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Why is the US So Frightened of Venezuela? April 4, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, Media, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: Israel is armed to the teeth and possesses a formidable nuclear armory, the only one in the Middle East, yet the prostituted mainstream media would have us believe that the real nuclear danger is an Iran, which has zero nuclear weapons (of course, this is not to mention the United States, Russia, UK, China, France, etc. who have enough nuclear power to destroy the globe many times over).  And now we have a medium third world power in totally nuclear weapons free South America declared a security threat to the United States.  Does the mainstream media point out to us the ridiculous nature of this measure and the hidden agenda behind it; or does it lie low and wait for its instructions from official Washington?  This article shows us how absurd is the notion of Venezuela posing a material threat to Uncle Sam unless you consider the bad example of a government dedicated to social and economic equality.  Indeed, that hurts.

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Standing Up to the Empire

by MARIA PAEZ VICTOR

Obama is not in Kansas anymore, but he does not seem to know it. Latin America no longer slavishly accepts orders from the USA; it is no longer the USA’s “back yard”.

The mainstream media has downplayed the fact that President Obama has just declared yet another country an enemy of the USA –one in the American Hemisphere. He has issued an Executive Order declaring Venezuela an “extraordinary and unusual threat to the national security of the United States” [i]

How a nation that spends less than 1% of its GDP on military expenditures, has no latest state-of-the-art military weaponry, and an army of merely 120,000 can possibly threaten the security of the mighty United States, is entirely incomprehensible.

And yet, an invasion of Venezuela, before a theoretical possibility, after Obama’s order has become a scenario with real probabilities. The Venezuelan government is not taking this threat lightly having seen what the greed for oil has done to Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

After recovering from the initial surprise and bewilderment of being labeled a threat to the world’s superpower, Venezuelans have been left with one great consolation: that it is not alone before the threats of the empire of the North.

The media have ignored even more the fact that 138 nations of the world have openly sided with Venezuela against Obama’s surreal decree. This includes the United Nations G-77 countries, all of the regional associations of Latin American and Caribbean, plus Russia and China.[ii]

In the diplomatic world where finessing and weasel words are customary, the strong, categorical language with which Latin America condemned Obama’s decree has been remarkable. The decree was -in no uncertain terms- reviled.

The union and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean has been an amazing achievement. Simón Bolívar in the 19th Century urged and longed for it, however, it was President Hugo Chávez who laid the institutional base that made it possible. These two giants of Latin American history saw very clearly that only through unity could the republics of the region defend themselves from the rapacity of the world powers, especially of the United States.

Latin America (with the exception of that fiefdom of a country, Panama) has repudiated Obama’s decree, including those with right wing governments. They have all seen what the executive order really is: a gross intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, thus violating international law, specifically the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, and it also violates the United Nations Charter.

While the blockade against Cuba affected mainly only that island nation, the region knows very well that this decree affects them all and if not repudiated, no country will be secure from USA attacks.

The first country to express its solidarity with Venezuela was Cuba who labeled Obama’s order, arbitrary and aggressive. The Cuban support has an altruistic, humanist and unique merit in the history of international politics, one that reveals the greatness of the Cuban people. Just at the moment when the USA offers to re-establish relations with Cuba after 50 years of the suffering of the Cubans people due to the criminal blockade that the USA has unjustly maintained against them, just at this delicate and crucial diplomatic moment, Raúl Castro firmly denounced the aggression against Venezuela declaring, “The United States should understand once and for all that it is impossible to seduce and buy Cuba, nor to intimidate Venezuela. Our unity is indestructible.”[iii] Venezuela can never forget such solidarity.

At an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State of the ALBA countries[iv] on 17 March 2015, Obama’s decree was denounced as false and unjust, unilateral and disproportionate and Venezuela was given unconditional support. [v.] 

Argentina stated Obama’s decree caused stupor and surprise. “ It is absolutely implausible to any moderately informed person that Venezuela or any country in South America or Latin America could possibly be considered a threat to the national security of the United States.”[vi] Its Foreign Minister said that any attempt to destabilize a democratic government of the region, Argentina will take as an attack on itself “[vii]

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales demanded that the USA beg pardon to Latin America and especially to Venezuela.These undemocratic actions of President Barack Obama threaten the peace and security of all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Bolivia reiterates its full support for the legitimate government of brother Nicolas Maduro, a president democratically elected by his people, and pledge our solidarity to the Venezuelan people in this unfair and difficult time in which democracy is again trying to be sacrificed to serve foreign interests.”[viii]

 

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said sarcastically that the only thing missing is for the USA to sanction Venezuelan voters, and added: “It must be a bad joke, which reminds us of the darkest hours of our America, when we received invasions and dictatorships imposed by imperialism… Will they understand that Latin America has changed?[ix]

Nicaragua expressed its “profound rejection and indignation before an unacceptable imperial declaration.” President Daniel Ortega condemned the “criminal and futile attempts of the Empire to undermine the Bolivarian Revolution”[x]

Pepe Mujica, former president of Uruguay who enjoys almost universal admiration in Latin America, said: “Anyone who looks at a map to say that Venezuela could be a threat has to be quite mad. Venezuelans have a marvelous Constitution – the most audacious in all of Latin America.” [xi]

As for the regional associations, they all condemned Obama’s order and supported Venezuela: UNASUR, CELAC, ALBA, OAS, PARLATINO, MERCOSUR, ALADI. Plus the UN’s G-77 plus China and Russia added their condemnation[xii]

UNASUR (Union of South American Countries) rejected the decree “because it constitute an interventionist threat to sovereignty and to the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.”

The MERCOSUR Parliament expressed its most energetic and categorical rejection of the USA sanctions denouncing it as “ a real threat to sovereignty, peace and democratic stability (of Venezuela) and consequently, of MERCOSUR.[xiii]

The Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO) which includes 23 countries, stated, “What is at risk here is the defense of our independence, control of our natural resources and the freedom to decide our own destiny.” [xiv]

The Latin American Association for Integration (ALADI) called Obama’s decree inexplicable and arbitrary, stating, “The world knows that no country in Latin America is a threat to peace.” [xv]

At the Organization of the American States (OAS) on March 7th, Obama’s decree was rejected by a majority of 29 countries, with only three nations opposed: (no surprise) the USA, Canada and Panama.

