Days before the deal was finalized, however, Brazil’s former president, the left-wing labor organizer Lula da Silva, spoke out vociferously against U.S. meddling in Latin America, harshly criticizing Washington’s putsch against Evo Morales in Bolivia and its ongoing coup attempt against Venezuela.
“Europe and the United States can’t recognize a fraud who declares himself to be president,” Lula said, referring to Guaidó. “It is not right. Because if fashion takes over democracy, it is thrown in the garbage, and any scammer can declare themself president. I could declare myself president of Brazil, but where would democracy go?”
Lula was interviewed by Folha de S.Paulo, the most widely circulated Brazilian newspaper, which is owned by an elite family of billionaire media oligarchs.
When the paper pushed back against his comments, calling Maduro a “dictator,” Lula stressed that the Venezuelan president was elected, and has shown the kind of patience and restraint that no other leader would in similar circumstances.
“He [Guaidó] should be in prison,” Lula said. “And Maduro was so democratic and did not arrest him when he went to Colombia to try to instigate an invasion of Venezuela.”
“The one who is taking the initiative to talk is Maduro, not Guaidó,” Lula stated. “Guaidó would like the Americans to invade Venezuela — in fact, he even tried to force it.”
The newspaper pushed back again, saying Maduro has presided over an economic crisis in Venezuela.
“Whether his government is doing well or not, that’s another story. But you aren’t going to attack all of the countries that aren’t doing well,” Lula responded.
“People can’t criticize Maduro and not criticize the blockade. The blockade doesn’t attack soldiers, it doesn’t kill the guilty, the blockade kills innocents,” the former Brazilian president said.
These remarks from Lula received virtually no coverage in the English-language press, although they were widely covered in Portuguese- and Spanish-language media.
Lula defended Morales and his government against the newspaper’s claims that the Bolivian election was marred by supposed “complications.”
“Wasn’t George Bush complicated in his election against Al Gore? It was complicated, Bush took control of the government for eight years,” Lula replied.
“Was Trump not complicated? It was complicated, and he took power,” he said.
“Was Bolsonaro not complicated? Everyone knows the farce of ‘fake news.’”
US Coups Usher Extreme-Right into Power in Brazil
Remarks like these illustrate why Washington has backed coups and meddled in Brazil’s internal politics in order to overthrow Lula and his left-wing Workers’ Party and prevent them from returning to power.
Lula has not only been one of the most popular politicians in Brazil, he represents a regional buffer against U.S. hegemony. When he left office in 2010, after completing his second term as head of state, he had a staggering 87 percent approval rating — one of the highest in the entire world.
Lula’s successor from the Workers’ Party, President Dilma Rousseff, was ousted in 2016 in a parliamentary coup led by Brazil’s right-wing opposition and a collection of oligarchs that was backed behind the scenes by the United States.
“The U.S. created the Lava Jato investigation,” Lula added, referring to the supposed “anti-corruption” operation that was used to oust the Workers’ Party and install the far-right administration of Jair Bolsonaro, an extremist who has called for restoring the military dictatorship.
In 2018, Lula was campaigning again for the presidential election, and leading the polls by a huge margin. It was only then that he was imprisoned on false charges of corruption, providing an opening for Bolsonaro to take power.
The judge who oversaw Lava Jato and imprisoned Lula, Sergio Moro, was subsequently rewarded by Bolsonaro with a post as minister of justice.
“No Brazilian president had ever paid a visit to the CIA,” commented Celso Amorim, who served as Foreign Minister under Lula. “This is an explicitly submissive position. Nothing compares to this.”
Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the “Moderate Rebels” podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.
Better not mess with the former Brazilian president; Putin and Xi are his real top allies in the Global Left…
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets his followers after his release from prison. Photo: Roberto Stuckert
He’s back. With a bang.
Only two days after his release from a federal prison in Curitiba, southern Brazil, following a narrow 6×5 decision by the Supreme Court, former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva delivered a fiery, 45-minute long speech in front of the Metal Workers Union in Sao Bernardo, outside of Sao Paulo, and drawing on his unparalleled political capital, called all Brazilians to stage nothing short of a social revolution.
When my colleagues Mauro Lopes, Paulo Leite and myself interviewed Lula at the federal prison, it was his Day 502 in a cell. By August, it was impossible to predict that release would happen on Day 580, in early November.
His first speech to the nation after the prison saga – which is far from over – could never be solemn; in fact he promised a detailed address for the near future. What he did, in his trademark conversationalist style, was to immediately go on the offensive taking down a long list of every possible enemy in the book: those who have mired Brazil into an “anti-people agenda.” In terms of a fully improvised, passionate political address, this is already anthology material.
Lula detailed the current “terrible conditions” for Brazilian workers. He ripped to pieces the economic program – basically a monster sell-out – of Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, a Chicago boy and Pinochetist who’s applying the same failed hardcore neoliberal prescriptions now being denounced and scorned every day in the streets of Chile.
He detailed how the Brazilian right-wing openly bet on neo-fascism, which is the form that neoliberalism recently took in Brazil. He blasted mainstream media, in the form of the so far all-powerful, ultra-reactionary Globo empire. In a stance of semiotic genius, Lula pointed to Globo’s helicopter hovering over the masses gathered for the speech, implying the organization is too cowardly to get close to him on ground level.
And, significantly, he got right into the heart of the Bolsonaro question: the militias. It’s no secret to informed Brazilians that the Bolsonaro clan, with its origins in the Veneto, is behaving as a sort of cheap, crude, eschatological carbon copy of the Sopranos, running a system heavy on militias and supported by the Brazilian military. Lula described the president of one of the top nations in the Global South as no less than a militia leader. That will stick – all around the world.
So much for “Lula peace and love,” which used to be one of his cherished mottos. No more conciliation. Bolsonaro now has to face real, fierce, solid opposition, and cannot run away from public debate any more.
Lula’s prison journey has been an extraordinary liberating experience – turning a previously wounded statesman into a fearless warrior mixing the Tao with Steppenwolf (as sketched in Herman Hesse’s book). He’s free like he’s never been before – and he said so, explicitly. The question is how he will be able to muster the organizational work, the method – and have enough time to change the dire conditions for democratic opposition in Brazil. The whole Global South is watching.
At least now the die is cast – and crystal clear: It’s social democracy against neo-fascism. Socially inclusive programs, civil society involved in setting public policy, the fight for equality versus autocracy, state institutions linked to militias, racism and hate against all minorities. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, to their credit, have offered Lula their unconditional support. In contrast, Steve Bannon is losing sleep, qualifying Lula as “the poster boy of the globalist Left” across the world.
This all goes way beyond Left Populism – as Slavoj Zizek and Chantal Mouffe, among others, have been trying to conceptualize it. Lula, assuming he remains free, is now ready to be the supreme catalyst of an integrated, progressive, “pro-people” New Global Left.
Now for the really nasty bits.
I saw Lula’s speech deep into the night in snow stormed Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital, in the heart of the steppes, a land trespassed against by the greatest nomad empires in history. The temptation was to picture Lula as a fearless snow leopard roaming the devastated steppes of urban wastelands.
Yet snow leopards, crucially, are a species threatened with extinction.
After the speech I had serious conversations with two top interlocutors, Bern-based analyst Romulus Maya and anthropologist Piero Leirner, a crack authority on the Brazilian military. The picture they painted was realistically gloomy. Here it is, in a nutshell.
When I visited Brasilia last August, several informed sources confirmed that the majority of the Brazilian Supreme Court is bought and paid for. After all, they de facto legitimized all the absurdities that have been taking place in Brazil since 2014. The absurdities were part of a hyper-complex, slow-motion, rolling hybrid war coup that, under the cloak of a corruption investigation, led to the dismantling of industrial national champions such as Petrobras; the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff on spurious charges; and the jailing of Lula, the work of judge, jury and executioner Sergio Moro, now Bolsonaro’s justice minister, who was completely unmasked by The Intercept’s revelations.
The Brazilian military are all over the Supreme Court. Remember, Lula’s liberation happened after a narrow 6 to 5 score. Legally, it was impossible to keep him in prison: the Supreme Court actually bothered to read the Brazilian Constitution.
But there are no structural changes whatsoever on the horizon. The project remains a Brazil sell-out – coupled with a thinly veiled military dictatorship. Brazil remains a lowly US colony. So Lula is out of jail essentially because this system allowed it.
The military abide by Bolsonaro’s abysmal incompetence because he cannot even go to the toilet without permission from General Heleno, the head of the GSI, the Brazilian version of the National Security Council. On Saturday, a scared Bolsonaro asked the top military brass for help after Lula’s release. And crucially, in a tweet, he defined Lula as a “scoundrel” who was “momentarily” free.
It’s this “momentarily” that gives away the game. Lula’s murky juridical situation is far from decided. In a harrowing but perfectly plausible short-term scenario, Lula could in fact be sent back to jail – but this time in isolation, in a maximum security federal prison, or even inside a military barracks; after all, he’s a former chief of the armed forces.
The full focus of Lula’s defense is now to have Moro disqualified. Anyone with a brain who’s been through The Intercept’s revelations can clearly identify Moro’s corruption. If that happens, and that’s a major “if,” Lula’s already existing convictions will be declared null and void. But there are others lawsuits, eight in total. This is total lawfare territory.
The military’s trump card is all about “terrorism” – associated with Lula and the Workers Party. If Lula, according to the harrowing scenario, is sent back to a federal prison, that could be in Brasilia, which not by accident holds the entire leadership of the PCC, or “First Command of the Capital”– the largest Brazilian criminal organization.
Maya and Leirner have shown how the PCC is allied with the military and the US Deep State, via their asset Moro, to establish not a Pax Brasilica but what they have described as a “Cocaine Evangelistan” – complete with terrorist false flags blamed on Lula’s command.
Leirner has exhaustively studied how the generals, for over a decade on their website, have been trying to associate the PCC with the Workers’ Party. And the association extends to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hezbollah and the Bolivians. Yes, this all comes straight from His Masters’ Voice’s playbook.
Lula, Putin and Xi
With the military betting on a strategy of chaos, augmented by Lula’s immense social base all over Brazil fuming about his return to prison and the financial bubble finally burst, rendering the middle classes even poorer, the stage would be set for the ultimate toxic cocktail: social “commotion” allied with “terrorism” associated with “organized crime.”
That’s all the military needs to launch an extensive operation to restore “order” and finally force Congress to approve the Brazilian version of the Patriot Act (five separate bills are already making their way in Congress).
This is no conspiracy theory. This is a measure of how incendiary Brazil is at the moment, and Western mainstream media will make no effort whatsoever to explain the nasty, convoluted plot for a global audience.
Leirner goes to the heart of the matter when he says the current system has no reason to retreat because its side is winning. They are not afraid of Brazil turning into Chile. And even if that ends up happening, they already have a culprit: Lula. Brazilian mainstream media are already releasing trial balloons – blaming Lula for the spike of the US dollar and the rise of inflation.
Lula and the Brazilian Left should invest in a full spectrum offensive.
The 9th BRICS summit takes place in Brazil this week. A master counter-coup would be to organize an off-the-record, extremely discreet, heavily securitized meeting among Lula, Putin and Xi Jinping, for instance in an embassy in Brasilia. Putin and Xi are Lula’s real top allies on the global stage. They have been literally waiting for Lula, as diplomats have confirmed to me over and over again.
If Lula follows a restricted script of merely reorganizing the Left, in Brazil, Latin America and even the Global South, the military system currently in place will swallow him whole all over again. The Left is infiltrated – everywhere. Now it’s total war. Assuming Lula remains free, he most certainly won’t be allowed to run again for the presidency in 2022. But that’s no problem. He’s got to be extra-bold – and he will be. Better not mess with the Steppenwolf.
The presidential election in Argentina pitted the people against neoliberalism and the people won. What happens next will have a tremendous impact all over Latin America and serve as a blueprint for assorted Global South struggles.
South America, Again, Leads Fight Against Neoliberalism
Alberto Fernandez supporters celebrating his presidential victory in Argentina. (Screen shot/YouTube)
The presidential election in Argentina was no less than a game-changer and a graphic lesson for the whole Global South. It pitted, in a nutshell, the people versus neoliberalism. The people won – with new President Alberto Fernandez and former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) as his VP.
