Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Mechanics of Regime Change: From Ukraine to Venezuela

When Considering Venezuela’s Guaidó, Remember Victoria Nuland

by 21st Century Wire

February 15, 2019

As Washington’s Secret Team continues to line-up its guns against the elected government led by Nicholas Maduro in Venezuela, it’s worth reminding viewers of another recently executed regime change operation – a portion of which was caught on tape – where US State Department officials could be heard discussing their new hand-picked, post-coup government in the Ukraine.

When the latest phase of the current crisis in Venezuela broke in the middle of January, cabinet officials in Washington immediately declared the elected government in Caracas as “illegitimate,” and put forward their own hand-picked “interim president.”

US National Security Advisor John Bolton started the ball rolling by boldly announcing,

“The United States does not recognize Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s illegitimate claim to power. His ‘election’ in May 2018 was viewed internationally as not free, fair or credible.” 

Bolton’s proclamation was followed by a TV decree by US Vice President Mike Pence formally recognizing a previously unknown opposition parliamentarian, Juan Guaido, as Washington’s new choice for president of Venezuela. This was then followed by a tweet from President Trump:

“The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime,” before adding,
“Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.” 

President Trump then upped the ante, warning Maduro that “all options are on the table,” clearly implying the possibility of military intervention by Washington.


While the general public may never be privy to behind-the-scenes conference calls between the likes of Bolton, Elliot Abrams, Jimmy Story and Guaido, it is extremely instructive to revisit the infamous 2014 leaked phone call between then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, and US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt – a stunning leak which reveals exactly how Washington appointees were in fact micro-managing their new putsch regime in Kiev – completely outside of the country’s democratic process.

Spain's Catalan Crisis Continues: Short-Lived Sánchez Government Calls Election

Spanish government falls amid Catalan crisis

by Alejandro López  - WSWS

16 February 2019

On Friday, two days after his budget was voted down in the Congress, Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called a snap general election for April 28. Sanchez’s government, the shortest-lived since Transition from fascist to parliamentary rule in 1978, fell over the state prosecution of Catalan political prisoners who organized or supported the October 1, 2017 independence referendum.

They face up to 25 years in prison on false charges of having instigated violence during the referendum.

Sánchez (left) criticized Catalan nationalist parliamentarians who voted down his budget in retaliation for his trying of the Catalan nationalist prisoners.

“When some parties block the taking of decisions, it is necessary to call new elections,” he said.
“There are parliamentary defeats that are social victories,” he added, claiming that supposedly progressive measures inscribed in the budget that the PSOE is abandoning meant that “citizens have seen what we wanted for the country.”

Other PSOE officials said they were happy to abandon the budget to focus instead on attacking the Catalan nationalists. “It’s too bad the budget was not approved, but paradoxically thanks to that we now have a line. The right cannot throw in our face the accusation of having any agreement with the separatists. It was something that hurt us and that provoked uncertainty in parts of our electorate,” a leading PSOE mayor told El Pais .

The PSOE is opening the door to the most right-wing campaign since 1978, in which the imposition of austerity and police-state rule is to proceed under cover of opposition to Catalan separatism. Elections in 2015 and 2016 produced hung parliaments, as votes split between the PSOE, the right wing Popular Party (PP), Citizens (Cs), and Podemos. Now, while the PSOE denounces the Catalan nationalists, the PP aims to assemble a narrow right wing majority on the basis of an anti-Catalan coalition with Cs and the new, pro-fascist VOX party.

VOX leader Santiago Abascal declared that “the Living Spain,” as he calls his supporters, “has finally defeated an infamous legislature.” He also denounced as “incapable and cowardly” the previous PP government of Mariano Rajoy, for having failed to crack down violently enough on the Catalan independence referendum.

This comment by Abascal, who has defended the genocidal record of Francisco Franco’s fascist army during the Spanish Civil War, underscores that VOX speaks for factions of the bourgeoisie planning military repression of the population.

Under Rajoy, Madrid sent 16,000 police to violently assault voters in the Catalan independence referendum, including the elderly, injuring over 1,000. It then jailed Catalan nationalist politicians in pre-trial detention and dissolved the elected Catalan government, using Article 155 of the 1978 Constitution to replace it with a government named by Madrid. At the height of the crisis, the PP threatened direct military intervention in Catalonia. Nonetheless, Abascal is attacking this record as insufficient.

PP leader Pablo Casado, (far right) while calling his party a “calm, moderate force,” stressed that he would work with Citizens and VOX to win a majority.

Citing the “Andalusian pact” where the three parties are in a regional governmental alliance in Andalusia, he stressed the PP would build no “sanitary cordon” walling it off from the explicitly pro-Franco position of VOX. “Sanitary cordons always harm those that build them,” Casado commented, adding that he was fighting the “Popular Front,” that is, the government brought down by Franco’s coup and civil war.

In recent weeks, Casado has also unleashed a torrent of hysterical insults against Sánchez, calling him a “felon,” a “compulsive liar,” “illegitimate,” a “squatter” and guilty of “high treason.”

Similarly, Citizens leader Albert Rivera demanded that “all candidates position themselves” on the Catalan issue. He added that, if elected, he would “promise not to pardon the coup plotters,” that is, the prosecuted Catalan leaders. He warned that there could be a new “Frankenstein government,” with Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias “as deputy prime minister in charge of Spain’s economy and the separatists deciding how my country should be ruled.”

The principal danger in this situation is that the working class is not fully aware of the threat of police and military rule. There is no opposition from the European Union (EU) to the drive to legitimize Francoism, and what passes as opposition within the Spanish political establishment are split between open supporters of the policies of the right, and political indifference.

On Wednesday, Sánchez accused Citizens and the PP of failing to show the same “loyalty” to the government he had shown to the previous conservative government:

“The PP government had the institutional loyalty of the Socialists. But they were not loyal, not only to us, but to Spain.” 
He added, “we’ve been willing to compromise with those who think differently. We’re pro-Europe, progressive, left-leaning, and not a single OECD country has had more female ministers than us.”

In government, the PSOE was virtually indistinguishable from the PP. Its fundamental agenda was further austerity for the working class, stepped-up militarism in the service of Spain’s geo-strategic ambitions and re-stabilizing the state after the Catalan independence crisis.

On democratic rights, it continued the PP’s clampdown. They have endorsed so-called “hot returns” of undocumented migrants—quick deportations that bypass immigration laws—at the southern borders of Ceuta and Melilla, and defended the anti-democratic Public Safety Law, better known by its nickname of the “gag law.” On the Catalan court case, the Sánchez government told state attorneys to charge the jailed nationalists under sedition, which carries a 15-year sentence.

Podemos has made clear it will mount no serious opposition to the right-wing campaign. Rather, it is fraudulently claiming that the Podemos-backed PSOE government was a success. Podemos parliamentary spokesperson Irene Montero cited “the most socially progressive budgets in history” as the main accomplishment of that government. But plans for an increased minimum wage, an end to the “gag law” outlawing the filming of police repression of protests, and subsidies for the elderly unemployed—many of which were included in the failed budget—will not pass after this week’s budget vote.

She said that Podemos and the PSOE had “In the eight months … worked to do things pushed by millions of people who have not given up.” In fact, the vote for the PSOE and Podemos collapsed in the last elections held in the most populous region in Spain, Andalusia, as hundreds of thousands refused to support these parties and instead preferred to abstain.

According to Montero, however, Sánchez’s gravest mistake was to not have integrated Podemos in his government. This would have produced a “stable and solid government with which to present itself in Europe.” She also attacked the Catalan nationalists for not having supported the PSOE government, cynically claiming Sánchez was “the best guarantee of an honest and sensible dialogue with Catalonia.”

Asked about possible post-electoral agreements, Montero said that Podemos would “speak with all the legitimate representatives of the citizens,” opening the door to alliances with all parties.

Nothing exposes more clearly the complacent and indifferent attitude of Podemos to the dangers facing the working class more than Montero’s announcement that Iglesias, her partner, would continue on paternity leave during the campaign, in which he is Podemos’ lead candidate. She claimed this is a way of showing what “type of Spain we want,” one in which men and women share household duties.

