Saturday, February 23, 2019

Shades of Iraq: Sanctions the Real Culprit in Venezuela

US Sanctions on Venezuela Possibly Worse than Iraq Sanctions Before War


February 22, 2019

News about humanitarian aid shipments to Venezuela almost never compare how tiny a fraction this aid is relative to the devastating damage that US sanctions against Venezuela have caused, which is now at least as draconian as the pre-Iraq war sanctions were, says CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot.

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy” (2015, Oxford University Press). 

There's A Political Meddling App for That: Israel's Ongoing Campaign Against Britain's Corbyn

Israel Running Campaign Against Jeremy Corbyn

by Asa Winstanley - Electronic Intifada

August 7, 2018

An app operated as part of an Israeli government propaganda campaign issued a “mission” for social media users to make comments against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of anti-Semitism. This is the latest evidence of an Israeli campaign of psychological warfare against the UK’s main opposition party.

The Act.IL app on Sunday falsely accused Corbyn of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany in a 2010 meeting which had been resurfaced by The Times last week. The “mission” was documented in this Tweet by Michael Bueckert, a Canadian researcher who has been monitoring the app since last year.
Jeremy Corbyn has been under pressure from
the Israel lobby once again. (Chatham House/Flickr)

The reality is very different from the app’s claims

As my colleague Adri Nieuwhof explains, Corbyn hosted a meeting titled “Never Again – For Anyone” with Hajo Meyer, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp and an anti-Zionist who spoke out strongly for Palestinian rights.

Meyer passed away in 2014.

The Act.IL app asks users to comment on Facebook in response to a Huffington Post UK story about Corbyn’s alleged “anti-Israel remarks,” which it claims are “often a way to hide anti-Semitism.”

The “mission” directs users to click “like” on a comment by Facebook user “Nancy Saada,” and write their own comments echoing her criticisms of Labour.

“Nancy” has posted elsewhere on her Facebook profile a photo of herself in an Israeli army uniform posing on an armored vehicle draped with an Israeli flag.

Israeli sabotage

As The Electronic Intifada reported earlier this year, the Act.IL app is a product of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry.

That ministry directs Israel’s covert efforts to sabotage the Palestine solidarity movement around the world.

Its top civil servant is a former army intelligence officer and the ministry is staffed by veterans of various spy agencies whose names are classified.

The Act.IL “mission” is another piece of evidence of the Israeli campaign of psychological warfare against Labour.

It is part of a long-running influence operation by Israel and its lobby groups to smear Corbyn, a veteran Palestine solidarity activist, and to label the party he leads “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

The operation also aims to push Labour, where there is strong support for Palestinian rights among the grassroots, in a more pro-Israel direction.

A covert element of the effort revealed last year by the undercover Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby involved attempts by the Israeli embassy to set up a grassroots pro-Israel organization for Labour youth.

The campaign has found support among the declining Labour right, including many of the party’s lawmakers, some of them involved with pro-Israel groups.

The Jewish Labour Movement, an anti-Palestinian group deeply linked to the Israeli government, has been at the forefront of the effort.

The group is run by Ella Rose, a former Israeli embassy officer.

Rose has privately admitted that as JLM director, she maintained close links to Shai Masot, the Israeli embassy spy forced to leave the country last year after the Al Jazeera investigation exposed him plotting to “take down” a senior UK government minister.

Masot was also spearheading the effort to manufacture a grassroots pro-Israel organization within the party, a tactic known as astroturfing.

JLM demands

Adam Langleben, the Jewish Labour Movement’s campaigns officer, issued his group’s latest demands on Corbyn on Monday.

These included that Labour adopt “unamended” the controversial IHRA definition of anti-Semitism which would define it as anti-Semitic to accurately describe the Israeli state as a “racist endeavor.”

The Israel lobby group is also demanding that Labour drop Chris Williamson – a leading leftist – as a lawmaker.

Instead of shutting down these claims as the bad faith attacks that they clearly are, Corbyn has continued a strategy of concession after concession that has only fueled the attacks.

He has rolled back his position on important matters of principle, like BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

In a Guardian opinion piece on Friday, Corbyn offered “dialogue with community organizations, including the Jewish Labour Movement” to discuss their demand that the IHRA document be adopted in full, even as he acknowledged that some of its provisions have “been used by those wanting to restrict criticism of Israel that is not anti-Semitic.”

It is unclear what Corbyn hopes to achieve in “dialogue” with a group that has close ties to a hostile foreign power committed to manipulating his party from within.

Not surprisingly, the JLM immediately dismissed Corbyn’s opinion piece as “another article bemoaning a situation.”

In his list of demands, the JLM’s Langleben admits that any concession Corbyn makes will not be enough.

“These measures would have been welcomed, and maybe even celebrated, two years ago,” he writes of his demands.

But now Langleben claims that matters have “reached the point of no return.”

“Decisive and significant actions, not words, are the only thing that can bring us back from the brink,” Langleben states.

He doesn’t say who must take this action, or what the action is.

This is certainly open to the interpretation that the Jewish Labour Movement expects the party to take the action of ousting its leader.

As for that “brink,” I warned in a widely shared Twitter thread last month that the Labour right and the Israel lobby may be planning a damaging split from the party.

Since I made that prediction, there are more signs that this could be coming to pass.

The most common response to my prediction on social media was to welcome their departure. But be warned: Mainstream media which have fueled sensational and often baseless smears will falsely portray any combined exit of right-wing lawmakers and anti-Palestinian activists as an “exodus of Jews” from the Labour Party.

And yes, columnists supporting them will probably even use the same hackneyed biblical allusion.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Macron Promises to Criminalize Zionism Critics

Macron threatens to criminalize opposition to Zionism in France

by Will Morrow  - WSWS

22 February 2019 

With each passing day, it is more obvious that the French ruling establishment’s campaign against anti-Semitism is merely a smokescreen for a reactionary agenda, carried out in alliance with far-right forces, to expand police powers and suppress left-wing opposition among workers.

On Wednesday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the 34th annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in Paris. Echoing positions of the far right, his speech cast anti-Semitism as being principally associated with Muslims and left-wing, anti-capitalist sentiment in the working class.

Macron announced that his government will change its definition of anti-Semitism—that is, racist hatred against Jews—to include opposition to Zionism, the right-wing nationalist political perspective of creating a separate Israeli state.

Anti-Semitic hate speech is a crime in France, and Macron’s redefinition threatens to criminalize all criticism of Israel’s policies, including its murderous attacks against defenseless Palestinian civilians and war threats against Iran. While Macron said the penal code would not be changed, he said the change in the definition will “reaffirm the practices of our law enforcement, judges and teachers.”

Also under the banner of combating “hate speech,” Macron said that in May he will introduce a new bill targeting internet freedom. It would improve the government’s ability to censor overseas websites, which, he said, “switching servers regularly, are very difficult to block today.”

Macron aggressively denounced online anonymity—i.e., the ability of individuals to use the internet without having their thoughts and statements monitored by the government.

“The question of anonymity will obviously be raised,” he said.
“Too often, it is the mask of cowards. And behind every pseudonym, there is a name, a face, an identity.”

These measures have nothing to do with combating anti-Semitism. The government is building up its surveillance and censorship powers in response to growing opposition to social inequality and austerity in the working class, which has found an initial expression in mass “yellow vest” protests organized via Facebook and other social media.

Macron stressed the importance of his government’s recently announced censorship collaboration with Facebook. Beginning this year, government officials are being placed at the heart of Facebook’s content censorship offices, with no public oversight of what statements they are removing from social media.

It is all the more absurd and politically obscene for Macron to cloak this program in the flag of fighting “anti-Semitism.” He has worked to rehabilitate French fascism, declaring last November that Philippe Pétain, the head of the Vichy collaborationist regime that organized the mass murder of Jews in France, was a “great soldier.”