Neoliberalism was represented by Mauricio Macri: a marketing product, former millionaire playboy, president of football legends Boca Juniors, fanatic of New Age superstitions, and CEO obsessed with spending cuts, who was unanimously sold by Western mainstream media as the new paradigm of a post-modern, efficient politician.
Well, the paradigm will soon be evacuated, leaving behind a wasteland: $250 billion in foreign debt; less than $50 billion in reserves; inflation at 55 percent; the U.S. dollar at over 60 pesos (a family needs roughly $500 to spend in a month; 35.4 percent of Argentine homes can’t make it); and, incredible as it may seem in a self-sufficient nation, a food emergency.
“The Head of Macri: How the First President of ‘No Politics’ Thinks, Lives and Leads.”
Macri, in fact the president of so-called Anti-Politics, No- Politics in Argentina, was a full IMF baby, enjoying total “support” (and gifted with a humongous $58 billion loan). New lines of credit, for the moment, are suspended. Fernandez is going to have a really hard time trying to preserve sovereignty while negotiating with foreign creditors, or “vultures,” as masses of Argentines define them. There will be howls on Wall Street and in the City of London about “fiery populism,” “market panicking,” “pariahs among international investors.” Fernandez refuses to resort to a sovereign default, which would add even more unbearable pain for the general public.
The good news is that Argentina is now the ultimate progressive lab on how to rebuild a devastated nation away from the familiar, predominant framework: a state mired in debt; rapacious, ignorant comprador elites; and “efforts” to balance the budget always at the expense of people’s interests.
What happens next will have a tremendous impact all over Latin America, not to mention serve as a blueprint for assorted Global South struggles. And then there’s the particularly explosive issue of how it will influence neighboring Brazil, which as it stands, is being devastated by a “Captain” Bolsonaro even more toxic than Macri.
Ride that Clio
It took less than four years for neoliberal barbarism, implemented by Macri, to virtually destroy Argentina. For the first time in its history Argentina is experiencing mass hunger.
In these elections, the role of charismatic former President CFK was essential. CFK prevented the fragmentation of Peronism and the whole progressive arc, always insisting, on the campaign trail, on the importance of unity.
But the most appealing phenomenon was the emergence of a political superstar: Axel Kicillof, born in 1971 and CFK’s former economy minister. When I was in Buenos Aires two months ago everyone wanted to talk about Kicillof.
The province of Buenos Aires congregates 40 percent of the Argentine electorate. Fernandez won over Macri by roughly 8 percent nationally. In Buenos Aires province though, the Macrists lost by 16 percent – because of Kicillof.
Kicillof’s campaign strategy was delightfully described as “Clio mata big data” (“Clio kills big data”), which sounds great when delivered with a porteño accent. He went literally all over the place – 180,000 km in two years, visiting all 135 cities in the province – in a humble 2008 Renault Clio, accompanied only by his campaign chief Carlos Bianco (the actual owner of the Clio) and his press officer Jesica Rey. He was duly demonized 24/7 by the whole mainstream media apparatus.
What Kicillof was selling was the absolute antithesis of Cambridge Analytica and Duran Barba – the Ecuadorian guru, junkie of big data, social networks and focus groups, who actually invented Macri the politician in the first place.
Argentina’s new president, Alberto Fernandez, at right, with his vice president, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. (Screen shot/YouTube)
Kicillof played the role of educator – translating macroeconomic language into prices in the supermarket, and Central Bank decisions into credit card balance, all to the benefit of elaborating a workable government program. He will be the governor of no less than the economic and financial core of Argentina, much like Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Fernandez, for his part, is aiming even higher: an ambitious, new, national, social pact – congregating unions, social movements, businessmen, the Church, popular associations, aimed at implementing something close to the Zero Hunger program launched by Lula in 2003.
In his historic victory speech, Fernandez cried, “Lula libre!” (“Free Lula”). The crowd went nuts. Fernandez said he would fight with all his powers for Lula’s freedom; he considers the former Brazilian president, fondly, as a Latin American pop hero. Both Lula and Evo Morales are extremely popular in Argentina.
Inevitably, in neighboring, top trading partner and Mercosur member Brazil, the two-bit neofascist posing as president, who’s oblivious to the rules of diplomacy, not to mention good manners, said he won’t send any compliments to Fernandez. The same applies to the destroyed-from-the-inside Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations, once a proud institution, globally respected, now “led” by an irredeemable fool.
Former Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, a great friend of Fernandez, fears that “hidden forces will sabotage him.” Amorim suggests a serious dialogue with the Armed Forces, and an emphasis on developing a “healthy nationalism.” Compare it to Brazil, which has regressed to the status of semi-disguised military dictatorship, with the ominous possibility of a tropical Patriot Act being approved in Congress to essentially allow the “nationalist” military to criminalize any dissidence.
Hit the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Beyond Argentina, South America is fighting neoliberal barbarism in its crucial axis, Chile, while destroying the possibility of an irreversible neoliberal take over in Ecuador. Chile was the model adopted by Macri, and also by Bolsonaro’s Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, a Chicago boy and Pinochetist fan. In a glaring instance of historical regression, the destruction of Brazil is being operated by a model now denounced in Chile as a dismal failure.
No surprises, considering that Brazil is Inequality Central. Irish economist Marc Morgan, a disciple of Thomas Piketty, in a 2018 research paper showed that the Brazilian 1 percent controls no less than 28 percent of national wealth, compared to 20 percent in the U.S. and 11 percent in France.
Axel Kicillof in 2014. (2violetas, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)
Which bring us, inevitably, to the immediate future of Lula – still hanging, and hostage to a supremely flawed Supreme Court. Even conservative businessmen admit that the only possible cure for Brazil’s political recovery – not to mention rebuilding an economic model centered on wealth distribution – is represented by “Free Lula.”
When that happens we will finally have Brazil-Argentina leading a key Global South vector towards a post-neoliberal, multipolar world.
Across the West, usual suspects have been trying to impose the narrative that protests from Barcelona to Santiago have been inspired by Hong Kong. That’s nonsense. Hong Kong is a complex, very specific situation, which I have analyzed, for instance, here, mixing anger against political non-representation with a ghostly image of China.
Each of the outbursts – Catalonia, Lebanon, Iraq, the Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests for nearly a year now – are due to very specific reasons. Lebanese and Iraqis are not specifically targeting neoliberalism, but they do target a crucial subplot: political corruption.
Protests are back in Iraq including Shi’ite-majority areas. Iraq’s 2005 constitution is similar to Lebanon’s, passed in 1943: power is distributed according to religion, not politics. This is a French colonizer thing – to keep Lebanon always dependent, and replicated by the Exceptionalists in Iraq. Indirectly, the protests are also against this dependency.
The Yellow Vests are targeting essentially President Emmanuel Macron’s drive to implement neoliberalism in France – thus the movement’s demonization by hegemonic media. But it’s in South America that protests go straight to the point: it’s the economy, stupid. We are being strangled and we’re not gonna take it anymore. A great lesson can be had by paying attention to Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera.
As much as Slavoj Zizek and Chantal Mouffe may dream of Left Populism, there are no signs of progressive anger organizing itself across Europe, apart from the Yellow Vests. Portugal may be a very interesting case to watch – but not necessarily progressive.
To digress about “populism” is nonsensical. What’s happening is the Age of Anger exploding in serial geysers that simply cannot be contained by the same, old, tired, corrupt forms of political representation allowed by that fiction, Western liberal democracy.
Zizek spoke of a difficult “Leninist” task ahead – of how to organize all these eruptions into a “large-scale coordinated movement.” It’s not gonna happen anytime soon. But, eventually, it will. As it stands, pay attention to Linera, pay attention to Kiciloff, let a collection of insidious, rhizomatic, underground strategies intertwine. Long live the post-neoliberal Ho Chi Minh trail.
Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is “2030.” Follow him on Facebook.
“It was fantastic,Obama’s capacity to deliver beautiful speeches, but the next day nothing happened, nothing, nothing. I think the United States was too big for Obama, he was too young, too inexperienced.”
This is the last of a three-part series from a world exclusive interview with Lula, the former Brazilian president, who remains in jail.
Lula on fights with Hillary, talks with Ahmadinejad, Obama “good but nervous and too young”…
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, left, with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, and Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan celebrate the signing of a nuclear fuel swap deal in Tehran in May 2010. Photo: AFP / Wilson Pedrosa / Agenciia Estado
As we advanced past the first hour of a historic interview – see here and here – at a Federal Police building in Curitiba, southern Brazil, where Lula has been incarcerated for over 500 days as part of the lawfare endgame in a complex coup, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was on a roll.
“Let me tell you about Iran.”
He felt relaxed enough to start telling stories of political negotiation at the highest level. He had already set the context. Nuggets abounded – especially focusing on the sometimes rocky relationship between Brasilia and Washington. Here are only three examples:
1) On the overall relationship with the US:
“People think that I’m angry at the Americans. On the contrary, we had a very healthy political relationship with the US, and that should be the case for Brazil. But to be subservient, never.”
2) On dealing with George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton:
“Bush accepted ideas with more fluidity than Obama. Obama was much tougher with Brazil. I’m certain that Hillary Clinton does not like Latin America, and she didn’t like Brazil. I had two big fights with her, one in a meeting in Trinidad-Tobago and another in Copenhagen [at the climate conference COP-15]. She arrived late, bossing everyone around. I said, ‘Lady, hang on. Wait for your turn. I’ve been here for three days.’ The petulance and arrogance of the Americans disturbs me, even if I think that the United States is always an important nation, and we should always maintain a good relationship.”
“Our main political gesture was Dilma [Rousseff, then the Brazilian president] traveling to the US, but Obama, it seems to me, had very little influence.”
“It was fantastic, Obama’s capacity to deliver beautiful speeches, but the next day nothing happened, nothing, nothing. I think the United States was too big for Obama, he was too young, too inexperienced.”
“And you know that the US State Department is very powerful…. I think Obama was a good man. When I went to visit him the first time … I left with a lingering doubt: there was no one remotely similar to him in the meeting. I said to myself, ‘This guy has no one matching him here.’ And in our conversation, I said, ‘Obama, you may be the President of the United States who has the greatest possibility to effect change in this country. Because you only need to have the audacity that black people had to vote for you. The people have already granted you the audacity. Make the best of it.’
But then, nothing much happened.”
3) On hybrid war:
“We tried to organize intelligence in the Air Force, the Navy, along with Federal Police intel, but among them there were some pretty serious fights. Whoever has intel has power, so no one wants to relay information to the competitor…. I imagined that after it was clear [from Edward Snowden’s revelations about National Security Agency surveillance] that … the United States was investigating Brazil … I imagined we would have a tougher position, maybe talking to the Russians and the Chinese, to create another system of protection. “
And that would set the scene for the inside story of the first Iran nuclear deal, clinched in Tehran in 2010 by Iran, Brazil and Turkey, and centered on a nuclear fuel swap, years before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached in Vienna in 2015 by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.
History will register that as Donald Trump smashed the JCPOA, Hillary Clinton scotched the original deal less than 24 hours after it was clinched, calling instead for a new round of sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council.
This is how I reported it for Asia Times. Lula, in early 2010, had already told Hillary in person it was not “prudent to push Iran against the wall.”
So what really happened in Tehran?
Meeting Khamenei, Ahmadinejad
“I was in New York. And [then Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad didn’t like me. He showed respect, but his preferential relationship here in the continent was with [Bolivian President] Evo Morales and my friend [Venezuela’s Hugo] Chavez… Then one day in New York, I decided to talk to Ahmadinejad, because he had said it was a lie that six million Jews had died. And then I said, ‘Look, Ahmadinejad, I came here because I wanted to know if it’s true that you said that the Jews want to be heroes because they died in the war. I wanna tell you something: The Jews did not die in the war. The Jews were victims of a genocide. They were not soldiers fighting. They were free men, women and children who were taken to concentration camps and killed, that’s different.’
“He said, ‘I know,’ and I said, ‘If you know, tell it to everyone, it’s not possible to deny that six million people were killed.’ … Well, during this conversation I said, ‘I’d like to go to Tehran to talk to you about the nuclear bomb. What do I want from you? I want you to have the same right that Brazil has. Brazil enriches uranium for scientific and peaceful purposes. I want you to do enrichment the same way as Brazil. But if there’s an atomic bomb, I’m against it.’