At the United Nations, the Council of Human Rights in Geneva, denounced Obama’s aggressive policy. The UN G-77 plus China also rejected it, saying: “The Group of 77 and China conveys its solidarity and support to the Venezuelan Government affected by these measures which do not contribute, in any way, to the spirit of political and economic dialogue and understanding among countries.”[xvi]

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC), composed of 33 nations, unanimously condemned the decree and its coercive unilateral measures denouncing them as mechanisms of political and economic pressure that violate the UN Charter. [xvii]

In Great Britain, 100 members of parliament signed a declaration repudiating Obama’s decree and affirming their “opposition to all external interference and all USA sanctions against Venezuela.” Among those signing were members of 6 different British political parties from the British Parliament, the House of Lords, the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales and the Assembly of London.

There have been demonstrations all over the world in favour of Venezuela but have been given little or no media attention.

The Summit of the Americas is scheduled for April 10 and 11 in Panama. Instead of the USA being welcomed for recently thawing its relationship with Cuba, Obamas’ decree has assured that the USA will receive a very cold shoulder. A united Latin America and the Caribbean will stand up to the  will stand up to the empire and say: Venezuela is not alone!

María Páez Victor, Ph.D. is a Venezuelan born sociologist living in Canada. 

Notes.

[i] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/09/fact-sheet-venezuela-executive-order

[ii] http://www.primicias24.com/nacionales/maduro-138-paises-apoyan-a-venezuela-y-piden-que-se-derogue-el-decreto-obama/

[iii] http://www.michelcollon.info/Rechazo-mundial-de-la-agresion-de,5071.html?lang=es

[iv] The ALBA countries are: Antigua & Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Venezuela. Observers: Iran, Syria and Haiti

[v] https://youthandeldersja.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/alba-extraordinary-summit-supports-maduro-rejects-obamas-executive-order/

[vi] Salim Lamrani, Rechazo mundial de la agresión de EEUU a Venezuela, Rebelión, 25-03-2015

[vii] http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1664954-el-gobierno-manifesto-total-y-absoluto-apoyo-a-nicolas-maduro

[viii] http://rt.com/news/240325-venezuela-sanctions-obama-america/

[ix] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Ecuadors-Correa-Calls-US-Sanctions-on-Venezuela-a-Bad-Joke–20150310-0003.html.

[x] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Nicaragua-Offers-Backing-for-Venezuela-against-Coup-Plot—20150214-0021.html

[xi] El Observador, “Mujica no duda de que’los gringos se meten en Venezuela”, 12 marzo 2015

[xii] Resumen Latinoamericano/ Russia Today, 26 March 2015

[xiii] Salim Lamrani, Rechazo mundial de la agresión de EEUU a Venezuela, Rebelión, 25-03-2015

[xiv] PARLATINO, 17 March 2015 http://parlatino.org.ve/index.php/noticias/politica-nacional-e-internacional

[xv] Salim Lamrani, Rechazo mundial de la agresión de EEUU a Venezuela, Rebelión, 25-03-2015

[xvi] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuelan-President-Maduro-Appreciates-Support-from-G-77-20150326-0009.html

[xvii] http://www.aporrea.org/internacionales/n267602.html

 

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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”.

US Support for Regime Change in Venezuela is a Mistake February 18, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Imperialism, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: Only the wilfully naive can believe that the United States government is not providing all the support to the anti-Venezuelan government protests it can get away with.  As we have seen in the recent past with Honduras and Egypt, the U.S. government will set aside its sacred belief in democracy  in favor of military takeovers when it serves its geopolitical interests.  This is not to say that there aren’t serious problems in Venezuela or that Venezuelan government security forces have not on occassion reacted with undue force.  Violence begets violence.  But this does not alter our view of  the big picture.  Beginning with the era of Chavez, the Venezuelan government has been a serious thorn in the side of Uncle Sam, and the latter has acted as he always has, regardless of the party in power, which is to use whatever means necessary to maintain quasi and sometimes not that quasi client regimes south of the Rio Grande.

Oh, and by the way, don’t expect this kind of analysis to appear in the American mainstream media, quite the opposite.  No???

 

Published on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 by The Guardian/UK

The US push to topple the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro once again pits Washington against South America

 

by Mark Weisbrot

A student takes part in a protest against Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela on 4 February 2014. (Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters)

When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that’s not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela)released a statement on the past week’s demonstrations in Venezuela. They described “the recent violent acts” in Venezuela as “attempts to destabilize the democratic order”. They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

The governments stated:

their firm commitment to the full observance of democratic institutions and, in this context, [they] reject the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a political tool.

We may recall that when much larger demonstrations rocked Brazil last year, there were no statements from Mercosur or neighboring governments. That’s not because they didn’t love President Dilma Rousseff; it’s because these demonstrations did not seek to topple Brazil’s democratically-elected government.

The Obama administration was a bit more subtle, but also made it clear where it stood. WhenSecretary of State John Kerry states that “We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors,” he is taking a political position. Because there were many protestors who committed crimes: they attacked and injured police with chunks of concrete and Molotov cocktails; they burned cars, trashed and sometimes set fire to government buildings; and committed other acts of violence and vandalism.

An anonymous State Department spokesman was even clearer last week, when he responded to the protests by expressing concern about the government’s “weakening of democratic institutions in Venezuela”, and said that there was an obligation for “government institutions [to] respond effectively to the legitimate economic and social needs of its citizens”. He was joining the opposition’s efforts to de-legitimize the government, a vital part of any “regime change” strategy.

Of course we all know who the US government supports in Venezuela. They don’t really try to hide it: there’s $5m in the 2014 US federal budget for funding opposition activities inside Venezuela, and this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg – adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars of overt support over the past 15 years.

