expected to approve a new progressive constitution in less than two weeks), the elites of the old oligarchy may be experiencing greater panic and desperation on a daily basis. For these reasons, the possibility of civil strife breaking out any day in Bolivia cannot be discounted.

 

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