Iran’s religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in Tehran on February 2019. Photo: AFP / Anadolu / Religious Leader’s Press Office
“Then I sent [Foreign Minister] Celso Amorim ahead, a few times. We cultivated a relationship with Turkey. It was something very funny. I met the great Ayatollah Khamenei, I had a meeting with him, I think he fell in love with me because I told him my life story. When I told him that I ate bread for the first time when I was seven years old, I thought, ‘I think I won this guy.’ He lavished extraordinary attention on us. We talked for over two hours. Then I left Khamenei and went to talk to the president of their congress; he looked like a czar. Then I went to dinner with Ahmadinejad, while Celso Amorim was negotiating with their prime minister.
“Ahmadinejad was not getting to the point, and I said, ‘Let me tell you something.’ And we had two interpreters: one who translated him into English, and Celso, who translated from English to me. I said, ‘You know that I’m here being bashed by the Americans. Hillary Clinton called the Emir of Qatar to tell me that I could not come, to tell me that I would be fooled. When I arrived in Moscow, [then-president Dmitri Medvedev said, ‘Hillary called, asking me to tell you not to go [because] the Iranians are liars.’ There was even a media joke: They were asking about the chance of a deal. Medvedev said ‘10%,’ and I said ‘99% – we are going there and we are going to do it.’
“Then I arrived, I was sitting down with Ahmadinejad, and I said, ‘Hey, little guy [laughs], you know that I’m here, I’m losing my friends. Obama is nervous with me – Obama was the most nervous among them all, Angela Merkel does not want me to be here. The only one more or less favorable was [then-French president Nicholas] Sarkozy, and I came here because I think Iran is a very important country, not only from the point of view of your population but from the point of view of your culture. And I want Iran not to suffer the consequences of an embargo because an embargo is worse than war. In war, you kill soldiers. With an embargo you kill children, you kill people with serious illnesses.’
“It was already 10pm at night and I said, ‘I’m not leaving here without a deal.’ Up to this moment, there was no chance of a deal. Around midnight I was discussing things with my aides at the hotel. I was even imagining the headlines in Brazil, against my trip. Then Celso arrived at one in the morning and said, ‘There’ll be a deal.’
“Then we went there the next day, lots of talking, there was this guy who was an aide to Ahmadinejad and was always whispering in his ear, and Ahmadinejad demanded to change a word. So I told him, ‘Damn, get this guy outta here. Every time he comes here you change your mind.’ Then he said, ‘Lula, can we make a deal without signing it?’ And I said, ‘Nah…. Do you know what Sarkozy thinks about you? Do you know what Obama thinks about you? Do you know what Angela Merkel thinks about you? They all think Iranians are liars. So, in Brazil, we’ve got a thing called ‘black on white’. You gotta sign.’ So he agreed. We signed, Brazil, him [Iran] and Turkey.
Lula and US President Barack Obama, on left, meet with other leaders in Copenhagen in December 2009 at the COP15 Climate Conference. Photo: AFP
No talk, no deal
“I imagined I would be invited to the White House, or to Berlin by Angela Merkel…. So imagine my surprise when they were so nervous. You know that kid that goes to school, gets an ‘A,’ tells his mother and the mother thinks it’s a bad thing? I think they were pissed because Brazil could not possibly have achieved what they did not. They started to diss us, so what did I do? I took a letter that comrade Obama had sent, saying what would be good for the United States. And the Reuters news agency released Obama’s letter. And the letter was the same thing as the deal we clinched.
“It happened that Mrs. Hillary didn’t know about Obama’s letter…. Later, I was at a G-20 meeting, I approached Angela Merkel and said, ‘Have you talked to Ahmadinejad?’ I talked to Sarzoky, said, ‘Have you talked to Ahmadinejad?’ No. Approached Obama, said, ‘Have you talked to Ahmadinejad?’ ‘No.’ ‘Damn, how come you want a deal, but you don’t talk? You subcontract the negotiation? Then I understood that the world in the past had had leadership much, much more competent, left and right, people who knew how to discuss foreign policy.”
After hearing this story I asked Lula – the ultimate instinctive politician – if he felt Obama had stabbed him in the back: “No,” he replied. “I think, have you ever received a gift you didn’t know how to put it together?”
Cut down the trees. Kill the wild animals. Burn the bush. Pollute the rivers. Pave over the grass. Raise more beef, pigs and poultry in cages.
That’s the credo of the new right. Hatred of Nature is an integral part of its politics. President Donald Trump is the high priest of such environmental vandalism. In his narrow land-developer mind, Nature is a left-wing liberal conspiracy.
Trump’s Brazilian wannabe, President Jair Bolsonaro, is now doing his mentor one better: he encouraged Brazilian farmers, loggers and miners, all key Bolsonaro constituencies, to accelerate their destruction of the Amazon rain forest, which provides 20% of the Earth’s oxygen.
The farmers, miners and loggers responded to his call by burning the irreplaceable forest, the world’s largest, at a rate over 80% higher than last year. Rarely has the world seen a more horrifying example of humans destroying the small planet on which they live.
Bolsonaro and his fellow Brazilian vandals say they lack the means to stop this incendiary epidemic. Nonsense. The Brazilian president is a former army officer. He must deploy the entire Brazilian Army to protect his nation’s most important resource, the Amazon. Neighboring Bolivia, Columbia and Paraguay should join in. Here is a perfect example for the UN Security Council to take action by declaring the 75,000 man-made fires a threat to all humanity and threaten to sanction Brazil’s exports if its does not take decisive action.
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron put it right at the current G7 meeting at Biarritz, ‘our house is on fire.’ France, Spain and Portugal all have their very serious dry season fires, but they send small armies to combat them. Climate change is playing a major role in sparking the raging fires. Unlike Bolsonaro, the European nations don’t absurdly claim the fires were begun by NGO’s (non-governmental environmental organizations).
Brazil’s army numbers 222,700 men, backed by reserves of 1,980,000. Mobilize them. Bolsonaro has been eager to send special paramilitary militia groups into slums in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Send them to the Amazon, which has three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.
The Amazon’s forests are being burned primarily to create more grazing land for cattle, one of Brazil’s most important exports. Producing meat is not only cruel, it uses up inordinate amounts of land and water. All those who adopt ‘meatless Mondays’ or purchase new plant-based burgers are directly fighting the destruction of the Amazon.
The slow death of the Amazon is an alarm call to us all of the importance of trees to mankind. I’ve been to many nations – such as India and Haiti – where most of their original trees were cut down – and the result has been an environmental disaster for mankind and animals.
We are wanton and prodigal in our over-use of wood. Trees must be protected – as the city of Toronto has so wisely done by fencing off trees in construction zones. I hope that a way will be found to convert plastic waste into building materials.
The wide-scale destruction of the great North American boreal forest is a crime that must end now. Fly over the ‘clear-cut’ zones of tree destruction in Canada and the US to see the full horror of the industrialized massacre of our trees. Brazil is not the only killer of forests.
Recycling all wood is the first step. Banning open-air camp fires is another sensible step. Those who make a living by killing trees and animals must be advised to find other work at a time when labor is short.
Trump and Bolsonaro are modern-day vandals. The gutting of America’s wildlife and environmental laws by the Trump administration is a shameful act of ignorance. But one supposes that our president, who appears to live on burgers and diet Coke, has zero interest in wetlands, trees, birds, animals or rivers.
Even Adolf Hitler was an arch conservationist and vegetarian who hated smokers and loved birds and trees. The Mongols destroyed every city in their bloody path to free up more grazing for their ponies. Bolsonaro and Trump would feel right at home with Genghis Khan and his boys.
Americans are bombarded with non-stop news on Hong Kong and Moscow rallies, but how come mass protests in Honduras and Brazil aren’t high on the agenda? Lee Camp looks at why the US corporate media are keeping mum on the subject.
Honduras, a Latin American nation of nine million people, has been hit by massive unrest, with people venting anger at pro-US President Orlando Hernandez. The wave of violent demonstrations saw the US diplomatic mission attacked by protesters – but the American mainstream media didn’t say a word about it, Camp pointed out, speaking on Redacted Tonight.
“Protesters are literally burning the US embassy because we installed a f******d [Hernandez] rule over them, how is that non-news?” he wondered.
Hondurans are rightfully furious about “the neoliberal austerity measures supported by our country and the IMF.” It caused massive layoffs, increased costs of basic goods and essentially made their lives suck down there, Camp reminded viewers.
But as long as their government is pillaging the people appropriately, our government is cool with it.
All in all, Honduras isn’t the only unrest-hit country overlooked by the US corporate media. Brazil, “the largest of countries Americans don’t care about,” has been rocked by a massive strike led by trade unions. Over 45 million people there – “can you imagine 45 million Americans agreeing on everything?” – are protesting against the right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and his controversial pension reform.
But this is “not a story your corporate media will cover,” and for obvious reasons, Camp offered. On the one hand, it may not look good for the White House administration, including a particular president. On the other hand…
The American workers might think, ’what if WE have a general strike?’
The award-winning journalist has called Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro a ‘wannabe dictator’ after being threatened with jail time amid a scandal surrounding the nation’s justice minister sparked by Intercept reports.
Amid rumors that Glenn Greenwald could face deportation under a new government decree, Bolsonaro stated that “he will not be kicked out” – but instead might “do jail time in Brazil.” The decree, issued by Justice Minister Sergio Moro, allows summary expulsion of people accused of unconstitutional acts or deemed a danger to the “security of Brazil.”
Bolsonaro said nothing about the charges that could land the reporter in prison. Instead, he attacked Greenwald’s choice of life partner, claiming that the journalist might have engaged in a relationship with a Brazilian citizen only to avoid deportation.
“Trickster, trickster, to avoid such a problem [of deportation], he marries another trickster and adopts a child in Brazil,” Bolsonaro said. “That is the problem we have. He will not leave.”
Greenwald immediately hit back, calling the president a “wannabe dictator” and saying that he “has no power” to order arrests and deportations, especially since the authorities have “nothing”incriminating on him. Greenwald, who married in 2005 and lives with his Brazilian husband and two adopted children in Rio de Janeiro, also mocked Bolsonaro’s remark about his ‘prophetic’ matrimonial plans.
Today in Brazil:
While threatening to imprison me – a power he doesn’t have – Bolsonaro also claimed I married @davidmirandario & adopted 2 children as a manipulative tactic to avoid deportation. Apparently I can predict the future, since I married David 14 years ago when I was still a lawyer.
The co-founder of the Intercept has been under pressure ever since it published a series of bombshell reports targeting Moro – a former judge and a close ally of Bolsonaro. Based on a trove of leaked communication logs, the reports alleged that as part of a high-profile anti-corruption probe known as Operation Car Wash, Moro actively worked with a group of Brazilian prosecutors to undermine Brazil’s leftist Workers’ Party and prevent former President Lula de Silva from returning to power, clearing the way for Bolsonaro’s eventual victory last year.
The leaks triggered a scandal that dominated headlines in Brazil for weeks and sparked heated debates in the parliament. Since then, Greenwald says his family has received multiple “grotesque” threats of violence, while authorities reportedly launched an investigation against the journalist.
As witnessed during Donald Trump’s recent attendance at the G20 Summit in Osaka and his side trip to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Korea, relying solely on the counsel of one’s daughter and son-in-law resulted in Trump displaying for the world his total ignorance of the fundamentals of international relations and geo-politics. Trump insisted on placing his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, on center stage in Osaka for the G20 conclave and at Panmunjom for a hastily arranged meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Ms. Trump acted as if she was on some sort of sorority house outing and was keen to impress her friends with inane statements that stepping into North Korea with her father was “surreal.”
Ms. Trump’s husband failed to impress anyone a week earlier after his long-awaited and overly hyped Middle East “peace plan” was presented at a “workshop” in Manama, Bahrain. Dubbed “Peace to Prosperity,” Kushner’s plan more resembled a real estate development prospectus brochure than a bona fide peace proposal between the Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians and some Arab nations were wise to consider Kushner’s plan “dead on arrival.” Kushner’s and Trump’s real estate companies are known mainly for bankruptcies and fraud. In reality, Kushner’s plan foresees the Palestinians selling their land to developers in a get-rich-quick scheme. Nowhere did the plan mention the political status of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, or the Palestinian diaspora’s right of return.