The official campaign over “anti-Semitism” has escalated since last Saturday, when a protester, whom police subsequently declared was under surveillance for adhering to an extremist Islamic movement, confronted Alain Finkielkraut, a right-wing Zionist political commentator who is Jewish, using foul language and denouncing him as a Zionist.

The statement of a single individual is now being used to tar the entire “Yellow Vest” protest with the accusation of anti-Semitism, though these protests have been animated from the outset by left-wing opposition to social inequality. A central goal of this campaign is to counter broad sympathy for the demonstrations among workers and young people.

The most striking element of the official campaign is the manner in which, under the banner of combating anti-Semitism, an alliance is being formed with neo-fascistic parties that are the political descendants of the forces responsible for the mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust.

Macron spoke just one day after protests called by the Socialist Party (PS) against the alleged anti-Semitism of the “yellow vests,” joined by virtually the entire political establishment. They were attended not only by the PS and most of Macron’s ministers, The Republicans, the Communist Party of France, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the bourgeois “left” Unsubmissive France. The PS also invited Marine Le Pen, the head of the neo-fascist National Rally (RN) who only two years ago declared that “France was not responsible” for the Vel d’Hiv round-up of Jews for deportation from Paris in 1942.

If Le Pen’s star is rising rapidly at present in the political establishment, it is because her party expresses most consistently the militarism, nationalism and repression with which the ruling elite intends to respond to domestic political opposition. She is focusing her propaganda at present on aggressively attacking Muslims. Declining to attend the PS protest on Tuesday, she charged that the major parties “either have done nothing against the spread of Islamist networks in popular neighborhoods, or encouraged them…”

Such filth now sets the tone for official politics. Macron’s speech on Wednesday repeatedly warned about the growth of “radical Islam” and called for stepped up policing of working-class neighborhoods.

“This ideology grows like gangrene in certain suburbs,” he said, calling for a “Republican conquest of these territories.” The official campaign over anti-Semitism is emerging ever more openly as a racist attack against Muslims justifying repression of working people.

Macron tried to hide that this campaign is an onslaught against left wing opposition, presenting it as an even-handed struggle against political extremes.

“Note well the different forms that it [anti-Semitism] takes,” he said.
“The hatred of the Jew is at the same time the hatred of the communist and the capitalist … Anti-Semitism in all its forms is nourished by the extremes.”

These statements are falsifications. Anti-Semitism is historically the ideology of fascism, which carried out murderous attacks on communists. But its violent nationalism is incompatible with any genuine left-wing politics, let alone socialist opposition to capitalism in the working class. It was and remains the province above all of the far right, which is now growing thanks to support inside the same political establishment that is denouncing the “yellow vests.”

This was confirmed by a recent report published by the German government, documenting the alarming growth of anti-Semitic attacks in Germany. Despite claims by the entire political establishment that anti-Semitism is predominately “imported” by immigrants, it found that the overwhelming majority of anti-Semitic attacks were carried out by extreme-right groups (see: “Anti-Semitic and far-right violence on the rise in Germany”).

Macron’s equation of anti-Semitism with all “extremes” is aimed at declaring that the left, and all social opposition in the working class, is inherently anti-Semitic and so essentially criminal. Referring to anti-Semitism, he said,

“In the times we are in, other forms [of hatred] are rising with it,” including hatred “against elected officials, against authority, against parliamentarism.”

Lies That Launch Wars: "Mr. President, Venezuela Won't Bow"

The War on Venezuela is Built on Lies

by John Pilger

21 February 2019  

In this analysis, John Pilger looks back over the Chavez years in Venezuela, including his own travels with Hugo Chavez, and the current US and European campaign to overthrow Nicolas Maduro in a 'coup by media' and to return Latin America to the 19th and 20th centuries.

Travelling with Hugo Chavez, I soon understood the threat of Venezuela. At a farming co-operative in Lara state, people waited patiently and with good humour in the heat. Jugs of water and melon juice were passed around. A guitar was played; a woman, Katarina, stood and sang with a husky contralto.

"What did her words say?" I asked.

"That we are proud," was the reply.

The applause for her merged with the arrival of Chavez. Under one arm he carried a satchel bursting with books. He wore his big red shirt and greeted people by name, stopping to listen. What struck me was his capacity to listen.

But now he read. For almost two hours he read into the microphone from the stack of books beside him: Orwell, Dickens, Tolstoy, Zola, Hemingway, Chomsky, Neruda: a page here, a line or two there. People clapped and whistled as he moved from author to author.

Then farmers took the microphone and told him what they knew, and what they needed; one ancient face, carved it seemed from a nearby banyan, made a long, critical speech on the subject of irrigation; Chavez took notes.

Wine is grown here, a dark Syrah type grape. "John, John, come up here," said El Presidente, having watched me fall asleep in the heat and the depths of Oliver Twist.

"He likes red wine," Chavez told the cheering, whistling audience, and presented me with a bottle of "vino de la gente". My few words in bad Spanish brought whistles and laughter.

Watching Chavez with la gente made sense of a man who promised, on coming to power, that his every move would be subject to the will of the people. In eight years, Chavez won eight elections and referendums: a world record. He was electorally the most popular head of state in the Western Hemisphere, probably in the world.

Every major chavista reform was voted on, notably a new constitution of which 71 per cent of the people approved each of the 396 articles that enshrined unheard of freedoms, such as Article 123, which for the first time recognised the human rights of mixed-race and black people, of whom Chavez was one.

One of his tutorials on the road quoted a feminist writer: "Love and solidarity are the same." His audiences understood this well and expressed themselves with dignity, seldom with deference. Ordinary people regarded Chavez and his government as their first champions: as theirs.

This was especially true of the indigenous, mestizos and Afro-Venezuelans, who had been held in historic contempt by Chavez's immediate predecessors and by those who today live far from the barrios, in the mansions and penthouses of East Caracas, who commute to Miami where their banks are and who regard themselves as "white". They are the powerful core of what the media calls "the opposition".

When I met this class, in suburbs called Country Club, in homes appointed with low chandeliers and bad portraits, I recognised them. They could be white South Africans, the petite bourgeoisie of Constantia and Sandton, pillars of the cruelties of apartheid.

Cartoonists in the Venezuelan press, most of which are owned by an oligarchy and oppose the government, portrayed Chavez as an ape. A radio host referred to "the monkey". In the private universities, the verbal currency of the children of the well-off is often racist abuse of those whose shacks are just visible through the pollution.

Although identity politics are all the rage in the pages of liberal newspapers in the West, race and class are two words almost never uttered in the mendacious "coverage" of Washington's latest, most naked attempt to grab the world's greatest source of oil and reclaim its "backyard".

For all the chavistas' faults -- such as allowing the Venezuelan economy to become hostage to the fortunes of oil and never seriously challenging big capital and corruption - they brought social justice and pride to millions of people and they did it with unprecedented democracy.

"Of the 92 elections that we've monitored," said former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre is a respected monitor of elections around the world, "I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world."

By way of contrast, said Carter, the US election system, with its emphasis on campaign money, "is one of the worst".

In extending the franchise to a parallel people's state of communal authority, based in the poorest barrios, Chavez described Venezuelan democracy as "our version of Rousseau's idea of popular sovereignty".

In Barrio La Linea, seated in her tiny kitchen, Beatrice Balazo told me her children were the first generation of the poor to attend a full day's school and be given a hot meal and to learn music, art and dance. "I have seen their confidence blossom like flowers," she said.

In Barrio La Vega, I listened to a nurse, Mariella Machado, a black woman of 45 with a wicked laugh, address an urban land council on subjects ranging from homelessness to illegal war. That day, they were launching Mision Madres de Barrio, a programme aimed at poverty among single mothers. Under the constitution, women have the right to be paid as carers, and can borrow from a special women's bank. Now the poorest housewives get the equivalent of $200 a month.

In a room lit by a single fluorescent tube, I met Ana Lucia Ferandez, aged 86, and Mavis Mendez, aged 95. A mere 33-year-old, Sonia Alvarez, had come with her two children. Once, none of them could read and write; now they were studying mathematics. For the first time in its history, Venezuela has almost 100 per cent literacy.

