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Trump’s Support and Praise of Despots Is Central to the U.S. Tradition, Not a Deviation From It May 4, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Capitalism, Chile, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Iran, Latin America, Nicaragua, Racism, Saudi Arabia, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: United States foreign policy has never been interested in freedom, democracy or human rights.  Never. Going back, if you will, to Christopher Columbus.  The phrase “American interests” is often used to characterize U.S. foreign policy, and it seems more than obvious that that is what foreign policy should advance.  Now, of course, such things as freedom, democracy and human rights could be considered in America’s interest.  That would be nice, wouldn’t it.  

American interests in reality is a code word for advancing the interests of the military industrial complex.  It has little to do with the interests of American people, above all, American workers; unless you still believe in the trickle down theory.  It has everything to do with: oil and minerals, all other resources and products, and, of course, cheap labor.

So when a new president takes office, his advisers will, if need be, brief/him on what those interests are.  US friendly nations, unfriendly nations, inbetweeners.  So it is not in any way surprising that Trump would be eulogizing American friendly tyrants like Egypt’s Sisi, the Philippines’ Duterte, or Turkey’s Erdogan.  What would really be surprising and bring on fits of cognitive dissonance if Trump were cozying up say to Venezuela’s Maduro or Iran’s Khamanei.

But perhaps where Trump is crossing a line is in his friendly overtures towards France’s our and out neo-Nazi presidential candidate, Marine LePen (shades of his refusal to repudiate support domestically from the KKK).  I didn’t like the term that Baby Bush used: Axis of Evil.  But Trump, LePen and ???  It fits.  And it’s scary.

Read on below, another chapter in Your Tax Dollars at Work (to support violence, repression and human rights violations).

 

May 2 2017, 12:13 p.m.

SINCE AT LEAST the end of World War II, supporting the world’s worst despots has been a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, arguably its defining attribute. The list of U.S.-supported tyrants is too long to count, but the strategic rationale has been consistent: In a world where anti-American sentiment is prevalent, democracy often produces leaders who impede rather than serve U.S. interests.

Imposing or propping up dictators subservient to the U.S. has long been, and continues to be, the preferred means for U.S. policymakers to ensure that those inconvenient popular beliefs are suppressed. None of this is remotely controversial or even debatable. U.S. support for tyrants has largely been conducted out in the open, and has been expressly defended and affirmed for decades by the most mainstream and influential U.S. policy experts and media outlets.

The foreign policy guru most beloved and respected in Washington, Henry Kissinger, built his career on embracing and propping up the most savage tyrants because of their obeisance to U.S. objectives. Among the statesman’s highlights, as Greg Grandin documented, he “pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan”; “began the U.S.’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran”; and “supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America.” Kissinger congratulated Argentina’s military junta for its mass killings and aggressively enabled the genocide carried out by one of the 20th century’s worst monsters, the Indonesian dictator and close U.S. ally Suharto.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under President Reagan, was regarded as a top-flight conservative intellectual because of her explicit defense of pro-Western, right-wing dictators, heaping praise on U.S.-supported savage oppressors such as the Shah of Iran and Nicaragua’s military dictator Anastasio Somoza on the ground that “they were positively friendly to the U.S., sending their sons and others to be educated in our universities, voting with us in the United Nations, and regularly supporting American interests and positions even when these entailed personal and political cost.” Unsurprisingly, U.S. foreign policy in the Reagan years, like the decades that preceded and followed them, was defined by economic, military, and diplomatic support for pro-U.S. dictators, death squads, and even terrorists.

Leading U.S. media outlets have long openly celebrated this pro-dictator stance. Upon the 2006 death of Augusto Pinochet — the military dictator imposed on Chile by the U.S. after it overthrew that country’s democratically elected left-wing president — the Washington Post editorial page heaped praise on both Kirkpatrick and Pinochet. While conceding that the Chilean tyrant was “brutal: more than 3,000 people were killed by his government and tens of thousands tortured,” the Post hailed “the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle,” concluding that like Pinochet, “Kirkpatrick, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.”When a right-wing coup in 2002 temporarily succeeded in removing Venezuela’s elected left-wing President Hugo Chávez, the New York Times editorial page cast it as a victory for democracy: “With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader.”

[As I documented several years ago: In the same editorial, the Times announced that Chávez’s “removal was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably thereafter revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a vital role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez’s death, the Times editors admitted that “the Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez,” though the paper failed to note that it had not only denied that this happened but had itself celebrated that coup.]

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In 1977, Jimmy Carter attended a state dinner in Tehran for the Shah of Iran, the savage U.S.-supported despot who ruled that country for decades after the CIA overthrew its democratically elected leader. It took place shortly after Carter hosted the Shah at the White House. The U.S. president hailed the Iranian tyrant with a long toast, which began this way:

Your Majesties and distinguished leaders of Iran from all walks of life:

I would like to say just a few words tonight in appreciation for your hospitality and the delightful evening that we’ve already experienced with you. Some have asked why we came to Iran so close behind the delightful visit that we received from the Shah and Empress Farah just a month or so ago. After they left our country, I asked my wife, “With whom would you like to spend New Year’s Eve?” And she said, “Above all others, I think, with the Shah and Empress Farah.” So we arranged the trip accordingly and came to be with you.

As Carter spoke, his praise for the homicidal Iranian despot became more flowery and obsequious: “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.” Two years later, those same people whom Carter claimed revered the Shah overthrew him and, to this day, loathe the U.S. because of the decades of support and praise it heaped on their dictator.

U.S. devotion to the world’s worst dictators did not end, or even recede, upon the end of the Cold War. Both the Bush and Obama administrations continually armed, funded, supported, and praised the world’s worst dictators.

In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually said of the murderous Egyptian dictator supported by the U.S.: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” When Egypt’s defense minister, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, overthrew that country’s first elected government, Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, hailed him for “restoring democracy,” and as Sisi became more brutal and repressive, the Obama administration lavished him with more weapons and money. The U.S. government did the same for the human-rights abusing dictators in Bahrain.

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The U.S. gave at least tacit approval, if not outright encouragement, to the 2009 military coup against Honduras’s elected left-wing government. The Clinton-led State Department then repeatedly denied abundant evidence that the coup government it was supporting was engaging in an assassination program of critics and anti-government activists. Last year, the Washington Post’s Karen Attiah examined “how [the Clinton] State Department’s role in undemocratic regime changes has contributed to violence and political instability in Honduras and Haiti today,” particularly documenting the various steps Secretary Clinton took to protect the military leaders who engineered the Honduran coup.

And then there is Saudi Arabia, long one of the most repressive regimes on the planet and one of the U.S.’s most cherished allies. U.S. devotion to the Saudi tyrants by itself negates virtually every plank of U.S. propaganda about spreading freedom and democracy, given that one administration after the next has worked tirelessly to maintain and strengthen that regime.

Obama, like Bush before him, repeatedly hosted Saudi despots at the White House. When the monstrous Saudi King died in 2015, Obama terminated his state visit to India in order to fly to Riyadh to pay homage to the close U.S. partner, where he was joined by a bipartisan cast of U.S. political stars. As The Guardian put it: “Obama has been forced to defend his unwillingness to challenge Saudi Arabia’s autocratic rulers as he led a U.S. delegation to shore up relations with its new king, just hours after lecturing India on religious tolerance and women’s rights.”

Upon the Saudi King’s death, Obama said of a despot who killed and imprisoned dissidents: “At home, King Abdullah’s vision was dedicated to the education of his people and to greater engagement with the world.” Obama’s gestures of admiration were mild when compared to those of the U.K. government, which ordered all flags be flown at half-mast to honor the deceased monarch, but Obama was not remotely shy about publicly lavishing the Saudi regime with praise.

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In sum, the post-World War II foreign policy of the U.S. — independent of its massive human rights violations committed over and over around the world — has been predicated on overthrowing democratically elected governments and, even more so, supporting, aligning with, and propping up brutal dictators. This policy has been applied all over the world, on multiple continents and by every administration. It is impossible to understand even the most basic aspects of the U.S. role in the world without knowing that.

ALL OF THIS history is now being erased and whitewashed, replaced with jingoistic fairy tales by the U.S. media and leading political officials. Despite these decades of flagrant pro-dictatorship policies, the U.S. media and leading political officials have spent months manufacturing and disseminating a propagandistic fairy tale that casts Donald Trump’s embrace of dictators as some sort of new, aberrational departure from the noble American tradition.

They have repeatedly claimed that the pre-Trump U.S. was devoted to supporting and spreading democracy around the world, while condemning and opposing tyranny. This is rank revisionism of the worst kind: jingoistic propaganda that should shame anyone endorsing it.