Kushner’s call for Gulf and other investors to ante up $50 billion over a ten-year time frame for infrastructure development, which includes a $5 billion transport link between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, appeared to be more a get-rich scheme for Kushner, his friends, and Trump’s cronies. The only people who seemed excited about Kushner’s contrivance included former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, founder of Skybridge Capital, and Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group and chairman of Trump’s short-lived Strategic and Policy Forum, both of whom were in Manama to praise Kushner’s initiative. Billionaire US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said of Kushner’s plan, “It’s going to be like a hot IPO [initial public offering].”
Kushner’s plan was rightly panned for being an unrealistic project concocted by someone who counts Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as a close friend. In concert with orders from Netanyahu and two other Kushner compatriots – former Trump attorneys David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s adviser on Israel – the issue of Palestinian sovereignty was not included in the “peace plan.”
While Kushner failed to impress anyone in Bahrain with his peace plan nonsense, his wife, Ivanka, made an utter fool out of herself and the United States by appearing center stage at the G20 Summit. Rarely was Ms. Trump absent from photographs of the gathered world leaders. A short video link was released by the Élysée Palace in Paris showing Ms. Trump attempting to barge in on a conversation between French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, and British Prime Minister Theresa May. It is clear from the audio that Trump’s daughter was way out of her league and her insertions of babbling nonsense failed to impress the four leaders, three of whom are responsible for major nations and one for an important international organization. Ms. Trump has only been responsible for using her White House position to enrich her portfolio of handbag, clothing, perfume, footwear, and jewelry companies.
Trump’s neo-conservative war hawk national security adviser, John Bolton, did not accompany the president to Panmunjom. North Korea has made no secret of its dislike for Bolton, an opinion that is shared by many other countries and a sizable percentage of Americans. Instead, Bolton was banished to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, where he conducted talks with Mongolian state security secretary Davaasuren Damdinsuren. Bolton’s place in Panmunjom was taken by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who would not even have a job in the television business had it not been for the fact that his father, Dick Carlson, was a past president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and director of the Voice of America. Together with Ms. Trump and Kushner, Tucker Carlson made up the US contingent in Panmunjom for the first ever “visit” by a sitting US president to North Korean soil. In fact, two past presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, accomplished much more during their post-presidential visits to North Korea than did Trump for a self-serving “photo op.”
When it comes to the G20 leaders, regardless of politics, it can be safely said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are in a class by themselves when it comes to experienced practitioners of geo-political statecraft.
At the other end of the spectrum, where inexperienced and outright stupid novices roam, is found Trump and Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. During a joint press conference in Osaka, Trump was asked about President Putin’s belief that “western liberalism” was on the political ropes. Trump, obviously unfamiliar with the concept advanced during the Age of Enlightenment by such 17th and 18th century figures as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Baron Montesquieu – it should be firmly stated that anyone who ever took a college political science or history course is familiar with the refrain “Hobbes, Locke, and Montesquieu” – began blathering about liberal Democratic cities in California, specifically mentioning Los Angeles and San Francisco. In a cringe-worthy moment, Trump incredulously said, “I guess you look at what’s happening in Los Angeles, where it’s so sad to look, and what’s happening in San Francisco, and a couple other cities which are run by an extraordinary group of liberal people.”
It is of little wonder why Trump only seems to bond with Bolsonaro, an admirer of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Bolsonaro is a disciple of the Richmond, Virginia-based Brazilian polemicist, Olavo de Carvalho. A fierce opponent of former Brazilian Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, Carvalho rejects Copernican, Newtonian, and Einsteinian physics, choosing to believe that the Earth does not revolve around the sun; that the concept of infinite numbers, as well as manmade climate change, are hoaxes; that there was no such thing as the Spanish Inquisition; that vaccinations kill people or make them crazy; and that Pepsi sweetened its drinks with aborted human fetuses. Carvalho has also said that there is insufficient evidence to prove whether the Earth is flat or a sphere. No wonder Trump and Bolsonaro admire one another. They have become the antithesis of the Age of Enlightenment. They represent a modern “Age of Stupidity.”
One could easily dismiss those like Carvalho as lunatic gadflies. However, they have powerful admirers and cohorts, as witnessed in March 2019 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Former Trump adviser and campaign strategist Steve Bannon co-hosted a screening of a complementary film about Carvalho. Present was President Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, a representative for South America of Bannon’s global fascist “Movement.” Following the screening of the film, Carvalho declared that all journalists are drug addicts. While many journalists do enjoy their adult beverage of choice, such a Trump-like statement by the political guru of Bannon and Bolsonaro provides further evidence that our world has entered the Age of Stupidity, where up is no longer down, facts are considered false, and imbeciles like Trump and Bolsonaro, along with their corrupt families, now govern major nation-states.
A container ship unloads cargo at the port terminal in Long Beach, California on May 10, as talks to resolve the US-China trade battle ended Friday with no deal, but no breakdown. Photo: Mark Ralston / AFP
The Trump administration’s response to China’s emergence has been to throw all sorts of spanners in the works, but tariffs won’t bring back manufacturing jobs
Let’s start with the “long” 16th Century – which, as with the 21st, also saw a turbulent process of marketization. At that time, the Jesuits and the Counter-Reformation were trying to rebound across Asia – but within a context where the rivalry between the Iberian superpowers of the age, Spain and Portugal, still lingered.
The Reformation first attached itself to the Dutch trade thalassocracy – a seaborne empire, under which commerce was paramount – over strict propaganda of religious dogma. Britain’s maritime realm was still biding its time. The emergence of Protestantism proceeded in parallel to the emergence of neo-Confucianism in East Asia.
Fast forward to our turbulent times. Marketization – renamed as globalization – seems to be in crisis. But not in the Middle Kingdom, which is now investing in globalization 2.0 amid increasing rivalry with the other superpower, the US.
The American thalassocracy is being superseded by the Revenge of the Heartland, in the form of the Russia-China strategic partnership – for whom Eurasian trade integration, as expressed by the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is paramount over the Make America Great Again (MAGA) dogma.
Meanwhile, the re-emergence of Right populism in the West mirrors the re-emergence of pragmatic neo-Confucianism across Asia.
BRI – the prime vehicle for Eurasia integration – would have never come to light without China’s four decades of breakneck economic development.
My sharpest and most informed geopolitical readers, such as the wonderfully enigmatic Larchmonter, are in synch with my running conversations – for years now – with top analysts in Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan; following the Obama administration’s fuzzy “pivot to Asia”, the Trump administration’s response to China’s emergence has been to throw all sorts of spanners in the works.
Thus, the current hysteria over tariffs, the trade offensive, the demonization of BRI, Made in China 2025 and Huawei’s 5G dominance, and all manner of disruptive Hybrid War tactics such as repeatedly claiming “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea to progressive weaponizing of Taiwan.
All that duly fueled by non-stop hatchet jobs on media outlets, as in branding Huawei as “suspect” or “permanently untrustworthy”.
From the point of view of the hyperpower, there can be only one possible endgame: an amputated, permanently crippled and preferably non-stop aching Chinese economy – with unfavorable demographics to boot.
Where are our jobs?
Pause on the sound and fury for necessary precision. Even if the Trump administration slaps 25% tariffs on all Chinese exports to the US, the IMF has projected that would trim just a meager slither – 0.55% – off China’s GDP.And America is unlikely to profit, because the extra tariffs won’t bring back manufacturing jobs to the US – something that Steve Jobs told Barack Obama eons ago.
What happens is that global supply chains will be redirected to economies that offer comparative advantages in relation to China, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Laos. And this redirection is already happening anyway – including by Chinese companies.
BRI represents a massive geopolitical and financial investment by China, as well as its partners; over 130 states and territories have signed on. Beijing is using its immense pool of capital to make its own transition towards a consumer-based economy while advancing the necessary pan-Eurasian infrastructure development – with all those ports, high-speed rail, fiber optics, electrical grids expanding to most Global South latitudes.
The end result, up to 2049 – BRI’s time span – will be the advent of an integrated market of no less than 4.5 billion people, by that time with access to a Chinese supply chain of high-tech exports as well as more prosaic consumer goods.
Anyone who has followed the nuts and bolts of the Chinese miracle launched by Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping in 1978 knows that Beijing is essentially exporting the mechanism that led China’s own 800 million citizens to, in a flash, become members of a global middle class.
As much as the Trump administration may bet on “maximum pressure” to restrict or even block Chinese access to whole sectors of the US market, what really matters is BRI’s advance will be able to generate multiple, extra US markets over the next two decades.
We don’t do ‘win-win’
There are no illusions in the Zhongnanhai, as there are no illusions in Tehran or in the Kremlin. These three top actors of Eurasian integration have exhaustively studied how Washington, in the 1990s, devastated Russia’s post-USSR economy (until Putin engineered a recovery) and how Washington has been trying to utterly destroy Iran for four decades.
Beijing, as well as Moscow and Tehran, know everything there is to know about Hybrid War, which is an American intel concept. They know the ultimate strategic target of Hybrid War, whatever the tactics, is social chaos and regime change.
The case of Brazil – a BRICS member like China and Russia – was even more sophisticated: a Hybrid War initially crafted by NSA spying evolved into lawfare and regime change via the ballot box. But it ended with mission accomplished – Brazil has been reduced to the lowly status of an American neo-colony.
Let’s remember an ancient mariner, the legendary Chinese Muslim Admiral Zheng He, who for three decades, from 1405 to 1433, led seven expeditions across the seas all the way to Arabia and Eastern Africa, reaching Champa, Borneo, Java, Malacca, Sumatra, Ceylon, Calicut, Hormuz, Aden, Jeddah, Mogadiscio, Mombasa, bringing tons of goods to trade (silk, porcelain, silver, cotton, iron tools, leather utensils).
That was the original Maritime Silk Road, progressing in parallel to Emperor Yong Le establishing a Pax Sinica in Asia – with no need for colonies and religious proselytism. But then the Ming dynasty retreated – and China was back to its agricultural vocation of looking at itself.
They won’t make the same mistake again. Even knowing that the current hegemon does not do “win-win”. Get ready for the real hardcore yet to come.
Dick Cheney’s Global War on Terror (GWOT) is back, metastasized as a hybrid mongrel.
But GWOT would not be GWOT without a Wild West scarecrow. Enter Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama. On the same day the State Department announced a $1 million bounty on his head, the so- called “UN Security Council IS and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee” declared Hamza the next al-Qaeda leader.
Since January 2017, Hamza has been a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the State Department – on par with his deceased Dad, back in the early 2000s. The Beltway intel community “believes” Hamza resides “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.”
Remember these are the same people who “believed” former Taliban leader Mullah Omar resided in Quetta, Baluchistan, when in fact he was safely ensconced only a few miles away from a massive U.S. military base in Zabul, Afghanistan.
Considering that Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria, for all practical purposes, was defined as no more than “moderate rebels” by the Beltway intel community, it’s safe to infer that new scarecrow Hamza is also a “moderate”. And yet he’s more dangerous than vanished fake Caliph Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi. Talk about a masterful example of culture jamming.
Show Me The Big Picture
A hefty case can be made that the Empire of Chaos currently has no allies; it’s essentially surrounded by an assortment of vassals, puppets and comprador 5thcolumnist elites professing varied degrees of – sometimes reluctant – obedience.
The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy – as in the whole episode of designating State Department/CIA regime change, lab experiment Random Dude as President of Venezuela. Legendary cultural critic Walter Benjamin would have called it “the aestheticization of politics,” (turning politics into art), as he did about the Nazis, but this time it’s the Looney Tunes version.
To add to the conceptual confusion, despite countless “an offer you can’t refuse” antics unleashed by psychopaths of the John Bolton and Mike Pompeo variety, there’s this startling nugget. Former Iranian diplomat Amir Moussavi has revealed that Trump himself demanded to visit Tehran, and was duly rebuffed. “Two European states, two Arab countries and one Southeast Asian state” were mediating a series of messages relayed by Trump and his son-in-law Jared “of Arabia” Kushner, according to Moussavi.