In fact, it underscores that Podemos is largely unconcerned by the drive towards police-state rule in Spain, which it does not intend to fight seriously.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Hot, Hot Haiti

How Haiti’s Spontaneous Uprising is Connected to Venezuelan Solidarity

by TRNN (1/2)

February 15, 2019

Haitians are in revolt. For the last six days, thousands of Haitians have taken to the streets, demanding the ouster of Jovenel Moise and his government. Some say the revolt is about opposition to raising gas prices, like the Yellow [Vests] in France. But it’s not a mimic, nor a mirror image of that revolt.

The roots of this revolt in Haiti are in Moise’s election that many saw as tainted, maybe stolen. It’s wrapped up in the United States efforts to oust Venezuela’s government, pushing the Haitian president to denounce him and support that ouster.

It’s about the $4 billion loan given to the Haitian government to develop the country via Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program, and the double digit inflation making some of the world’s most impoverished people even poorer.

And it’s about the 228-year-old U.S. effort to control Haiti and Haitians’s resistance to that. Could this be the beginning of a another revolution like the one 33 years ago that ousted Claude Baby Doc Duvalier? Maybe. We’ll see.

February 15, 2019 Kim Ives of Haiti Liberté unravels how the new Haitian revolt entangles Duvalier style corruption of money stolen from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program and subtle US intervention.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Shine Off the Dauphin: Press Sharks Circle Trudeau/SNC-Lavalin Scandal

Trudeau “Disappointed” his Ex-Justice Minister Resigned After He Demoted Her


February 13, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Canada, and his alleged interference in the SNC-Lavalin case, has led to the resignation of former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould from his cabinet.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: "Last night I accepted Jody Wilson-Raybold’s resignation from Cabinet. Frankly. I am both surprised and disappointed by her decision to step down. And let me tell you why. This resignation is not consistent with conversations I had with Jody a few weeks ago when I asked her to serve as Canada’s Minister for Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, nor is it consistent with the conversations we’ve had lately."

Dimitri Lascaris says opposition parties sent a letter asking the government to preserve all incriminating evidence of the SNC-Lavalin case, since there is concern it could be destroyed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Practicing to Deceive: Canada's Mired Venezuela Machinations

Canada vs. Venezuela: The Murky Background 

by Joyce Nelson - CounterPunch

February 13, 2019

Following the closed-door, Feb. 4th meeting of the Lima Group in Ottawa, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland was holding a press conference to issue “the Ottawa Declaration for Venezuela” when suddenly protestors swarmed in front of her podium, unfurled a banner and began chanting “Hands off Venezuela!”

As security guards removed the protestors, Freeland deftly moved off-script to say that the Lima Group’s plans for Venezuela would uphold “the kind of democracy which political protestors in Canada do enjoy and I’m sad to say that political protestors in Venezuela do not.”

It was a bizarre statement for a variety of reasons – including the recent RCMP arrests of 14 peaceful land and water-protectors in Indigenous territory in B.C. – but especially because Freeland’s words coincided (but conflicted) with current mainstream media claims of massive protest marches taking place in Venezuela against president Nicolas Maduro and in favour of opposition figure Juan Guaido, who emerged from obscurity to declare himself interim president on January 23.

Canada’s “Liberal Hawk”

In Canada, Freeland has become known for such hyperbole. For example, in April 2018 when Canada expelled four Russian diplomats, Freeland said that the decision resulted in part from Russia’s attempts “to interfere in our democracy.” But as the Toronto Star’s Thomas Walkom has stated,

“Moscow’s sin then was to publicize the uncontested fact – also reported in the Star and Globe and Mail – that Freeland’s maternal grandfather had been a Nazi collaborator during the Second World War.” [1]

Adamantly anti-Russia, Freeland has become the Trudeau government’s “most articulate liberal hawk,” even declaring that Canadians must be prepared to go to war as the New Cold War heats up. [2]

At the Feb. 4th press conference, Freeland’s hyperbole neatly meshed with hypocrisy when she stated that,

“[S]he opposed a coup but wanted the Venezuelan military to depose current president [Nicolas] Maduro and install the unelected U.S. dauphin, Juan Guaido.” [3]

Of course, some other Lima Group members have their own hypocrisy to answer for.

When it came to signing the Ottawa communiqué, Guayana and St. Lucia refused to sign, as did Mexico, which did not attend the February 4th meeting and has dropped out of the Lima Group. So that left 11 members – Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru – who signed the Ottawa Declaration.

As professors John Kirk and Stephen Kimber have noted, some of these members,

“[A]re being willfully hypocritical in their moralizing … Guatemala’s President, Jimmy Morales, dismantled a United Nations anti-corruption group and barred its head from entering the country. Honduras’ President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, took power in 2014 after a dubious election and violent crackdown on dissent, then ignored his country’s constitution to win re-election in 2017.
Brazil’s new President, Jair Bolsonaro, has not only publicly attacked women, gay people, immigrants and people of colour, he has also expressed support for torture and his country’s military dictatorship. Colombia has witnessed the execution of 120 human-rights leaders in the past two years. Is Ms. Freeland promoting democracy in those countries? And what does it say about Canada that these are our fellow travellers?” [4]

So what does the Ottawa communiqué from the Lima Group call for? It primarily calls (1) for a rejection of the United Nations stance demanding negotiations between Maduro and Guaido; (2) for all economic sanctions against Venezuela to remain in place until Maduro leaves the presidency; and (3) for Venezuela’s armed forces to mutiny against Maduro and support Juan Guaido. As the Toronto Star’s Thomas Walkom stated,

“In particular [the Lima Group signatories] urged the military to stand aside at the borders and allow ‘humanitarian assistance’ into Venezuela.” [5]

This last demand is a clever tactic that puts Maduro in a lose-lose position: either accept a Trojan Horse “humanitarian corridor” (operated by the U.S. and Guaido) that would allow foreign intervention, or be seen as “letting his people starve”. It’s a very cynical tactic – a kind of weaponizing of compassion – that is being dutifully parroted by much of the mainstream media.

In all of this, Canada is often seen as a mere “junior partner,” but the murky background reveals that Canada has played a more central role than is usually understood.

Junior Partner?

On January 26, Canadians learned the extent to which Canada’s “quiet diplomacy” had helped Venezuela’s Juan Guaido emerge to declare himself interim president on Jan. 23, in defiance of the elected president Maduro. In a lengthy piece for The Canadian Press, reporter Mike Blanchfield noted that “emboldening Venezuela’s opposition has been a labour of months” for Canadian diplomats, given that the opposition parties had been in complete disarray. [6]

But by January 9, Canada’s Chrystia Freeland was able to phone Guaido and “congratulate him … on uniting the opposition.” [7] This was more than one week ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s phonecall to Guaido on January 22.

Freeland, working with the ad hoc Lima Group, had long been calling for unity among the Venezuelan opposition parties. After foreign affairs ministers from the Lima Group met in Toronto on October 26, 2017, Freeland appeared at a Munk School of Global Affairs panel and said the message of the Lima Group to the Venezuelan opposition is “Get your act together, guys!” At that time, Freeland also called for further “isolation” of President Maduro and said that “Canadians feel strongly about human rights for people in other countries … This is our neighbourhood,” she stated, “this is our hemisphere…” [8]

Then came Maduro’s May 20, 2018 presidential victory, in which the Venezuelan people re-elected him despite years of suffering under U.S. economic warfare. [9] As Greg Palast recently stated, “No nation could withstand” the kind of economic “siege” that has been directed at Venezuela, [10] Yet in 2018, Venezuelans voted to retain Maduro. The Canadian Press’s Mike Blanchfield noted that these election results “galvanized” the Lima Group.

It took months to unify Venezuela’s 16 opposition parties among themselves and also with the Lima Group, which Nino Pagliccia reminds us is “not an international organization. It’s just an ad hoc group of governments with no other purpose” than “the overthrow of the legitimate Maduro government.” [11]

So getting foreign ministers to agree with Venezuelan opposition parties on a uniting figure and platform must have been difficult. Similarly challenging would be “building bridges with a fractured opposition that was as much at odds with itself as it was with Maduro.” [12]

And here’s where one sentence from Blanchfield’s article stands out, especially for alert Canadian readers. He noted:

“In a November [2018] report, the International Crisis Group documented the divisions and urged the groups to set aside their ‘personal and political rivalries’.” [13]

In Canada, we’ve read and heard that name quite a lot in the past few weeks. The International Crisis Group is the current employer of Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat and one of two Canadian men arrested in China in December in what appears to be retaliation for Canada’s arrest (at the request of the U.S.) on December 1, 2018 of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, daughter of Huawei’s CEO and founder. Huawei is China’s Big Tech giant engaged in competition with the U.S. on wireless technologies.