Like U.S. support for dictators, these recent bouts of propaganda are too numerous to comprehensively chronicle. Some of the more influential instances will have to suffice.

In February, the New York Times editorial page — writing under the phrase used by Jeane Kirkpatrick to demonize 1984 Democrats as unpatriotic: “Blame America First” — attacked Trump with this propagandistic garbage: “Since taking office, Mr. Trump has shown little support for America’s traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance.” Imagine what a shock it would be to the people of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Chile, Bahrain, Iran, Argentina, Brazil, and the countless other countries that lived under a U.S.-supported dictator to hear about “America’s traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance.”

Perhaps the worst example yet came yesterday in a Washington Post article by its White House bureau chief Philip Rucker, who made this claim: “Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.” He added: “In an undeniable shift in American foreign policy, Trump is cultivating authoritarian leaders.”

Cultivating authoritarian leaders is everything except a “shift in American foreign policy.” Nonetheless, this propagandistic lie has now become commonplace among über-patriotic journalists eager to tell the world that the U.S. before Trump had been devoted to liberating the oppressed peoples of the world from tyranny. Here’s the New York Times political reporter Maggie Haberman — in a widely shared tweet — endorsing these jingoistic falsehoods from Rucker:

Trump, fundamentally uninterested in spreading small-d democracy in dramatic break w predecessors. @PhilipRuckerhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-keeps-praising-international-strongmen-alarming-human-rights-advocates/2017/05/01/6848d018-2e81-11e7-9dec-764dc781686f_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.aec73ffae856 

Photo published for Trump keeps praising international strongmen, alarming human rights advocates

Trump keeps praising international strongmen, alarming human rights advocates

Trump’s affection for autocrats beyond Putin marks a major shift in U.S. foreign policy.

washingtonpost.com

How can someone possibly be a journalist and believe that Trump’s being “uninterested in spreading small-d democracy” is a “dramatic break” from his predecessors? Yet this is now standard fare for the U.S. media, as evidenced by this segment from CNN this morning pronouncing Trump’s praise of rogue leaders to be “a sharp U.S. policy shift.”

CNN took a policy that has been standard U.S. posture for decades and told its viewers that it represented “a sharp U.S. policy shift.”

One would be remiss to omit this blatantly false propaganda from one of the Democrats’ most beloved members of Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff, who — in a predictably viral tweet — yesterday chided Trump for inviting to the White House the mass-murdering ruler of the Philippines and thus defacing noble U.S. traditions:

There was a time when the U.S. condemned extrajudicial killings, not rewarded them with WH visit. That time was 103 days ago. https://twitter.com/politico/status/858673343670751232 

Aside from the fact that the U.S. has spent decades supporting tyrants and despots whose calling card is “extrajudicial killings” — including many who were feted at the White House — the central war on terror approach of the Obama presidency was exactly that. For years, Obama bombed multiple Muslim countries in order to kill people — including his own citizens — who his administration suspected, but never proved, had connections to terrorism. In other words, he killed thousands of people extrajudicially. It takes a special kind of propagandist to claim that this is a new Trumpian innovation.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING on here is self-evident. Nobody remotely rational, nobody with even a fleeting understanding of U.S. history, believes that the U.S. only began supporting and heaping praise on dictators upon Trump’s inauguration. Responding to criticisms, the Post yesterday edited Rucker’s patriotic tribute to the U.S. by adding the italicized words: “Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office at least occasionally to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.”

But that claim is still false. Can anyone possibly believe that — even when U.S. leaders paid lip service to human rights improvements — there was anything remotely genuine about it? Condemning human rights abuses is an instrument that the U.S. cynically uses to punish adversaries. And officials admit this when being candid, as this extraordinary passage from a 2013 Washington Post article revealed:

Human-rights groups have also accused the U.S. government of holding its tongue about political repression in Ethiopia, another key security partner in East Africa.

“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

The Post article went on to note that the Bush administration “took the same approach,” and that while “many U.S. diplomats and human-rights groups had hoped Obama would shift his emphasis in Africa from security to democracy … that has not happened.” In fact, “‘There’s pretty much been no change at all,’ the official said. ‘In the end, it was an almost seamless transition from Bush to Obama.’”

That’s how the U.S. uses human rights advocacy: as a weapon to “ream” uncooperative countries to punish them for their disobedience. For regimes that “cooperate” with U.S. dictates, they get “at least a free pass” to abuse human rights as extensively as they want, if not outright support and funding for doing so.

What’s really infuriating those attacking Trump for doing what the U.S. government has been doing for decades — supporting and praising heinous tyrants — is that he’s denying them the ability to maintain the myths they desperately tell themselves about their own country. Being able to claim that the U.S. is devoted to spreading freedom and democracy in the world is central to their internal monologue. From the Washington Post newsroom to the corridors of the State Department, this is the fairy tale that they tell themselves every day in order to justify their position as global arbiters of the behavior of other countries.

Once that veneer is removed, once that fairy tale is dispensed with, then the harsh reality stands nakedly exposed: What they are defending is nothing more than the illegitimate and arbitrary exercise of imperial power. The loss of this fiction imperils their entire moral framework. They aren’t angry that Trump is hugging dictators, obviously. All the other presidents whom they revere did the same. It goes without saying that a political culture that admires Henry Kissinger has no objection whatsoever to embracing tyrants.

They are furious that Trump isn’t as effective or as willing to pretend that he’s not doing this. That means they can no longer pretend that the violence, the wars, the coercion, the interference, the dictator support that they routinely condone has a moral purpose to it.

The reality is that even the fiction, the pretense, of the U.S. as some sort of defender of human rights and democracy is being wildly overstated. As the above examples (and so many others) demonstrate, U.S. officials, including U.S. presidents, have openly feted and praised despots at least as monstrous as Duterte.

Just as it’s comforting to believe that Trump is the byproduct of a foreign villain rather than an American phenomenon, it’s also comforting to believe that his embrace of despots is some sort of novelty. But, especially for journalists, the fact that it feels good to believe a myth does not justify disseminating it.

Watching the U.S. media tell everyone that Trump’s predecessors were devoted to spreading democracy, and that supporting tyrants is a “dramatic break” from the U.S. tradition, is such an obvious break from reality that it is staggering to see, even for those who already view the U.S. media as principally devoted to spreading patriotic state propaganda about the U.S. government.

 

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OAS Fails to Reach Consensus on Venezuela Suspension in Latest Extraordinary Session April 1, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Honduras, Latin America, Uncategorized, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: it has been some time since the United States directly invaded a Latin American country to institute regime change, although they were pretty close to the action behind the military coup in Honduras in 2009 (alas with a Trump presidency we very well could see a reversion to “gunboat diplomacy.”)

In more recent times the CIA and its fronts, especially the National Endowment for Democracy, have financed and instigated instability in countries that are unfriendly to Washington.  Most recently it was active in the Ukraine in the overthrow of its elected president, and in 2002 it was involved behind the scenes in the failed coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.  Just last year the Obama State Department ludicrously declared Venezuela to be a threat to United States’ security.

The U.S. mainstream media has been taking advantage of Venezuela’s instability and internal struggles to promote the image of its President Nicolás Maduro as dictator.  Today’s online New York Times had no less than two articles on its front page which promote that party line.  As with Iraq and its imaginary WMDs, a justification for intervention is being developed.

This week the Organization of American States (OAS), historically a lapdog of the United States, attempted to suspend Venezuela’s membership.  I post here first the statement of a pro-Venezuela organization and then reporting on the event by an independent news source.  While the rhetoric of the former may sound somewhat propagandistic (“sniveling servile agent, Luis Almagro,” I love it!), I stand by its analysis.