But what makes these current US statements important, and angers governments in the region, is that they are telling the Venezuelan opposition that Washington is once again backing regime change. Kerry did the same thing in April of last year when Maduro was elected president and opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles claimed that the election was stolen. Kerry refused to recognize the election results. Kerry’s aggressive, anti-democratic posture brought such a strong rebuke from South American governments that he was forced to reverse course and tacitly recognize the Maduro government. (For those who did not follow these events, there was no doubt about the election results.)

Kerry’s recognition of the election results put an end to the opposition’s attempt to de-legitimize the elected government. After Maduro’s party won municipal elections by a wide margin in December, the opposition was pretty well defeated. Inflation was running at 56% and there were widespread shortages of consumer goods, yet a solid majority had still voted for the government. Their choice could not be attributed to the personal charisma of Hugo Chávez, who died nearly a year ago; nor was it irrational. Although the past year or so has been rough, the past 11 years – since the government got control over the oil industry – have brought large gains in living standards to the majority of Venezuelans who were previously marginalized and excluded.

There were plenty of complaints about the government and the economy, but the rich, right-wing politicians who led the opposition did not reflect their values nor inspire their trust.

Opposition leader Leopoldo López – competing with Capriles for leadership –has portrayed the current demonstrations as something that could force Maduro from office. It was obvious that there was, and remains, no peaceful way that this could happen. As University of Georgia professorDavid Smilde has argued, the government has everything to lose from violence in the demonstrations, and the opposition has something to gain.

By the past weekend Capriles, who was initially wary of a potentially violent “regime change” strategy – was apparently down with program. According to Bloomberg News, he accused the government of “infiltrating the peaceful protests “to convert them into centers of violence and suppression”.

Meanwhile, López is taunting Maduro on Twitter after the government made the mistake of threatening to arrest him: “Don’t you have the guts to arrest me?” he tweeted on 14 February:

Hopefully the government will not take the bait. US support for regime change undoubtedly inflames the situation, since Washington has so much influence within the opposition and, of course, in the hemispheric media.

It took a long time for the opposition to accept the results of democratic elections in Venezuela. They tried a military coup, backed by the US in 2002; when that failed they tried to topple the government with an oil strike. They lost an attempt to recall the president in 2004 and cried foul; then they boycotted National Assembly elections for no reason the following year. The failed attempt to de-legitimize last April’s presidential election was a return to this dark but not-so-distant past. It remains to be seen how far they will go this time to win by other means what they have not been able to win at the ballot box, and how long they will have Washington’s support for regime change in Venezuela.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Mark Weisbrot

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis. E-mail Mark: weisbrot@cepr.net

Mercosur Countries Recall European Ambassadors Over Morales Plane Blockade July 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Constitution, Latin America, Whistle-blowing.
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Roger’s note: the Latin American David is waking up to confront the North American Goliath.  The Goliath, also known as Obama, Clinton, Holder, et. al., not to mention the military industrial complex, continues to act like an overfed giant with greatly impaired brain capacity.  The bungling act of arrogance that was involved in what can accurately be described as air piracy directed against the President of Bolivia, not only is without precedent, but shows the United States government’s complete disregard for the rule of law (which,  ironically, it invokes in it’s demand for the extradition to the “accused felon” Snowden).  Not that the complete disregard for the rule of law, the United States constitution, the Nuremberg principles, the United Nations Convention on Torture, etc., is something new.  Did I mention that the President of the United States is a constitutional law scholar?

Block announces it will be “inflexible” in the face of the aggression faced by Morales

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Photo: Eduardo Santillán Trujillo/Presidencia de la República de Ecuador

The countries of Mercosur—Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela—have agreed to recall their ambassadors from Spain, France, Italy and Portugal after the “aggression” faced by Bolivian President Evo Morales.

The countries announced their decision at a summit in Montevideo, Uruguay on Friday.

Earlier this month, a plane carrying Morales from Moscow to La Paz was forced to land in Vienna where it remained for 13 hours over suspicions that it was carrying NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.  Spain, France, Italy and Portugal were linked to the airspace blockade that forced the plane’s reroute and delay.

The Mercosur countries also said they would be sending the European countries a joint note of formal protest “demanding explanations and excuses for the situation suffered by President Evo Morales.”

In the morning, Luis Almagro, Uruguay’s foreign minister said that the block felt that the “excuses the European countries have given up to this point” for the denial of airspace and/or landing of Morales’ plane were “insufficient.”

La Razón reports that Morales expressed thanks for the signs of solidarity and added that the U.S. should be included on the list for it was the U.S. that was behind the air blockade—which the summit leaders slammed as “a flagrant violation of the precepts of international law.”

The chancellor from Argentina, Hector Timerman, said that the Mercosur countries would be “inflexible” in the face of the aggression faced by Morales, as well as the issues of the surveillance and asylum.

Honduran Elections a Parody of Democracy December 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Published on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 by Foreign Policy in Focusby Laura Carlsen

The production Honduran Elections, staged at a small, rundown theater in Central America on November 29, left the audience unconvinced, and failed to resolve a confused and conflict-ridden plotline.

Written and directed by the Honduran elite and the Honduran armed forces, with the help of the U.S. State Department, the play opens on the empty streets of Tegucigalpa in what is announced as the most participatory elections in the history of the nation.

This is just the first of the inexplicable contradictions between the narrative and reality that run through the play.

Honduran Elections tells the story of a poor nation rocked by a military coup d’état and occupied by its own armed forces. The contrived plot then attempts to convince the audience that the same forces that carried out the coup —kidnapping the elected president and launching a wave of bloody repression — are now carrying out “free and fair elections” to restore democracy. The play follows these characters throughout election day, in a series of charades that leaves the viewer with the unsavory sensation of having been played as a pawn in a theater of the absurd.