This is the work of Mision Robinson, which was designed for adults and teenagers previously denied an education because of poverty. Mision Ribas gives everyone the opportunity of a secondary education, called a bachillerato.(The names Robinson and Ribas refer to Venezuelan independence leaders from the 19th century).

In her 95 years, Mavis Mendez had seen a parade of governments, mostly vassals of Washington, preside over the theft of billions of dollars in oil spoils, much of it flown to Miami.

"We didn't matter in a human sense," she told me.
"We lived and died without real education and running water, and food we couldn't afford. When we fell ill, the weakest died. Now I can read and write my name and so much more; and whatever the rich and the media say, we have planted the seeds of true democracy and I have the joy of seeing it happen."

In 2002, during a Washington-backed coup, Mavis's sons and daughters and grandchildren and great-grandchildren joined hundreds of thousands who swept down from the barrios on the hillsides and demanded the army remained loyal to Chavez.

"The people rescued me," Chavez told me.
"They did it with the media against me, preventing even the basic facts of what happened. For popular democracy in heroic action, I suggest you look no further."

Since Chavez's death in 2013, his successor Nicolas Maduro has shed his derisory label in the Western press as a "former bus driver" and become Saddam Hussein incarnate. His media abuse is ridiculous. On his watch, the slide in the price of oil has caused hyper inflation and played havoc with prices in a society that imports almost all its food; yet, as the journalist and film-maker Pablo Navarrete reported this week, Venezuela is not the catastrophe it has been painted.

"There is food everywhere," he wrote.
"I have filmed lots of videos of food in markets [all over Caracas] ... it's Friday night and the restaurants are full."

In 2018, Maduro was re-elected President. A section of the opposition boycotted the election, a tactic tried against Chavez. The boycott failed: 9,389,056 people voted; sixteen parties participated and six candidates stood for the presidency. Maduro won 6,248,864 votes, or 67.84 per cent.

On election day, I spoke to one of the 150 foreign election observers.

"It was entirely fair," he said.
"There was no fraud; none of the lurid media claims stood up. Zero. Amazing really."

Like a page from Alice's tea party, the Trump administration has presented Juan Guaido, a pop-up creation of the CIA-front National Endowment for Democracy, as the "legitimate President of Venezuela". Unheard of by 81 per cent of the Venezuelan people, according to The Nation, Guaido has been elected by no one.

Maduro is "illegitimate", says Trump (who won the US presidency with three million fewer votes than his opponent), a "dictator", says demonstrably unhinged vice president Mike Pence and an oil trophy-in-waiting, says "national security" adviser John Bolton (who when I interviewed him in 2003 said, "Hey, are you a communist, maybe even Labour?").

As his "special envoy to Venezuela" (coup master), Trump has appointed a convicted felon, Elliot Abrams, whose intrigues in the service of Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush helped produce the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and plunge central America into years of blood-soaked misery.

Putting Lewis Carroll aside, these "crazies" belong in newsreels from the 1930s. And yet their lies about Venezuela have been taken up with enthusiasm by those paid to keep the record straight.

On Channel 4 News, Jon Snow bellowed at the Labour MP Chris Williamson, "Look, you and Mr Corbyn are in a very nasty corner [on Venezuela]!"

When Williamson tried to explain why threatening a sovereign country was wrong, Snow cut him off.

"You've had a good go!"

In 2006, Channel 4 News effectively accused Chavez of plotting to make nuclear weapons with Iran: a fantasy. The then Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, allowed a war criminal, Donald Rumsfeld, to liken Chavez to Hitler, unchallenged.

Researchers at the University of the West of England studied the BBC's reporting of Venezuela over a ten-year period. They looked at 304 reports and found that only three of these referred to any of the positive policies of the government. For the BBC, Venezuela's democratic record, human rights legislation, food programmes, healthcare initiatives and poverty reduction did not happen. The greatest literacy programme in human history did not happen, just as the millions who march in support of Maduro and in memory of Chavez, do not exist.

When asked why she filmed only an opposition march, the BBC reporter Orla Guerin tweeted that it was "too difficult" to be on two marches in one day.

A war has been declared on Venezuela, of which the truth is "too difficult" to report.

It is too difficult to report the collapse of oil prices since 2014 as largely the result of criminal machinations by Wall Street. It is too difficult to report the blocking of Venezuela's access to the US-dominated international financial system as sabotage. It is too difficult to report Washington's "sanctions" against Venezuela, which have caused the loss of at least $6billion in Venezuela's revenue since 2017, including $2billion worth of imported medicines, as illegal, or the Bank of England's refusal to return Venezuela's gold reserves as an act of piracy.

The former United Nations Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, has likened this to a "medieval siege" designed "to bring countries to their knees". It is a criminal assault, he says. It is similar to that faced by Salvador Allende in 1970 when President Richard Nixon and his equivalent of John Bolton, Henry Kissinger, set out to "make the economy [of Chile] scream". The long dark night of Pinochet followed.

The Guardian correspondent, Tom Phillips, has tweeted a picture of himself in a cap on which the words in Spanish mean in local slang: "Make Venezuela fucking cool again." The reporter as clown may be the final stage of much of mainstream journalism's degeneration.

Should the CIA stooge Guaido and his white supremacists grab power, it will be the 68th overthrow of a sovereign government by the United States, most of them democracies. A fire sale of Venezuela's utilities and mineral wealth will surely follow, along with the theft of the country's oil, as outlined by John Bolton.

Under the last Washington-controlled government in Caracas, poverty reached historic proportions. There was no healthcare for those could not pay. There was no universal education; Mavis Mendez, and millions like her, could not read or write. How cool is that, Tom?

Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

Hip, Hip Hypocrisy: Two Cheers for Canada's False Face on Haiti/Venezuela Democracy

Canadian Policy on Venezuela and Haiti reveals Hypocrisy that Media Ignores

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

February 20th, 2019

If the dominant media was serious about holding the Canadian government to account for its foreign policy decisions, there would be numerous stories pointing out the hypocrisy of Ottawa’s response to recent political developments in Haiti and Venezuela.

Instead silence, or worse, cheer-leading.

Venezuela is a deeply divided society. Maybe a quarter of Venezuelans want the president removed by (almost) any means. A similar proportion backs Nicolas Maduro. A larger share of the population oscillates between these two poles, though they generally prefer the president to opposition forces that support economic sanctions and a possible invasion.

There are many legitimate criticisms of Maduro, including questions about his electoral bonafides after a presidential recall referendum was scuttled and the Constituent Assembly usurped the power of the opposition dominated National Assembly (of course, many opposition actors’ democratic credentials are far more tainted). But, the presidential election in May demonstrates that Maduro and his PSUV party maintain considerable support.

Despite the opposition boycott, the turnout was over 40% and Maduro received a higher proportion of the overall vote than leaders in the US, Canada and elsewhere. Additionally, Venezuela has an efficient and transparent electoral system — “best in the world” according to Jimmy Carter in 2012 — and it was the government that requested more international electoral observers.

Unlike Venezuela, Haiti is not divided. Basically, everyone wants the current “president” to go. While the slums have made that clear for months, important segments of the establishment (Reginald Boulos, Youri Latortue, Chamber of Commerce, etc) have turned on Jovenel Moïse. Reliable polling is limited, but it’s possible 9 in 10 Haitians want President Moïse to leave immediately. Many of them are strongly committed to that view, which is why the country’s urban areas have been largely paralyzed since February 7.

In a bid to squelch the protests, government forces (and their allies) have killed dozens in recent months. If you include the terrible massacre reported here and here in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline on November 11-13 that number rises far above 100.

Even prior to recent protests the president’s claim to legitimacy was paper-thin. Moïse assumed the job through voter suppression and electoral fraud. Voter turnout was 18%. His predecessor and sponsor, Michel Martelly, only held elections after significant protests. For his part, Martelly took office with about 16 per cent of the vote, since the election was largely boycotted. After the first round, US and Canadian representatives pressured the electoral council to replace the second-place candidate, Jude Celestin, with Martelly in the runoff.