Statement from the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity.
March 27 and 28 will be days remembered in history because of the battle waged by Bolivarian Venezuela at the Organization of American States (OAS) in defense of their dignity and sovereignty.
Since its establishment the nefarious OAS has conspired against the independence of the people of Latin America. Through its legacy of interventions and coups and because of its silence and shady complicity, the OAS is also responsible for the crimes, disappearances and torture of more than 250 thousand Latin Americans.
And now the OAS allows Luis Almagro, a mediocre agent of Washington, to function as its Secretary. The same individual who stood by rightist Marco Rubio this week as he threatened to remove U.S. assistance to the  Dominican Republic, Haiti and El Salvador if they did not vote for the suspension of Venezuela from the OAS. What does it say about this organization that allows someone to hold the position of “Secretary” who is lacking in morals, ethics and respect for the sovereign will of a people and stoops so low as to label their democratically elected leader, President Nicolas Maduro, a “dictator”?
For the last two years the OAS has conspired to expedite an intervention into this member state in open violation of its own founding statutes – all against a country that has had the audacity of wanting to build its own destiny in peace.
But they could not deal with the strength of Venezuela. Neither the conspiracies, nor the pressures, nor their spurious meetings and right-wing regional and international forums could they make this happen. Even as the rivers of ink flowed in the media with such urgency trying to make the world believe, and seek its endorsement, that there should be an end to the government of Maduro. This push is not just about undoing the work and legacy of the beloved Commander Hugo Chavez but is to fulfill its main goal of breaking up the unity of CELAC and expedite the imperial intervention into the region.
History will not forget the words of Venezuela’s brave Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez (whose socialist father was assassinated by the police in 1976) at the OAS headquarters in Washington DC earlier this week as she articulated the unconditional defense of the sovereignty of her homeland by denouncing the crimes being carried out by the OAS and also for disclosing the subservient role of Luis Almagro as he sat nearby. The honesty and frankness of her speech was given on behalf of all the people of Latin America and contained all the truth, reason and justice for which so many have given their lives.
Unfortunately the governments who respond to this type of pressure fill their mouths with talk about human rights but at the same time blatantly violate them daily in their own countries. Shame on them, they will not only be forgotten but are also taking the risk of being swept away sooner rather than later by their own people.
But this time every reactionary maneuver failed against truth and dignity and no vote was taken and the application of the Democratic Charter could not be invoked on behalf of the imperial roadmap. This has been a defeat for imperialism with the side effect of discrediting the OAS and its sniveling servile agent, Luis Almagro.
What carried the day was the dignity of the small countries of the Caribbean, painfully poor as Haiti is it took a stand, and the Dominican Republic who remembers the OAS support for the 1965 invasion of their country stood strong as well. The FMLN led El Salvador also supported Venezuela along with Dominica and others.
Today for a moment we should celebrate this triumph of dignity and human decency.
While Washington and its lackeys of the OAS plan new tricks, we should always remember the words of Che when he said: “You can’t trust imperialismnot even a little bit.”
 
Compañeros we cannot lower our guard. Let’s use all avenues at our disposal to denounce the interference of the regional right, imperialism, and its servants like Luis Almagro and Marco Rubio. We must denounce them constantly. #AlmagroAgenteImperial
 @Almagro_OEA2015 
Let’s continue generating written materials, op-eds, and systematic work on social networks. We must defend and support the mobilizations in the streets of the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela, we must defend the Cuban Revolution and all of the achievements of the people of Latin America.
Venezuela is not alone! Venezuela has to be respected! 
International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity

OAS Fails to Reach Consensus on Venezuela Suspension in Latest Extraordinary Session

Los Angeles, March 28th 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Organization of American States (OAS) extraordinary session came to a close late Tuesday afternoon after hours of debate as member states failed to reach a consensus over Venezuela’s suspension.

Despite OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s insistent attempts to push for Venezuela’s expulsion, member-states expressed mixed opinions regarding the application of the regional body’s Democratic Charter against the South American country, and the session ended without a vote.

Tuesday’s meeting commenced with Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada calling for clarification regarding the validity of the extraordinary session, which Venezuela previously argued represented a violation of the organization’s non-interventionist founding principles.

Bolivia and Nicaragua echoed Venezuela’s condemnation, also requesting to suspend the meeting citing similar concerns over the precedent such a discussion would set for the regional body. Nonetheless, the OAS permanent council approved the discussion, with 20 out of the organization’s 35 member-states voting in favor.

Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, United States, and Paraguay actively expressed their support to slap Venezuela with the Democratic Charter throughout the session.

Alternating between English and Spanish, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Michael Fitzpatrick advocated for “swift actions”.

“We need to act with urgency and clarity of purpose for indeed, as the saying goes, the whole world is watching,” he said.

“This is an important for the day for the OAS, which is fulfilling its responsibility to safeguard democracy,” he continued.

The US delegate also urged “the Venezuelan government to comply with its constitution and constitutional functions, hold elections as soon as possible and release all political prisoners, including Leopoldo López.”

However, several nations came to Venezuela’s defense expressing solidarity, and emphasizing the need to push forward with dialogue between the government and the opposition in the South American nation. Notably, Caribbean nations such as Dominica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Barbados all challenged the call for Venezuela’s suspension.

“Dominica stands in solidarity with the Bolivarian government and people of Venezuela. The resolution needs to be through a dialogue between all parties that respects the sovereignty of Venezuela,” expressed the Caribbean nation’s permanent representative Dennis Moses.

The Dominican Republic’s official delegation referenced the country’s own complicated history with the OAS stating, “What guarantee do we have that if we impose external solutions on Venezuela that we will not have to apologize again in the future?”

Last year, Dominican President Danilo Medina called on the OAS to “pay off its historical debt” for its support of Washington’s 1965 invasion of his nation.

Venezuela’s Moncada also called attention to the hypocrisy of specific OAS member states by citing the inconsistency of political postures and ongoing conflicts in other member states.

As Moncada continued to expose OAS members states’ contradictions, Mexico’s permanent representative to the OAS, Luis Alfonso de Alba Góngora, threatened to abandon the session unless OAS Permanent Council Chair Patrick Andrews of Belize request Moncada “correct” his tone.

While none of the pro-suspension coalition walked out before the meeting was called to order, tensions escalated throughout the remainder of the session.

“What happened yesterday with Marco Rubio threatening member states if they did not agree to suspend Venezuela is serious,” stated Moncada, referring to the Florida Republican senator’s threats to cut aid to Haiti, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic if they did not vote in favor of the Democratic Charter.

The Venezuelan diplomat also took the opportunity to repudiate a recent US-led statement by 14 countries in the hemisphere demanding snap elections in the South American country.

 “We sincerely believe that Venezuela needs a group [from the OAS mediating elections in our country] as much as Mexico needs that wall,” he said, referencing President Donald Trump’s plans to expand and heighten militarization along the Mexico-U.S. border.

Additionally, Moncada stressed the alleged US role in orchestrating the consistent right-wing attacks against Venezuela.

“This [campaign against Venezuela] is all tied to the US and the State Department. We ask that if the US wants to help they should revoke Obama’s decree and deport all of the criminals here in this country [the United States] that work against our people. That would be a first goodwill step. We reject forcibly what has happened here today and we will fight any attempt to intervene in the affairs of Venezuela,” stated the diplomat.

Moncada closed his speech to a roomful of applause despite being interrupted by Canada’s permanent representative to the OAS, Jennifer May Loten, who denounced allegations that the US rallied support against Venezuela.

In recent weeks, Almagro has repeatedly called to suspend Venezuela from the regional body, blaming the Bolivarian government for frozen talks with the opposition.

However, international mediators have continued to express their support and hope for dialogue among all Venezuelan parties.

PUBLISHED ON MAR 28TH 2017 AT 8.12PM

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Maduro Confirms Arrest of Caracas Mayor for Coup Plotting February 24, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, Media, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: One dimension of US foreign policy can be summarized in two words: regime change.  And, with apologies to Malcolm X, one would add, “by any means necessary.”  They achieved it a few years ago in Honduras, which today under the US puppet regime has become the most violent country on earth.  They achieved it last year in the Ukraine, thanks to a popular revolt against a corrupt, albeit democratically elected government, aided and abetted by neo-Fascist gangs.

Syria and Venezuela are next on the list, but Syria may be useful in combating ISIS, so that leaves Venezuela (they would love to achieve regime change in Ecuador and Bolivia, but that remains on the back burner for a future date).   The New York Times published the other day an updated report on Venezuela, which was somewhat more balanced, but which parroted the US official line that the government’s opposition is a victim of government oppression, thereby ignoring the reality that it is being being held criminally responsible for its attempt to overthrow the government with a military coup

The opposition leader under arrest, Antonio Ledezma, as Mayor of Caracas was responsible for multiple deaths during the failed 2002 coup and the 1987 and as Mayor he directed state troops which assassinated as many as 4000 civilians during the Caracazo uprising of 1989.  For this he has to now gotten off Scott free.

Here is the latest on Venezuela. 

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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with supporters at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, February 19, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

 

Published 19 February 2015, Telesur

Antonio Ledezma was arrested Thursday afternoon in Caracas after being named in the recently-foiled U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro confirmed the detention on Thursday of the ultra-right wing Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who is accused of participating in the thwarted coup attempt against the democratically-elected government.

“He was detained and will be tried by the Venezuelan justice system” due to his link to plans to topple the government of Maduro with backing from Washington, the Venezuelan president added.

Maduro emphasized that the White House is directly involved in the coup plans that were foiled last week by the Venezuelan government.

Also see: Venezuela Coup Thwarted

Also see teleSUR’s special coverage: The War on Venezuela’s Economy

The Speaker of Parliament Diosdado Cabello said Ledezma was involved along with opposition lawmaker Juolio Borges in a plan to kill Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader in jail for his participation in last year’s Guarimbas violence that left 43 people dead in an opposition and U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Maduro.