For example, during the entire multi-million-dollar production, the elected president of this nation remains offstage. It is never explained in the play why this key figure was not given a role. The audience is expected to accept the fact that his absence is insignificant to the plot. Since the supposed message of the drama is that democracy has been restored to a country held under an illegitimate regime, the missing president makes no dramatic sense.

The major characters in the drama are a large group of miscast national and international observers, who remember their lines but frequently fall out of their roles as impartial observers; a mostly invisible Supreme Electoral Tribunal that issues undecipherable and contradictory statistics; and candidates who attempt to lend credibility to the plot but are so self-serving and devoted to the anti-democratic forces that their actions mock the very cause they claim to support.

This reviewer can only hope that the disastrous Honduran Elections will never be produced on another stage again. The writers, directors, and actors of the debacle have insulted the intelligence of viewers throughout the world and degraded the noble theme of democracy that purports to lie at the center of this deceptive drama.

Witness to a Sham

The mock theater review above is how it felt to witness the Honduran elections from my seat in Tegucigalpa last week. I arrived on November 27 to monitor human rights violations, and observe the context and accompanying conditions of an electoral process that could under no circumstances be validated, due to the fatal flaws in its origin.

The news is not that Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo of the National Party beat Elwin Santos of the Liberal Party. Since the military ousted the elected president Manuel Zelaya on June 28, the bipartisan system gave way to a far deeper duality — for and against the coup d’etat. Both Lobo and Santos favored the military takeover of the Honduran democracy and supported the illegal regime of Roberto Micheletti. Both sought to gain power by laundering the coup through these elections and to lock in a transition that guaranteed the continued power of the Honduran economic elite.

In fact, the November 29 national elections for president and congress shouldn’t have taken place. The voting was organized and overseen by an illegal coup regime. This regime officially suspended basic civil liberties, such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. It closed down independent media, or repeatedly blocked transmissions.

In Honduras, normal electoral activities were redefined as criminal behavior, including holding rallies and proclaiming the right to abstain. Reports of coercion in factories and among public employees came in from individuals who suffered the threats firsthand. The army enforced the dictatorial decrees in the street.

Some 100 registered candidates, ranging from presidential candidates to local mayors, withdrew from the elections in protest of the continued coup and the internal exile of the elected president. The popular resistance called a boycott and a “popular curfew,” urging people to stay at home on election day. This was in part to avoid confrontations with the over 30,000 security forces called out to “protect order,” in a nation where these same forces are responsible for massive human rights violations and scores of murders of members of the resistance.

The Honduran elections should never have taken place because Honduras, under the coup regime, failed to meet the basic criteria of “free and fair elections” set out in documents like the one issued by the Inter-Parliamentary Council in 1994. The Honduran state didn’t even come close to meeting the basic criteria of free elections by assuring freedom of movement, assembly, association, and expression. The security forces responsible for human rights violations before, during, and after voting have been granted complete immunity from justice. In San Pedro Sula, the police violently repressed a nonviolent march supporting the boycott, beating and arresting various people.

From Polls to Percentage Points

But the elections did take place. On November 29, some Hondurans, particularly in the wealthiest neighborhoods, came out to vote while most of the poor stayed home. Those of us who drove from poll to poll to check for participation, militarization, and incidents confirm this phenomenon.

Concerned that the eyewitness accounts of sparse participation could undermine the U.S. message of “mission accomplished” in Honduras, Ambassador Hugo Llorens appeared at the polls to make the pre-emptive declaration that the “elections are a technical issue and the statistical results will tell the real story.” We were all told not to believe our own eyes, as all eyes then turned to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

On the night of November 29, the Electoral Tribunal (TSE by its Spanish initials) triumphantly announced that 61% of registered voters had turned out to vote. This was a bald-faced lie. Their own statistics showed that only 49.2% of Hondurans had voted — a considerable decrease from past elections. Real News reports that an elections official, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of his life, claimed that Saul Escobar, the head of the Tribunal, invented the statistic.

The elections observation organization, Hagamos Democracia (Let`s Make Democracy) contracted by the TSE to deliver early results, reported a 47.6% turnout. In an exclusive interview with journalist Dick Emanuelsson, Rolando Bu of Hagamos Democracia attempted to explain the discrepancy, “We are working on the basis of the voter registration list we received of 4.6 million. I haven’t spoken with the magistrates (of the Tribunal) yet, but it is likely that they are subtracting aspects such as migration and deaths.” Needless to say, it is not acceptable practice to alter the voter registration list during the counting process.

Hagamos Democracia is financed by the National Democratic Institute, an arm of the U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy. The NDI issued an elections report, sidestepping the critical issue of turnout and noting only that a discrepancy existed. It stated that it could not send a formal observation mission because there was no pre-electoral observation, which is a critical part of the process. Yet the NDI’s 22 members wore “elections observers” vests during their work.

The NDI report also noted the compromised impartiality of many of the international observers. “Regrettably, the TSE offered funding for transportation, lodging, and meals, and a number of observers accepted this offer. The Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation states that international election observers “should not accept funding or logistical support from the government whose elections are being observed, as it may raise a significant conflict of interest.”

This conflict of interest soon became painfully obvious. Interviewed on international television about the elections, I noted that the elections would not solve the political crisis in Honduras due to the lack of legitimacy of coup-run elections and the climate of violation of human rights, and because many nations would not recognize the results. A crowd of “observers” gathered around the interview in the hall in front of the Electoral Tribunal and verbally attacked me, shouting “liar” and ordering that I be thrown out of the country. I tried to engage in debate but the attacks continued and, fearing for my safety, I was escorted out of the area by a Tribunal security guard.

The Crisis Deepens

The United States played out the script written since mid-October. The newly confirmed Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Arturo Valenzuela immediately called the elections “a significant step in Honduras’s return to the democratic and constitutional order after the 28 June coup.” He went on to emphasize that it was just a first step, and that the nation must establish a government of national unity within the framework of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.