So the question arises: is there some connection between these two international political situations – Canada’s role in Venezuela and Canada’s role in the China embroglio? As it turns out, the answer is yes, and the International Crisis Group (ICG) is an important player in that connection.

What Is the ICG?

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group touts itself as a think tank and NGO dedicated to its slogan: “Preventing War, Shaping Peace.” Its analysts study political crises and make recommendations for so-called conflict-resolution through a series of reports, articles, seminars, and private meetings with its governmental, foundation, and corporate donors.

Given that ICG had advised on unifying Venezuelan opposition parties, I asked Raul Burbano, Program Director for the Canadian NGO Common Frontiers for comment. During the 2018 Venezuelan presidential election, members of the Common Frontiers delegations had observer status. With regard to the International Crisis Group, Burbano answered by email,

“They are a conservative right-wing think tank that masks itself as progressive. Any organization that proports [sic] to support peace and has Juan Manuel Santos as one of their trustees is out to lunch and can’t be trusted.” 

Santos is the “former hawkish right president of Colombia,” Burbano explained.

Former Colombian President Santos is not the only controversial trustee of the International Crisis Group. The ICG website lists several other trustees, including Wesley Clark (former NATO Supreme Allied Commander); Lawrence H. Summers (former U.S. Secretary of Treasury); George Soros (founder of Open Society Foundations); and Frank Giustra (President and CEO of Fiore Financial Corporation).

As F. William Engdahl recently wrote,

“The International Crisis Group is an NGO with a knack for being involved in key conflict zones such as Myanmar. The magazine Third World Quarterly in a peer-reviewed article in 2014 accused the ICG of ‘manufacturing’ crises.”[14] 

Engdahl states that International Crisis Group was founded by George Soros.

ICG says of its role:

“Crisis Group enjoys strong relationships with government and foundation donors, whose long-term funding is critical to our organisation’s effectiveness. For governments, Crisis Group fills a vital niche as diplomats’ access to key conflict actors is increasingly hindered by security concerns and political obstacles.
Senior officials tell Crisis Group that our reports are indispensable, with a unique emphasis on the political foundations of international peace and security. We engage substantively with our institutional donors through private policy briefings, roundtables, and rapid response from field experts and senior staff. Crisis Group in turn benefits from this sustained engagement and knowledge sharing with its donors. Our partners have come to rely on our information and analysis on developing emergencies.” [15]

The ICG website lists as one of its 19 governmental donors “Canada (Global Affairs Canada),” currently headed by Chrystia Freeland.

Advancing Peace?

Just days after Engdahl’s article referring to the ICG appeared, Vancouver billionaire and ICG trustee Frank Giustra wrote an op-ed for The Globe & Mail in which he named Michael Kovrig as ICG’s “senior advisor for North East Asia” and stated:

“Mr. Kovrig works for the International Crisis Group, a conflict-prevention organization that I have proudly supported for years. I am baffled by the allegations Chinese officials make against him – that he is somehow ‘endangering China’s national security’.
Mr. Kovrig’s work – as anyone bothering to check it out would know – involves analysis of Chinese engagement with conflict-affected countries where Crisis Group advocates policies that advance peace, an approach congruent with China’s foreign policy. To conduct his research, he meets openly with China’s officials, analysts and academics to understand China’s perspectives on global affairs. His writings are published on Crisis Group’s website for all to see.” [16]

Interestingly, one of Mr. Kovrig’s recent analyses was entitled “Why China Should Help Solve Venezuela’s Deepening Crisis,” originally published as an op-ed in Asia Times (April 11, 2018). The piece, written with ICG colleague Phil Gunson, highlighted China’s political support for Venezuelan president Maduro and delineated China’s extensive financial investments in Venezuela, including $60 billion in loans, while noting China’s “overriding concern to ensure long-term access to Venezuelan oil and other raw materials.” [17]

The piece also stated that China’s support for Maduro is,

“[I]ncreasingly at odds with another strategic priority for China: strengthening commercial ties with burgeoning economies elsewhere in Latin America.
Beijing has stated its intention to pump $250 billion in direct investment into the region and ramp up trade to $500 billion in the coming years. … But China and these promising economic partners are on opposing sides of a divide over the political impasse in Venezuela.” [18]

So, in advance of the 2018 Venezuelan presidential election, what was it that ICG’s Michael Kovrig and Phil Gunson thought China should do?

“As one of the [Venezuelan] government’s few remaining supporters, Beijing can either prolong Venezuela’s plight or join the Lima Group in persuading Maduro to bargain with the opposition. …
In the long term, the goodwill [towards China] that would be generated among Venezuela’s people and Lima Group members would far outweigh any short-term cost to relations with Maduro.” [19]

While the language seems mild, reasonable, and diplomatic, the message to China is more formidable: Dump your support of Maduro or risk losing those “promising economic partners” in the rest of the region.

The piece further noted: “The Lima Group is backed by a broad international consensus that includes the US and the European Union.” [20]

Kovrig and Gunson’s piece ended with this:

“Beijing has signaled that it is unwilling to invest forever in Venezuela’s present dysfunction. The time is ripe for Lima Group states to engage with China to align objectives and policies as far as possible.” [21]

Engaging with China?

At this point, there is no way of knowing how the Lima Group member countries subsequently “engaged” with China throughout the remainder of 2018, but by late November the decision had been made to arrest Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou in transit at the Vancouver International Airport on December 1, while U.S. president Donald Trump discussed trade issues with China’s leadership.

The timing of the arrest was strange, given that the U.S. has for many years been concerned about Huawei and its rising technological supremacy, especially in the pending rollout of 5G. As Amy Karam, author of The China Factor, noted in a recent op-ed,

“Having tracked the Huawei concern for 14 years, I wonder why the West is just now mobilizing on this? The Huawei challenge is not new.” [22]

Arguably, one explanation for the timing of the arrest has to do with 5G (fifth generation wireless technology) itself. Throughout 2018, there has been increasing criticism across North America and Europe of 5G’s potential to massively irradiate people and the planet. [23] The arrest of Huawei’s executive is an attempt to change the narrative from one of whether 5G should be allowed at all, to which companies should do the rollout.

But major moves like this arrest usually have several motivations behind their timing.

It’s Always About Oil

Of course, the Chinese were infuriated by Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, and days later detained ICG’s Michael Kovrig and Canadian businessman Michael Spavor. [24]

By late January, with Juan Guaido having declared himself interim president of Venezuela, and with ICG’s Michael Kovrig still in Chinese custody, International Crisis Group trustee George Soros used his annual dinner at the World Economic Forum in Davos to attack China as a cybersecurity threat and urged the U.S. and others to “crack down” on Huawei. [25]

A day later, Juan Guaido made “rapid moves to privatize Venezuela’s oil and open the door for multinational corporations.” [26] The Trump administration backed up those moves with new sanctions on the country’s oil giant PDVSA. National Security Advisor John Bolton said that $7 billion of PDVSA assets would be immediately blocked, while the company would also lose about $11 billion in export payments over the coming year. [27] That was the same press conference in which Bolton was seen carrying a notepad which read: “5,000 troops to Colombia.”