While you won’t have read about it in the mainstream media, recent protests in Haiti are connected to Venezuela. The protesters’ main demand is accountability for the billions of dollars pilfered from Petrocaribe, a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela in 2006. In the summer demonstrators forced out Moïse’s prime minister over an effort to eliminate fuel subsidies and calls for the president to go have swelled since then. Adding to popular disgust with Moïse, his government succumbed to US/Canadian pressure to vote against Venezuela at the OAS last month.

So what has been Ottawa’s response to the popular protests in Haiti? Has Global Affairs Canada released a statement supporting the will of the people? Has Canada built a regional coalition to remove the president? Has Canada’s PM called other international leaders to lobby them to join his effort to remove Haiti’s President? Have they made a major aid announcement designed to elicit regime change? Have they asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the Haitian government? Has Justin Trudeau called the Haitian President a “brutal dictator”?

In fact, it’s the exact opposite to the situation in Venezuela. The only reason the Haitian president is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”. Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released a statement last week “acknowledging the professionalism shown by the Haitian National Police.” The statement condescendingly “reiterated the fact that in a democracy change must come through the ballot box, and not through violence.”

The “Core Group’s” previous responses to the protests expressed stronger support of the unpopular government. As I detailed 10 weeks ago in a story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Ottawa has provided countless forms of support to Moïse’s unpopular government. Since then Justin Trudeau had a “very productive meeting” with Haitian Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant, International development minister Marie-Claude Bibeau‏ declared a desire to “come to the aid” of the Haitian government and Global Affairs Canada released a statement declaring that “acts of political violence have no place in the democratic process.”

Trudeau’s government has provided various forms of support to the repressive police that maintains Moïse’s rule. Since Paul Martin’s Liberals played an important role in violently ousting Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in 2004 Canada has financed, trained and overseen the Haitian National Police. As took place the night Aristide was forced out of the country by US Marines, Canadian troops were recently photographed patrolling the Port-au-Prince airport.

Taking their cue from Ottawa, the dominant media have downplayed the scope of the recent protests and repression in Haiti. There have been few (any?) stories about protesters putting their bodies on the line for freedom and the greater good. Instead the media has focused on the difficulties faced by a small number of Canadian tourists, missionaries and aid workers. While the long-impoverished country of 12 million people is going through a very important political moment, Canada’s racist/nationalist media is engrossed in the plight of Canucks stuck at an all-inclusive resort!

The incredible hypocrisy in Ottawa’s response to recent political developments in Haiti and Venezuela is shameful. Why has no major media dared contrast the two?

Yves Engler is co-author of Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay. His latest book is Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada.
Read other articles by Yves.

Not Mentioning the War Mongers: Canada Caught in Militarist's Embrace

It's taboo to talk about Canada's real corporate scandal

by Matthew Behrens - Homes Not Bombs

February 22, 2019

While the SNC-Lavalin scandal has torn another strip off the "sunny ways" prime minister, there's another corporate scandal that makes the financial figures in that case -- mere hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud and bribes -- seem like pocket change.

But no major political party will touch it, which speaks to the manner in which an all-party commitment to bedrock Canadian militarism squelches democratic discourse and strangles any opportunity for real economic justice.

Proposed Canadian Forces purchase: BAE/Lockheed
Martin Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) 

The corporate scandal you won't hear about on the campaign trail is the largest procurement project in Canadian history, one that will result in forking over at least $105 billion in corporate welfare to war manufacturers for a completely unnecessary fleet of Canadian warships.

With every political campaign comes the costing question: how will modest investments in daycare, housing and pharmacare be paid for when Canada struggles with debt and deficits? But the question that will not be asked is whether voters want to mortgage their grandchildren's financial future for a project that will line the pockets of Irving Shipyards and the world's largest war profiteer, Lockheed Martin.

On February 8, the Canadian government awarded the design contract for those warships to Lockheed Martin. Even working from the false assumption that these warships are needed -- no logical rationale has been provided -- critics have pointed out that the design proposed by Lockheed Martin has never been built and tested; hence, any real sense of the cost (and such megaprojects have a way becoming sinkholes for billions robbed from the public purse) is conservative at the estimated $105 billion. Once committed, there is no way the government will say no when Lockheed Martin and Irving Shipyards call out for another $10-$30 billion in "unforeseen costs."

In addition, the lives of Canadian sailors (which have never been a concern for those who order them into conflict from their safe bunkers in Ottawa) will be at risk as well. These megaships, with a limited life expectancy of 25 years, will likely be sitting ducks vulnerable to advanced warfare techniques that will be light years ahead of the eventual finished products. Indeed, as former Canadian navy commander Ken Hansen wrote in December 2018, by the time these warships sail the high seas, they will be essentially obsolete against high-tech weapons systems that remain the world's most maddening annual investment.

Again, even assuming these are needed, what will Canada do after their 25-year life span is over? Spend another $105 billion?

The boondoggle that booted Wilson-Raybould

Canada's warship boondoggles are at the root of the current political crisis swirling around the Liberals. When Trudeau removed Jody Wilson-Raybould from the attorney general's office, he claimed it was a move precipitated by former Treasury Board president Scott Brison's decision to leave politics.

But Brison's sudden disappearance from cabinet appears linked to the bizarre case of Vice Admiral Mark Norman, who was arrested by the RCMP for allegedly leaking cabinet secrets related to a Harper-era navy contract that went to Quebec's Davie Shipyards, an Irving Shipyards competitor.

It appears that Brison, (right) undertook a strenuous campaign to halt the Davie contract on behalf of Irving. He is expected to be called to testify at the Norman trial later this year, but says his resignation has nothing to do with that upcoming court date.

As that court case continues to proceed at a snail's pace, efforts to receive further disclosure will likely unveil even more information about the corporate influence at cabinet level (which is standard practice in Canada, as we have witnessed in cases as diverse as the unending subsidies doled out to tarsands producers and companies like Bombardier, as well as the purchase of a $4.5-billion leaky pipeline last year and the $9.2-billion backstop of the Muskrat Falls megadam).

While politicians of all stripes will express the usual consternation about corruption in politics, not a soul among them will focus on the new warship scandal. Unfortunately, the addiction to militarism that drives the NDP, the Liberals, the PCs and, in all likelihood, the Greens, will render this a non-issue in 2019 unless we make some noise about it. We saw this addiction in 2015, when Tom Muclair's NDP refused to call for cancellation of the $15-billion Saudi weapons contract. It was a poor decision that prioritized political power games over the lives of Saudi women being tortured in Riyadh prisons and Yemeni children who die at a rate of 10 an hour.

In 2019, there will be no referendum on whether Canadians wish to take on a $105-billion debt that will serve no social purpose whatsoever. Yes, there will be some well-paying jobs in the shipyards, but the majority of the gravy will go to investors in war industries. Imagine that public investment being directed toward renewable energy, clean water in all Indigenous communities, affordable housing, free child care, truly accessible health care, guaranteed annual income support and programs, the arts, tuition, and all the other underfunded programs people need to live decent lives.

Canada's contractor: Unending corruption 


Part of the furor over SNC-Lavalin centres around whether a company can be an honest executor of government contracts when it has a high rate of scandal.

The Transparency International group reports that even as maligned an institution as the World Bank has banned SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiaries for over 117 instances of corruption.

SNC-Lavalin currently claims that it is in pristine shape because the guys involved in defrauding the Libyan people of hundreds of millions of dollars and spending tens of millions on bribes have departed the company.

But SNC-Lavalin subsidiaries continue to make the list of banned companies as recently as October 2018, when the World Bank issued a five-year ban to four company branches. In January 2018, an additional five SNC-Lavalin companies were banned when the World Bank found them guilty of fraud and corruption.

But this is the way business has always operated.