Ledezma is one of the persons responsible for ordering the massacre of up to 400 students during the Caracazo of Feb. 27, 1989, which was a popular rebelion against the ill-conceived neoliberal policies imposed by the U.S. and its allies in many countries, including Venezuela.

Antonio Ledezma is accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Antonio Ledezma was arrested for plotting to overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Nicolas Maduro. (Photo: teleSUR)

“Today, [Ledezma] is being processed by the Venezuelan justice system, the constitution. I ask for all the people’s support in order to consolidate justice. Enough with the conspiracy,” said Maduro. “Those who do not agree with the revolution, that’s fine, we respect that. They can organize, they can launch their own political party. There are elections this year.”  Ledezma, a long-time opposition leader to the Bolivarian process who has been linked to ultra-right wing attempts to destabilize the Venezuelan government, published on his personal Twitter account earlier today that officers from the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) Officers were attempting to enter his office in the wealthy Chacao district of Caracas.

His wife, Mitzsy Capriles, said that he was taken to SEBIN headquarters in Plaza Venezuela.

On Feb. 13, President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello gave a televised address providing information about the foiled coup plans, with those detained providing information about the involvement of Ledezma and other opposition leaders in the plot.

Socialist legislator and President of the Latin American Parliament Angel Rodriguez announced that Friday he would formally report Ledezma and right-wing opposition leader Maria Corina Machado to the Venezuelan general prosecutor for their “National Agreement for Transition” statement, which was published one day before the coup plot was to take effect.

The document alleges that Nicolas Maduro’s government is in its “final stage” and called for a dissolution of powers, the privatization of the country’s oil industry, and the deregulation of the economy, among other measures.

President Maduro has also said that “almost all” opposition leaders had known about the plans.

Last year, Ledezma was also linked to Lorent Saleh, a young opposition activist who organized violent protests, but who was arrested after being deported from Colombia for registering in a military college with false documentation. The Venezuelan government released several Skype video conversations where Saleh speaks openly about having weaponry, as well as plotys schemes to generate violence, including through assassinations.

In one of the videos released in September 2014, Saleh says, “Ledezma is key…he is an old fox, you cannot sell nor buy that kind of experience … the politician that has most supported us is Ledezma, for that reason he was our presidential candidate.”

The young opposition leaders explicitly named Ledezma as providing material support for the 2014’s violent opposition-led protests, which claimed 43 lives.

The Bolivarian government continues to defend the country’s institutions despite ongoing destabilization attempts. During a nationally televised speech Thursday night, Maduro reiterated his allegations that the U.S. embassy was participating in the plans, including attempting to turn officials on the government via bribery.

 

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Op-Ed on Venezuela Slips Past NYT Factcheckers

Raul Castro of Cuba and Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro in this file photo. (Photo: AFP)

A February 15, 2015, op-ed on Venezuela by Enrique Krauze seems to have slipped by the New York Times‘ factcheckers.

Krauze’s thesis (a tired one, but very popular with Venezuelan and Cuban right-wingers in South Florida) is that Venezuela has not only followed “the Cuban model,” but has recently outdone Cuba in moving Venezuela further along a socialist path even as Cuba enacts economic reforms. This idea is not merely an oversimplification–as it might appear to the casual observer of Latin American politics–but is largely misleading. To bolster his case, Krauze–a prominent Mexican writer and publisher–includes numerous false statements and errors, which should have been caught by the Times‘ factcheckers.

Krauze begins by claiming that the Venezuelan government, first under President Hugo Chávez and then his successor Nicolás Maduro, has taken control over the media. Chávez “accumulated control over the organs of government and over much of the information media: radio, television and the press,” we are told, and then Maduro “took over the rest of Venezuelan television.”

A simple factcheck shows this to be false. The majority of media outlets in Venezuela–including television–continue to be privately owned; further, the private TV audience dwarfs the number of viewers watching state TV. A 2010 study of Venezuelan television found that

as of September 2010, Venezuelan state TV channels had just a 5.4 percent audience share. Of the other 94.6 percent of the audience, 61.4 percent were watching privately owned television channels, and 33.1 percent were watching paid TV.

A 2013 Carter Center report found that Venezuela’s private TV outlets had about 74 percent of the audience share for coverage of “recent key newsworthy events.”

The media landscape has changed little since. National opposition station Globovisión was sold in 2013, but to a private party; it was not “taken over” by the government. And opposition voices continue to appear on national TV outlets–even the ones that are often described as “pro-government”–free to make the harshest criticisms of the government and to encourage people to protest, as several prominent opposition figures did last year during the violent street blockades and demonstrations aimed at forcing Maduro to step down.

Globovisión, for example, aired interviews–following its change in ownership–with opposition leader María Corina Machado and Juan Guaido of Leopoldo López’s Voluntad Popular party; during her interview, Machado argued that people have the right to overthrow the democratically elected government. And many other Venezuelan networks also frequently broadcast opposition voices.

In fact, the New York Times issued a correction last year after reporting that Globovisión was “the only television station that regularly broadcast voices critical of the government.” It’s a shame that the same standards for accuracy in the Times‘ news section apparently do not apply to the opinion page.

Krauze then says that Maduro “confronted” those “protesting students with arrests and gunfire,” and that “many were killed” as, supposedly, Maduro “suppressed demonstrations by the opposition.” A quick review of events last year–as covered by the New York Times, among others–reveals a wholly different story.

First, most of those killed were either pro-government or were bystanders. Many of those killed (at least 11, according to David Smilde of the Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog, who in turn cites the opposition paper El Universal) were National Guard officers, police or pro-government counter-protesters. A number of bystanders and motorists (at least 10) were also killed as a result of the protesters’ violent tactics, which included stringing barbed wire across the streets in order to decapitate Chavista motorcyclists. (Two died this way.) Demonstrators fired on Guard and police officers, killing at least seven.

It is true that some security forces fired on demonstrators, killing at least three. Yet as over a dozen members of Congress noted in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the Maduro government arrested some 20 security state agents in connection with these incidents. This was not a case of government-ordered crackdown on protests; if it were, the opposition’s street blockades might have been cleared in days–instead, they remained for weeks–and motorists and cyclists might have been saved from decapitation, crashing into barricades, or getting shot when they got out of their stopped cars.

Having attempted to present the Venezuelan government as some sort of dictatorial regime where freedom of press and assembly are crushed, Krauze goes on to present a series of flawed statements about Venezuela’s economic relationship with Cuba.

First, Krauze writes that “Venezuela absorbs 45 percent of Cuba’s trade deficit.” Official data on Venezuela/Cuba trade is opaque, so it is unclear where Krauze is getting his figure. In terms of its overall trade, Cuba does not have a trade deficit, but a small trade surplus ($697 million USD, according to the WTO). So this statement is false.

Krauze states, “Chávez-era economic agreements with Cuba were all highly favorable to the island nation.” But that the agreements are favorable to Cuba does not preclude them from being favorable to Venezuela as well. They are complementary exchanges: Venezuela has a surfeit of oil yet lacks human capital in some sectors. It could be the case that what Venezuela receives is of a lesser value than what it sends, but unfortunately there is a paucity of information to prove this either way.

What is certain is that the services exported to Venezuela extend far beyond the services of 40,000 Cuban medical professionals. Venezuela sends hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to Cuba for various operations (including Operación Milagro, which extends eye treatments to people in numerous Latin American countries at the joint cost of Venezuela and Cuba). Thousands of Venezuelans have been given scholarships, particularly for the study of medicine. Cuba also exports substantial quantities of pharmaceuticals to Venezuela. It also sends educators and other professionals.

In further arguing that Venezuela is somehow putting Cuba’s interests before its own, Krauze claims, “The expenses for the Missions…involved Venezuelan payments of about $5.5 billion annually, of which the Cuban regime retained 95 percent, the rest going toward paying the doctors.” But this ignores that Cuba provides other services to Venezuela. It also ignores the difficulties in comparing salaries with Cuba, given the vast subsidies for goods that exist in the Cuban economy. The salaries for medics on these foreign postings are vastly larger than normal public sector salaries in Cuba.

Krauze also writes that “thousands” of the Cuban doctors that Venezuela is paying for “have defected to other countries in recent years.” Despite US government efforts to actively encourage such defections, which the New York Times has condemned, the overall defection rate of Cuban medics on overseas missions is less than 2 percent (as of 2011, using US figures on the number of defectors and Cuban figures for the number of medics on overseas missions). The amount of defections  in Venezuela from 2006-11 was 824, which works out to a rate of about 1.1 percent–slightly less than the overall rate.