Is there a method to this madness? An attempt at a Grand Narrative would go something like this: ISIS/Daesh may have been sidelined – for now; they are not useful anymore, so the U.S. must fight the larger “evil”: Tehran. GWOT has been revived, and though Hamza bin Laden has been designated the new Caliph, GWOT has shifted to Iran.
When we mix this with the recent India-Pakistan scuffle, a wider message emerges. There was absolutely no interest by Prime Minister Imran Kahn, the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani intelligence, ISI, to launch an attack on India in Kashmir. Pakistan was about to run out of money and about to be bolstered by the U.S., via Saudi Arabia with $20 billion and an IMF loan.
At the same time, there were two almost simultaneous terrorist attacks launched from Pakistan – against Iran and against India in mid-February. There’s no smoking gun yet, but these attacks may have been manipulated by a foreign intelligence agency. The Cui Bono riddle is which state would profit immensely from a war between Pakistan and Iran and/or a war between Pakistan and India.
The bottom line: hiding in the shadow of plausible deniability – according to which what we understand as reality is nothing but pure perception – the Empire of Chaos will resort to the chaos of no-holds-barred hybrid war to avoid “losing” the Eurasian heartland.
Show Me How Many Hybrid Plans You Got
What applies to the heartland of course also applies to the backyard.
The case of Venezuela shows that the “all options on the table” scenario has been de facto aborted by Russia, outlined in an astonishing briefing by Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, and then subsequently detailed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Lavrov. (Wikimedia Commons)
Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at a crucial RIC (part of BRICS) summit in China,Lavrov said,“Russia keeps a close eye on brazen US attempts to create an artificial pretext for a military intervention in Venezuela… The actual implementation of these threats is pulling in military equipment and training [US] Special Forces.”
Lavrov explained how Washington was engaged in acquiring mortars and portable air defense systems “in an East European country, and moving them closer to Venezuela by an airline of a regime that is… rather absolutely obedient to Washington in the post-Soviet space.”
The U.S. attempt at regime change in Venezuela has been so far unsuccessful in several ways. Plan A – a classic color revolution -has miserably failed, in part because of a lack of decent local intelligence. Plan B was a soft version of humanitarian imperialism, with a resuscitation of the nefarious, Libya-tested responsibility to protect (R2P); it also failed, especially when the American tale that the Venezuelan government burnt humanitarian aid trucks at the border with Colombia was a lie, exposed by The New York Times, no less.
Plan C was a classic Hybrid War technique: a cyberattack, replete with a revival of Nitro Zeus, which shut down 80 percent of Venezuela’s electricity.
That plan had already been exposed by WikiLeaks, via a 2010 memo by a U.S.-funded, Belgrade-based color revolution scam that helped train self-proclaimed “President” Random Dude, when he was just known as Juan Guaidó. The leaked memo said that attacking the Venezuelan power grid would be a “watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”
But even that was not enough.
That leaves Plan D – which is essentially to try to starve the Venezuelan population to death via viciously lethal additional sanctions. Sanctioned Syria and sanctioned Iran didn’t collapse. Even boasting myriad comprador elites aggregated in the Lima group, exceptionalists may have to come to grips with the fact that deploying the Monroe doctrine essentially to contain China’s influence in the young 21stcentury is no “cakewalk.”
Plan E—for extreme—would be U.S. military action, which Bolton won’t take off the table.
Show Me the Way to the Next War Game
So where do all these myriad weaponizations of chaos theory leave us? Nowhere, if they don’t follow the money. Local comprador elites must be lavishly rewarded, otherwise you’re stuck in hybrid swamp territory. That was the case in Brazil – and that’s why the most sophisticated hybrid war case history so far has been a success.
In 2013, Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks revealed how the NSA was spying on Brazilian energy giant Petrobras and the Dilma Rousseff government beginning in 2010. Afterwards, a complex, rolling judicial-business-political-financial-media coup ended up reaching its two main objectives; in 2016, with the impeachment of Rousseff, and in 2018, with Lula thrown in jail.
Now comes arguably the juiciest piece of the puzzle. Petrobras was supposed to pay $853 million to the U.S. Department of Justice for not going to trial for crimes it was being accused of in America. But then a dodgy deal was struck according to which the fine will be transferred to a Brazilian fund as long as Petrobras commits to relay confidential information about its businesses to the United States government.
Mattis: Wrote on hybrid war in 2005.
Hybrid war against BRICS member Brazil worked like a charm, but trying it against nuclear superpower Russia is a completely different ball game. U.S. analysts, in another case of culture jamming, even accuse Russia itself of deploying hybrid war – a concept actually invented in the U.S. within a counter-terrorism context; applied during the occupation of Iraq and later metastasized across the color revolution spectrum; and featuring, among others, in an article co-authored by former Pentagon head James “Mad Dog” Mattis in 2005 when he was a mere lieutenant general.
At a recent conference about Russia’s military strategy, Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov stressed that the Russian armed forces must increase both their “classic” and “asymmetrical” potential. In the U.S. this is interpreted as subversion/propaganda hybrid war techniques as applied in Ukraine and in the largely debunked Russia-gate. Instead, Russian strategists refer to these techniques as “complex approach” and “new generation war”.
Santa Monica’s RAND Corporation still sticks to good ol’ hot war scenarios. They have been holding “Red on Blue” war games simulations since 1952 – modeling how the proverbial “existential threats” could use asymmetric strategies. The latest Red on Blue was not exactly swell. RAND analyst David Ochmanek famously said that with Blue representing the current U.S. military potential and Red representing Russia-China in a conventional war, “Blue gets its ass handed to it.”
None of this will convince Empire of Chaos functionary Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon will continue to refuse a “no first use” nuclear strategy. Aspiring Dr. Strangeloves actually believe the U.S. can start a nuclear war and get away with it.
Talk about the Age of Hybrid Stupidity going out with a bang.
Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is “2030.” Follow him on Facebook.
Perhaps the time has come for the world’s citizens to impose sanctions of our own on the meddling USA. If we all boycotted American products perhaps the USA would stop subverting other nations. Every time you buy a cup of coffee from Starbucks you are effectively supporting the USA’s imperialistic agenda.
U.S. President Trump and Brazil’s President Bolsonaro also discussed cooperation over Venezuela, where both want to oust socialist President Maduro.
U.S. President Trump and Brazil’s President Bolsonaro also discussed cooperation over Venezuela, where both want to oust socialist President Maduro.
U.S. President Donald Trump gave Brazil’s new far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro a ringing endorsement in the Oval Office Tuesday, saying he was looking at a NATO membership or some other alliance for Brazil while saying that his administration has yet to impose the “toughest” sanctions on Venezuela.
At the outset of their first meeting, the two populist presidents exchanged football jerseys from their national teams, with Trump’s name emblazoned on Brazil’s famous yellow shirt and Bolsonaro’s on the USA uniform.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain who styled his 2018 campaign after Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has declared himself an unabashed admirer of the U.S. president, his politics, and the “American way of life”. He’s also openly praised former dictators of Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay as well as the ‘Chicago Boys.’
Despite the courtship of both parties, no major breakthroughs were expected from the White House meeting. Trump did give his verbal support, however, to expanding Brazil’s presence in major multinational organizations, such as the military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the trade organization, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
“We’re going to look at that very, very strongly in terms of- whether it’s NATO or it’s something having to do with alliance,” Trump told reporters as he sat beside Bolsonaro.
Brazilian government officials had said last week that they expected the United States to name Brazil as a major non-NATO ally. However, proposing Brazil for NATO membership would take that a step further.
In 2018, Colombia became the only Latin American nation to join NATO, as a “global partner,” which means it will not necessarily have to take part in military action.
Trump also said he supported Brazil’s efforts to join the OECD. Brazil, the world’s eighth-largest economy, applied in 2017 to join the international organization, which has around three dozen members including Latin American countries Mexico, Chile, and Colombia.
During the press conference, Trump once again took aim at Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro saying that “the twilight hour of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere,” Trump told reporters and added that “as you know we have yet to impose the toughest sanctions” on Venezuela.
A senior member of Bolsonaro’s economic team said last week Brazil did not expect the U.S. government to announce support for its bid to join the OECD during Bolsonaro’s visit.
Trump said he and Bolsonaro would also discuss improving trade between the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere and cooperation over Venezuela, where both leaders want to oust leftist President Nicolas Maduro.
Ahead of Tuesday’s Oval Office meeting, Bolsonaro waived a visa requirement for U.S. visitors to Brazil and later in a Fox News interview, Monday night threw his weight behind Trump’s immigration agenda, which includes a wall on the Mexican border.
“We do agree with President Trump’s decision or proposal on the wall,” Bolsonaro said, in remarks translated to English by the broadcaster. “The vast majority of potential immigrants do not have good intentions. They do not intend to do the best or do good to the U.S. people.”
Trump’s administration’s immigration policies, with tightening restrictions and shifting protocol, have lead to family separations, human rights violations, and at least three deaths of two children and one man who were in custody at the US-Mexican border since December 2018.
Today’s emerging markets are tomorrow’s powerhouses, according to a recent forecast from Standard Chartered, a multinational bank headquartered in London.
The bank sees developing economies like Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, and Egypt all moving up the ladder – and by 2030, it estimates that seven of the world’s largest 10 economies by GDP (PPP) will be located in emerging markets.
To create some additional context, Visual Capitalists’s Jeff Desjardins has compared these projections to the IMF’s most recent data on GDP (PPP) for 2017. We’ve also added in potential % change for each country, if comparing these two data sets directly.
Here’s how the numbers change:
Possibly the biggest surprise on the list is Egypt, a country that Standard Chartered sees growing at a torrid pace over this timeframe.
If comparing using the 2017 IMF figures, the difference between the two numbers is an astonishing 583%. This makes such a projection quite ambitious, especially considering that organizations such as the IMF see Egypt averaging closer to 8% in annual GDP growth (PPP) over the next few years.
THE ASCENT OF EMERGING MARKETS
Egypt aside, it’s likely that the ascent of emerging markets will continue to be a theme in future projections by other banks and international organizations.
By 2030, India will be the second largest economy in PPP terms according to many different models – and by then, it will also be the most populous country in the world as well. (It’s expected to pass China in 2026)
With the divide between emerging and developed economies closing at a seemingly faster rate than ever before, this should be seen as an interesting opportunity for all investors taking a long-term view.
Emerging market economies are heading for an economic implosion. From South America to South Asia conditions are deteriorating rapidly and heading for an even more severe economic crisis in which many are already mired. At the head of this list is Brazil and Argentina. Others increasingly fragile, however, include Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even India, which has covered up its weak economic condition, and massive non-performing bank loan problem, by manipulating its GDP to falsely exaggerate its growth rate.
Business pundits, and even some commentators on the ‘left’, argue that emerging market economies, of which all the above are key members, now account for more than half of the world’s GDP. This suggests their vulnerability to US and G7 economies is less than it has been in the past. The so-called advanced economies–i.e. the USA, Japan, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy (the ‘G7–are increasingly irrelevant. But global GDP numbers are manipulated everywhere to show a stronger growth than actually has been occurring. Overnight, economies like India double their GDP numbers by redefining categories that compose their Gross Domestic Product, GDP, by manipulating price estimations that boost real GDP and by introducing statistical assumptions in their estimation of growth that are gross misrepresentations. GDP is thus not a good indicator of the condition of their economies. Even so, global GDP itself is now slowing this past year, as global trade also slows (even before USA precipitated ‘trade wars’ take effect). But this idea of declining vulnerability of economies like Brazil and Argentina is incorrect.
GDP numbers obscure the still significant vulnerability of emerging market economies (EMEs) to the advanced economies and their policy actions, especially the USA. This is true for even the largest EME’s like Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia, India and others. More symptomatic economic indicators of the growing crisis in EMEs are their currency declines, money capital outflows, rising domestic interest rates, and rising import cost inflation.
USA Levers of Economic Power: Currency, Credit Access & Central Bank Rates
While the EME’s share of global GDP has risen in recent decades, the world economy is nevertheless still largely manipulated by the USA and other G7 economies. That manipulation is exercised by the USA in particular by several means: through its dominant currency, the US dollar; by control of the flow of much of global credit (and debt) by US banks and US shadow banks through capital markets; and by the influence of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, over US interest rates and, in turn, rates by other central banks and banks elsewhere.