While SNC-Lavalin was successful in having Canadian law changed to try and protect itself from future prosecutions, the company that has received the Canadian warship design contract -- Lockheed Martin -- is the ultimate master class of corporate corruption.

The U.S. government's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database notes that Lockheed Martin has been found guilty of misconduct in 86 instances since 1995. It's an accepted price of doing business for war industries which can write off their penalties (Lockheed Martin received over $50 billion in U.S. weapons contracts in 2017, while the price for over two decades of bad behaviuor was a paltry $767 million in penalties).

Almost weekly, new misconduct claims arise. Indeed, a mere two weeks ago, Lockheed Martin was subject to a U.S. Justice Department complaint about false claims and kickbacks on a contract to clean up the devastated Hanford nuclear site in Washington State.

For those wondering about the due diligence undertaken by the Canadian government in choosing a company to design Canada's $105-billion warships, it is quite instructive to peruse the readily available public information that Ottawa is quite happy to ignore in plowing ahead. The list of complaints against Lockheed Martin pursued by the U.S. Justice Dept. is massive.

It includes failure to pay overtime, falsification of testing records, mismanagement of retirement funds, groundwater contamination, nuclear safety violations at the Oak Ridge plant, contract fraud, deficiencies in radioactive work controls, nuclear waste storage violations, violations of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the unauthorized export of classified and unclassified technical data, the failure to comply with requirements for safeguarding classified information, false and fraudulent lease claims, age discrimination, producing defective software on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (a project to which Canada has maddeningly contributed over $500 million in corporate welfare), groundwater cleanup violations, Toxic Substances Control Act violations, overbilling and mischarging the government, wrongful deaths, retaliatory firings, PCB contamination, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, National Labor Relations Act violations, sexual and racial discrimination, procurement fraud, unfair business practices, nuclear reactor safety violations, emissions violations, and whistleblower retaliation.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit last September claiming Lockheed Martin "violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination and retaliation for opposing it and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities unless it would cause an undue hardship."

Profit from torture and nuclear weapons

Then there's a little matter of torture, in which Lockheed Martin companies were found complicit early on during the so-called war on terror. Aside from the daily business of corruption, what Lockheed Martin actually produces -- the world's most dangerous weapons -- would appear to be in complete contradiction to all the Trudeau/Chrystia Freeland talk of a rules-based order founded on peace and respect.

Lockheed Martin executives have spoken unabashedly in defence of the Saudi regime's appalling human rights record. On June 23, 2016, the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, Defenders for Medical Impartiality, and the Arabian Rights Watch Association filed a complaint against the Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin for alleged breaches of OECD guidelines. The companies' products were alleged to have contributed to human rights violations in Yemen by Saudi forces (last August, we learned, without surprise, that the missiles that murdered 40 Yemeni children was made by Lockheed Martin).

Perhaps it is also no accident that the Trudeau government's expressed opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons seems to have been developed in the executive offices of their favoured weapons of mass destruction contractor: Lockheed Martin, which continues to develop the most dangerous nukes the world has ever known. Indeed, the U.S.-based multinational produces the Trident II (D5) nuclear missiles (on average the equivalent of 25 Hiroshima bombs) for U.S. and U.K. arsenals, along with Minuteman III nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles and the new Long Range Stand-Off (LRSO) missile. They are also a primary recipient of the trillion-dollar investment begun by the Obama administration in a new generation of nuclear weapons.

As Forbes recently reported, "a single D5 equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles carrying nuclear warheads can destroy a small country such as North Korea. A handful of D5s could collapse the entire electrical grid, transportation network and information infrastructure of even the largest countries. And the Navy has hundreds of D5 missiles."

Addicted to militarism

While Lockheed Martin is quite the loathsome corporate entity, Irving is no lovey-dovey Canadian boy scout in the corporate world, instead acting as a privately held company to squeeze as many dollars out of the public purse as possible. As the National Observer reports, Irving and its subsidiaries.

"[D]on't have to reveal any financial information to the public -- including how much they receive in government handouts, earn in profits, pay in taxes or invest. They also don't pay out dividends to shareholders -- only members of the Irving family presumably receive the wealth."

It was Irving that Scott Brison went to bat for in closed cabinet sessions that led to the arrest of Mark Norman. Meanwhile, the federal government and Irving teamed up to oppose a trade tribunal complaint that alleged the awarding of the warship contract violated a series of trade rules. In their defence, Canada and Irving argued that the warship contract is exempt from normal trade laws because they have invoked a "national security exception" to keep the issue beyond the tribunal's jurisdiction.

What happens next is entirely up to everyone who lives in this land known as Canada. Are we willing to face up to how our addiction to militarism kills, whether it's the blood of Yemeni children being murdered with Canadian-made and exported weapons or the frozen bodies on Canadian sidewalks because Ottawa continues to invest the largest amount of discretionary funding into war instead of housing for all?

It's certainly a question that will only be on the table if we place it there.

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national security' profiling for many years.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Canadians Demonstrate Contempt of Government's Lawless Support of Venezuela Coup Attempt

International Day of Action to Defend Venezuela's Sovereignty

by Canadian Peace Congress

February 21, 2019

Friends, this Saturday, Feb 23, is an International Day of Action to defend Venezuela's sovereignty. Here's a background to the events leading up to the crisis now facing Venezuela.

Canadian FM Freeland & Lima Group Conspirators

*Action Alert:*

*Act Now to Defend Venezuela’s Sovereignty!*

*No Sanctions! No Coup d’État! No Military Intervention!*

Dear friends, the orchestrated campaign to remove the elected government in Venezuela and replace it with a puppet authority willing to serve U.S. economic and political interests has now reached a critical moment, one which may well end in a bloody civil war, a foreign military invasion, or both.

That this ‘regime change’ operation has been built on a mountain of lies, is hypocritical to its very core, and violates every principle of international law – including the UN and OAS Charters – doesn’t seem to bother in the least its architects in Washington or Ottawa. But it should alarm everyone who values peace and social justice, and who wants to avert a *real* humanitarian catastrophe.

The time to act is now, to stop this attempted right-wing coup d’état and prevent foreign military intervention which would only bring great hardship, suffering and loss of life on the Venezuelan people!

The manufactured political crisis did not start on January 23rd when the far-right usurper Juan Guaidó declared himself ‘interim president’ and was quickly recognized by the U.S., Canada and other Western powers, and right-wing governments such as Brazil, Colombia and Peru in Latin America. In fact, the campaign to destabilize the Venezuelan economy and prepare conditions for the attempted ouster of democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro and his government began long ago.

Ever since Hugo Chavez won the presidency in 1998 and subsequently launched progressive social changes with majority popular support – public housing, literacy and healthcare campaigns, and the nationalization of oil – U.S. imperialism has sought to subvert the Bolivarian Revolution and reestablish control over the Venezuelan people and their oil and other natural resources. Washington masterminded an abortive coup (2002), a failed business strike (2003), and a series of violent street protests (most recently in 2014 and 2017).

The economic shortages and hardships touted by the western mass media today were not caused by government mismanagement or the ‘failure of socialism’ but rather by ever-tightening economic sanctions imposed unilaterally by the U.S. and its closest allies; by the collapse of world oil prices starting in 2014; and by the artificial shortages and currency manipulations of capitalist enterprises inside the country, forces that retain tremendous power within the domestic economy to this day.

It is in fact the same strategy used in Chile back in the early 1970s to destabilize the progressive government of Salvador Allende, before a fascist coup led by General Pinochet left more than 3,000 dead, and many more thousands tortured and driven into exile.

But the Maduro government, its military and its mass base among working people have stood firm against all of these pressures and threats. That is why the U.S. is now trying to use ‘humanitarian aid’ as a ‘Trojan horse’ to provoke a border conflict, providing a pretext to invade and occupy the country. Reports have already surfaced that US special ops forces have been covertly re-positioned near the Venezuelan frontier for precisely this purpose.

This economic war, the open demands on the military to overthrow their own government, and the possibility of foreign military aggression – all this is a gross violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty and independence, and the right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination.