But on December 2, the Honduran congress closed the circle on the consolidation of a military takeover in the country by voting against the reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya. “We’re disappointed by this decision since the United States had hoped the Congress would have approved his return,” Valenzuela said in a statement. “And our policy since June 28 has been consistently principled, and we’ve condemned the coup d’état and have continued to accept President Zelaya as the democratically elected and legitimate leader of Honduras throughout this political crisis. However, the decision taken by Congress, which it carried out in an open and transparent manner, was in accordance with its mandate in Article 5 of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. Both President Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti agreed to this accord on October 30th.”

The loophole in the Tegucigalpa Accord that allowed the coup-controlled congress to first delay the vote until after the elections and then vote against reinstating the president allowed for the violation of the main point of the San Jose Accords, mediated by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. The U.S government played a major role in inserting this loophole. State Department official Thomas Shannon negotiated with Republican Senator Jim DeMint over recognition of the elections without reinstatement of Zelaya in return for Senate confirmations of Valenzuela and Shannon’s own confirmation as ambassador to Brazil.

Now the State Department has launched a concerted campaign, along with the coup regime, to get foreign nations to recognize the Honduran elections. Regional countries that have or hope for free trade agreements with the U.S. have agreed to play along. So far the countries that have announced they will recognize the elections include Panama, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica.

Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and several European countries have announced they will not recognize the elections. President Lula da Silva reiterated Brazil’s position from the Summit of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal, stating that his government would not recognize the Honduran elections or enter into dialogue with Pepe Lobo. “It’s not possible to recognize a coup supporter. Period,” he said in reference to Lobo. Lula added, “This is a matter of common sense, a question of principles, we cannot make agreements with the forces of political vandalism in Latin America.”

International media such as CNN, along with the State Department and the Honduran coup leaders, are heading up the charge to call the elections “clean and fair”, as The New York Times put it, and use the false voter turn-out rate as the sole indicator of the election’s legitimacy. Some allies appear to be weakening their stance against recognition.

Opposition Regroups

President Zelaya, who remains holed up in the heavily barricaded Brazilian embassy, told the BBC that the elections were fraudulent and would only intensify the crisis. The National Front Against the Coup has decided to cease the daily demonstrations in the street and move on to building a broad movement for a constitutional assembly. Juan Barahona, a leader of the Front, announced that the focus on reinstating Zelaya has ended. Zelaya has announced that he would not return to government until the end of his term on January 27 because it would be validating a coup-managed transfer of power.

Human rights groups have stated that the violations committed under the coup will not be forgotten. Honduras suffered a wave of human rights violations including assassinations, rapes, beatings and arbitrary detentions of resistance members. An Amnesty International delegation, after 10 days in the country, noted in a press statement that the “crisis in Honduras does not end with the election results, the authorities cannot return to business as usual without ensuring human rights safeguards…There are dozens of people in Honduras still suffering the effects of the abuses carried out in the past five months. Failure to punish those responsible and to fix the malfunctioning system would open the door for more abuses in the future.”

Roberto Micheletti has now returned to power after a “leave of absence” in a new stage of the political and legal limbo that has characterized this nation since June 28. Some wonder how long any president can remain in office now that a military coup has been deemed successful. “Many Hondurans fear that the coup’s success represents a threat to the future stability of a democratic state,” writes Robert White of the Center for International Policy, who then poses the following rhetorical question. “If the few dozen men who hold the strings of power and wealth can escalate one of the nation’s recurring political brawls into the overthrow of an elected president, how can future democratic leaders dare to challenge the culture of wealth and impunity that has made Honduras one of the most corrupt, crime-ridden, and unjust nations in the world?”

The spectacle mounted to justify the coup leaders’ retention of power has now played out. In the sequel, the excluded character — the people of Honduras who joined together to reject the hijacking of their democracy — will play a key role. Throughout the country, farmers, feminists, union members and citizens are more organized than ever before. The demand for the constitutional assembly to change one of the world’s most obsolete constitutions is at the center of this new phase.

In the end, the Honduran political crisis cannot be resolved without a legal means to channel dissent and eliminate the gross injustices of Honduran society. A broad swathe of the population that rejects the “elections panacea” scenario is determined to fight for just that, and nothing less. They deserve the support of the U.S. government and the rest of the international community.

Copyright © 2009, Institute for Policy Studies

Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen (at) ciponline (dot) org) is director of the Americas Program (www.americaspolicy.org) for the Center for International Policy in Mexico City.

 

Published on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 by Agence France-Presse

Mercosur Leaders, Venezuela Reject Honduras election

MONTEVIDEO – Leaders of five key South American countries vowed Tuesday not to recognize last month’s presidential election results in Honduras, which they condemned as “illegal.”

[The presidents of the four permanent members of the Mercosur trade bloc -- Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay -- as well as the leader of Venezuela, condemned Honduras' first, post-coup elections last month, because balloting took place without the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. (AFP)]
The presidents of the four permanent members of the Mercosur trade bloc — Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay — as well as the leader of Venezuela, condemned Honduras’ first, post-coup elections last month, because balloting took place without the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. (AFP)

The presidents of the four permanent members of the Mercosur trade bloc — Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay — as well as the leader of Venezuela, condemned Honduras’ first, post-coup elections last month, because balloting took place without the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. 

In a statement released after a summit here, the leaders said that because Zelaya “had not been reinstated to the duties to which he was democratically elected… (we) completely reject the November 29 elections.”

Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup last June, remains holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa under threat of arrest, after Congress last week voted against bringing him back to the presidency. His term in office was to have ended on January 27.

The joint statement, read out by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and signed by the five heads of state, underscored their “strongest condemnation of the coup in Honduras” and rejected the “unacceptable, serious violations against the human rights and freedoms of the Honduran people.”

The declaration added that the Honduras elections had been conducted “in an unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal” manner, and were a blow to the region’s democratic values.

The United States and the European Union have hailed the elections as a first step forward out of the five-month crisis. Costa Rica, Panama and Peru also have backed the polls.

Honduras’s military ousted the left-leaning Zelaya on June 28 with the backing of the courts, Congress and business leaders, because of his plans to alter the constitution, which was viewed as a bid to extend his term in office.