Krauze claims: “Oil was supplied at such low prices that Cuba could turn around and refine and export some of it at a profit.” This makes something normal sound very conspiratorial–those two-faced Cubans, getting oil on the cheap from Venezuela then selling it out the back door! Actually, Venezuela has invested heavily in Cuba’s downstream capabilities–renovating a moribund Soviet-era refinery in Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, owns a 49 percent stake in the refinery and therefore shares in its proceeds. The aim of the investment project was to create a refinery that could help satisfy Cuba’s domestic requirements but also turn Cuba into a hub for exports of refined products to the Caribbean. Thus it guarantees purchases of Venezuelan oil and allows Venezuela to better access Caribbean markets (i.e. it has a similar justification to Venezuela’s ownership and investments in several US refineries).

Krauze writes, “Mr. Maduro’s government insists that the crisis is an ‘economic war’ conducted by the right and refuses to alter the nation’s currency controls.” Krauze may have missed the news last week, but the Times‘ fact-checkers shouldn’t have: As reported by the Times, the Venezuelan government announced “an easing of the tightly controlled exchange rates that critics say have fed the nation’s economic crisis.”

Maduro’s claim of “economic war”? While there’s little doubt that most of Venezuela’s economic woes stem from its problematic exchange rate regime, the government’s recent documented busts of massive hoarding of essential items by private companies should not be dismissed out of hand, either.

Perhaps Krauze wouldn’t have felt he needed to stretch the truth so far–and present so many inaccurate claims–if his thesis weren’t so flawed. Chávez and Maduro have never claimed that they wanted to bring the Cuban model to Venezuela; this is a fantasy of the Venezuelan right. To the contrary, after announcing his plan for “Socialism for the 21st Century,” Chávez said, “Some are saying that we want to copy the Cuban model. No…. It would be a very serious mistake for Venezuela to copy a model like the Cuban, or any other.”

For his part, Raúl Castro has also expressed support for Latin American countries pursuing their own respective economic and political choices: “Each [leader] is learning their own identity and finding their own identity within the continent. We aren’t the godfathers and they aren’t the heirs,” he told Oliver Stone in the 2010 documentary South of the Border.

The fact is, whether Krauze wants to admit it or not, Venezuela is a democracy, and the Maduro government was democratically elected–as were the Chavista municipal officials who won a majority of elections half a year after Maduro was elected, in a stunning defeat for the opposition. Krauze doesn’t have to like the current Venezuelan government, but he shouldn’t confuse it with an unelected one, as in Cuba.

Nor should he be so easily confused by the Venezuelan economic system–where the private sector enjoyed strong growth in the years after Chávez took office–versus the Cuban model of socialism. More worrying is that the New York Times opinion page would be so baffled by these important differences.

Steve Ellner has taught economic history at the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela since 1977. His most recent book is his edited Latin America’s Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power in the Twenty-First Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

Venezuela: a Coup in Real Time February 2, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: For those with eyes to see, the U.S. government’s foreign policy these days consists of transparently blatant regime change toward those countries that do not fall into line with (or, via setting bad socialist examples, are in direct opposition to) American geopolitical interests.  Nevertheless, an opaque smoke screen is effectively thrown over the machinations of the State Department, the CIA, the NSA, USAID and god knows what other agencies that infiltrate to support the most reactionary and sometimes neo-fascist elements, by the mainstream media.  We see this happening most clearly today in the Ukraine and in Venezuela.

The Monroe Doctrine is alive and well, only these days we don’t send the marines, we send the spooks and agents provocateur.  Post WWII has seen illegal interventions in Guatemala, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama, Grenada, Honduras, Argentina … well, virtually the entire southern hemisphere.

 

The Same Old Dirty Tactics

 

by EVA GOLINGER

There is a coup underway in Venezuela. The pieces are all falling into place like a bad CIA movie. At every turn a new traitor is revealed, a betrayal is born, full of promises to reveal the smoking gun that will justify the unjustifiable. Infiltrations are rampant, rumors spread like wildfire, and the panic mentality threatens to overcome logic. Headlines scream danger, crisis and imminent demise, while the usual suspects declare covert war on a people whose only crime is being gatekeeper to the largest pot of black gold in the world.

This week, as the New York Times showcased an editorial degrading and ridiculing Venezuelan President Maduro, labeling him “erratic and despotic” (“Mr. Maduro in his Labyrinth”, NYT January 26, 2015), another newspaper across the Atlantic headlined a hack piece accusing the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, and the most powerful political figure in the country after Maduro, of being a narcotics kingpin (“The head of security of the number two Chavista defects to the U.S. and accuses him of drug trafficking”, ABC, January 27, 2015). The accusations stem from a former Venezuelan presidential guard officer, Leasmy Salazar, who served under President Chavez and was recruited by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), now becoming the new “golden child” in Washington’s war on Venezuela.

Two days later, the New York Times ran a front-page piece shaming the Venezuelan economy and oil industry, and predicting its downfall (“Oil Cash Waning, Venezuelan Shelves Lie Bare”, Jan. 29, 2015, NYT). Blaring omissions from the article include mention of the hundreds of tons of food and other consumer products that have been hoarded or sold as contraband by private distributors and businesses in order to create shortages, panic, discontent with the government and justify outrageous price hikes. Further, multiple ongoing measures taken by the government to overcome the economic difficulties were barely mentioned and completed disregarded.

Simultaneously, an absurdly sensationalist and misleading headline ran in several U.S. papers, in print and online, linking Venezuela to nuclear weapons and a plan to bomb New York City (“U.S. Scientist Jailed for Trying to Help Venezuela Build Bombs”, Jan. 30, 2015, NPR). While the headline leads readers to believe Venezuela was directly involved in a terrorist plan against the U.S., the actual text of the article makes clear that no Venezuelans were involved at all. The whole charade was an entrapment set up by the FBI, whose officers posed as Venezuelan officials to capture a disgruntled nuclear physicist who once worked at Los Alamos and had no Venezuela connection.

That same day, State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki condemned the alleged “criminalization of political dissent” in Venezuela, when asked by a reporter about fugitive Venezuelan general Antonio Rivero’s arrival in New York to plea for support from the United Nations Working Committee on Arbitrary Detention. Rivero fled an arrest warrant in Venezuela after his involvement in violent anti-government protests that lead to the deaths of over 40 people, mainly government supporters and state security forces, last February. His arrival in the U.S. coincided with Salazar’s, evidencing a coordinated effort to debilitate Venezuela’s Armed Forces by publicly showcasing two high profile military officers – both former Chavez loyalists – that have been turned against their government and are actively seeking foreign intervention against their own country.

These examples are just a snapshot of increasing, systematic negative and distorted coverage of Venezuelan affairs in U.S. media, painting an exaggeratedly dismal picture of the country’s current situation and portraying the government as incompetent, dictatorial and criminal. While this type of coordinated media campaign against Venezuela is not new – media consistently portrayed former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, elected president four times by overwhelming majorities, as a tyrannical dictator destroying the country – it is clearly intensifying at a rapid, and concerning, pace.

The New York Times has a shameful history when it comes to Venezuela. The Editorial Board blissfully applauded the violent coup d’etat in April 2002 that ousted President Chavez and resulted in the death of over 100 civilians. When Chavez was returned to power by his millions of supporters and loyal Armed Forces two days later, the Times didn’t recant it’s previous blunder, rather it arrogantly implored Chavez to “govern responsibly”, claiming he had brought the coup on himself. But the fact that the Times has now begun a persistent, direct campaign against the Venezuelan government with one-sided, distorted and clearly aggressive articles – editorials, blogs, opinion, and news – indicates that Washington has placed Venezuela on the regime change fast track.

The timing of Leamsy Salazar’s arrival in Washington as an alleged DEA collaborator, and his public exposure, is not coincidental. This February marks one year since anti-government protests violently tried to force President Maduro’s resignation, and opposition groups are currently trying to gain momentum to reignite demonstrations. The leaders of the protests, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, have both been lauded by The New York Times and other ‘respected’ outlets as “freedom fighters”, “true democrats”, and as the Times recently referred to Machado, “an inspiring challenger”. Even President Obama called for Lopez’s release from prison (he was detained and is on trial for his role in the violent uprisings) during a speech last September at an event in the United Nations. These influential voices willfully omit Lopez’s and Machado’s involvement and leadership of violent, undemocratic and even criminal acts. Both were involved in the 2002 coup against Chavez. Both have illegally received foreign funding for political activities slated to overthrow their government, and both led the lethal protests against Maduro last year, publicly calling for his ouster through illegal means.