Recessions and crises in the EMEs are largely the consequence of USA policy shifts involving US interest rates, US dollar appreciation or depreciation, global crude oil price speculation that follow the dollar, or lending by US banks and US shadow banks (i.e. investment banks, hedge funds, private equity firms, etc.,) in what are called ‘capital (corporate debt) markets’ that function as alternative sources of credit from traditional bank loans.
In 2017 all these US policy levers began to shift to the disadvantage of emerging markets. That shift is accelerating in 2018. The result has been ‘made in the USA’ deepening recessions in the EMEs, collapse of their currencies, capital outflow from EMEs back to the USA and G7, accelerating EME domestic inflation, and increasing political unrest and instability.
Therefore, not GDP, but a more telling initial indicator of the growing fragility in emerging economies is the recent freefall of their currencies in relation to the US dollar, Euros, and Japanese Yen, as well as the capital flight from these countries that occurs in tandem with the collapse of their currencies. These in turn become the key drivers of EME domestic recession, mass unemployment, inflation, goods shortages, and growing political instability.
And at the head of the list of economies with currency instability today in South America are Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. But the same process is emerging rapidly elsewhere in the EMEs, in Turkey, Indonesia. Malaysia, and perhaps next even India. But no region of the global economy more strongly reflects the crisis today than Brazil and Argentina.
Destabilizing Argentina and Brazil
Argentina’s currency, the Peso, has fallen around 25% since the beginning of 2018. Turkey, Brazil and others are also falling at double digit rates in recent months. With the collapse of their currency, the value of investments held by capitalists in these countries–foreign and domestic alike–also fall in value. To protect the value of investors’ assets from collapsing with their currency (i.e. stocks, bonds, real estate, foreign currency holdings, derivatives, etc.) their governments (legislatures and central banks) respond by raising interest rates in their own economies, in the desperate attempt to stem the capital outflow set off by currency collapse. Investors’ investment values are propped up by raising domestic interest rates. But the the contradiction is that higher interest rates depress the real economy, throwing it into recession; or if recession already exists, into yet deeper recession and even depression. But investors don’t care about recession; they care foremost about protecting the value of their investments. Thus the pro-business, pro-investor EME governments opt for higher rates and accept mass unemployment as a cost.
EME currency collapse has another economic consequence. Since most of these countries import much of their basic goods (food, medical supplies, oil, raw materials for manufacturing, consumer goods, etc.), the collapsing currencies also raise inflation on these goods due to rising import costs. Thus stagnating and then declining real economy and mass unemployment is accompanied by rising prices. More workers are laid off because of the slowing economy, while the prices they must pay for basic goods and services simultaneously rise as well.
Argentina and Brazil are especially exposed to this scenario of US rising interest rates and dollar that precipitates collapse of their currencies, capital flight, rate hikes, mass unemployment and inflation.
Since the 2008 global crash they have borrowed heavily–especially in US dollars. The massive trillions of dollars of debt they accumulated since 2008 must be repaid in dollars. To get dollars they must export and sell more goods. But the slowing of global trade and other developments in China, Europe and China has reduced their ability to export more. They can’t raise sufficient dollars with which to pay their US dollar denominated debt (to US banks and shadow banks). In order to continue to pay their foreign debt principal and interest coming due (to US and G7 bankers) they are forced to borrow dollars from the International Monetary Fund, IMF–another key economic institution controlled by the US and G7.
Argentina recently borrowed another $50 billion from the IMF–to pay its debt to USA and G7 bankers. However, this doesn’t solve its problem. It only shifts debt payments from private bankers to the the IMF. The IMF never ‘bails out’ countries; it always bails out bankers that have loaned to these countries when the latter cannot make payments to their bankers (and bond investors, etc.).
While Argentina has turned to the IMF to temporarily buy time as its crisis deepens, Brazil has gone another route to deal with its ‘made in the USA’ crisis that has been ripening since 2015. It has borrowed even more from US bankers. And it has chosen to raise its interest rates to astronomical levels, in the vain hope of propping up the value of its currency will stem its capital outflow (and encourage continuing capital inflow to Brazil from USA and G7 investors as well).
Brazil’s central bank interest rate is currently around 40%–up from around 14% just a few years ago. That means businesses or consumers have to pay 40% on any loan or debt their incur to stay in business or maintain consumption levels. Interest rates that high virtually shut down wide areas of an economy. And that’s what’s been happening in Brazil. Mass unemployment has followed. As has accelerating inflation and cost of living as Brazil’s currency, the Real, has collapsed in relation to the dollar. Understandably, political unrest follows as jobless grows and prices for basic goods accelerate. That too is now underway.
Brazil’s crisis began in 2015. At that time its central bank interest rates were, as noted, around 14%. Since 2015 they have risen to the 40%. More than half of that acceleration has occurred in just the past year, and especially in 2018. But those 40% rates, and the unemployment and inflation, are the result currency collapse and capital flight–which in turn is a process that has its origins in the USA and rising US interest rates and dollar appreciation.
The error of the Brazilian Workers Party while still in government, led by Lula and then Rouseff, was to allow Brazil’s central bank to steadily raise interest rates since 2015 to current levels. Central banks are always controlled by the private bankers. And private bankers in EMEs like Brazil are dominated by US bankers and investors. And EME central bankers are in turn controlled by their domestic banking interests. Furthermore, capitalists everywhere have cleverly engineered their central bank institutions to ensure the central banks are shielded from popular national legislatures, just in case popular democratic movements (like the Workers Party) democratically assume power over national governments. Political power remains shielded from economic power. Capitalists have many ways to sabotage democratically elected governments. Central bank interest rates are but one tool.
The Political Strategy Element
The Workers Party in Brazil should therefore have democratized (nationalized in the public interest and fundamentally restructured) the Brazilian central bank back in 2015-16, by opening its decision making process to include democratic forces and representatives. (For my view of how central banks can, and must, be democratized see the concluding chapter to my book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes’, Clarity Press, 2017).
In Argentina, the Kirchner government for years refused to repay the US hedge funds their billions of dollars in claims from the earlier debt crisis engineered by them. What it should have done was to pay the hedge funds in special issued and printed Argentine pesos, instead of dollars, and told them to get lost, they’ve been paid. Instead it fought them in global courts dominated by the US and G7.
As the Brazilian economy began to weaken after 2016, and conditions worsen, the USA, allied with domestic Brazil capitalists and pro-Business politicians in Brazil, developed a political strategy to accompany the US interest rate-dollar policies designed to undermine Brazil’s currency and destabilize its economy. This was the so-called ‘political corruption’ offensive, engineered in the USA and implemented in coordination with Brazilian business interests and pro-business political parties. By painting Workers Party leaders–Rouseff and then Lula himself–as corrupt, they drove them from office (or in the case of Lula jailed him to prevent him from running). An unapologetic pro-Business/pro-USA Temer government was put in place. A similar ‘political’ strategy was implemented against the Kirchner government in Argentina, to drive it from office and replace it with the current pro-business Macri government. Temer in Brazil and Macri in Argentina are mirror images of the USA-G7 economic-political strategy to remove populist governments in South America and replace them with pro-USA, pro investor governments.
The Special Case of Venezuela: When All Else Fails… Military Action
Destroy the currency is always at the forefront of USA imperialist strategy to drive out populist, democratic governments and re-install pro-Business, pro-US investor governments. USA policy toward Venezuela today is not dissimilar, and represents an extreme version of what has been rolled out in Brazil and Argentina. The USA embarked several years ago to destroy Venezuela’s currency, shut off access to US dollars with which to purchase needed food, medical and other imports, while launching another version of ‘government leaders are corrupt’ political-public opinion offensive. It has supported and financed domestic political opposition forces and parties to the Maduro government. Now it is talking about the final extreme alternative of military intervention. It is lining up other right wing governments in Latin America to take the lead in intervention if necessary. But the USA will plan, direct and finance the costs of military intervention using its proxies, if it comes to that. Recent elections in Venezuela that returned the Maduro government to office have signaled to Washington that the Brazil-Argentina strategy might not work in Venezuela. Thus the consideration of more direct military intervention is now on Washington’s agenda. Trump has as much as said so publicly.
But the USA’s strategies of economic destabilization by, initially, raising interest rates to generate capital flight and currency collapse, to have central banks escalate domestic interest rates in the countries to precipitate mass unemployment and recession, to cause accelerating import goods inflation of critical items–and to engage in ‘leaders are corrupt’ political offensives to depose democratically elected popular governments–may not prove successful in the longer term.
Resistance is Not Futile
Already democratic movements, unions, strike actions, mass demonstrations are emerging in Brazil and Argentina. And Venezuela holds out despite the desperate destruction of its economy by USA-business interests. Elections are set soon in Brazil. The results will be critical. What the USA-Temer government’s next moves might be are critical. How Brazil goes, so too will go Argentina, giving rise to further popular demonstrations and strikes should elections in Brazil throw out the Temer government. And should both countries restore democratic governments, USA policy toward direct intervention in Venezuela will stall temporarily.
But whatever the political outcomes, the more fundamental economic forces will still prevail: South American popular governments must find a way to prevent their central banks from acting ‘independently’ on behalf of pro-business, pro-US investors, interests; they must find a way to stabilize their currencies not based on the US dollar; and they must not fall into the debt trap offered by the IMF. Until these levers of US-G7 economic power and hegemony are eliminated, emerging market economics like Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela will always be susceptible and at the mercy of USA economic hegemony.
Jack Rasmus is author of the recently published ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017; ‘Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges’, Clarity Press, October 2016; and ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy’, Clarity Press, January 2016. His website is: http://www.kyklosproductions.com and twitter handle, @drjackrasmus. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
The original source of this article is Global Research
Elitism and how the very rich people look down on the poor are a major problem for Brazil, the country’s former President Dilma Rousseff told Ex-Ecuador President Rafael Correa during an interview on RT.
A protégé and political successor to President Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff continued his policies, aimed at eradicating poverty in Brazil. Under successive governments of the left-leaning Workers’ Party, the Latin American country saw a significant improvement in living conditions for millions of people. In 2014, Brazil for the first time was cross off the UN’s World Hunger Map, after reducing the number of undernourished people by 80 percent in 10 years.
Discussing her government’s policies with Correa, Rousseff agreed that elitism is a serious problem in Brazil, causing a lot of grief and suffering for common folk. Some members of the elite see all poor people as their enemy, she said.
“In Brazil, the poor and the dark-skinned were the enemy… They were tortured, they were arrested, they were turned into a lower class, stripped of all rights. We began to change this situation,” she said. “There is still a lot to be done: we need to distribute the wealth in the country, implement tax reform [and] end the oligopoly of the media and banks that control different aspects of the country’s life.”
Rousseff’s second presidential term, however, was cut short by an impeachment over breaches of budget rules. She was replaced by Michel Temer, who has since been accused of taking bribes, has dropped to a single-digit approval rating and used heavy-handed tactics to crack down on protests against his government. Rousseff says her downfall amounted to a parliamentary coup, backed by a smear campaign in the media owned by a handful of oligarchs.
“We won the elections four times in a row but, after the fourth time, they decided not to give us even a slightest opportunity to participate in the fifth election. Why should we give them a chance to win, they thought?” she explained.
Rousseff believes her government was targeted because powerful and wealthy people didn’t want it to implement policies aimed at redistributing wealth, like taxing inheritance. Such measures were a natural next step after reducing the income gap.
“They now say Lula is a criminal, while all institutions in the country are facing a crisis,” she said, describing the results of the Temer government’s policies. “There are disagreements in the judicial system, the executive branch is in conflict with the legislative and judicial powers. The country’s institutions are in chaos, but we are fighting against that, and you know why? Because we are the real democrats, not them.”
Correa pointed out that the estimated 36 to 38 million people who were lifted from poverty and became part of the middle class under Rousseff, failed to support her in 2016. “Where were these 38 million people when everyone rose up against you in 2016, when the coup happened?” he asked.
“Because they think that what they are fighting for and what they get are totally different things, as unbelievable as that might sound,” she replied. “We conducted a survey after – no, right before the impeachment. It was a comprehensive and thorough survey. We asked people about every social program, we asked what they got from it, how they got it and who they have to thank for it. To the latter, people replied that first and foremost they owe what they got to God, then themselves (which is very important), and then their families and their mothers. Government policy was the least popular answer.