Meanwhile, the winner of the November 29 election, president-elect Porfirio Lobo, told a news conference Monday that he hoped foreign countries would “open up a little” to Honduras, which had suffered widespread international condemnation and aid freezes after the coup.

Lobo was set to meet in Santo Domingo Thursday with Dominican President Leonel Fernandez. Lobo was expected to ask Fernandez to help mediate in the lingering Honduran political crisis, Dominican media reoprted.

Lobo will arrive in the Dominican capital from San Jose, where he was to meet first with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on a tour to rally support for his bid to lead Honduras.

© 2009 Agence France-Press

Hillary Clinton and James Steinberg “Talk Tough” on Latin America February 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Foreign Policy, Latin America, Venezuela.
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www.towardfreedom.com

Written by April Howard   

Thursday, 29 January 2009

 

ImageWhile President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their appointees emphasize a return to diplomacy in foreign relations, so far they show little inclination to be diplomatic toward leftist governments in Latin America. In fact, recent comments by Obama, Clinton and recent appointees show a continuation of an antiquated analysis and a lack of understanding of recent Latin American social movements and regional integration.On a visit to the State Department on January 23, Clinton promised “I will do all that I can, working with you, to make it abundantly clear that robust diplomacy and effective development are the best long-term tools for securing America’s future.” Obama made similar assertions in a speech to diplomats, and ‘diplomacy’, symbolizing a return to international peace and prosperity, was the word of the week.

Most recently, however, newly appointed Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, boldly stated that “Our friends and partners in Latin America are looking to the United States to provide strong and sustained leadership in the region, as a counterweight to governments like those currently in power in Venezuela and Bolivia which pursue policies which do not serve the interests of their people or the region.” This begs the question of exactly who “our friends and partners in Latin America” are, as many Latin American countries are happily accepting funding for humanitarian projects from Venezuela, and Bolivia is hardly in an economic position to pull strings around the continent. These and other comments by Clinton show that the Obama administration intends to continue a foreign policy in Latin America based on corporate benefit and a misplaced fear of Latin American nationalism.

Taking the Field Back From Chavez in Venezuela

According to Steinberg, the US’s relationship with Venezuela “should be designed to serve our national interest . . .  Those interests include ending Venezuela’s ties to the FARC and cooperating on counter-narcotics.  For too long, we have ceded the playing field to Chavez. . .  We intend to play a more active role in Latin America with a positive approach that avoids giving undue prominence to President Chavez’ theatrical attempts to dominate the regional agenda.”

Clinton herself, in replying to questions by Senator Kerry during her nomination, said that Chavez has tried to take advantage of a lack of US attention in Latin America “to advance out-moded and anti-American ideologies.” Clinton and Steinberg echoed each other about the dangers of “ceding the playing field” to Chavez and leaders “whose actions and visions for the region do not serve his citizens or people,” but Clinton showed less bravado by adding that “While we should be concerned about Chavez’s actions and posture, we should not exaggerate the threat he poses.”

Protecting Fear Mongering Politicians in Bolivia

While President Evo Morales and members of his administration have consistently expressed hope about prospects for better relations with the new US president since last November, during a positive visit to the US and meetings several senators,  recent comments by Clinton make this possibility obscure, if not unlikely. 

In her first appearance in the senate, Clinton also defended former Bolivian Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who was expelled from Bolivia in September of 2008 by Morales, who accused Goldberg of interfering in affairs of national sovereignty. In turn, the Bush Administration expelled Bolivian ambassador, Gustavo Guzman. Without cause, the Bush Administration then proceeded to accuse Morales’ government of failing to fulfill commitments to international drug control and withheld Bolivian benefits under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). Morales responded by accusing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of spying and interfering in national politics in favor of opposition leaders, and expelled the DEA.

Clinton described Goldberg’s expulsion as another “unjustified” act along with others taken against personnel of the US mission and aid programs by the Bolivian Government. It begs the question, Clinton said, “If Bolivia wants a constructive bilateral relationship.” Also included is Mike Hammer, a political and economic advisor to the US in Bolivia who worked with Goldberg. Hammer was recruited as White House Spokesperson for matters of National Security, but will later return to Bolivia.

Last week, Clinton continued the trend of lumping together the drastically different countries and governments of Venezuela and Bolivia and characterizing them both as negative influences on the continent. She called for the U.S. to fill what she referred to as “that void” of US attention “with strong and sustained US leadership in the region, and tough and direct diplomacy with Venezuela and Bolivia. We should have a positive agenda for the hemisphere in response to the fear-mongering propagated by Chavez and Evo Morales.”

As Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network writes, “Although the new Secretary of State’s reply received scant attention in the United States, it was front-page news in Bolivia, and was easily open to interpretation as a deliberate rebuff of the Bolivian government’s repeated expressions of readiness to engage the new U.S. administration.” Yet, Clinton also stated that the administration believes that “bilateral cooperation with Venezuela and Bolivia on a range of issues would be in the mutual interest of our respective countries – for example, counterterrorism, counter narcotics, energy, and commerce,” and Ledebur reports that “Clinton’s testimony was also hailed by Bolivia’s Vice Foreign Minister, Hugo Fernandez, as signaling that the Obama administration shared Bolivia’s desire for closer relations.”  

Other Obama complicated administration ties to Bolivia include political adviser Gregory Craig, who, despite a record for defending human rights in Latin America, has been criticized for his work defending Latin American leaders accused of human rights abuses. According to Politico.com blogger Ben Smith, Craig is a “muscular counsel” whose top deputies and stature suggest that “office will play a larger role in policy — on an already muscular White House staff — than in previous administrations.”

