The framework would form “new poles of power,” Venezuela’s president has said
According to Maduro, the time has come “to unite efforts and paths in Latin America and the Caribbean to advance in the formation of a powerful bloc of political forces, of economic power that speaks to the world.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has proposed establishing a new international bloc involving Latin American and Caribbean countries that would have close ties to Russia and China.
During his annual speech at Venezuela’s parliament on Friday, Maduro said that he had recently spoken with the presidents of Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina about forming a new regional organization. According to Maduro, the time has come “to unite efforts and paths in Latin America and the Caribbean to advance in the formation of a powerful bloc of political forces, of economic power that speaks to the world.”
The Venezuelan president went on to say that the bloc would create “new poles of power,” and would be allied to Russia and China, the leaders of which Maduro referred to as “elder brothers.”
Such an alliance would comprise “that community of shared destiny that our elder brother President Xi Jinping talks about,” or “that multipolar and multicentric world that our elder brother, President Vladimir Putin, talks about,” Maduro added.
“For this world to arrive, a united and advanced Latin American and Caribbean bloc is needed,” he stressed.
President Putin has repeatedly blasted the concept of a “unipolar world” dominated by the US. In September, he claimed that attempts to achieve such a configuration “have taken an absolutely ugly form.” Meanwhile, Beijing has also said that China and Russia are “promoting together the multipolar world and do not recognize unipolar hegemony.”
Under former President Donald Trump, the US denounced Venezuela’s 2018 election, which Maduro won to secure a second term, as “illegitimate.” Washington unleashed a “maximum pressure” campaign to oust him by imposing harsh sanctions on Caracas, which included an oil embargo.
The US also offered support to opposition leader Juan Guaido, recognizing him as Venezuela’s “interim president” in 2019. In the aftermath of the move, Maduro’s government broke off diplomatic relations with Washington.
Since then, however, attempts to remove Maduro from power, which included a series of street protests and an outright coup attempt, fizzled out. In late December, opposition lawmakers in Venezuela voted to dissolve the ‘interim government’ led by Guaido.
While the US still does not formally recognize Maduro, it has engaged in diplomatic contacts with Caracas in order to negotiate prisoner swaps and has lifted some sanctions.
Nicolas Maduro’s Bolivarian government of Venezuela announced it will hold an anti-NATO “counter-summit” in San Cristóbal (state of Tachira) on the border with Colombia on June 28-29. Colombia, Washington’s main ally in South America, and also a huge human rights breacher, has been a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) since May 2022. This development comes amid a very tense Latin-American context, after news that Nicaragua is joining Russia in military exercises.
Speaking about the summit, Venezuelan National Assembly member Julio Chávez highlighted the symbolic significance of this location. The state of Tachira is the place where a lot of Colombian-backed anti-Bolivarian activities have been taking place. For example, on February 23, 2019 violent armed groups tried to organize demonstrations in one of the bridges that connect the Venezuelan state of Tachira and the Colombian state of Santander. Venezuelan authorities in Caracas have accused the Colombian authorities in Bogota of turning a blind eye to mercenary and paramilitary activity in the region aimed against its government.
The two nations share a 2,200 kilometers border and there have been increasing tensions there. On June 3, Maduro stated that the “only thing” that enters Venezuela from the Colombian side is “terrorism, violence, drug trafficking, kidnapping, smuggling, and crime”. Caracas has also complained about Colombian illegal migration, human trafficking and COVID-19 supposedly coming across the border. On August 2021, violence escalated on the border with two Venezuelan soldiers killed in an alledged terrorist attack and other incidents.
Maduro has called Colombia as a “narco-state”, and it has been described as such by a number of experts too. It is home to an infamous mercenary industry, which often has links to drug cartels and far-right paramilitary activity. Colombian mercenaries were behind the US-backed murder of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse last year, for example.
In May 2020, American mercenaries attempted to enter Venezuela on speed boats from Colombia as part of so-called Operation Gideon to launch a coup d’etat. Caracas accuses Washington and Bogota of having played a role in it. It is a well known fact that the US at least considered supporting an invasion of the country a number of times.