We condemn the shameful role which PM Trudeau, Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Canadian government are playing in this despicable ‘regime change’ operation. Instead of ‘fronting’ for U.S. imperial ambitions, Canada should get out of the Lima Group, end the onerous economic sanctions, and support a political solution to this crisis which it has helped to create and exploit.

The Canadian Peace Congress welcomes the fact that many labour, peace, solidarity and other mass organizations and movements have found their voice to speak out against this unfolding outrage. We appeal to all progressive and democratically-minded organizations and individuals to overcome every hesitation, and every attempt to silence our dissent, and speak out now for peace and for respect of international law!

*No Sanctions! No Coup d’État! No Military Intervention!*

*Hands Off Venezuela!*

*Join the actions this Saturday, Feb. 23*

Demonstrations, marches and other actions with take place this Saturday in many centres across Canada. Protests are scheduled in Washington DC and dozens of other cities in the U.S.; in Europe, throughout Latin America, and in South and East Asia. It is truly an International Day to say "No War on Venezuela!"

If you are in or close to any of the actions listed below, we strongly urge you to consider participating. If your city or region is not listed, there still may be actions locally that somehow missed our list, so please check,. Or consider organizing an action yourself - a protest, picket at an MP's office, an educational event, even a kitchen party to write letters to your local newspaper!

*Here's what's on so far (alphabetically by city):*

*Calgary, AB*

Saturday, February 23 | 12pm
615 MacLead Trl SE

*Courtenay, BC *Saturday, February 23 | 1pm

Courtenay Public Library [300 6th Street]

- Organized by Comox Valley Peace Group

*Edmonton, AB*

Saturday, February 23 | 1pm

Old Strathcona Farmers' Market [10310 83 Avenue Northwest]

- Organized by Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism

*Halifax, NS*

Saturday, February 23 | 1pm
Peace and Freedom Park (formerly Cornwallis Park) | Hollis St.

- Organized by Alliance for Venezuela Halifax and the Halifax Peace Council

*London, ON*

Saturday, February 23 | 12pm
NW corner of Victoria Park

- Co-hosted by Communist Party of Canada – Forest City Club; People for
Peace, London, Ontario; and London Common Front

*Montreal, QC*

Saturday, February 23 | 2pm
Carré Philipps [Rue Saint-Catherine & Union]

*Ottawa, ON*

Saturday, February 23 | 12pm
Gather at the Prime Minister’s office [ 80 Wellington St.] for a march to
the U.S. Embassy!

*Regina, SK*

Saturday, February 23 | 2pm
City Hall, Peace Fountain [2410 Victoria Ave.]

- Organized by the Regina Peace Council

*Toronto, ON*

Saturday, February 23 | 11am
Rally Outside CBC Office – 250 Front Street West | March to Bay Street/
Financial District

- Organized by the Venezuela Solidarity Committee

*Winnipeg, MB*

Saturday, February 23 | 1pm

Gerald James Lynch Park, south side Osborne Street Bridge (near Osborne and

- Hosted by Venezuela Peace Committee

*Vancouver, BC*

Saturday, February 23 | 12pm
Gather in front of the CBC at Georgia and Hamilton Streets

- Rally organized by the Venezuela Peace and Solidarity Committee

*About the Canadian Peace Congress*

The Canadian Peace Congress, founded in 1949, advocates and works for world peace and disarmament. We maintain that peace, not militarism and war, is the guarantor of democracy, human rights, and social and economic justice. We contend that peace, international friendship and cooperation among peoples and nations are possible and necessary to improve living standards, eradicate unemployment and poverty, illiteracy and disease and to restore
the health of the planet.

We oppose all attempts from any quarter to make Canada a “military power”. Canada needs an independent foreign policy based on peace & disarmament, not on imperialist aggression and war. In the 21st century human progress has created all of the prerequisites for a peaceful world. War and the militarization of the economy, membership in aggressive military blocs such as NATO & NORAD, a renewed nuclear arms race and its extension to space, participation in wars of intervention, occupation and ‘regime change’ only serve the interests of powerful financial and military elites and not the people.

If you would like to learn more about the Peace Congress, its policies and activities, we have attached a PDF “About the Canadian Peace Congress” to this message.

*If You Like us, then Please ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ us*

If you are a Facebook user and haven’t yet visited our page, we invite you to do so – – and please ‘like’ and ‘follow’ our page. This way, you will be informed when we post new statements, activities and articles of interest and importance to the peace & solidarity movements. And you can also ‘share’ articles and postings to your own timeline, or to other pages you manage, so that more people can be reached and informed on various issues relating to peace and disarmament from an anti-imperialist perspective.

If you are not a Facebook user, we understand entirely. There is growing criticism of Facebook for censoring and/or banning material that is critical of U.S. foreign policies around the world. We are currently investigating other platforms for our use, and will inform you when Canadian Peace Congress materials are posted elsewhere on the web.

*We Need Your Help!*

If you appreciate the work our Congress is trying to do, there is another important way you can help our organization to grow and reach more people across Canada – to publish materials and leaflets, to sponsor speaking tours and other public events – and take other initiatives to strengthen the peace movement.

The Canadian Peace Congress receives absolutely no funding from either Government or Big Business; nor have we any intention to do so. We rely entirely on the generosity of our members and supporters. Your financial support will therefore make a big difference, and will be greatly appreciated!

Unfortunately, our main website is being redesigned, so our online service to receive funds is down at the moment, but you can send donations directly to our bank account via ‘e-transfer’. The transit number for our account # is: 004 – 0526 – 5226893. Or you can send a cheque (made out to *“Canadian Peace Congress”*) to: Canadian Peace Congress, PO Box 73593, Wychwood PO, Toronto, Ontario M6C 4A7. Thanks for your support! --

*Canadian Peace Congress*
PO Box 73593 Wychwood PO,
Toronto, ON M6C 4A7
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Far Right Spanish European Union MP's Denied Venezuelan Entrance

Venezuela Expels Euro Deputies Amid Reports Of Talks With Washington

by Paul Dobson - 

via Popular Resistance

February 20, 2019

Venezuelan authorities have expelled six deputies of the European Parliament (EP) this Sunday after denying them entrance to the country. The European politicians, who travelled in a personal capacity, had previously been warned through diplomatic channels that they would not be allowed in the country, but the group opted to proceed with the trip.

The delegation, (pictured left - photo: EFE); MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons, MEP Jose Ignacio Salafranca, and MEP Gabriel Mato, all from Spain’s hard-right Popular Party. Also, MEP Juan Salafranca from Spain’s European People’s Party.

The Former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order criticized the European Parliamentarians for violating international law by interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

The four European Parliamentarians who went to #Venezuela to confer with #Guaidó acted unprofessionally in not respecting the sovereignty of the country and forgetting that interference in the internal affairs of other States is contrary to international law #HandsOffVenezuela

— Alfred de Zayas (@Alfreddezayas) February 18, 2019

Sabre-rattling against the government of Venezuela violates article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights #HandsOffVenezuela

— Alfred de Zayas (@Alfreddezayas) February 16, 2019

KZ - Popular Resistance

Venezuela Expels Euro Deputies Amid Reports Of Talks With Washington

Merida, February 18, 2019 ( – Venezuelan authorities have expelled six deputies of the European Parliament (EP) this Sunday after denying them entrance to the country.

The European politicians, who travelled in a personal capacity, had previously been warned through diplomatic channels that they would not be allowed in the country, but the group opted to proceed with the trip.

The delegation was made up of MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons, MEP Jose Ignacio Salafranca, and MEP Gabriel Mato, all from Spain’s hard-right Popular Party.Also present were MEP Juan Salafranca from Spain’s European People’s Party; MEP Esther de Lange of the Dutch Christian Democratic party, and MEP Paulo Rangel from Portugal’s Social Democratic Party.

Amongst other planned activities, they were to meet with self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido while in Caracas. The EP and a number of European countries have followed the US in recognising Guaido as the legitimate president of the country.