Currently Craig is representing ousted Bolivian President Gonzálo Sánchez de Lozada and former Minister of Defense Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, a fact which, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), “has raised legitimate doubts regarding his moral commitment to Latin America.” Both men are indicted in the United States for their participation ordering soldiers to open-fire on protesters in El Alto, Bolivia, in 2003, and uncontestable fact that caused the death of over 60 citizens. In June of 2007, both Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín were granted political asylum in the US while awaiting trial in Miami under the Alien Tort Claims Act. Over 20 people marched against the action in Bolivia, and the Bolivian ambassador Gustavo Guzman prepared a case for extradition of the politicians before he was expelled.

While COHA Research Associates Michael Katz and Chris Sweeney defend Craig as a politician dedicated to human rights, they write that “The Bush administration’s decision to protect these powerful figures has sent a disconcerting message of American elitism to the Bolivian citizenry. Human rights advocates believe that Craig’s continued representation of Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín demonstrates his readiness to defend the interests of the rich and famous against the poor. Admittedly, such charges complicate his reputation in Latin America, and for some bring into question his true commitment to regional solidarity.”

According to Ledebur, “The new Obama administration and Congress could help repair some of the damage done to the U.S. reputation in Latin America in recent years by taking a flexible, respectful approach toward Bolivia, in cooperation with Bolivia’s neighbor democracies and the international community.  The Obama administration would also do well to recognize that Bolivia’s political dynamics, demands for profound reform, and jealous defense of national sovereignty and self-determination have emerged from the country’s own history, and have not been somehow foisted upon it by outside powers against the democratic wishes of the Bolivian people.”

Successful Failures in Plan Colombia

In his questions for the record prepared for Clinton’s nomination as Secretary of State, John Kerry cited a GOA report from fall 2008 that concluded that Plan Colombia “has not significantly reduced the amount of illicit drugs entering the United States.” Steinberg showed a lack of understanding of the accepted failures of Plan Colombia by referring to “counternarcotics successes in Colombia.”

 

Clinton showed a lack of nuanced understanding of government connections to paramilitaries by stating that the administration will “fully support Colombia’s fight against the FARC, and work with the government to end the reign of terror from the right wing paramilitaries.” She did show recognition of the need to change Plan Colombia strategies by mentioning the need to work “here at home to reduce demand.”

In terms of trade agreements, Clinton attempted to remain neutral, saying that “It is essential that trade spread the benefits of globalization,” but she added that “without adequate labor protections, trade cannot do that,” and that “continued violence and impunity in Colombia directed at labor and other civic leaders makes labor protections impossible to guarantee in Colombia today.” 

No Timeline for Change in Cuba

Clinton spoke for Obama on Cuba, reiterating that Obama “believes that it makes both moral and strategic sense to lift the restrictions on family visits and family cash remittances to Cuba,” but added that the administration does not have a timeline for this action. Contrary to the experience of the past 50 years, she also communicated that Obama “believes that it is not the time to lift the embargo on Cuba, especially since it provides an important source of leverage for further change on the island.”

Big Business in Brazil

Kerry expressed concern with Brazil’s “leading role” in MERCOSUR, the Rio Group and the Union of South American Nations “which have at times been at odds with U.S. interests in the region.”

Clinton’s reply focused on business opportunities in the increasingly destructive agro-export sector. “We look forward to ensuring that continued U.S.-Brazil energy cooperation is environmentally sustainable and spreads the benefits of alternative fuels. The expansion of renewable energy production throughout the Americas that promotes self-sufficiency and creates more markets for US green-energy manufacturers and producers is vitally important,” she said. 

Consistent with other members of the Obama administration, Clinton emphasized the agrofuel industry and did not address top scientist’s continued criticisms that agrofuels are not only unsustainable and do not create a net reduction in greenhouse gasses, but that the carcinogenic spread of crops grown for animal feed and agrofuels is dangerous to farmers and has contributed to an international food crisis. When later asked about the international food crisis, Clinton asserted that the U.S. has a “moral responsibility” and a “practical interest in doing its part to address a food crisis.” She categorized the causes of the food crisis as “cyclical and structural,” citing “poor harvests in key-grain producing nations, sharply higher oil prices, and a surge in demand for meat in high-growth Asian countries.” Many of the transgenic and genetically modified grains and crops grown in Latin America are destined as much for feed for meat animals in Europe and China as for agrofuels, but Clinton did not make that link.

Clinton identified “long-term factors include[ing] inadequate investment in enhanced agricultural productivity, inappropriate trade and subsidy programs, and climate change.” If ‘inadequate investment’ includes “hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. Department of Energy grants aimed at jump-starting the evolution to fuels made from such non-corn feedstocks as switchgrass, wheat straw and wood chips” given to several privately held firms, then more of the same problems are to be expected. Similarly, if agrofuel crops are emphasized, as Clinton indicates a U.S. interest in doing in Brazil, then issues related to climate change can only be expected to intensify.

While one could hope that Clinton’s plans to “work with partners in the international community to address immediate humanitarian needs and make seeds and fertilizers available in critically affected nations, . . . put more focus on efforts to enhance agricultural productivity . . . including agricultural research and development , and investment in improved seeds and irrigation methods,” will not involve multinational pesticide and GM seed giant Monsanto, or processors Cargill, Bunge and Syngenta. Without accepting the present dangers of the agrofuel and agro-export situation in Latin America, change in the current trajectory under an Obama administration is unlikely.

Spreading Democracy

Though both Candidates ran on campaigns of change to the Bush Administration, Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and Clinton’s recent comments show little to indicate that the US will change it’s now more than century old policy of foreign intervention under the vestige of “democracy promotion.” Clinton urged the senate “not [to] allow the war in Iraq to continue to give democracy promotion a bad name. Supporting democracy, economic development, and the rule of law is critical for U.S. interests around the world. Democracies are our best trading partners, our most valuable allies, and the nations with which we share our deepest values.” Clinton seems to urge a return to covert actions of regime change and support for opposition parties in her assertion that “democracy must be nurtured with moderates on the inside by building democratic institutions; it cannot be imposed by force from the outside.”