Moreover, the 2020 oil discoveries in Suriname and Guyana also add further tensions in the continent, as there have been territorial disputes between the latter and Venezuela.
Recently, amid a global oil and energy crisis in the aftermath of the Russian-Ukrainian war, there were talks about Washington and Caracas “resetting” their relations. On 7 March 2022, a high-level American delegation visited Venezuela to discuss oil supplies, and this was seen as an indication that tensions between the two countries were being partly relaxed. The country is in fact located on the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Before sanctions in 2019, it sent about 580,000 barrels of heavy oil per day to American refineries. The US made up for that by turning to other suppliers, including Russia, ironically.
American journalist Mac Margolis, writing for the Washington Post, on March 9, argued that Venezuela and the United States should move beyond sanctions, ultimatums and “toxic” polarization. Last week, Washington “authorized” Spanish oil company Repsol and Italy’s Eni to start shipping Venezuelan oil to Europe in July, so as to help Europe ease its dependence on Russian oil. Maduro also confirmed that the US granted licenses, and Chevron, Eni and Repsol will exploit their oil and gas deposits in the country. Chevon is to resume operations, but has not yet been authorized to export oil to the United States.
Despite these recent developments, the fact that Venezuela (as well as Cuba and Nicaragua) was not invited to the Summit of the Americas is an indication that relations today are far from a “reset”. And there is no indication American sanctions on Venezuela will be fully lifted, as Caracas demands. It is in this context that Iran and Venezuela (two sanctions-hit oil-producer countries) just signed a 20-year cooperation agreement, as announced on June 11. The deal includes cooperation on the financial and energy sectors, as well as defense projects. In fact, after not being invited to the Summit, Maduro went on an Eurasian tour, and visited Algeria and Turkey, before arriving in Iran. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that “all aspects” of Turkish-Venezuelan relations are to be reviewed and that “steps will be taken” to further enhance their relations.
The United States remains arguably the sole sanctions superpower in the world, according to professors of international affairs Henry J. Farrel and Abraham L. Newman. Washington’s sanctions policy, although still a burden for its targets, is becoming increasingly less effective and in fact even backfires in terms of stimulating new partnerships – and even initiatives aiming at de-dollarization. It also reflects very poorly on the US ability to accept the emerging polycentric and multipolar new global dynamics.
If the United States refuses to resort to pragmatism and good diplomacy with Venezuela and if its financial and economic warfare against it fails, Washington hawks could feel tempted to employ its Colombian proxies to attack Caracas militarily in yet another coup or invasion attempt. This would bring catastrophic consequences for the continent and even for world peace, considering the potential alignments and escalations that could ensue.
Uriel Araujo is a researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts.
The Summit of the Americas scheduled to be held in Los Angeles between June 6 and 10 will face an awkward situation with many countries in the region skipping the US-held summit due to Washington’s refusal to invite leaders from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua on the excuse of “democracy”, while many leading countries in the region like Mexico expressed opposition.
Chinese analysts said this proves that Latin America is not a “backyard” of the US, and compared to the last time the US held such summit in 1994, declining US hegemony today means Washington is unable to prevent the continent from seeking autonomy and development based on Latin American countries’ own interests.
The Biden administration has made a final decision to exclude the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the Summit of the Americas, people familiar with the matter said, despite threats from Mexico’s president to skip the gathering unless all countries in the Western Hemisphere are invited, Reuters reported on Monday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a routine press conference on Monday that the current situation proved that the US mindset driven by the “Monroe Doctrine” and its trick of using “democracy” as a tool to interfere with and divide countries are not welcome in the continent.
“Latin America is neither a ‘front yard’ nor a ‘backyard’ of the US, and the Summit of Americas is not ‘the Summit of America.’ As the host of the summit, the US needs to stop all of its hegemonic approaches, provide concrete respect to the Latin American and Caribbean countries, humbly listen to the voice of justice from the majority of this continent, make the summit focus on the shared concerns of the continent, boost cooperation and unity, and improve happiness among the people”, Zhao noted.