“When people get something, they get used to it immediately and they start thinking it has always belonged to them,” she said
You can watch the entire episode of the “Conversations with Correa” program in Spanish here.
Operation Car Wash began in March 2014 at a petrol and car wash complex in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, and it was initially thought to be routine.
The Federal Police team had the location under surveillance believing that it was the centre of a money -laundering operation run by Alberto Youseff, a former convicted criminal known as the “doleiro de doleiros” – the money launderer of money launderers.
When it was discovered in one of Youssef’s intercepted emails that he was paying for a Land Rover for an executive of Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, it immediately raised suspicions.
The executive turned out to be Paulo Roberto Costa, the man in charge of refining and supply. Costa became the main target in the first phase of the Car Wash investigation and was arrested.
Deltan Dallagnol, the lead Federal Prosecutor for the case, says that investigators uncovered “evidence of money laundering” totalling some 26 million Brazilian reals ($8m). Criminal charges were brought against Costa, who negotiated a plea bargain with authorities.
“That allowed for an exponential expansion of the investigation,” Dallagnol says. “It was the big bang of the Car Wash Operation.”
Never before did Brazil export corruption like it did in the Car Wash case.
Costa admitted that the Land Rover was just one of many bribes he received to issue contracts to construction companies, and told law enforcement officials participating in a task force set up to pursue the case that the bribing scheme was much larger than anything they imagined.
Corruption in the supply division he oversaw, Costa said, “was the tip of the iceberg”.
Bruno Brandao, the head of Transparency International in Brazil, says, “Never before did Brazil export corruption like it did in the Car Wash case.”
He adds that the problem of corruption in Brazil is systemic, and that in the Car Wash scandal, “the mechanism of corruption was traditional – overcharging of contracts and the setup of company cartels. What is new is the scale, the amounts of money and number of people involved – officials and companies. The dimensions of this case are what makes it extraordinary.”
Federal police inspector Felipe Hayashi, who heads the Financial Crimes Unit of the Car Wash taskforce, says the investigation “reached people of the highest rank and level of responsibility. That’s something that has never happened before.”
Investigators learned that there was a cartel of companies that dealt with Petrobras. According to a secret agreement that existed for more than 10 years, the cartel would nominate one of its members to be awarded each Petrobras contract – for refineries, oil rigs, and other multimillion-dollar projects.
“We secured documents that laid out the operation of the cartel in terms of championship rules for different sports,” says Dallagnol. “There were 16 championship players and their objective was to ‘maximise’ prizes in national and international markets alike. Obviously, these companies would never openly admit cartel arrangements in a clear way, so they tried to disguise them as championship rules for different sports.”
The cartel rules resulted in steep overpayments for the work done. Petrobras executives were bribed to go along, and the cost of the bribe built into the contract. In fact, the scheme stretched far beyond Petrobras to contracts for stadiums for the 2014 World Cup, the 2016 Rio Olympics and other major infrastructure projects throughout the country.
Brazil’s Car Wash scandal turned into the largest corruption case in Latin America’s history, involving some of the region’s most prominent public figures. [Getty Images]
The Odebrecht bribery machine
On June 19, 2015, the taskforce moved against the cartel players.
“It was time to take a step which had never been taken before in history; when big businessmen were finally reached, people who had been considered princes of enterprises in Brazil,” says Dallagnol.
Twelve top-level executives were arrested, among them Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of the company that bears his name. Odebrecht is the largest construction company in Latin America. Its bribing operation typified that of cartel members and was the most extensive in the region.
Marcel Odebrecht was held without bail, and less than a year after his detention he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for corruption, money laundering and criminal association.
For decades and decades, in Brazil, you had to apply grease for everything. If a citizen wanted to obtain an ID, he certainly would have to pay something to a public agent to expedite the process.
Sergio Foguel, member of the Odebrecht Board of Directors
We headed to Salvador in northeast Brazil to get the Odebrecht Company’s response to the scandal.
The business was founded in 1944 by Marcelo Odebrecht’s grandfather, and the city is still its headquarters. Sergio Foguel, a long-time member of the Odebrecht Board of Directors, agreed to talk to us.
Despite the conviction of its CEO, the company still operates in more than 20 countries around the world and had revenues of about $26bn last year.
“There is no excuse to justify those acts of misconduct,” Foguel says. “But for decades and decades, in Brazil, you had to apply grease for everything. If a citizen wanted to obtain an ID, he certainly would have to pay something to a public agent to expedite the process”.
Our reporter, Gustavo Gorriti, wanted to know why the company had consistently denied any wrongdoing for months and months during the investigation.
“Despite all our strength as a company, we carried out acts within our organisation that today would be completely inadmissible,” Foguel says. “There was a collective blindness. Initially, corruption was tolerated and later, it expanded in an incredible way.”
A plea bargain by Odebrecht employees in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scandal led to testimony ensnaring nine ministers in President Michel Temer’s cabinet under investigation [Mario Tama/Getty]
‘Plug and play. It was serial corruption’
According to authorities, Odebrecht had a division of “Structured Operations” that ran an intricate off-the-books accounting system and a bank to bribe not only company executives, but also politicians.
This started to become clear when Marcelo Odebrecht began talking in hopes of reducing his 19-year sentence.
In testimony to prosecutors captured on audiotape, Odebrecht admitted that his company bribed politicians from all the major Brazilian parties in exchange for appointing Petrobras executives at the public company. Dozens of congressmen, senators and ministers have so far been implicated in the scandal.
Odebrecht’s testimony dealt a body blow to the Workers’ Party of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and his successor Dilma Rousseff.
Amid a deep political crisis, Dilma Rousseff was impeached in August 2016. Two weeks later, Lula was formally charged with corruption in connection with the Car Wash scandal.
While Brazil’s elites were being held to account, investigators were also making steady progress on the international front with the help of the US Department of Justice. The country is one of the world’s main destinies for financial transactions.
“This provides the United States jurisdiction over a good deal of money laundering crimes that happen around the world,” Dallagnol says. “The US acted in a very efficient way, identifying accounts kept in their country to launder money and delivering documents very quickly.
In December 2016, Odebrecht pleaded guilty to American charges that it provided almost $800m in bribes for more than 100 projects in 12 countries. It agreed to pay a $3.5bn fine and disclose details of its corrupt activities in Latin America and Africa.
According to Brandao, “Odebrecht, at least in the 12 countries it operated, had the same system, the same mechanism – plug and play. It was serial corruption.”
From Brazil to Panama: Fake companies and big deals
Odebrecht’s guilty plea in the US set off investigations throughout Latin America. Key to those efforts was deciphering how the money flowed from the company to corrupt officials through countries like Panama that specialise in offshore banking.
Rolando Rodriguez, who heads the investigative unit of the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa, says that “From Panama, money went out to officials from Brazil, officials from Peru and other parts of the world.”
Panama’s police investigators uncovered a Panamanian company tied to Odebrecht called Contructora Internacional del Sur.
“It was a fake company that received money from Odebrecht and sent it out to accounts in different countries, especially Switzerland,” Rodriquez says. “So, the laundering structure was set up using companies, most of them from Panama, as well as bank accounts, most of them from abroad.”
Many of the shell companies used by members of the Brazilian construction cartel to dispense bribes were set up by Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers leak, which exposed the financial dealings of some of the most powerful and wealthy people in the world.
“Mossack Fonseca is one of the oldest firms that work on setting up shell corporations,” Rodriguez says. “So, by arriving here in Panama you resolve the problem of having to travel to 10 different countries to get 100 corporations.”
Panama was not only a good transit point for corrupt payments. It was also a place to land large construction projects at inflated prices. With projects of some $9bn, Odebrecht is the most important construction company in Panama. Between 2010 and 2014, according to the US Department of Justice, Odebrecht paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to secure public works contracts. One of the most profitable was building the Coast Highway.
I do harm to a country for $2 or $3bn. I agree to pay $300m, $500m or a billion and, after some time, I walk away free. What a business.
Jose Antonio Dominguez, legislator
“Panama ended up paying a great deal for a project that should have cost much less,” says Jose Antonio Dominguez, a legislator with the country’s governing Panamenista party who has been questioning the pricing of the project for years. “That project, without any change, suddenly was awarded for $189.5m instead of $133.5m. Why that $60m difference? For what?”
In July 2017, Odebrecht reached an agreement with the Panama authorities to pay $220m in fines and provide information about public corruption to settle bribery charges in the country.
“I do harm to a country for $2 or $3bn. I agree to pay $300m, $500m or a billion and, after some time, I walk away free. What a business,” says Dominguez.
A vast web of political and corporate corruption in Peru
Tensions over the way Odebrecht conducted its business are growing throughout Latin America. The latest flashpoint is Peru, where the country’s ruling establishment is reeling from its connections to the company.
Attorney Walter Alban served as the public ombudsman in Peru from 2000 to 2005 during the presidency of Alejandro Toledo, now accused of receiving bribes from Odebrecht.
“It’s been demonstrated that there were transfers through offshore companies and close friends of the former president,” he says.
Odebrecht wanted the lion’s share of a multibillion-dollar highway project connecting the Peruvian coast to Brazil and they got it. Toledo has been charged with accepting a $20m bribe to steer them the business.
Jorge Barata, the head of Odebrecht in Peru, confessed in 2016 that he struck the deal in a meeting at a Copa Cabana hotel in Brazil that Toledo attended. Peruvian prosecutors are trying to extradite Toledo from the US to face bribery charges, which he denies.
Alban says Odebrecht didn’t just pay off individual politicians. The company promoted its interests by gaining influence over the political system itself.
“The scheme Odebrecht had was not only related to bribes to get contracts,” Alban says. “There was also this practice of promoting candidates and financing political parties, and not just one but all that might have a chance of winning.”
In a videotaped confession to prosecutors obtained by Peruvian investigative journalism organisation IDL-Reporteros, Barata admitted to giving $3m to the Nationalist Party to help finance the 2011 presidential campaign of Ollanta Humala. Humala won and served as president from 2011 to 2016.
Corruption is not an issue of right or left, or ideology. But of a confluence of interests.
Walter Alban, lawyer
Barata also claimed his company supported the left-wing Humala not only to promote Odebrecht´s interests in Peru, but to curry favour with Lula’s Workers’ Party in Brazil. “The Workers Party had an interest that all South American presidents share the same political and economic line as the Workers Party. Humala had those characteristics,” Barata says.
According to Alban, Odebrecht had strong links with ex-president Lula’s party in Brazil. It is described as a “geopolitical strategy” he says, indicating that “corruption is not an issue of right or left, or ideology. But of a confluence of interests.”
Both Humala and his wife, Nadine Heredia who was general secretary of the Nationalist Party, are now in prison awaiting trial.
Keiko Fujimori and her Popular Force party are also under investigation for taking money from Odebrecht to fund her 2011 presidential bid. Fujimori says the accusation is false but Marcelo Odebrecht has testified that his company helped finance her campaign.
On February 28, Barata met Peruvian prosecutors and confirmed that the company gave money to support Fujimori in the presidential race – $1.2m.
“There aren’t political parties any more” says Alban, “There are groups that define themselves as political, but strictly speaking, they are supported in all cases by illegal funds”.
Demonstrators protest for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and also against corruption being investigated involving resource diversion and money laundering in Petrobras scandal of corruption on March 16, 2016, in Sao Paulo, Brazil [Victor Moriyama/Getty]
A new attitude towards corruption in Latin America
Last December, the Car Wash scandal arrived at the doorstep of Peru’s current president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Peru’s congress launched impeachment proceedings against him, alleging his companies received almost $800,000 from Odebrecht while he was serving as a public official.
Kuzcinsky vehemently denies all wrongdoing and narrowly avoided impeachment but prosecutors continue their investigations. In his February meeting with prosecutors, Barata said Odebrecht also contributed to Kuzcinsky’s 2011 presidential campaign.
Peru’s Attorney General Pablo Sanchez is overseeing the investigation of Peru’s high-level officials for dealings with Odebrecht. “We are talking about corruption and a series of very complex crimes that involve several different governments, not just one but at least three,” he says.
When asked why the corruption connected to the Car Wash case went so far in Peru, he says: “Our country is not prepared to face cases of this nature or prevent crime,” Sanchez says. “Our country has trusted too much in the behaviour of state officials and the politicians in our country. So in that way, we haven’t advanced at all, or just very little. What we do now, proper investigations, proper convictions, will help prevent this from happening again in the future.”