The utilization of a figure such as Salazar who was known to anyone close to Chavez as one of his loyal guards, as a force to discredit and attack the government and its leaders is an old-school intelligence tactic, and a very effective one. Infiltrate, recruit, and neutralize the adversary from within or by one of its own – a painful, shocking betrayal that creates distrust and fear amongst the ranks. While no evidence has surfaced to back Salazar’s outrageous claims against Diosdado Cabello, the headline makes for a sensational story and another mark against Venezuela in public opinion. It also caused a stir within the Venezuelan military and may result in further betrayals from officers who could support a coup against the government. Salazar’s unsubstantiated allegations also aim at neutralizing one of Venezuela’s most powerful political figures, and attempt to create internal divisions, intrigue and distrust.

The most effective tactics the FBI used against the Black Panther Party and other radical movements for change in the United States were infiltration, coercion and psychological warfare. By inserting agents into these organizations, or recruiting from within, that were able to gain access and trust at the highest levels, the FBI was able to destroy these movements from the inside, breaking them down psychologically and neutralizing them politically. These clandestine tactics and strategies are thoroughly documented and evidenced in FBI and other US government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and published in in Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall’s excellent book, Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (South End Press, 1990).

Venezuela is suffering from the sudden and dramatic plummet in oil prices. The country’s oil-dependent economy has severely contracted and the government is taking measures to reorganize the budget and guarantee access to basic services and goods, but people are still experiencing difficulties. Unlike the dismal portrayal in The New York Times, Venezuelans are not starving, homeless or suffering from mass unemployment, as countries such as Greece and Spain have experienced under austerity policies. Despite certain shortages – some caused by currency controls and others by intentional hoarding, sabotage or contraband – 95% of Venezuelans consume three meals per day, an amount that has doubled since the 1990s. The unemployment rate is under 6% and housing is subsidized by the state.

Nevertheless, making Venezuela’s economy scream is without a doubt a rapidly intensifying strategy executed by foreign interests and their Venezuelan counterparts, and it’s very effective. As shortages continue and access to dollars becomes increasingly difficult, chaos and panic ensue. This social discontent is capitalized on by U.S. agencies and anti-government forces in Venezuela pushing for regime change. A very similar strategy was used in Chile to overthrow socialist President Salvador Allende. First the economy was destroyed, then mass discontent grew and the military moved to oust Allende, backed by Washington at every stage. Lest we forget the result: a brutal dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet that tortured, assassinated, disappeared and forced into exile tens of thousands of people. Not exactly a model to replicate.

This year President Obama approved a special State Department fund of $5 million to support anti-government groups in Venezuela. Additionally, the congressionally-funded National Endowment for Democracy is financing Venezuelan opposition groups with over $1.2 million and aiding efforts to undermine Maduro’s government. There is little doubt that millions more for regime change in Venezuela are being funneled through other channels that are not subject to public scrutiny.

President Maduro has denounced these ongoing attacks against his government and has directly called on President Obama to cease efforts to harm Venezuela. Recently, all 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations, members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), publicly expressed support for Maduro and condemned ongoing U.S. interference in Venezuela. Latin America firmly rejects any attempts to erode democracy in the region and will not stand for another US-backed coup. It’s time Washington listen to the hemisphere and stop employing the same dirty tactics against its neighbors.

Eva Golinger is the author of The Chavez Code. She can be reached through her blog.

 

WHAT ‘DEMOCRACY’ REALLY MEANS IN U.S. AND NEW YORK TIMES JARGON: LATIN AMERICA EDITION October 19, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America, Media, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: I read the New York Times (it is the most right wing site I go to online; and, when asked how I keep up with the “other side,” I reply that one absorbs it by osmosis), there is often good reporting and feature articles; but on U.S. foreign policy, the Times is as Neanderthal as Bush/Obama/Clintons.

 

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BY GLENN GREENWALD

One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”

More amazingly still, the Times editors told their readers that Chávez’s “removal was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a central role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez’s death, the Times editors admitted that “the Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez” [the paper forgot to mention that it, too, blessed (and misled its readers about) that coup]. The editors then also acknowledged the rather significant facts that Chávez’s “redistributionist policies brought better living conditions to millions of poor Venezuelans” and “there is no denying his popularity among Venezuela’s impoverished majority.”

If you think The New York Times editorial page has learned any lessons from that debacle, you’d be mistaken. Today they published an editorialexpressing grave concern about the state of democracy in Latin America generally and Bolivia specifically. The proximate cause of this concern? The overwhelming election victory of Bolivian President Evo Morales (pictured above), who, as The Guardian put it, “is widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread Bolivia’s natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses.”

The Times editors nonetheless see Morales’ election to a third term not as a vindication of democracy but as a threat to it, linking his election victory to the way in which “the strength of democratic values in the region has been undermined in past years by coups and electoral irregularities.” Even as they admit that “it is easy to see why many Bolivians would want to see Mr. Morales, the country’s first president with indigenous roots, remain at the helm” – because “during his tenure, the economy of the country, one of the least developed in the hemisphere, grew at a healthy rate, the level of inequality shrank and the number of people living in poverty dropped significantly” – they nonetheless chide Bolivia’s neighbors for endorsing his ongoing rule: “it is troubling that the stronger democracies in Latin America seem happy to condone it.”

The Editors depict their concern as grounded in the lengthy tenure of Morales as well as the democratically elected leaders of Ecuador and Venezuela: “perhaps the most disquieting trend is that protégés of Mr. Chávez seem inclined to emulate his reluctance to cede power.” But the real reason the NYT so vehemently dislikes these elected leaders and ironically views them as threats to “democracy” becomes crystal clear toward the end of the editorial (emphasis added):

This regional dynamic has been dismal for Washington’s influence in the region. In Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the new generation of caudillos [sic] have staked out anti-American policies and limited the scope of engagement on developmentmilitary cooperation and drug enforcement efforts. This has damaged the prospects for trade and security cooperation.

You can’t get much more blatant than that. The democratically elected leaders of these sovereign countries fail to submit to U.S. dictates, impede American imperialism, and subvert U.S. industry’s neoliberal designs on the region’s resources. Therefore, despite how popular they are with their own citizens and how much they’ve improved the lives of millions of their nations’ long-oppressed and impoverished minorities, they are depicted as grave threats to “democracy.”

It is, of course, true that democratically elected leaders are capable of authoritarian measures. It is, for instance, democratically elected U.S. leaders who imprison people without charges for years, build secret domestic spying systems, and even assert the power to assassinate their own citizens without due process. Elections are no guarantee against tyranny. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of each of these leaders with regard to domestic measures and civic freedoms, as there is for virtually every government on the planet.

But the very idea that the U.S. government and its media allies are motivated by those flaws is nothing short of laughable. Many of the U.S. government’s closest allies are the world’s worst regimes, beginning with the uniquely oppressive Saudi kingdom (which just yesterday sentenced a popular Shiite dissident to death) and the brutal military coup regime in Egypt, which, as my colleague Murtaza Hussain reports today, gets more popular in Washington as it becomes even more oppressive. And, of course, the U.S. supports Israel in every way imaginable even as its Secretary of State expressly recognizes the “apartheid” nature of its policy path.

Just as the NYT did with the Venezuelan coup regime of 2002, the U.S. government hails the Egyptian coup regime as saviors of democracy. That’s because “democracy” in U.S. discourse means: “serving U.S. interests” and “obeying U.S. dictates,” regardless how how the leaders gain and maintain power. Conversely, “tyranny” means “opposing the U.S. agenda” and “refusing U.S. commands,” no matter how fair and free the elections are that empower the government. The most tyrannical regimes are celebrated as long as they remain subservient, while the most popular and democratic governments are condemned as despots to the extent that they exercise independence.

To see how true that is, just imagine the orgies of denunciation that would rain down if a U.S. adversary (say, Iran, or Venezuela) rather than a key U.S. ally like Saudi Arabia had just sentenced a popular dissident to death. Instead, the NYT just weeks ago uncritically quotes an Emirates ambassador lauding Saudi Arabia as one of the region’s “moderate” allies because of its service to the U.S. bombing campaign in Syria. Meanwhile, the very popular, democratically elected leader of Bolivia is a grave menace to democratic values – because he’s “dismal for Washington’s influence in the region.”

Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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.

US Leaves Honduras to Its fate July 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Latin America.
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Published on Thursday, July 9, 2009 by The Guardian/UK by Mark Weisbrot

The military coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras took a new turn when he attempted to return home on Sunday. The military closed the airport and blocked runways to prevent his plane from landing. They also shot several protesters, killing at least one and injuring others. The violence and the enormous crowd — estimated in the tens of thousands and reported as the largest since the coup on 28 June — put additional pressure on the Obama administration to seek a resolution to the crisis. On Tuesday, secretary of state Hillary Clinton met Zelaya for the first time.