Guo Cunhai, an expert on Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday that the situation comes against the backdrop of the recent left turn in Latin America and Caribbean, which is unprecedented and influences more countries in the region than in the past, adding that countries in the region are more united and keen to rid the continent of US control and make more independent decisions based on their own interests.
“Currently, not just Mexico and Argentina, but Brazil is also very likely to see a left turn in the election this year, and even Colombia, a country that used to have close ties with the US, is likely to see left-wing leaders. This proves that the US’ policy of Latin America has failed to take care of regional countries’ interests, and has only made them feel bullied and pressured,” Guo said.
Chinese experts said the people of almost every Latin American country have bad memories of US hegemony, as Washington has directly or indirectly supported drug trafficking, arms sales and corruption in many countries in the region, and when the US used to be powerful enough, it wouldn’t care about the sovereignty of those countries, and would launch invasions, color revolutions and even assassinations to overthrow the regimes it doesn’t like.
When US hegemony is declining and has no more resources with which to play the game of “carrot and stick”, these countries will get united and seek more autonomy, and Biden administration has used the wrong approach in the first step of the effort to reset ties with Latin America – treating Latin American countries differently based on US preferences, said experts.
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during his daily morning press conference in Mexico City on June 6, 2022
According to the VOA, when the United States said last year it would host the 2022 Summit of the Americas, “officials had high hopes the event would help repair Trump-era damage to relations and reassert US primacy” over China’s growing influence in Latin America.
But these high expectations have been dashed. Even the VOA acknowledged that “ideological discord over who to invite, skepticism about US commitment to Latin America, and low expectations for major accords on issues such as migration and economic cooperation have already tarnished the event, officials and analysts say”.
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said he would not attend unless all governments in the Americas are invited, whatever their political stripes. The leaders of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, and several Caribbean states have also declared that they won’t go for the same reason, and will instead send lower-profile delegations.
Heinz Dieterich, a world-renowned German sociologist and political analyst working in Mexico, told the Global Times that “the ruling US power elites are totally out of touch with today’s reality” as it faces this awkward situation in dealing with the countries in the Western Hemisphere.
The US decision is formally based on Article 19 of the Inter-American Democracy Charter, imposed in the Organization of American States in Lima, 2001, by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell. The article states that “any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order in a state of the Hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of that state’s government in the Summits of the Americas process”.
“The historic truth is that there is no other state in the hemisphere that has destroyed more democratic governments and institutions in the hemisphere and globally than Anglo-American imperialism: the US and the UK, through direct interventions, color revolutions, economic sanctions, blockades, et cetera,” Dieterich said.
Cuban Ambassador to China Carlos Miguel Pereira told the Global Times that if the US still wants to take Latin America as its own backyard, such an idea won’t work now, because Latin America is no longer what the US has imagined, and the region has ushered in new changes.
In this Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 photo, workers at one of maquiladoras of the TECMA group prepare to raise the U.S. flag along with the Mexican and TECMA flags in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
He noted that the US’ move to exclude countries including Cuba from this summit has doomed it to fail, and what the US is trying to achieve through this summit won’t have any real impact on the Latin American region.
Guo said the US has failed to receive support from most Latin American countries for its sanctions and accusations against Russia after the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, which proves that the countries in the region are seeking a path of autonomy rather than blindly following the US on every issue.
Washington has always used China’s rising influence as a pretext to scare and pressure countries in the region, and to mobilise its internal resources to compete with China there, but in fact, this offends Latin American countries, because compared to the US hegemonic approach in the region that only serves US interests, most countries have found the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and other cooperation with China to be truly mutually beneficial and does not disrespect the region’s countries, said analysts.
China will surely be more welcomed in the region, and the US effort to disrupt the development of ties between China and Latin America is actually challenging the relevant countries’ autonomy and places its hegemony over the interests of other countries, experts noted.