These severe U.S. economic measures seem to have had some effect on China’s plans. On January 31, Reuters reported that PetroChina Company “plans to drop Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) as a partner in a planned $10 billion oil refinery and petrochemical project in southern China,” and noted that under the revised plan, “the refinery will not be restricted to Venezuelan oil” but could process other heavy crude oil that could come from other countries. [28]

No doubt, the International Crisis Group’s Big Oil donors – Chevron, Shell, BP – are pleased with the way things are unfolding. Chevron and Shell are part of ICG’s International Advisory Council, whose members (the ICG website says) “play a key role in Crisis Group’s efforts to prevent deadly conflict.” [29]

As MintPress News’ Whitney Webb has noted,

“[I]f Guaido comes to power and privatizes PDVSA, U.S. oil companies – with Chevron and Halliburton leading the pack – stand to make record profits in the world’s most oil-rich nation, as they did in Iraq following the privatization of its national oil industry after U.S. intervention.
Worst of all, as the U.S.’ past interventions in Iraq and Libya and elsewhere have shown, Washington stands willing to kill untold thousands of innocent people in Venezuela – either through direct military intervention or a proxy war – to benefit American oil companies.” [30]

At least one Canadian commentator has expressed concern about the effects that privatizing Venezuelan oil would have on the Alberta oilpatch. David Climenhaga writes,

“This is potentially serious for Alberta because Venezuela is conveniently located just across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico near the U.S. refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas, where most of Alberta’s low-quality bitumen nowadays ends up.
In the simplest terms, one likely effect of this unfolding scenario would be to flood those American refineries with cheap, heavy oil from Venezuela,” thereby depressing “the price fetched by Alberta oil, especially low-quality oilsands bitumen.” [31]

This would especially benefit the Koch Brothers, whose Flint Hills Resources refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas is right next to Venezuela’s Citgo refinery. But there are many other coastal U.S. refineries that can process heavy oil.

As U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) tweeted on January 24, the.

“Biggest buyers of Venezuelan oil are Valero Energy & Chevron. Refining heavy crude from Venezuela supports great jobs in Gulf Coast. For the sake of these U.S. workers I hope they [Valero and Chevron] will begin working with administration of President Guaido & cut off illegitimate Maduro regime.” [32]

In the meantime, the U.S. imposed sanctions are causing a temporary heavy-oil supply gap in the U.S., and Alberta tar sands producers are scrambling to take advantage of that, but they lack pipeline and rail capacity to meet the sudden demand. [33]

While Climenhaga is correct that no politician (including Chrystia Freeland) is talking about this oilpatch situation, it may be because the discussions are taking place behind closed doors and with the International Crisis Group’s Big Oil donors. After all, Chevron, Shell and BP have reserves of millions of barrels of Alberta tar sands crude [34], while the Trudeau government is committed to pipeline expansion for crude export.

Readers will recall that in 2018, the Trudeau Liberal government foolishly purchased Texas-based Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project for $4.4 billion, when no private company would touch it. The Liberals tout it as a way to export bitumen to China, but as I have argued elsewhere, four refineries in Washington State (including those owned by Shell and BP) are especially poised to profit from the Trans Mountain expansion, which includes a spur line called the Puget Sound Pipeline that could be expanded to bring 500,000 barrels per day to Washington State. [35]

Nonetheless, with Venezuela’s PDVSA having been dropped as a partner in the planned oil refinery in southern China, heavy crude from Canada could eventually be refined there if the Trans Mountain Expansion project goes ahead. February 22 is the deadline for Canada’s National Energy Board to release its report on the marine impact of the expansion project.

But as Climenhaga reminds us, multinational oil giants “have no loyalty to any jurisdiction,” only to “the best return on investment.” [36] In that sense, ICG’s Big Oil and other donors, the International Crisis Group itself, and possibly even Canadian petrostate politicians like Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland are likely less concerned at the moment about Alberta’s oil patch than about the fact that Venezuela is poised to assume “the presidency of OPEC and will be in a position to push for oil payments in non-dollar currencies or cryptocurrencies, a major threat to the U.S. dollar.” [37]

As Pepe Escobar and others have noted, bypassing the U.S. dollar and U.S.-controlled currency exchanges is considered,

“[T]he ultimate cardinal sin …Remember Iraq. Remember Libya. Yet Iran is also doing it. Turkey is doing it. Russia is – partially- on the way. And China will eventually trade all its energy in petroyuan.” [38] 

With regard to the current attempt by the U.S. and its allies to privatize Venezuela’s oil, “the key is to monopolize their exploitation in U.S. dollars, benefiting a few Big Oil billionaires.” [39]

Just how far will Canada go to protect this system? Stay tuned. 

Joyce Nelson’s sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be ordered at: She can be reached through
More articles by:Joyce Nelson

[1] Thomas Walkom, “Beware of domestic tricks,” Toronto Star, February 4, 2019.
[2]Thomas Walkom, “Return of the liberal hawk,” Toronto Star, January 28, 2019.
[3] Rick Salutin, “Canadian policy in Venezuela about imperialism, not democracy,”, February 8, 2019.
[4] John Kirk and Stephen Kimber, “Canada’s leadership on Venezuela is misguided – and a mistake,” The Globe and Mail, February 6, 2019.
[5] Thomas Walkom, “Ottawa wrong to support military solution in Venezuela,” Toronto Star, February 5, 2019.
[6] Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press, “Quiet Canadian diplomacy helped Guaido’s anti-Madura movement in Venezuela,” National Post, January 26, 2019.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Joyce Nelson, “Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?” Counterpunch, February 16, 2018.
[9] Joyce Nelson, “Economic Warfare,” Watershed Sentinel, August 3, 2017; reprinted as “Venezuela: Target of Economic Warfare,” Counterpunch, August 11, 2017.
[10] Greg Palast interview with the Scott Horton Show, February 5, 2019.
[11] Nino Pagliccia, “The ‘Lima Group’ Mandate to Trigger Regime Change in Venezuela,” Global Research, January 19, 2019.
[12] Blanchfield, op cit.
[13] Ibid.
[14] F. William Engdahl, “Is Canada Huawei Arrest Attempt to Sabotage Trump XI Talks?” Global Research, December 19, 2019.
[16] Frank Giustra, “The Chinese government needs friends – people who are a lot like the Canadians it has detained,” The Globe and Mail, December 24, 2018.
[17] Michael Kovrig and Phil Gunson, “Why China Should Help Solve Venezuela’s Deepening Crisis,” Asia Times, April 11, 2018; re-posted on
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Amy Karam, “The West can learn from Huawei’s wins,” Toronto Star, January 30, 2019.
[23] Joyce Nelson, “5G Corporate Grail: Smart Cities/Dumb People?” Watershed Sentinel, November 5, 2018; reprinted as “5G Corporate Grail: Microwave Radiation,” Global Research, November 9, 2018.
[24] Ben Blanchard, John Ruwitch, “Detained Canadian in China being probed for harming state security,” Reuters, December 11, 2018.
[25] Larry Elliott, “George Soros: China is using tech advances to repress its people,” The Guardian, January 24, 2019.
[26] Ben Norton, “US Anointed ‘President’ Moves to Seize National Petroleum Company,” The Gray Zone, January 25, 2019.
[27] Tom Phillips, “Trump steps up Maduro pressure with sanctions against Venezuelan oil giant,” The Guardian, January 29, 2019.
[28] Chen Aizhu, “Exclusive: PetroChina to drop PDVSA as partner in refinery project – sources,” Reuters, January 31, 2019.
[30] Whitney Webb, “Regime Change for Profit: Chevron Halliburton Cheer on US Venezuela Coup,” MintPress News, February 4, 2019.
[31] David J. Climenhaga, “Has anyone thought about impact regime change in Venezuela will have on Alberta’s oilpatch?”, Februrary 8, 2019.
[32] Quoted in Webb, op. cit.
[33] David Olive, “Can anything be done about stagnant pay?” Toronto Star, February 4, 2019.
[34] Rainforest Action Network, List of Tar Sands Companies,
[35] Joyce Nelson, “Kinder Morgan Bait & Switch: Backdoor pipeline to Washington State refineries could save Trans Mountain Expansion,”, June 8, 2018.
[36] Climenhaga, op. cit.
[37] Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, “Venezuela: What Activists Needs to Know About the US-led Coup,” Global Research, January 29, 2019.
[38] Pepe Escobar, “Venezuela: Let’s Cut to the Chase. Will China’s Petroyuan Displace America’s Petrodollar?” Strategic Culture Foundation, February 1, 2019.
[39] Ibid.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, John Helmer February 14th, 2019

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

February 14th, 2019

What do any of us really know?

For the most part, our understanding of reality is based on what we've been told; told by parents, teachers, friends, and the media. And who told them?