Following their denied entry, the deputies accepted an invitation from Colombia’s Foreign Ministry to travel to the Venezuelan-Colombian border city of Cucuta to attend a concert sponsored by Virgin CEO Richard Branson on Saturday, when Guaido plans to see US-supplied “humanitarian aid” cross the border, despite orders from Maduro to block it.

Venezuela’s Foreign Office justified the MEPs’ expulsion, claiming the right-leaning politicians were looking to “conspire” while in the country.

“The group of Euro deputies which looked to visit the country with conspiring objectives had been informed some days ago that they would not be allowed in, and we insisted that they desist [from travelling] so as to avoid another provocation,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza stated Monday.
[The Venezuelan government] will not allow the European extreme right from breaking the peace and stability of the country with another grotesque act of intervention. Venezuela must be respected!” he continued.

EP President Antonio Tajani reacted angrily to the move, calling on the European Council to take reciprocal measures against what he called “the latest outrage.”

“Maduro’s regime stops MEPs from doing their job by expelling them. More proof that he is a dictator. I hope that the European Council will respond with measures in line with this latest outrage,” he stated.

The diplomatic incident comes as reports emerged of dialogue between the Trump administration and senior Maduro government officials

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza confirmed reports that he had held two meetings with US Special Envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, both in US territory. He also stated that there is to be another encounter next week.

Unnamed sources told the Associated Press that the meetings took place on January 26 and February 11, both at the request of US authorities.

[Abrams] was accompanied by Under-Secretary of State Kimberly Breier (…) there were moments of tension, there are deep differences, but at the same time there are shared concerns,” Arreaza told teleSUR.
“If we have to meet with the Devil himself, if we have to go to the center of the Earth (…) to defend the sovereignty of Venezuela and demand respect (…) we will, and we are,” he continued.

While few details of the meetings have been made public, it has been reported that Abrams was invited to visit Venezuela “privately, publicly, or secretly,” yet it is unclear if the US Special Envoy will take Caracas up on the offer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Ebbing Latin America's Pink Tide

Venezuela: The Epicenter of the “Pink Tide” and Now of the Right-Wing Rollback


February 20, 2019

There has been a significant rollback of leftist or center-left governments in Latin America over the past 10 years, beginning with the coup in Honduras against Manuel Zelaya in 2009, the legislative coup against Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2012, the electoral defeat of the Peronists in Argentina in 2014, and of course the legislative coup against Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and the imprisonment of presidential frontrunner Lula da Silva in Brazil last year.

Is there a pattern, and are there larger forces at work behind the reversal of the so-called Pink Tide in Latin America?

The effort to rollback Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution must be seen as part of a determined effort to pry open all economies to transnational capital – it’s about access, says sociologist of globalization William I. Robinson.

Counting Down 60 Minutes: Pelley's McCabe Disaster

Scott Pelley Commits Career Suicide

by James Kunstler - Clusterfuck Nation

February 20, 2019

For your reading pleasure Mondays and Fridays

Support this blog by visiting Jim’s Patreon Page

Finally, you’re left with image of Scott Pelley sucking on his eyeglass frames as if he was trying to impersonate a character who might be called The Ole Sage TV Journalist, after neatly disgracing both himself and TV journalism in his puffy chat-up with Andrew McCabe, the ex-Deputy FBI Director who stage-managed the cover-up of the RussiaGate fiasco in both of its phases — first to interfere with the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton, and then to oust the winner of the election, Mr. Trump.

Perhaps Mr. Pelley, (left) was ruminating on all the topics he forgot to ask about, such as what Mr. McCabe meant by an “insurance policy” in his conversations with counter-intel agent Peter Stzrok and DOJ lawyer Lisa Page; or whether Mr. McCabe launched the Russia collusion investigation on the basis of the Steele dossier, which was already known at the time to be material furnished by the Hillary Clinton campaign; or whether the contents of said dossier had ever been verified via established FBI protocol (the “Woods” procedure), which they never were.

The audience was informed at the very end that Mr. McCabe’s case had been “referred” to the federal courts by the DOJ Inspector General. That was a nice way of saying that Mr. McCabe has been singing to a grand jury. If so, then he’s an early bird, because many of his feathered friends will be following him into the grand jury chamber and then we’ll have the great Battle-of-the-Alibis.

Mainly what the McCabe interview accomplished was CBS tripling-down on the empty Russia collusion “narrative” that has nourished the crusade to dump Mr. Trump by any means necessary for more than two years. Mr. McCabe describes the “chaos” in the C-suites of the FBI after the President fired Director James Comey in May 7 of 2017, “because we had lost our leader… it was an unbelievably stressful time,” he said.

Yes, I’m sure. Because so many top officers in the Bureau were desperate to cover their asses since Mrs. Clinton’s unbelievable election loss meant that all the FBI emails and official memoranda documenting their behavior either had to be shoved down the memory hole illegally or left to be discovered by Mr. Trump. Indeed, some of it was illegally destroyed, for instance the government-issued cell phones of Ms. Page and Mr. Stzrok, smashed to bits on Robert Mueller’s instructions.

Apparently, one of the main objectives in the 60-Minutes story was to paint Mr. McCabe as a heroic patriot defending America against the wicked, shape-shifting, all-powerful Russia, which had made Mr. Trump its captive. The 60-Minutes piece happens to coincide exactly with the release of Mr. McCabe’s ass-covering book: The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump. (Real superheroes fight both.)

It also sets up a nice contrapuntal battle between the enigmatic Rod Rosenstein and Mr. McCabe vis-à-vis the idea of “wearing a wire” to record the President en route to running him over with the 25th Amendment. According to Mr. McCabe, there was a lot of lively discussion around this plan. Mr. Rosenstein, (right) has brushed it off as a gag. Mr. McCabe, apparently, thought it was dead serious. They never did get their stories straight.

In the meantime, Mr. McCabe’s own colleagues in the FBI’s ethics office and its Inspector General charged him with lying repeatedly about his role in this matter.

You had to wonder whether the attempt by CBS-News to sell “the sterling career” story of Andrew McCabe (as Mr. Pelley put it), is really just a way for the network to cover its own ass in acting as a propaganda patsy in the long-running RussiaGate affair. The 60-Minutes segment also coincided with William Barr’s confirmation last week by the senate as the Attorney General, as well as official reports issued by both house and senate committees stating that they found no evidence for the Trump / Russia collusion story. The ground is shifting under all this seditious hugger-mugger.

Whether you are a Trump cheerleader or not (I’m not), there is a reality-based chain of events behind the FBI’s actions from early 2016 on — and the actions of other official players in government — that can only be clarified now in the courts, and chances are pretty good that they will be. It concerns me because the specter of massive institutional failure in federal law enforcement and the news media bodes very darkly for this country’s future.

The Rise of 'Putinism': Russia's New Ruling Paradigm

Vladislav Surkov Rolls Out the Russian Answer to the American State of Permanent War

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

February 20, 2019

Moscow - In the programme for the special form of Russian governance which Vladislav Surkov (lead image, right*) calls Putinism for the next hundred years, there is no power-sharing with businessmen (oligarchs or merchants), social classes, intelligentsia, the Russian Orthodox Church, political parties, parliaments, the Constitution or the civil and criminal courts.

Rule will be by the military, the security services, and the state corporations advising the supreme leader. He in turn will be trusted by Russian people to convey their wishes, settle disputes, balance rights from wrongs, and check the state from corruption.

Mostly, he will be trusted to listen.

To those whom Surkov, a Kremlin adviser since 1999, removes from power, in order to make Russia combat-ready against the US and the NATO alliance, this is a revolutionary manifesto.