According to Ricardo Guerrero, an analyst and legal expert from Mexico, “Whatever the outcome (of the Summit of Americas), a controversial and conflictive summit is expected to be marked by the schism between Latin America and the US… Latin American countries are also confronting the US to demonstrate they ‘no longer want to be anyone’s backyard.’ The message has been sent: If Latin America is assembled as a whole, it is a piece to be reckoned with on the world geopolitical chessboard”.
This article was originally published by the Global Times.
“We like to think of journalists as plucky truth-tellers standing up to power. But this notion is horribly antiquated; in reality, most journalists are parts of enormous corporate machines with their own political interests and agendas, often directly linked to those of the US government.”
Journalists revealed to me the tactics they use to sell stories painting Venezuela as a socialist dystopia. One described himself as a “mercenary,” explaining how he aims to please his employer’s funders.
It is clear that mainstream US media correspondents are no fans of the Venezuelan government. But rarely do you hear them speak so openly about their biases.
One Caracas-based correspondent now working for the New York Times told me on the record that he employs “sexy tricks” to “hook” readers on dubious articles demonizing the socialist government of Venezuela.
Anatoly Kurmanaev made this revealing comment and many more to during an interview I conducted with him for my PhD and book on the media coverage of Latin America.
Describing himself and his colleagues as “mercenaries,” Kurmanaev was unabashed, boasting on tape that he essentially grossly exaggerates stories in the media.
“A couple of times from my experience you try to use, I wouldn’t call them ‘cheap tricks’, but yeah, kind of sexy tricks. Just last week we had a story about condom shortages in Venezuela. At the official exchange rate condoms were at like $750 dollars or something and the headline was something like ‘$750 dollar condom in Venezuela’ and everyone clicks it, everyone is like ‘Jesus, why do they sell it for like $750?’” he said.
Kurmanaev emphasized that his goal was to “hook” readers into a larger story about Venezuela’s purported demise under socialism.
The New York Times’ Anatoly Kurmanaev discussing Venezuela on France 24
“Once you click,” the reporter said, “the average reader is hooked and he’ll read about really important issues like HIV problems in Venezuela, teenage pregnancies, the social impact of lack of contraception, the public health impact, things that I do feel are important to tell the world. But you have to use sexy tactics for it.”
We like to think of journalists as plucky truth-tellers standing up to power. But this notion is horribly antiquated; in reality, most journalists are parts of enormous corporate machines with their own political interests and agendas, often directly linked to those of the US government.
And where Washington has skin in the game, a way to quickly advance in the field is to parrot American government positions, regardless of the facts.
One example of this is Venezuela, where the embattled socialist government of Nicolás Maduro is attempting to govern in the face of crushing US sanctions that are estimated to have killed more than 40,000 civilians from 2017 to 2018 alone.
The corporate media has dutifully ignored the US role in the country’s economic woes, laying the blame squarely at the feet of Maduro, omitting crucial political context on Venezuela’s economic crisis while keeping up a constant flow of content presenting the country as a socialist hellhole.
That latter piece of pseudo-news is based on deliberate distortions of the country’s admittedly byzantine currency regulations and has the effect of demonizing the government and socialism in general, advancing the idea that “something must be done” to help them.
Are we to believe that the journalists who deploy these “sexy tricks” don’t know exactly what they are doing?
From Venezuelan prophylactic to whitewashing Bolivia’s coup
On the back of his coverage of Venezuela, Anatoly Kurmanaev has risen rapidly through the ranks of his industry to a post at the supposed newspaper of record, the New York Times, whose editorial board recently applauded the US-backed military coupin Bolivia that ousted Evo Morales.
In the New York Times, Kurmanaev soft-pedaled those events as Morales’ “resignation” – not the military coup that had unfolded in plain sight. According to the correspondent’s narrative, which conveniently echoed Washington’s official line, the ouster of Morales left a “power vacuum” that a reluctant Añez was forced to fill with a “transitional government.”
As the Bolivian junta cuts down and jails its opponents in droves, the Times has resorted to increasingly contorted language to avoid using the apparently forbidden term: “coup.”
“Violent protests over a disputed election that he claimed to win, and after he had lost the backing of the military and the police,” was the reporter’s most recent attempt to characterize the events that forced Morales from power.