Car Wash in Brazil today is no longer just an investigation, nor a process. Lavo Jato today in Brazil is an attitude, an expectation that impunity will start to fade away.
Bruno Brandao, head of Transparency International
Every week seems to bring new developments around the world in connection with the Car Wash scandal.
Governments from Ecuador to Angola are dealing with the repercussions of the case. Meanwhile, back in Brazil, the Supreme Court is considering former President Lula’s appeal of a 12-year sentence he received for corruption. His plans to run for president this October are in danger of being derailed.
“Car Wash in Brazil today is no longer just an investigation, nor a process. Lava Jato today in Brazil is an attitude, an expectation that impunity will start to fade away,” Brandao says.
Alban agrees that a new attitude towards corruption is arising in Latin America. “Democratic societies in which we can say that the problem of corruption is at least controlled,” are those in which the public watches over how public resources are spent and demands “that public authorities be held to account. Because of the Car Wash case that is something that I believe is beginning to happen.”
In a quest to ease pressures on the Brazilian prison system, mental health workers have opted to give prison inmates the psychedelic brew ayahuasca, in the hopes of helping them to work through their deeply-rooted emotional traumas.
It is no secret that the current prison system lies in shambles. Overcrowded holding spaces, abusive staff, unsanitary living conditions — such environments rarely lead to redemption and rehabilitation, but instead almost always seed further violence, aggression, and feelings of alienation from society.
While some prisons are now offering holistic services such as yoga, meditation, and Reiki, prisoners’ rights advocacy group Acuda is taking it one step further, offering Brazilian prisoners a real shot at a new life through the use of the traditional Amazonian brew, ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew that combines a specific Amazonian vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) with a leaf (Psychotria viridis), creating an extremely pungent, orally-active cocktail of DMT, a powerful psychedelic known to induce mystical and life-changing experiences for its user.
At first, Acuda had trouble finding a place where the inmates could drink the ayahuasca, but they were finally accepted by an offshoot of Santo Daime, a Brazilian religion founded in the 1930s that blends Catholicism, African traditions, and the trance communications with spirits popularized in the 19th century by a Frenchman known as Allan Kardec.
“Many people in Brazil believe that inmates must suffer, enduring hunger and depravity,” said Euza Beloti, a psychologist with Acuda, to the New York Times. “This thinking bolsters a system where prisoners return to society more violent than when they entered prison. [At Acuda] we simply see inmates as human beings with the capacity to change.”
Supervisors at Acuda, who obtain a judge’s permission to take about 15 prisoners once a month to the temple ceremony, say they are mindful of the risks of ayahuasca, commonly called Daime in Brazil or referred to as tea. At the same time, Acuda’s therapists consume the brew with the inmates, as well as with the occasional prison guard who volunteers to accompany the group.
“This is how it should be,” said Virgílio Siqueira, 55, a retired police officer who works as a guard at the prison complex that includes Acuda. “It’s gratifying to know that we can sit here in the forest, drink our Daime, sing our hymns, exist in peace.”
Approximately 10 tribe members who had no contact with the outside world are now dead after encountering a group of gold miners in Brazil. The New York Times reports that the indigenous people were collecting
The miners boasted about killing the uncontacted Amazon tribe members at a local bar.
Credit: Survival International
Approximately 10 tribe members who had no contact with the outside world are now dead after encountering a group of gold miners in Brazil. The New York Times reports that the indigenous people were collecting eggs near a river in a remote region when they spotted the miners and a brawl broke out. Federal prosecutors have since launched an investigation into the reported massacre. Activists are now concerned that this recent happening is further evidence that threats to endangered indigenous people around the world are increasing.
According to the Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, Funai, a complaint has been lodged with the prosecutor’s office in Brazil after gold miners bragged about the killings at a local bar. Reportedly, the members showed off a hand-carved paddle and said it had come from a tribe member. Said Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, Funai’s coordinator: “It was crude bar talk. They even bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river.” The miners are claiming they had no choice, as it was “kill them or be killed.”
Pablo Luz de Beltrand, the prosecutor in charge of the case, confirmed that an investigation has started. He added that the massacre occurred in the Javari Valley — the second largest indigenous reserve in Brazil. “We are following up, but the territories are big and access is limited,” Mr. Beltrand said. “These tribes are uncontacted — even Funai has only sporadic information about them. So it’s difficult work that requires all government departments working together.”
Credit: Uncontacted tribes
Brazil’s president, Michael Temer, is not without blame. This is because the government reduced funding for indigenous affairs. And in April, Funai shut down five of 19 bases that were previously used to watch and protect isolated tribes. At other bases, staffing was cut. The bases hold incredible importance, as they are used to prevent invasions by loggers and miners and to communicate with recently contacted tribes.
Sarah Shenker, senior campaigner with global indigenous rights group Survival International, spoke for most when she said: “If the investigation confirms the reports, it will be yet another genocidal massacre resulting directly from the Brazilian government’s failure to protect isolated tribes – something that is guaranteed in the Constitution…When their land is protected, they thrive. When their land is invaded, they can be wiped out.”
The wide-ranging Xiamen Declaration, issued in conjunction with the just wrapped-up annual BRICS summit, shows that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, although facing internal challenges of their own, may be about to step up their collective game, big time.
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
The wide-ranging Xiamen Declaration, issued in conjunction with the just wrapped-up annual BRICS summit, shows that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, although facing internal challenges of their own, may be about to step up their collective game, big time.
And they won’t be intimidated/derailed by the crumbling unipolar order.
Xiamen made it clear the BRICS are all-out engaged to “redress North-South development imbalances,” with Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasizing the necessity of a more just international order, echoing President Putin’s calls for a “fair multipolar world,” and “against protectionism and new barriers to global trade.”
Xi, the host at Xiamen, where he was once mayor, went out of his way to stress, “we five countries [should] play a more active part in global governance.”
One of the key planks of what is a concerted geopolitical/geoeconomic drive will start to be implemented via an upcoming BRICS-wide customs union. It’s all about connectivity – in trade, commerce, and finance. And that also dictates investment and business openings rolling in sync, as well as a sharper role for development funds and the BRICS’s own New Development Bank (NDB).
Enter, thus, multiple South-South “dialogues,” like those proposed in Xiamen with Mexico, Egypt, Thailand, Guinea, and Tajikistan.
The dialogues, which will inevitably evolve into business and investment deals, are at the core of ‘BRICS Plus’; the overarching concept, proposed last March by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for expanding South-South partnership/cooperation.
What this will mean, in the immediate future, is an even further, complex interpolation of BRICS Plus with the already converging New Silk Roads, a.k.a. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
All these economic/political vectors are advancing in sync. The SCO may be essentially focused on security, countering jihadism or even solving border disputes, but it has also been developing the economic cooperation front. India and Pakistan have become SCO full members this year. Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey are observers, and will soon become full members. Egypt and post-war Syria want in. The SCO’s geopolitical reach is fast becoming pan-Eurasian. And that’s reflected, for instance, in the Xiamen Declaration proposing an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and national reconciliation process, “including the Moscow Format of consultations” and the “Heart of Asia-Istanbul process.”
This means, essentially, the BRICS supporting not a surge of Pentagon troops but an all-Asian (and not Western) Afghan peace process brokered by the SCO, of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member.
And this course of action once again graphically shows how the core of the BRICS is and will continue to be, what I call “RC”: the Russia-China strategic partnership.
It was RC, not by accident, that suggested the only possible solution for the Korean Peninsula stand off, that is “double freezing,” put forward by the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministry in early July. Pyongyang ceases all missile launches and nuclear tests, Washington/Seoul cease their monster military exercises. Needless to say, the ‘War Party’ in Washington, as well as Trump’s generals, vetoed the idea.
But just as the BRICS wrapped it all up in Xiamen, the action started at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok; once again, all about economic convergence, focusing on Russia, China, Japan, Vietnam and crucially, both Koreas.
Enter RC, once again, as peace negotiators, able to practice diplomacy with both Pyongyang and Seoul at an international forum. RC – with Russia in the forefront – solved the Syrian tragedy. While RC has a plan for both Afghanistan and North Korea, the unipolars only have sanctions and bombs.
I have sketched elsewhere other aspects of BRICS, such as the current internal politico-economic tragedy in Brazil, as well as outsiders India-Japan pushing to counteract the BRICS/BRI/SCO convergence via an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC).
But the holy of the holies – and it’s never enough to stress it – is what I call the Triple Win triad of the future: oil-yuan-gold. This is one of the prime outcomes of a strategy the BRICS have been discussing, behind closed doors, at their summits since the previous decade – when Lula was still Brazil’s president: how to bypass the US dollar.
President Putin has hinted at “the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies” – code for US dollar unipolarity. Beijing now is stepping up the game via a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.
That might as well represent the burial ritual for the US sanctions dementia. It’s a categorical imperative for Eurasia integration to be able to bypass any manifestations of this disease by trading energy in yuan or in their own, local, currencies.
In parallel, something RC, via the Central Bank of Russia and the People’s Bank of China, have been developing all these years – ruble-yuan swaps – will spread out to other BRICS/BRI/SCO members. The concept of trading in their own currencies will reach, of course, all number of aspiring BRICS Plus members.
The late Zbig ‘Grand Chessboard’ Brzezinski Doctrine – preventing, by all means, the emergence of a peer competitor – has long ago been pronounced dead. What we see instead is the emergence not only of a peer competitor, but an alliance of peer competitors (RC), with a geo-economic pull all across the Global South.
More than enough for any unipolar brain to go nuclear.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Development projects in Africa and Latin America will henceforth receive greater attention from the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, BRICS bloc financial institutions such as the New Development Bank, NDB and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB.
Prof. Chen Fengying, former Director of the Institute of World Economy, under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, CICIR, made the comment on August 21 in the Chinese capital, Beijing at a press organized by the All-China Journalists’ Association.
Prof. Chen is now a senior research fellow with CICIR. “There are many development banks in the world today, the largest being the World Bank. But the New Development Bank owned by BRICS is the only one with developing countries as its backbone,” Prof.Chen noted. She added that reinforcement of south-south, and south-north cooperation will be addressed at the BRICS leaders’ summit in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen from September 3-5.
“The issue of BRICS development has since gone beyond its member States. The New Development Bank is up and running, moving from abstract to more concrete issues. As an open platform, BRICS Plus concerns Africa and Latin America; thus the influence of BRICS will become more comprehensive,” Chen Fengying stated. She added that in order to broaden the scope of their activities and be sustainable in the long run, NDB and AIIB will extend their services to Africa and Latin America to finance development projects. Meanwhile, Kenya and Thailand have been invited to next month’s BRICS summit.
Responding to a question on plans by BRICS to create a rating agency, Prof. Chen said the chances of its success were slim because current macro international finance is still dominated by the US dollar, while today’s rating system is monopolized by three American institutions. She recalled that China, Europe and Japan have in the past made similar attempts at creating rating agencies, without much success.
Asked if the current border misunderstanding between China and India will be raised at next month’s BRICS summit, Chen Fengying ruled out the possibility, saying leaders will not be distracted by “small issues.” Moreover, China has already stated that issues concerning its sovereignty cannot be compromised. In the same light, she said the policy of BRICS is not to intervene in the internal affairs of member states, adding that the challenges the leaders of South Africa and Brazil now face were transitional.
She attributed their causes to falling commodity prices, and political and economic instability, saying the solution lay in ensuring proper development. “The engagements the leaders of South Africa and Brazil will take at the summit will not be called into question because leaders come and go, but nations remain,” she clarified.
This year’s summit theme is, “BRICS: Stronger partnership for a brighter future.” Focus will be on trade, finance, economy, south-south, and south-north cooperation, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Meetings of BRICS foreign ministers, people-to-people and cultural exchanges will be institutionalized at the summit. It was also disclosed that BRICS members will defend any attempts to introduce trade protection like the recent US measure against China.
Kimeng Hilton Ndukong, a contributor to People’s Daily Online, is Sub-Editor for World News with Cameroon Tribune bilingual daily newspaper in Cameroon. He is currently a China-Africa Press Centre, CAPC fellow.
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