There is though another path to discovery. Go to the places where things are happening; talk to the people making them happen, then decide what's true.

But, and it's a vitally big but; be careful what you ask, for you could find out more than it's safe to know.

Listen. Hear.

As the first cracks of the Soviet Empire's eroding iron facade opened, Australian-born author, political essayist, professor of political science, and policy advisor to presidents and prime ministers, John Helmer headed for Moscow, determined to establish what was to become the longest continuously operating foreign press bureau in the capital.

From his position as an independent of single-national, or commercial sponsorship reporter, he ventured into the country's unpredictable, and often precarious economic transition period; a time that would see coup attempts, the undoing of international political superstar, Mikhail Gorbachev, and fall of Russia's communist system itself. It would too usher in the tempestuous Age of the Oligarchs.

Some of John Helmer's book titles include: 'The Deadly Simple Mechanics of Society', 'Drugs and Minority Oppression', (with Claudia Wright) 'The Jackal's Wedding - American Power, Arab Revolt', 'Grand Strategy for Small Countries, Case Studies in Transforming Weakness into Power,' (and with Ajay Goyal) 'Uncovering Russia'. His latest book is the newly out political and personal memoir, 'The Man Who Knows Too Much About Russia'.

John Helmer and a special, Gorilla Radio double-yolker, getting to know too much about Russia.

And; Victoria-based activist and long-time contributor to Gorilla Radio, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the three-quarter mark, bringing us up to speed with some of what's good to do in and around our town in the coming week. But first, the man who knew too much, John Helmer. 

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

Agriculture's Role in Growing the Green New Deal

Growing a Green New Deal: Agriculture’s Role in Economic Justice and Ecological Sustainability

by Fred Iutzi, Robert Jensen - 

February 13, 2019
Propelled by the energy of progressive legislators elected in the 2018 midterms elections, a “Green New Deal” has become part of the political conversation in the United States, culminating in a resolution in the U.S. House with 67 cosponsors and a number of prominent senators lining up to join them.

Decades of activism by groups working on climate change and other ecological crises, along with a surge of support in recent years for democratic socialism, has opened up new political opportunities for serious discussion of the intersection of social justice and sustainability.

The Green New Deal proposal—which is a resolution, not a bill, that offers only a broad outline of goals and requires more detailed legislative proposals—will not be successful right out of the gate; many centrist Democrats are lukewarm, and most Republicans are hostile. This gives supporters plenty of time to consider crucial questions embedded in the term:

(1) how “Green” will we have to get to create a truly sustainable society, and 
(2) is a “New Deal” a sufficient response to the multiple, cascading economic/ecological crises we face?

In strategic terms: Should a Green New Deal limit itself to a reformist agenda that proposes programs that can be passed as soon as possible, or should it advance a more revolutionary agenda aimed at challenging our economic system? Should those of us concerned about economic justice and ecological sustainability be realistic or radical?

Our answer—yes to all—does not avoid tough choices. The false dichotomies of reform v. revolution and realistic v. radical too often encourage self-marginalizing squabbles among people working for change. Philosophical and strategic differences exist among critics of the existing systems of power, of course, but collaborative work is possible—if all parties can agree not to ignore the potentially catastrophic long-term threats while trying to enact limited policies that are possible in the short term. Reforms can take us beyond a reformist agenda when pursued with revolutionary ideals. Radical proposals are often more realistic than policies crafted out of fear of going to the root of a problem.

Our proposal for an agricultural component for a Green New Deal offers an example of this approach. Humans need a revolutionary new way of producing food, which must go forward with a radical critique of capitalism’s ideology and the industrial worldview. Reforms can begin to bring those revolutionary ideas to life, and realistic proposals can be radical in helping to change worldviews.

We focus here on two proposals for a Green New Deal that are politically viable today but also point us toward the deeper long-term change needed: (1) job training that could help repopulate the countryside and change how farmers work, and (2) research on perennial grain crops that could change how we farm. Two existing organizations, the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota and The Land Institute in Kansas, offer models for successful work in these areas.

Philosophy and Politics

We begin by foregrounding our critique of capitalism and the industrial worldview. All policy proposals are based on a vision of the future that we seek, and an assessment of the existing systems that create impediments to moving toward that vision. In a politically healthy and intellectually vibrant democracy, policy debates should start with articulations of those visions and assessments. “Pragmatists”—those who appoint themselves as guardians of common sense—are quick to warn against getting bogged down in ideological debates and/or talk of the future, advising that we must focus on what works today within existing systems. But accepting that barely camouflaged defense of the status quo guarantees that people with power today will remain in power, in the same institutions serving the same interests. It is more productive to debate big ideas as we move toward compromise on policy. Compromise without vision is capitulation.

Green New Deal proposals should not only offer a set of specific policy proposals but also articulate a new way of seeing humans and our place in the ecosphere. At the core of our worldview is the belief that:
People are not merely labor-machines in the production process or customers in a mass-consumption economy. Economic systems must create meaningful work (along with an equitable distribution of wealth) and healthy communities (along with fulfilled individuals).
The more-than-human world (what we typically call “nature”) cannot be treated as if the planet is nothing more than a mine for extraction and a dump for wastes. Economic systems must make possible a sustainable human presence on the planet.

These two statements of values are a direct challenge to capitalism and the industrial worldview that currently define the global economy. Fueled by the dense energy in coal, oil, and natural gas, industrial capitalism has been the most wildly productive economic system in human history, but it routinely fails to produce meaning in people’s lives and it draws down the ecological capital of the planet at a rate well beyond replacement levels. Most of the contemporary U.S. political establishment assumes these systems will continue in perpetuity, but Green New Deal advocates can challenge that by speaking to how their proposals meet human needs for meaning-in-community and challenge the illusion of infinite growth on a finite planet.

The Countryside

In an urban society and industrial economy dominated by finance, many people do not think of agriculture as either a significant economic sector or a threat to ecological sustainability. With less than two percent of the population employed in agriculture, farming is “out of sight, out of mind” for most of the population. To deal effectively with both economic and ecological crises, a Green New Deal should include agricultural policies that (1) support smaller farms with more farmers, living in viable rural economies and communities, and (2) advance alternatives to annual monoculture industrial farming, which is a major contributor to global warming and the degradation of ecosystems.

These concerns for the declining health of rural communities and ecosystems are connected. Economic and cultural forces have made farming increasingly unprofitable for small family operations and encouraged young people to view education as a vehicle to escape the farm. The command from the industrial worldview was “get big or get out,” and the not-so-subtle hint to young people has been that social status comes with managerial, technical, and intellectual careers in cities. The economic drivers have encouraged increasingly industrialized agriculture, adding to soil erosion and land degradation in the pursuit of short-term yield increases. The dominant culture tells us that markets know best and advanced technology is always better than traditional methods.

Today one hears of how rural America and its people are ignored, but a more accurate term would be exploited—an “economic colonization of rural America.” Agricultural land is exploited, as are below-ground mineral and water resources, typically in ecologically destructive fashion. Meanwhile, recreation areas are “preserved,” largely for use by city people. The damage done to land and people are, in economists’ vocabulary, externalities—rural people, the land, and its creatures pay costs that are not factored into economic transactions. Responding to the crises in rural America is crucial in any program aimed at building a just and sustainable society.

Farmer Training

Much of the discussion about job training/retraining for a Green Economy focuses on technical skills needed for solar-panel installation, weatherizing homes, etc.—important projects that are politically realistic, culturally palatable, and technologically mature today. But a sustainable future with dramatic reductions in fossil-fuel consumption also requires a redesigned agricultural system, which requires more people on the land. We need the appropriate “eyes-to-acres ratio” that makes it possible to farm in an ecologically responsibly manner, according to Wes Jackson, co-founder of The Land Institute and a leader in the sustainable agriculture movement.

A visionary Green New Deal proposal would, as a first step, provide support for programs to expand farming and farm-related occupations in rural areas, part of a long-term project to repopulate the countryside in preparation for the more labor-intensive sustainable agriculture that we would like to see today and will be necessary for a future with “land-conserving communities and healthy regional economies,” to borrow from The Berry Center. The dominant culture equates urban with the progressive and modern, and rural with the unsophisticated and backward, a prejudice that must be challenged not only in the world of ideas but also on the ground.