In whitewashing a putsch and subsequent campaign of repression waged by avowedly racist, right-wing forces, Kurmanaev was far from alone. Across the mainstream spectrum, media outlets have welcomed the coup, framing the military’s ouster of an elected head of state as a “resignation” while downplaying the massacres as merely “clashes.”
As The Grayzone contributor Wyatt Reed reported from La Paz, a crowd of journalists harassed and detained an independent reporter, handing him over to the death squads that have been terrorizing the country for the last two weeks, in retaliation for his refusal to tow the junta’s line.
Reed called this “a complete betrayal of what it is supposed to mean to be a journalist.”
The whole time I’ve been in Bolivia I’ve heard about the “prensa vendida,” aka the sellout press. Watch here as they harass an independent journalist, keep him from doing the job they *should* be doing, then hand deliver him to the army!
Anyone who shows this gets shut down.
The whole time I’ve been in Bolivia I’ve heard about the “prensa vendida,” aka the sellout press. Watch here as they harass an independent journalist, keep him from doing the job they *should* be doing, then hand deliver him to the army!
Anyone who shows this gets shut down. pic.twitter.com/wY5dwgu4lS
In Venezuela the local media actually led the coup attempt against President Hugo Chávez in 2002. “Not one step backwards!” read the front page headline of El Nacional, one of the country’s most important newspapers. The headquarters of the putsch was at the mansion of Gustavo Cisneros, owner of the Venevisión TV network.
One coup leader appeared on television after what appeared to be a successful operation saying, “We were short of communications facilities and I have to thank the media for their solidarity and cooperation.”
“We had a deadly weapon: the media. And now that I have the opportunity, let me congratulate you.”
How US media recruits opposition activists
Due to budget cuts, the corporate press has outsourced their Latin America reporting to a collection of unabashed opposition activists.
Francisco Toro, for example, resigned from the New York Times claiming, “Too much of my lifestyle is bound up with opposition activism” that he “can’t possibly be neutral.” Yet Toro is now charged with providing commentary on Venezuela and Bolivia for the Washington Post.
Another local Washington Post contributor was Emilia Diaz-Struck, who founded the website Armando.info, an investigative news outlet that runs a constant stream of stories slamming the socialist government and advancing the opposition’s line.
These local reporters, who act as anti-government activists first and journalists second, greatly color the atmosphere of the newsroom, leading to a highly partisan hive mind where supposedly unbiased and neutral journalists unironically refer to themselves as the “resistance” to the government.
Those who do not run with the pack are generally made to feel unwelcome. Bart Jones, who covered Venezuela for the Los Angeles Times, told me that he felt he had to temper what he wrote because he knew exactly what his editors wanted.
“There was a clear sense that this guy [Chávez] was a threat to democracy and we really need to be talking to these opponents and get that perspective out there,” Jones recalled. One even told him “we have to get rid” of the government.
Matt Kennard, who covered Bolivia and Venezuela for the Financial Times (FT), explained how the political slant imposed by mainstream outlets forced even critical-minded journalists into submission:
“I just never even pitched stories that I knew would never get in. What you read in my book would just never, ever, in any form, even in news form, get into the FT. And I knew that and I wasn’t stupid enough to even pitch it. I knew it wouldn’t even be considered. After I got knocked back from pitching various articles I just stopped… It was complete self-censorship.”
‘You are a mercenary in a sense’
“Every journalist has an audience he caters for and in my case, it’s the financial community,” Anatoly Kurmanaev explained. “You are a mercenary in a sense. You’re there to provide information to a particular client that they find important and it’s not good or bad, it’s just the way it is.”
With pressure from all sides to serve as stenographers for right-wing opposition movements, many Western correspondents exist in a cultural bubble, almost entirely isolated from the poor and working-class populations that support leftist governments across Latin America.
Western reporters almost universally live and work in the richest areas of capital cities from Venezuela to Mexico, often in gated communities surrounded by armed guards, and rarely venture into the poorer areas where the majority of people live.