In many ways this is similar to the 2002 coup in Venezuela, which was supported by the US. After it became clear that no government other than the US would recognise the coup government there, and hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans poured into the streets to demand the return of their elected president, the military switched sides and brought Hugo Chávez back to the presidential palace.

In Honduras, we have the entire world refusing to recognise the coup government, and equally large demonstrations (in a country of only seven million people, with the military preventing movement for many of them) demanding Zelaya’s return. The problem in Honduras is that the military — unlike Venezuela’s — is experienced in organised repression, including selective assassinations carried out during the 1980s, when the country was known as a military base for US operations in El Salvador and Nicaragua. The Honduran military is also much closer to the US military and state department, more closely allied with the country’s oligarchy and more ideologically committed to the cause of keeping the elected president out of power. Colonel Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, a Honduran army lawyer who admitted that the military broke the law when it kidnapped Zelaya, told the Miami Herald: “It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That’s impossible.” Inestroza, like the coup leader and army chief General Romeo Vasquez, was trained at Washington’s infamous School of the Americas (now renamed Whinsec).

This puts a heavy burden on the people of Honduras, who have been risking their lives, confronting the army’s bullets, beatings and arbitrary arrests and detentions. The US media has reported on this repressiononly minimally, with the major print media sometimes failing even to mention the censorship there. But the Honduran pro-democracy movement has in the last few days managed to change the course of events. It is likely that Clinton’s decision to finally meet with Zelaya was the result of the large and growing protests, and Washington’s fear that such resistance could reach the point at which it would topple the coup government.

The Obama administration’s behaviour over the last eight days suggests that if not for this threat from below, the administration would have been content to let the coup government remain for the rest of Zelaya’s term. This was made clear again on Monday, at a press briefing held by the state department spokesman Ian Kelly. Under prodding from a reporter, Kelly became the first on-the-record state department official to say that the US government supported the return of Zelaya. This was eight days after the coup, and after the United Nations general assembly, the Organisation of American States, the Rio Group and many individual governments had all called for the “immediate and unconditional” return of Zelaya — something that Washington still does not talk about.

Meanwhile, on the far right, there has been a pushback against worldwide support for Zelaya and an attempt to paint him as the aggressor in Honduras, or at least equally as bad as the people who carried out the coup. Unfortunately much of the major media’s reporting has aided this effort by reporting such statements as “Critics feared he intended to extend his rule past January, when he would have been required to step down.”

In fact, there was no way for Zelaya to “extend his rule” even if the referendum had been held and passed, and even if he had then gone on to win a binding referendum on the November ballot. The 28 June referendum was nothing more than a non-binding poll of the electorate, asking whether the voters wanted to place a binding referendum on the November ballot to approve a redrafting of the country’s constitution. If it had passed, and if the November referendum had been held (which was not very likely) and also passed, the same ballot would have elected a new president and Zelaya would have stepped down in January. So, the belief that Zelaya was fighting to extend his term in office has no factual basis. The most that could be said is that if a new constitution were eventually approved, Zelaya might have been able to run for a second term at some future date.

Another major rightwing theme in the media and public perception of the Honduran situation is that this is a battle against Chávez (and some collection of “anti-US” leftist allies: Nicaragua, Cuba, take your pick). This is a common subterfuge that has surfaced in most of the Latin American elections of the last few years. In Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua and El Salvador, for example, the conservative candidates all acted as if they were running against Chávez — the first two with success, and the second pair losing. It is true that under Zelaya Honduras joined Alba, a grouping of countries that was started by Venezuela as an alternative to “free trade” agreements with the US. But Zelaya is nowhere near as close to Chávez as any number of other Latin American presidents, including those of Brazil and Argentina. So it is not clear why this is relevant, unless the argument is that only bigger countries or those located further south have the right to have a co-operative relationship with Venezuela.

Clinton has just announced that she has arranged for the Costa Rican president Oscar Arias to serve as a mediator between the coup government and Zelaya. According to Clinton, both parties have accepted this arrangement. This is a good move for the state department, as it will make it easier for it to maintain a more “neutral” position — as opposed to the rest of the hemisphere, which has taken the side of the deposed president and the Honduran pro-democracy movement. “I don’t want to prejudge what the parties themselves will agree to,” said Clinton in response to a question as to whether Zelaya should be restored to his position.

It is difficult to see how this mediation will succeed, so long as the coup government knows that it can sit out the rest of Zelaya’s term. The only thing that can remove it from office, in conjunction with massive protests, is real economic sanctions of the kind that Honduras’s neighbours (Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala) imposed for 48 hours after the coup. These countries account for about a third of Honduras’s trade, but they would need economic aid from other countries to carry the burden of a trade cut-off for a longer time. It would be a great thing if other countries would step forward to support such sanctions and to cut off their own trade and capital flows with Honduras as well.

So it is up to the rest of the world to help Honduras; it is clear that Hondurans won’t be getting any help from the US. The rest of the world will have to scream bloody murder about the violence and repression there, too, because Washington will not make much of an issue about it.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis, and has written numerous research papers on economic policy. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy.

Does US Lukewarm Response Bolster Honduran Coup? July 2, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Published on Thursday, July 2, 2009 by The Guardian/UK by Mark Weisbrot

The military coup that overthrew Honduras’s elected president, Manuel Zelaya, brought unanimous international condemnation. But some country’s responses have been more reluctant than others, and Washington’s ambivalence has begun to raise suspicions about what the US government is really trying to accomplish in this situation.

The first statement from the White House in response to the coup was weak and non-committal. It did not denounce the coup but rather called upon “all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter”.

This contrasted with statements from other presidents in the hemisphere, such as Lula da Silva of Brazil and Cristina Fernandez of Argentina, who denounced the coup and called for the re-instatement of Zelaya. The EU issued a similar, less ambiguous and more immediate response.

Later in the day, as the response of other nations became clear, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton issued a stronger statement that condemned the coup – without calling it a coup. But it still didn’t say anything about Zelaya returning to the presidency.

The Organisation of American States, the Rio Group (most of Latin America) and the UN general assembly have all called for the “immediate and unconditional return” of Zelaya.

The strong stances from the south brought statements from anonymous state department officials that were more supportive of Zelaya’s return. And by Monday afternoon President Barack Obama finally said: “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras.

But at a press conference later that day, Clinton was asked whether “restoring the constitutional order” in Honduras meant returning Zelaya himself. She would not say yes.

Why such reluctance to call openly for the immediate and unconditional return of an elected president, as the rest of the hemisphere and the UN has done? One obvious possibility is that Washington does not share these goals.

The coup leaders have no international support, but they could still succeed by running out the clock – Zelaya has less than six months left in his term. Will the Obama administration support sanctions against the coup government in order to prevent this? The neighbouring governments of Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador have already fired a warning shot by announcing a 48-hour cut-off of trade.

By contrast, one reason for Clinton’s reluctance to call the coup a coup is because the US Foreign Assistance Act prohibits funds going to governments where the head of state has been deposed by a military coup.

Unconditional is also a key word here: the Obama administration may want to extract concessions from Zelaya as part of a deal for his return to office. But this is not how democracy works. If Zelaya wants to negotiate a settlement with his political opponents after he returns, that is another story. But nobody has the right to extract political concession from him in exile, over the barrel of a gun.

There is no excuse for this coup. A constitutional crisis came to a head when Zelaya ordered the military to distribute materials for a non-binding referendum to be held last Sunday. The referendum asked citizens to vote on whether they were in favour of including a proposal for a constituent assembly, to redraft the constitution, on the November ballot. The head of the military, General Romeo Vasquez, refused to carry out the president’s orders. The president, as commander-in-chief of the military, then fired Vasquez, whereupon the defence minister resigned. The supreme court subsequently ruled that the president’s firing of Vasquez was illegal, and the majority of the Congress has gone against Zelaya.

Supporters of the coup argue that the president violated the law by attempting to go ahead with the referendum after the supreme court ruled against it. This is a legal question. It may be true, or it may be that the supreme court had no legal basis for its ruling. But it is irrelevant to the what has happened. The military is not the arbiter of a constitutional dispute between the various branches of government.

This is especially true in this case, in that the proposed referendum was a non-binding and merely consultative plebiscite. It would not have changed any law nor affected the structure of power. It was merely a poll of the electorate.

Therefore, the military cannot claim that it acted to prevent any irreparable harm. This is a military coup carried out for political purposes.

There are other issues where our government has been oddly silent. Reports of political repression, the closing of TV and radio stations, the detention of journalists, detention and physical abuse of diplomats and what the Committee to Protect Journalists has called a “media blackout” have yet to draw a serious rebuke from Washington. By controlling information and repressing dissent, the de facto Honduran government is also setting the stage for unfair elections in November.