The Land Stewardship Project offers a template, with three successful training programs. A four-hour Farm Dreams workshop helps people clarify their motivations to farm and begins a process of identifying resources and needs, with help from an experienced farmer. In farmer-led classroom sessions, on-farm tours, and an extensive farmer network, the Farm Beginnings course is a one-year program designed for prospective farmers with some experience who are ready to start a farm, whether or not they currently own land. The two-year Journeyperson course supports people who have been managing their own farm and need guidance to improve or expand their operation for long-term success.

There are, of course, many other farm-training programs from non-profits, governmental agencies, and educational institutions. We highlight LSP, which was founded in 1982, because of its track record and flexibility in responding to political conditions and community needs, particularly its willingness to engage critiques of white supremacy. Support for such programs is not only sensible policy but, in blunt political terms, a signal that progressives backing a Green New Deal recognize the need to revitalize rural areas, where people often feel forgotten by urban legislators and their constituents.

Perennial Polycultures

There has been growing interest in community-supported agriculture, urban farms, and backyard gardening, all of which are components of a healthy food system and healthy communities but do not address the central challenges in the production of the grains (cereals, oilseeds, and pulses) that are the main staples of the human diet. Natural Systems Agriculture research at The Land Institute—which focuses on perennial polycultures (grain crops grown in mixtures of plants) to replace annual monoculture grain farming—offers a model for the long-term commitment to research and outreach necessary for large-scale sustainable agriculture.

Annual plants are alive for only part of the year and are weakly rooted even then, which leads to the loss of precious soil, nutrients, and water that perennial plants do a better job of holding. Monoculture approaches in some ways simplify farming, but those fields have only one kind of root architecture, which exacerbates the problem of wasted nutrients and water. Current industrial farming techniques (use of fossil-fuel based fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, with increasingly expensive and complex farm implements) that are dominant in the developed world, and spreading beyond, also are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Less disturbance of soil carbon, in tandem with reduced fossil fuel use in production, reduces the contribution of agriculture to global warming.

Founded in 1976, TLI’s long-term research program has developed Kernza, an intermediate wheatgrass now in limited commercial production, and is working on rice, wheat, sorghum, oilseeds, and legumes, in collaborations with people at 16 universities in the United States and in 18 other countries. Through this combination of perennial species in a diverse community of plants, “ecological intensification” can enhance fertility and reduce weeds, pests, and pathogens, supplanting commercial inputs and maintaining food production while reducing environmental impacts of agriculture.

A visionary Green New Deal could fund additional research into perennial polycultures and other projects that come under the heading of agro-ecology, an umbrella term for farming that rejects the reliance on the pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers that poison ecosystems all over the world.

Revolution in the Air?

Expanding the number of farmers with the skills needed to leave industrial agriculture behind, and developing crops for a low-energy world are crucial if we are to achieve an ecologically sustainable agriculture. But those changes are of little value without land on which those new farmers can raise those new crops. There is no avoiding the question of land ownership and the need for land reform.

We have no expertise in this area and no specific proposals to offer, but we recognize the importance of the question and the challenge it presents to achieving sustainability in the contemporary United States, as well as around the world. Today, land ownership patterns are at odds with our stated commitment to justice and sustainability—too few people own too much of the agricultural land, and women and people of color are particularly vulnerable to what a Food First report described as, “the disastrous effects of widespread land grabbing and land concentration.”

In somewhat tamer language, the USDA-supported Farmland Information Center reports what is common knowledge in the countryside: “Finding affordable land for purchase or long-term lease is often cited by beginning and expanding farmers and ranchers as their most significant challenge.” Adding to the problem is the loss of farmland to development; in a 2018 report, the American Farmland Trust reported that almost 31 million acres of agricultural land was “converted” between 1992 and 2012.

No one expects any bill introduced in today’s Congress to endorse government action to protect agricultural land from development and redistribute that land to prospective farmers who are currently landless—growing support for democratic socialism does not a revolution make. But any serious long-term planning will have to address land reform, for as the agrarian writer Wendell Berry points out, “There’s a fundamental incompatibility between industrial capitalism and both the ecological and the social principles of good agriculture.”

A vision of rural communities based on family farms is often mistakenly dismissed as mere nostalgia for a romanticized past. We can take stock of the past failures not only of the capitalist farm economy but also of farmers—small family farms are no guarantee of good farming, and rural communities do not guarantee social justice—and still realize that repopulating the countryside is an essential part of a sustainable future.


We began with a faith that people with shared values might disagree about strategies yet still work together. People working on a wide variety of other projects—for example, worker/producer/consumer cooperatives and land trusts—can find reasons to support our ideas, just as we support those projects. But we also recognize that real-world proposals have to prioritize, and so we want to be clear about differences.

For example, the Green New Deal resolution calls for “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.” One of the key groups backing the plan, the Sunrise Movement, calls this one of the three pillars of its program. We believe this is unrealistic. No combination of renewable energy sources can power the United States in its current form. To talk about renewable energy as a solution without highlighting the need for a dramatic decrease in consumption in the developed world is disingenuous. Pretending that we can maintain First World affluence and achieve sustainability will lead to failed projects and waste limited resources.

Many advocates of a Green New Deal focus on renewable energy technologies and other technological responses to rapid climate disruption and ecological crises. These technologies are only part of the solution. We should reject the dominant culture’s “technological fundamentalism”—the illusion that high-energy/high-technology can magically produce sustainability at current levels of human population and consumption. A Green New Deal should support technological innovations, but only those that help us move to a low-energy world in which human flourishing is redefined by improving the quality of relationships rather than maintaining the capacity for consumption.

We understand that short-term policy proposals must be “reasonable”—that is, they must connect to people’s concerns and be articulated in terms that can be widely understood. But they also must help move us toward a system that many today find impossible to imagine: An economy that not only (1) transcends capitalism and its wealth inequality but also (2) rejects the industrial worldview and its obsession with production. Today’s policy proposals should advance egalitarian goals for the economy but also embrace an ecological worldview for society, without turning from the difficulty posed by the dramatic changes that lie ahead. 

If Worth Doing Wrong Once... A Second Trumped Charge Conviction for Lula

Lula da Silva’s Second Conviction Another Travesty of Justice


February 12, 2019

Last week, a judge in Brazil sentenced former Workers Party President Lula da Silva to another 12 years and 11 months of prison in a new corruption case.

That is, this new conviction is an addition to the one that Lula is already serving since April of last year, when he was sentenced to 12 years and 1 month.

The two cases are very similar in that both cases Lula was accused of accepting bribes in the form of renovations from OAS, a powerful construction company, for two homes. However, in neither case did the prosecution demonstrate that Lula actually owned these homes.

Workers Party President Gleisi Hoffman tweeted in response to the newest conviction:

“The persecution of Lula doesn’t stop. A second Lava Jato conviction was issued just as Lula’s chances for a Nobel Peace Prize rose. In the memory of the people and of history, Lula will always be greater than his executioners.”

Former Workers Party President Lula da Silva was convicted to another 12 years and 11 months in a case that is almost identical to his first conviction, neither of which had any solid evidence, says Brasilwire’s Brian Mier.

Crossing Russia's Red Line: Poroshenko Moves Kiev Closer to NATO/EU Membership

UKRAINE: Poroshenko’s Inclusion of NATO Membership Bid in Constitution could Herald War with Russia

by Manilo Dinucci - Global Research

via 21wire 

February 13, 2019

The day after the signature of NATO’s membership protocol with North Macedonia as its 30th member, Ukraine did something without precedent: it included in its Constitution the engagement to enter officially into NATO and the European Union at the same time.

On 7 February, on a proposition by President Petro Poroshenko – the oligarch who made himself rich by plundering public properties, and who is once again a candidate for the presidency – the Kiev parliament, by 34 votes to 35 with 16 abstentions, approved these amendments to the Constitution.

"President" Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine

The Introduction pronounces “the irreversible movement of Ukraine towards Euro-Atlantic integration”; articles 85 and 116 state that it is a fundamental duty of the parliament and the government to “obtain Ukraine’s full membership of NATO and the EU”; article 102 stipulates that “the President of Ukraine is the guarantor of the strategic decisions of the State aimed at obtaining full membership of NATO and the EU”.