Some of the corporate media’s top correspondents confided to me that they could not even speak Spanish for months after they got there, and were therefore unable to converse with the bottom 90 to 95 percent of the population. They are essentially parachuted in to opposition strongholds to work with opposition activists and naturally take that side in the debate.
With all of these factors in mind, the cheerleading across the US press for regime change in Bolivia and Venezuela can hardly be seen as an accident. Too many journalists at corporate media outlets tend to see themselves as the ideological shock troops in an information war against supposedly tyrannical socialist governments.
Passing off regime-change propaganda as unbiased news is all in a day’s work for those embracing their role as servants of the empire.
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Alan MacLeod is an academic and journalist. He is a staff writer at Mintpress News and a contributor to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is the author of Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting.
As many as 13 million people are expected to sign a petition opposing the US economic blockade of Venezuela and the “genocidal, racist, xenophobe” Donald Trump, according to the Bolivarian government.
Tables have been organised in public squares in cities across Venezuela gathering names for the petition, which will be sent to United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores were the first to sign the petition at the No More Trump rally in Caracas on Saturday.
“This is a fight for peace against the sanctions imposed by the United States, and the power of the dollar … For 20 years Venezuela has had a popular government. Today, we Venezuelans have dignity and are spiritually united.”
The national drive was launched yesterday and will last until September 10.
Millions signed a similar petition in February when a US-backed coup attempt was launched by president of the illegitimate national assembly Juan Guaido.
He declared himself interim president of Venezuela. But his attempts at launching armed insurrection have failed, with the army and the people of Venezuela remaining loyal to Mr Maduro.
The failure to garner internal support is believed to be behind the executive order signed by US President Donald Trump on August 5 freezing Venezuelan state assets in the US.
The latest measures amount to a near-total blockade and were branded a “criminal act” by Mr Maduro at the Caracas rally.
Government supporters gather for a rally to protest against economic sanctions imposed by the administration of US President Donald Trump, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Saturday (Source: Morning Star)
Sanctions are estimated to have caused 40,000 deaths between 2017 and 2018, according to the Washington-based Centre for Economic & Political Research.
Its report published in April found that Venezuelans were deprived of “lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food and other essential imports” due to the US embargo.
The non-aligned movement (Nam) has discussed measures to counter the impact of US global sanctions, with 21 countries now included on Washington’s sanctions list.
A gathering of 120 Nam countries met in Caracas last month, issuing a statement that affirmed that only Venezuela can decide its fate. It warned that US sanctions were in breach of the United Nations charter.
The meeting agreed to develop an international financial system independent of US control. President of the general assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa told those gathered that the Nam was an important strategic partner for the UN, making up two thirds of its total membership — and 55 percent of the world’s population.
“Multilateralism and international law are the only effective formula to achieve a sustainable and lasting peace,” she said.
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Featured image is from Embassy Protection Collective
“A more likely scenario, however, is that Putin, in the event Trump ‘goes nuclear’ in Eastern Europe, will deploy round-the-clock stealth submarines armed with ballistic missiles near the American shoreline as an insurance policy.”
Washington’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty is just the latest move against Russia that will serve to intensify an arms race on the European continent that is already underway. It may also force Russia to take things to the next level.
Aside from the unprecedented stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction on an epic scale, a whirlwind of regional developments are now underway that foreshadow extremely unsettling consequences. First and foremost is this month’s formal announcement by the Trump administration that it would be pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), signed into force by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan back in 1987.
With the INF consigned to the dustbin of history, the US and Russia are free to design and produce ballistic and cruise missiles within a 500-5,500 kilometer range (310-3,420 miles). Would any NATO country be so foolish as to host these American-made weapons on their territory, thereby opening itself up to a devastating first-strike attack in some worst-case scenario? Poland is one possible candidate. After all, Polish President Andrzej Duda last year offered the United States $2 billion in financing for the construction of a permanent American base on Poland’s eastern border. While the two NATO countries are still considering the idea, it is clear that the eradication of the INF Treaty promises to ratchet up tensions between Russia and its neighbors.