Still, “America,” she said, “must renew its effort to bring security and development to the disconnected corners of our interconnected world.” Like past members of past administrations, Clinton does not seem to grasp the idea that US involvement is not always necessary or welcome in all parts of the globe, and furthermore, involvement that refuses to recognize peoples’ rights to defend access to natural resources, preserve their human rights, and act out of self determination cannot solve past problems and will only exacerbate future conflicts.

***

April Howard is a instructor of Latin American Studies at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, and an editor of UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America. Email April.M.Howard(at)gmail(dot)com

Morales urges action over Cuba December 17, 2008

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 latin-american-presidentsMorales, far left,  said Latin American leaders
should express ‘solidarity’ with Cuba [AFP]

www.aljazeera.net

December, 17, 2008

“If the United States does not raise the blockade, we will remove our ambassadors until the United States government lifts its economic blockade on the Cuban people,” he said.

Morales expelled the US ambassador to Bolivia in September, accusing him of siding with violent opposition protests.

Both Morales and Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader, have expressed hope that Barack Obama, the US president-elect, will remove the embargo on Cuba.

On Tuesday, leaders attending the Mercosur summit in the resort town of Costa Do Sauipe also issued a special statement demanding an end to the US sanctions which have been imposed on Cuba since 1962.

The regional meeting, aimed at solidifying South American unity, includes senior officials from 33 countries including Raul Castro, the Cuban president, on his first foreign tour abroad.

‘Political violation’

Raul Castro said he was in ‘no hurry’ to
mend US diplomatic relations [AFP]

Speaking on Tuesday, Raul Castro, the Cuban president, said that leaders at the Mercosur summit had supported a request to demand the US “cease this illegal and unjust political violation of the human rights of our people”.

Castro said in his speech to the other leaders that regional integration was needed in Latin America to help it advance against what he said was the failure of US-backed policies.

Castro, 77, took over as Cuban leader from his brother, Fidel, in February.

The summit is the largest in the Western hemisphere to exclude US representation and has been hailed as a sign that Latin America is demanding a new independence from Washington.

“The presence of Cuba is a very strong signal that America is no longer the boss in Latin America,” Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, said as he arrived.

‘Concessions’ demanded

On Monday, Castro told Al Jazeera that the US must make concessions first if the two countries are ever to restore diplomatic ties severed for more than 40 years.

Reports say Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, could mediate between Washington and Havana.

Castro, said the “era of unilateral concessions was over”, and insisted that Cuba had only ever defended itself against the US.

“We have never hurt the United States, we have only defended ourselves. We are the ones who have been hurt so we are not the ones who have to make a gesture. Let them do it,” he said on Monday.

The Cuban leader said he was in “no hurry” to mend diplomatic relations with the US, which were severed in 1961, following the overthrow of the US-backed government by Fidel’s revolutionary movement.

“More than 70 per cent of Cubans were born under the blockade which has been in place for almost 50 years,” Castro said.

“I’m 77-years old but I feel good and young. In other words, if this doesn’t get resolved now, we’ll wait another 50 years.”

 

Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, has said that all
Latin American nations should expel US ambassadors in their country’s until the American economic embargo against Cuba is ended.

Speaking on Wednesday at the end of a two-day summit of Latin American leaders in Brazil, Morales said it would be a “radical move” to express “solidarity” with the Carribbean nation.

Latin America summit excludes U.S. and welcomes Cuba December 17, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Latin America.
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www.truthdig.com

Reuters UK, December 17, 2008

By Raymond Colitt

 

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (Reuters) – Latin American leaders on Tuesday blamed the global economic crisis on rich countries and welcomed Communist-run Cuba at a summit meeting designed to weaken U.S. influence in the region.

 

The presence of Cuban President Raul Castro at the meeting in northeastern Brazil was touted as a sign of Latin America’s growing independence from the United States, a far cry from the Cold War era when Cuba was expelled from the Washington-based Organisation of American States.

 

“Cuba returns to where it always belonged. We’re complete, we’re forming a team, a good team,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the region’s most vehement U.S. critic and Cuba’s closest ally.

 

“The most positive thing for the independence of our continent is that we meet alone without the hegemony of the empire,” Chavez said in reference to the United States.

 

Previous summits of Latin American and Caribbean leaders have always included former colonial powers Spain and Portugal or the United States.

 

Castro, on his first foreign trip since taking over from his ailing brother Fidel Castro earlier this year, said an unfair, world economic order benefiting rich countries and multinational companies was in crisis.

 

“It’s the demise of an economic model,” he said.

 

Cuba’s admission on Tuesday into the long-standing Rio Group of more than 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries brought renewed calls for an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Castro said on the eve of the summit meeting here that he was open to meeting with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to discuss the issue.

 

PROGRESS AT RISK

 

The global crisis, which has cut off credit lines and hit demand for the commodity exports of many countries, has threatened to undo years of economic and social progress in the region, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said.

 

“Crises like the current one reveal the perversities of the current economic system,” Lula said.

 

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, who defaulted on a foreign debt payment this week, said emerging market economies didn’t cause the crisis but would end up paying a high price for it.

 

He said Latin American countries should pool their international reserves and speed up the creation of a regional development bank to help overcome the global credit crunch.

 

“The answer is integration,” said Correa.

 

Leaders also agreed to create a South American defence council aimed at preventing local conflicts and reducing dependence on U.S. weaponry. Brazil is the largest arms manufacturer in South America and could gain ground against U.S. manufacturers if the region’s governments came together on some defence issues.

 

“The idea is cooperation for the basis of a (common) defence industry,” Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters

But behind the scenes, the show of unity looked fragile.

 

The newly-formed South American Union failed on Tuesday to agree on a secretary-general to lead it, and the regional customs union Mercosur failed to eliminate double taxation on imports that have held up negotiations with other trade blocs.

 

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo said he was studying the legality of his country’s foreign debt, echoing the arguments made by Ecuador this week and raising the possibility of another default that would reinforce doubts about Latin America’s investment climate.

 

(Additional reporting by Carmen Munari and Julio Villaverde; Editing by Kieran Murray)

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.