“In the new system,” Surkov wrote in a Moscow newspaper last week,

“all institutions are subordinated to the main task – trusting communication and interaction of the Supreme ruler with citizens. The various branches of government converge on the identity of the leader, considering their value not in itself, but only to the extent that they provide a connection with him.
Besides them, informal ways of communication work at bypassing formal structures and elite groups. But when stupidity, backwardness or corruption interfere in the lines of communication with people, energetic measures are taken to restore audibility.” 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 11, 2019: “Vladimir Surkov: The long-
lasting state of Putin: About what, in general, is happening here”

“Putinism as the ideology of the future”, Surkov declares. It’s already, and will continue to be, “a new type of state” for Russia. In Surkov’s version of the historical precedents, those he ignores are as telling as those he includes. There’s no Ivan the Terrible; no tsar after Peter the Great; no woman like the Empress Catherine; not even Joseph Stalin leading the fight against the German invasion.

Putinism is the successor of Leninism, Surkov believes, although,

“the real Putin is hardly a Putinist, just as Marx was not a Marxist, and we can’t be sure he would have agreed to be one had he found out what that’s like.” 

The new Russian system of state power Surkov is pitching can do without both of them. This, he concedes,

“looks, of course, not particularly elegant, but more honest…suitable not only for the domestic future, but also with significant export potential — the demand for it or for its individual components already exists; its experience is studied and partially adopted, it is imitated by both the ruling and opposition groups in many countries.”

This is Surkov’s job application for the time when he intimates the Kremlin must be staffed by Russians capable of fighting Americans. Naturally, those sore at the prospect of losing their power, influence, and money are angry. To them, Surkov is, in the words of Alexei Venediktov, the pro-American director of Radio Ekho Moskvy, a fascist of 1930s vintage. “Proto-fascism in watercolours”, comments Gleb Pavlovsky, a political tactician who was once on the Kremlin payroll, but no longer.

Surkov’s manifesto can be read here in the Russian; and here in an English translation.

By exclusion, Surkov reveals who is losing in the contest for the presidential succession. “Businessmen, who consider military pursuits to be of lesser status than commercial ones, have never ruled Russia (almost never; the exceptions were a few months in 1917 and a few years in the 1990s). Neither have liberals (the fellow travelers of businessmen) whose doctrine is based on the negation of anything the least bit police-like. Thus, there was nobody in charge who would curtain off the truth with illusions, bashfully shoving into the background and obscuring as much as possible the main prerogative of any government—to be a weapon of defence and attack.”

Left to right: sanctioned oligarch Arkady Rotenberg; German Gref, 
Chief Executive of Sberbank; Patriarch Kirill (Vladimir Gundyayev);  
Alexei Kudrin, Accounting Chamber Chairman and pro-
American candidate for the presidency. 

Days before Surkov’s piece appeared in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Gref gave a lengthy press interview in which he set out his view of the future; it is the opposite of Surkov’s. Gref concludes with an imprecation. “Russia is governed directly by the Lord God, otherwise it is impossible to understand how Russia still exists.” Gref’s God may not be a Christian one, if his patronage of the Indian Sadhguru is anything to go by; for details of Sberbank’s connection to God, click to watch. For more on the contrast between Gref and Surkov, click to read.

Defence from whom by whom?

Surkov’s enemy is the US; his Russian model is the Stavka – the combination of the General Staff and the security ministries under the commander-in-chief.

“The need to control huge, heterogeneous geographic areas, and constant participation in the thick of geopolitical struggle make the military and policing functions of the government the most important and decisive. In keeping with [Russian] tradition, they are not hidden but, quite the opposite, demonstrated… There is no deep state in Russia—all of it is on display.”

If there will be no Russian resistance, Surkov warns, Russians are doomed to be casualties and victims.

“Who are we in the worldwide web – spiders or flies?”

Surkov is the first Kremlin official to attack Putin’s alliance with Patriarch Kirill in reviving the 19th century doctrine, Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality. They are ideologists for passivity and defeat, Surkov responds — who claim that power in Russia is “the executor of God’s will.” The only ideological precursors he names – de Gaulle, Ataturk, Marx, Lenin – were determinedly secular; three of them famously anti-Christian.

“It would be an oversimplification to reduce this theme to the often-cited ‘faith in the good tsar’. The deep [Russian] nation is not the least bit naïve and definitely does not consider soft-heartedness as a positive trait in a tsar. Closer to the truth is that it thinks of a good leader the same way as Einstein thought of God: ingenious but not malicious.”

Subordinating Kirill to Einstein is radical talk from a Kremlin apparatchik. If meant for Putin’s ears, it requires the President to change the way his mouth moves. Moscow press reporting of Kremlin rumours suggests that Anton Vaino, chief of the president’s staff, didn’t know of Surkov’s plan to publish, and didn’t approve the article in advance. Head of media for the presidential administration, Alexei Gromov, did know and approved, it’s claimed. So, too, the deputy chief of staff, Sergei Kirienko.

Left to right: Anton Vaino; Alexei Gromov; Sergei Kirienko.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Putin is “prioritizing preparations for [his address] to the Federal Assembly. This is exactly what he has been doing.” Peskov claimed Putin knew about the article, but didn’t know if he had read it. “Surkov has experience in domestic politics, in party politics and in state-building that is hard to overestimate,” the spokesman added in endorsement.

Surkov is not addressing those who make their living on US Government or NATO stipends. They in turn have misheard and misunderstood what Surkov is saying. “Kremlin Puppet Master Surkov Distracts Public with Putin Panegyric” is the headline from a British academic.

“To the system insiders around him,” claims another British think-tanker,
“Surkov’s peers and superiors, the people who have much to gain but potentially all to lose from change, the message is that they too need not worry.”

Among Russians, no one has counted how many of Putin’s constituencies Surkov is proposing to liquidate. A former Moscow newspaper editor, now a Bloomberg writer in Germany, sees complacency in the status quo – “nothing needs to change and no new ideas are necessary…” The US-based Orthodox zealot Anatoly Karlin resents Surkov stripping the Church of its power.

“Without Orthodoxy, what can autocracy plus…nationality, with no higher ethical superstructure, be other than your typical tin pot populist regime?… The problem with Surkov is that he evidently fancies himself to be a very clever, sophisticated… philosopher whereas in reality he is quite mediocre.”

Radio Ekho Moskvy is a well-known megaphone for critics of Putin and for opposition to the Stavka. The radio has been running almost daily broadcasts attacking Surkov. According to one of the commentators, Vladimir Kornienko, “the independent Surkov in an independent newspaper wrote an independent text on which nothing depends…” According to Abbas Gallyamov, a former Kremlin speechwriter,

“the very fact that it is being discussed speaks of the colossal ideological vacuum that has arisen in society, in Russian politics. It is obvious that it sorely lacks some great sense.”

The radio’s correspondent in the US, Karina Orlova, has taken to a virulently anti-Russian publication, The American Interest, to report that Surkov’s piece “give[s] us a glimpse of the sorry state of intellectualism in Russia today”. She means to exclude herself.

Orlova diagnoses Surkov’s essay as a symptom of his psychopathology as a courtier.

“As Surkov’s then-boss Leonid Nevzlin [Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s partner at Menatep Bank] told me in an interview last year, Surkov didn’t know how to work with people. He could do it ‘either from the bottom, or from the top... he could either give orders to people, or look at them from the bottom and bootlick.’
Surkov left Menatep in 1996 to join Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Bank and, subsequently, the [Yeltsin] Family, which he has been part of ever since. Maybe Surkov never learned his lessons from Leonid Nevzlin, and his essay simply reflects his longstanding talents as a fawner.”

Left: Karina Orlova claims she fled to the US for safety after she was 
threatened in Moscow in 2018. Right: Gleb Pavlovsky.

To Pavlovsky, Surkov means to be ironic; his publication is a false front.

“Here you can find a few hidden sub-texts… For me it is clear that Vladislav Yurievich is himself ironic in relation to what he describes. Surkov tries to gently, imperceptibly criticize, but to criticize without looking like a critic, making all these passes in front of the nose of his reader – the first Putinist.”

[*] Top Illustration: From left to right: Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft; Sergei Shoigu, Defence Minister; Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff; Vladimir Putin; Vladislav Surkov.