The inclusion in the Ukrainian Constitution of the engagement to enter officially into NATO bears with it some very serious consequences.

On the interior, it alienates the future of Ukraine from this choice, by excluding any alternative, and outlaws de facto any party or person who might oppose the “strategic decisions of the state”. Already, the Central Electoral Commission has forbidden Petro Simonenko, director of the Ukrainian Communist Party, to participate in the Presidential elections to be held in March.

The credit for having introduced into the Ukrainian Constitution the engagement to enter officially into NATO goes in particular to Parliamentary President Andriy Parubiy, (pictured right with Canadian supporter, prime minister, Justin Trudeau).

Co-founder in 1991 of the Ukrainian National-Socialist Party, on the model of Adolf Hitler’s National-Socialist Party; head of the neo-Nazi paramilitary formations which were used in 2014 during the putsch of Place Maïdan under US/NATO command, and in the massacre of Odessa; head of the Ukraine National Security and Defense Council, which, with the Azov Battalion and other neo-Nazi units, attacked Ukrainian civilians of Russian nationality in the Eastern part of the country and used his squadrons for acts of ferocious abuse, the plunder of political headquarters and other auto-da-fés in a truly Nazi style.

On the international level, we should keep in mind that Ukraine is already linked to NATO, of which it is a partner: for example, the Azov Battalion, whose Nazi character is represented by the emblem copied from that of the SS unit Das Reich, has been transformed into a special operations regiment, equipped with armoured vehicles and trained by US instructors from the 173rd Airborne Division, transferred to Ukraine from Vicence, and seconded by other NATO members.

Since Russia has been accused by NATO of having illegally annexed Crimea, and of launching military operations against Kiev, should Ukraine officially join NATO, the 30 other members of the Alliance, on the basis of article 5, would be obliged to “assist the party or parties under attack by adopting immediately, individually and in agreement with the other parties, any action that it should deem necessary, including the use of armed force”.

In other words, they would have to go to war with Russia.

These dangerous implications of the modification of the Ukrainian Constitution – behind which are most certainly strategies by the USA and NATO – have been met with political and media silence. Including that of the Italian parliament, which, in 2017 established an agreement with the Ukrainian parliament, supported by Laura Boldrini and Andriy Parubiy.

Thus cooperation has been reinforced between the Italian Republic, born of resistance against fascism and Nazism, and a régime which has created in Ukraine a situation similar to that which brought about the arrival of fascism in the 1920’s and Nazism in the 1930’s.

Manlio Dinucci is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

READ MORE UKRAINE NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Ukraine Files


This article was originally published on Il Manifesto. Translated by Pete Kimberley.  

Finding Peace in Afghanistan

What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan

by Kathy Kelly -

February 13, 2019

Constant military surveillance of Afghans yields almost no real intelligence about the problems they face each day. An unusual group of volunteers uses a far different approach.

Hossein, a member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, (APV), which hosted my recent visit to Afghanistan, rolled up his sleeve to show me a still-healing three-inch wound. Thieves had broken into his family home in Kabul. When they were discovered, one of the robbers stabbed Hossein.

An APV coordinator, Zekerullah, was robbed and beaten by assailants in broad daylight. Ata Khan lost his camera and mobile phone to a gang of young thieves who accosted him and eight other people in a public park during the daytime. Habib, a recent young graduate of the APV Street Kids School program, suffered blows from several attackers a month ago.

“I didn’t have anything they wanted to take,” he said, assuring me he is OK even though his lower back, where they beat him, is still sore.
Attacks like these—which all happened within the last six months—are predictable in a chaotic war-torn city that absorbs new refugees every day.

Some have been forced off their land by drought and food scarcity, while others flee the terror of violence carried out by various warring parties, including the United States.

In 2018, the United States dropped 7,632 bombs on Afghanistan, more than any other full calendar year since the U.S. Air Force began documenting its attacks in 2006.

According to the United Nations, in the first nine months of 2018, there was a 39 percent rise in the number of casualties from airstrikes, compared to the same period of the previous year. Within Kabul, violent bomb attacks by the Taliban and other groups have become horribly normal. Rising unemployment rates, now at 25 to 30 percent, also afflict people. The International Labor Organization, reporting two months ago, said Afghanistan has the highest unemployment rate of any country in the world. My four young friends are very lucky, on many counts, that they are still alive.

And they’re trying to make things better. Two days ago, thirty-five young people gathered for the seventh of twelve weekly orientation classes. Topics covered include ecological sanity, combating inequality, confronting world hunger and abolishing war. Muhammad Ali, age twenty, teaches the course. The APV maintain a waiting list of young people wanting to join the next cycle of classes.

“The people coming to the class learn information they’ve never heard about before,” Muhammad Ali says.
“We think about ways to make peace and to live with respect for nature.”

U.S. efforts to improve Afghanistan’s decaying education institutions have been woefully inadequate. Reconstruction projects have been riddled with corruption. Millions of dollars have been poured into various militias, while seemingly endless shipments of weapons arrive in the country. Drones and military blimps prowl the skies, supposedly in search of “bad guys.”

But the militarization of the society and the constant surveillance from remote cameras yield almost no real intelligence concerning the problems ordinary Afghans face each day, as they try to survive.

Negotiations over Afghanistan’s future are being guided by people in charge of huge arsenals and sophisticated intelligence networks. The outcome would be better if U.S. leadership would take an interest in the APV’s approach to “surveillance.”

In stark contrast to “intelligence” operations carried out by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, the APV continue building their database, recording details about destitute and impoverished families whom they invite into projects aiming to help needy families subsist.

Traveling on foot, the Afghan Peace Volunteers gather their “intelligence” by sitting on the floor with families in precarious homes, respectfully collecting information in spiral notebooks. They ask about rent expenses, access to clean water, and whether the family can afford beans over the course of a week. Families who have little-to-no income and who must depend on a child’s earnings for food and rent are especially welcome to join the APV Street Kids School.

This year, more than 100 children have gathered every Friday to study reading, writing, and math. Equally important to the APV are the weekly nonviolence classes organized around themes mirroring the course taught by Muhammad Ali.

The children apply what they learn by participating in APV projects. They help plant trees, tend gardens, and serve meals to day laborers. They join in clean-up projects along the city’s riverfront. Every year, they climb a high hill, carrying kites, as part of their “Fly Kites, Not Drones” campaign.

Families whose children participate in the Street Kids School receive a vital monthly contribution of rice, cooking oil, and beans. The children know they are helping their families as well as themselves. When I ask what fuels her energy to coordinate classes and activities at the Street Kids School, Masoma, who has been with the school since its inception, responds immediately: “It’s my passion.”

Concerned for the future of the 100 children who finished their three-year program last year, APV members have begun working on ways to help them gain skills in various trades. They’re also forming cooperatives to enable future employment.

Where you stand determines what you see. I admire the APV blend of idealism and practicality, doing “the things that make for peace,” even as they face daily anxieties in the chaos and upheaval that mark life in a war zone. They take time, day in, day out, to notice and care about people in need. They aren’t afraid to share resources. Facing violence, they control the urge to retaliate. And they clearly see the futility of entrusting their futures and those of the neediest people they know to predatory power brokers who have already plundered and killed people in murderous wars.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (

A version of this article first appeared on the website of the Progressive magazine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

"A Liar, a Thief, and a Thug": Oleg the Oligarch Faces Tough Ruling in British High Court

High Court in First-Ever Ruling on the Pants of Oleg Deripaska

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

February 12, 2019

Moscow - For the first time in Oleg Deripaska’s 95-lawsuit history in the British High Court, the aluminium oligarch has been judged by the court to be a liar, a thief, and a thug.

“By force or threat of force,” Justice Sir Nigel Teare declared in a judgement published last week, Deripaska had seized a valuable site in central Moscow, evicting its lawful owner, Vladimir Chernukhin, in 2010.

About his business dealings over the property Deripaska “gave false evidence” himself in court as well as inducing his employees and business associates to do the same in their testimony.

“Mr. Deripaska has given dishonest evidence to the court as he did to the arbitrators,” the judge ruled.
“What his motive was for doing so is known only to himself.”
“I formed the view that it would be wholly unsafe to rely upon his evidence.”