Many press reports have contrasted the Obama administration’s rejection of the Honduran coup with the Bush administration’s initial support for the 2002 military coup that briefly overthrew President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. But actually there are more similarities than differences between the US response to these two events.

Within a day, the Bush administration reversed its official position on the Venezuelan coup, because the rest of the hemisphere had announced that it would not recognise the coup government. Similarly, in this case, the Obama administration is following the rest of the hemisphere, trying not to be the odd man out but at the same time not really sharing their commitment to democracy.

It was not until some months after the Venezuelan coup that the state department admitted that it had given financial and other support “to individuals and organisations understood to be actively involved in the brief ouster of the Chávez government.”

In the Honduran coup, the Obama administration claims that it tried to discourage the Honduran military from taking this action. It would be interesting to know what these discussions were like. Did administration officials say, “You know that we will have to say that we are against such a move if you do it, because everyone else will?” Or was it more like, “Don’t do it, because we will do everything in our power to reverse any such coup”? The administration’s actions since the coup indicate something more like the former, if not worse.

The battle between Zelaya and his opponents pits a reform president who is supported by labour unions and social organisations against a mafia-like, drug-ridden, corrupt political elite who is accustomed to choosing not only the supreme court and the Congress, but also the president. It is a recurrent story in Latin America, and the US has almost always sided with the elites.

In this case, Washington has a very close relationship with the Honduran military, which goes back decades. During the 1980s, the US used bases in Honduras to train and arm the Contras, Nicaraguan paramilitaries who became known for their atrocities in their war against the Sandinista government in neighbouring Nicaragua.

The hemisphere has changed substantially since the Venezuelan coup in April of 2002, with 11 more left governments having been elected. A whole set of norms, institutions and power relations between south and north in the hemisphere have been altered. The Obama administration today faces neighbours that are much more united and much less willing to compromise on fundamental questions of democracy.

So Clinton will probably not have that much room to manoeuvre. Still, the administration’s ambivalence will be noticed in Honduras and can very likely encourage the de facto government there to try and hang on to power. That could be very damaging.

© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.

USAID’s Silent Invasion in Bolivia May 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Written by Eva Golinger   

 

Monday, 18 May 2009

 

Recently declassified documents obtained by investigators Jeremy Bigwood and Eva Golinger reveal that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested more than $97 million in “decentralization” and “regional autonomy” projects and opposition political parties in Bolivia since 2002. The documents, requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), evidence that USAID in Bolivia was the “first donor to support departmental governments” and “decentralization programs” in the country, proving that the US agency has been one of the principal funders and fomenters of the separatist projects promoted by regional governments in Eastern Bolivia.

 

Decentralization and Separatism

The documents confirm that USAID has been managing approximately $85 million annually in Bolivia during the past few years, divided amongst programs related to security, democracy, economic growth and human investment. The Democracy Program is focused on a series of priorities, the first outlined as “Decentralized democratic governments: departmental governments and municipalities”. One document, classified as “sensitive”, explains that this particular program began when USAID established an Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI) en Bolivia during 2004. The OTIs are a division of USAID that function as rapid response teams to political crises in countries strategically important to US interests. The OTI only address political issues, despite USAID’s principal mission dedicated to humanitarian aid and development assistance, and they generally have access to large amounts of liquid funds in order to quickly and efficiently achieve their objectives. The OTI operate as intelligence agencies due to their relative secrecy and filtering mechanism that involves large contracts given to US companies to operate temporary offices in nations where OTI requires channeling millions of dollars to political parties and NGOs that work in favor of Washington’s agenda. After the failed coup d’etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in April 2002, USAID set up an OTI in Venezuela two months later, in June 2002, with a budget over $10 million for its first two years. Since then, the OTI has filtered more than $50 million through five US entities that set up shop in Caracas subsequently, reaching more than 450 NGOs, political parties and programs that support the opposition to President Chávez.

 

In the case of Bolivia, the OTI contracted the US company, Casals & Associates, to coordinate a program based on decentralization and autonomy in the region considered the “media luna” (half-moon), where the hard core opposition to President Evo Morales is based, particularly in the province of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Casals & Associates was also charged with conducting a series of training seminars and workshops to strengthen oppositional political parties that were working against then presidential candidate Evo Morales in 2004 and 2005. After Morales was elected president at the end of 2005, OTI directed the majority of its funding and work to the separatist projects that later produced regional referendums on autonomy in Eastern Bolivia. Their principal idea is to divide Bolivia into two separate republics, one governed by an indigenous majority and the other run by European descendents and mestizos that inhabit the areas rich in natural resources, such as gas and water. After 2007, the OTI, which had an additional budget of $13.3 million on top of USAID’s general Bolivia program funding, was absorbed into USAID/Bolivia’s Democracy Program, which since then has been dedicating resources to consolidating the separatist projects.

 

USAID’s work in Bolivia covers almost all sectors of political and economic life, penetrating Bolivian society and attempting to impose a US political and ideological model. The investment in “decentralization” includes all the support and funding needed to conform “autonomous” regions, from departmental planning to regional economic development, financial management, communications strategies, departmental budget structures, and territorial organization designs – all prepared and implemented by USAID representatives and partners in Bolivia.  As part of the program titled “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” (SDI), USAID describes its work to “enrich the dialogue on decentralization; improve management of departmental budgetary resources; and promote regional economic development.” Through this program, USAID has even created “territorial organization laboratories” to help regional governments implement their autonomy successfully.

 

In one document dated November 30, 2007, just months before the separatist referendums held in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija during early 2008, the Democratic Initiatives Program of OTI/USAID worked closely with the Prefects (regional governments) to “develop sub-national, de-concentrated” models of government. In those regions, those promoting such “sub-national, de-concentrated” models, or separatism, have made clear that their objective is to achieve a political, economic and territorial division from the national government of Bolivia, so they can manage and benefit solely from the rich resources in their regions. It’s no coincidence that the separatist initiatives are all concentrated in areas rich in gas, water and economic power. The multi-million dollar funding from USAID to the separatist projects in Bolivia has encouraged and emboldened destabilization activities during the past few years, including extreme violence and racism against Indigenous communities, terrorist acts and even assassination attempts against President Morales.

 

Strengthening Political Parties in the Opposition

 

Another principal priority of USAID in Bolivia as outlined in the declassified documents is the extensive funding and training of oppositional political parties. Through two US entities, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), both considered international branches of the republican and democrat parties in the US that receive their funding from the Department of State and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USAID has been feeding – with funding and strategic political aid – political groups and leaders from the opposition in Bolivia. During the year 2007, $1.250.000.00 was dedicated to “training for members of political parties on current political and electoral processes, including the constituent assembly and the referendum on autonomy.” The principal beneficiaries of this funding have been the opposition political parties Podemos, MNR, MIR and more than 100 politically-oriented NGOs in Bolivia.

 

Intervention in Electoral Processes

 

An additional substantial part of USAID’s work in Bolivia has been devoted to intervening in electoral processes during the past few years. This has included forming a network of more than 3,000 “observers”, trained by USAID grantee Partners of the Americas, a US corporation that also receives funding from major companies and entities that form part of the military-industrial complex. The creation of “networks” in “civil society” to monitor electoral processes has been a strategy utilized by Washington in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua, to later use such apparently “independent” observers in an attempt to discredit and delegitimize elections and denounce fraud when results are not favorable to US interests. In the case of Venezuela, for example, the organization that has implemented this strategy is Súmate, a Venezuelan NGO created with funding and strategic support from USAID and NED, that has presented itself in the public opinion as “apolitical” but in reality has been the principal promoter of the recall referendum in 2004 against President Chávez and later the leader in denouncing fraud after every electoral process in Venezuela lost by the opposition, despite that such events have been certified as legitimate and “fraud-free” by international institutions such as the Organization of American States, European Community and the Carter Center. These “networks” function as centers for the opposition during electoral processes to strengthen their position in the public opinion and through the mass media.

 

Penetration in Indigenous Communities

 

USAID’s work in Bolivia is not just oriented towards strengthening the opposition to Evo Morales and promoting separatism, but also involves attempts to penetrate and infiltrate indigenous communities, seeking out new actors to promote Washington’s agenda that have an image more representative of the Bolivian indigenous majority. One declassified document clearly outlines the necessity to give “more support to USAID and Embassy indigenous interns to build and consolidate a network of graduates who advocate for the US Government in key areas.” The document further discusses the need to “strengthen democratic citizenship and local economic development for Bolivia’s most vulnerable indigenous groups.” Per USAID, “this program shows that no one country or government has a monopoly on helping the indigenous. The program shows that the US is a friend to Bolivia and the indigenous…”

 

The declassified documents in original format and with Spanish translation are available at: www.jeremybigwood.net/BO/2008-USAID

 

 
 
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