The result of the judgement is that Deripaska must pay about $100 million to Chernukhin, a former deputy finance minister and runaway state banker, who has lived in London since 2004.

In a statement issued in Moscow last week by one of Deripaska’s companies, Russian Aluminium (Rusal), he called the judgement “biased and unfair”.

The Trekhgorny Manufaktura site when Vladimir Chernukhin, his lover 
Lolita Danilina and Oleg Deripaska bought it in a partnership concealing 
Chernukhin’s interest. A textile factory has been on the site since 1799. 
The textile workers took an active part in the 1905 uprising and in the 1917 revolution.

The Chernukhin stake in the real estate has now jumped in assessed value to more than $95 million. The reason is that the original textile business of the plant was loss-making, while the redevelopment of the site for office, retail and residential purposes has been very profitable.

Chernukhin, through his lawyers, refuses to explain how he came by the money to buy the real estate in the first place, but he denies his money came from corruption. For details, click to read.

Chernukhin told the court that,

“his need for a partner [Deripaska and Danilina] was not financial but because he wanted a prominent private businessman to be the public face of the project. That is consistent with what he himself described as a need for someone in his position with VEB [Vnesheconombank] and the government to be discreet (and with the agreed evidence of Russian law to which I have referred.) He therefore approached Mr. Deripaska who was agreeable.”

Justice Teare reached no conclusion about Chernukhin’s honesty. He said instead,

[Chernukhin] gave evidence that he invested in projects, often as a 50% shareholder, with other prominent members of the Russian economic establishment. Mrs. Danilina said that as a state official he was not permitted to use his position for his own benefit.
Mr. Chernukhin did not think that was true but he accepted that discretion was required. (There was agreement between the Russian law experts that an employee of VEB [Vnesheconombank] was not prohibited from engaging in entrepreneurial activities. There was also agreement that a civil servant was prohibited from engaging in such activities but that they were permitted to purchase their own shares in legal entities so long as they were transferred to fiduciary management for the period of their public service. It would therefore appear that Mr. Chernukhin was right to say that discretion was required.)” 

Left – Justice Sir Nigel Teare; right – Lolita Danilina at the High Court.

The judge also decided that Chernukhin had been dismissed from Vnesheconombank, and then fled to London in fear of arrest and prosecution for corruption.

“In May 2004 Mr. Chernukhin was dismissed as chairman of VEB. The very next month draft term sheets were produced concerning the relationship between the parties to the joint venture regarding TGM. The fact that they were produced shortly after Mr. Chernukhin ceased to be chairman of VEB is consistent with his explanation of the reason why there was no formal agreement in place before then. I consider it more likely than not that his explanation was correct and that Mr. Deripaska understood why there could be no formal agreement whilst Mr. Chernukhin was a deputy minister and chairman of VEB. The absence of a formal agreement created risks for both Mr. Chernukhin and Mr. Deripaska. But at the time they were each aged 32 or 33, they had both succeeded in the turbulent world of Russia after the collapse of the USSR and it appears that they were young men prepared to take risks.”
“In November 2004 Mr. Chernukhin left Russia, never to return, and settled in London. The catalyst for his sudden departure was the arrest of Mr. Mikhailov, who worked for Mr. Chernukhin, on suspicion of corruption. When cross-examined Mr. Chernukhin accepted that it was ‘more or less correct’ to say that he left Russia because he was concerned that he might be arrested also. It is also likely that, in circumstances where his mentor, the former Prime Minister, had been dismissed from office, Mr. Chernukhin feared further action against him.”

Left – Vladimir Chernukhin in Moscow in 2003; right – Chernukhin 
in London during the court hearing in November 2018.

Teare also ruled that Chernukhin had been untruthful in some of his testimony. “He is not the first litigant to lie when it is unnecessary to do so,” the judge commented.

Until Deripaska initiated the lawsuit against Chernukhin, Deripaska had tried to avoid testifying on oath in an  international court.

Rather than face cross-examination, exposure in lying, and possible prosecution for perjury, Deripaska usually opted to settle out of court. In 2005 he paid Mikhail Zhivilo (right) $65 million to end the latter’s US, Swedish and French litigation for the loss of his Novokuznetsk aluminium smelter.

Without testifying in person, Deripaska had earlier been ordered by a Swiss court to pay Anatoly Bykov $100.5 million for the theft of his stake in the Krasnoyarsk aluminium refinery. Also in 2005, Deripaska agreed to pay Simon and David Reuben, controllers of the Trans World Metals group, about $100 million for aluminium trade proceeds which Deripaska had trousered for himself.

In 2007 he settled a London litigation with the Tajik Aluminium Plant (TadAz’s) trader, Avaz Nazarov.

In 2012 Deripaska agreed to settle share and dividend stealing claims by Mikhail Chernoy (Cherney) whose High Court lawsuit ended just before trial commenced with a secret payment of $200 million. In 2014, following a London arbitration in which Rusal shareholders Victor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik, accused Deripaska of helping himself to a Glencore metal trading contract to the disadvantage of the company and other shareholders, Deripaska paid another secret amount.

Left to right: Anatoly Bykov; David and Simon Reuben;  Mikhail Chernoy (Cherney).

In 2011 Deripaska had testified as a witness in the High Court case brought by Boris Berezovsky against Roman Abramovich, which Berezovsky lost. The judgement in that case did not comment on Deripaska’s truthfulness, though the judge and Berezovsky’s lawyer noted that in the witness box he was suffering from repetitive memory failure. The judgement in that case revealed that Abramovich had sold his stake in Rusal after concluding he didn’t trust Deripaska as a business partner and accused him of trying to “squeeze [him] out” of the company.

In last week’s High Court ruling , the judge dismissed every one of Deripaska’s claims. He has never suffered such a sweeping defeat in an asset claim in an international court before. Once again, Deripaska’s memory failure in the witness box was telling:


With an unusual display of irony, Teare concluded that when Deripaska testified that an important business telephone call had taken only fifteen seconds, and could therefore have not been as important as other witnesses claimed, he was lying.

“Mr. Deripaska gave evidence that the call lasted for 15 seconds. Whilst there is evidence that he left the call before it had ended it is unlikely that his participation in the call lasted only 15 seconds. Having noted the slow, measured and careful way in which he speaks I would not have expected him to have said what he wanted to say in only 15 seconds.”

According to Teare, Deripaska’s witnesses were also liars.

“Although Mr. Karabut said that he understood the concept of giving true evidence on oath, it is apparent that he did not. I formed the view that in truth he saw his role as being to support Mr. Deripaska’s case at all costs. I therefore concluded that I could not accept his evidence save where it was consistent with the probabilities, was not in dispute or was supported by the contemporaneous documents. His evidence could only be accepted with the greatest possible caution.”

The lying, concluded the judge, extended to the circumstances in which Deripaska forcibly took over the Moscow site on December 14, 2010,

“when Mr. Deripaska took control of TGM. Mr. Sarkisyan is a man who had assisted Mr. Deripaska on ‘security’ matters. Mr. Novikov said in his fourth witness statement in the arbitration that Mr. Sarkisyan was not present. He said he was familiar with Mr. Sarkisyan and that he could not recall anyone who resembled him. After making that statement on 13 March 2017 he was shown a still from CCTV footage of the night in question. In a further statement dated 23 March 2017 he accepted that Mr. Sarkisyan was present.”
“I can properly infer that Mr. Deripaska knew that Mr. Chernukhin was his true joint venture partner. Second, it seems more probable than not that Mrs. Danilina agreed to being used as Mr. Chernukhin’s nominee or agent. That seems to me to be an inference readily and reasonably to be drawn from, in particular, the probabilities, her admission that Mr. Chernukhin kept his assets with her because of the “tough situation” affecting state officials in the 1990s and 2000s and her willingness to allow her name to be used as the beneficial owner … 
Mr. Chernukhin accepted when cross-examined that he could not remember when he suggested to her that she act as his front for the purposes of the SHA [shareholder agreement]. That is not surprising for, as he said, ‘it happened 15 years ago’. But I do consider that I can properly infer that the suggestion was made to her and that she accepted it.”