Washington’s pullout from the INF did not occur in a vacuum, of course. It followed in the tank tracks of George W. Bush’s disastrous decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, one of many opportunistic moves committed by the United States in the aftermath of 9/11. With the ABM out of the way, the United States was able to establish a missile defense shield in Romania, just miles from the Russian border. Washington’s overtures to Moscow that it would welcome Russian participation in the project were eventually revealed as a deceitful stalling tactic. Russian President Vladimir Putin was not fooled, however, and wasted no time researching and developing of a lethal array of new weapon systems, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range.
At this point in the updated ‘Great Game’ there is a temptation to say that the US and Russia have entered yet another ‘MAD’ moment, that is, ‘mutually assured destruction’ should one side or the other attempt fate with a first-strike attack. Check mate, as it were. After all, Russia has got its “unstoppable” nuclear-powered cruise missile and other fearsome hardware, while the US has its missile defense shield, as well as numerous NATO set pieces, bolted down in Europe. Everything is wonderful in the neighborhood, right? Well, not exactly.
Comparing the present standoff between the US and Russia to the Cold War realities is erroneous and dangerous for a number of reasons. First, the opportunity for some sort of mishap resulting in all-out war has never been greater. The reason is not simply due to the dizzying amount of firepower involved, but rather due to the proximity of the firepower to the Russian border. During the Cold War standoff, Moscow, the nerve center of the Soviet empire, was well guarded by the buffer of Warsaw Pact republics. Today, that buffer has practically vanished, and NATO is not only encamped deep inside of Eastern Europe, but – in the case of the Baltic States of Estonia and Latvia – smack up against the Russian border. Although the entire concept of time, distance and space has been made somewhat redundant by the exceptional speed of modern missiles and aircraft, this has not reduced the possibility of NATO and Russia accidentally stumbling into a very bad situation.
Now with the INF Treaty out of the way there is the possibility that Washington will place intermediate-range missiles in Russia’s backyard. Such a move would flush with Washington’s revised nuclear doctrine, which not only aims for increasing its nuclear arsenal, but – in pure Dr. Strangelove fashion – lowering the threshold for which nuclear weapons may be used. To think that Russia will watch passively on the sidelines as the US disrupts the regional strategic balance in its favor would be wishful thinking.
Even as the corpse of the INF treaty was still warm, Mark T. Esper, the new US secretary of defense said he favored the deployment of new American ground-based missiles to Asia, without specifying a precise location.
“It’s fair to say, though, that we would like to deploy a capability sooner rather than later,” Esper said while en route to Australia for foreign policy meetings. “I would prefer months. I just don’t have the latest state of play on timelines.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is reportedly moving ahead with the development of missile systems, including a cruise missile with an expected 1,000 km range and an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a 3,000 to 4,000 km range. With the ‘shield’ of a US missile defense system already established in Eastern Europe, Russia will not sit by idly and wait for NATO’s other hand to pick up a sword.
What options are open to Russia at this point? Aside from its Russia-based defenses already mentioned, Moscow will feel very compelled to move its strike abilities closer to the United States in order to match NATO’s newfound capacity just over the Russian border.
Putin has emphasized that Russia will not deploy ballistic missiles unless the US does so first. If he were required to respond, would Russia consider a permanent missile base somewhere in Latin America, just miles from US shores, mirroring the same situation that Russia faces in Eastern Europe? Imagine a situation where ‘Trump’s Mexican Wall’ became in reality a host of Russian launch pads. Although ti would solve America’s migrant problem, it probably won’t do much to help Americans sleep better at night. Impossible to imagine, of course, yet that is the exact dire scenario Russia faces on its own border with the Baltic States.
A more likely scenario, however, is that Putin, in the event Trump ‘goes nuclear’ in Eastern Europe, will deploy round-the-clock stealth submarines armed with ballistic missiles near the American shoreline as an insurance policy. It is a dreadful new reality to consider, yet as the United States continues with its reckless treaty-trashing posture it is a reality the world will be forced to live with.
Local residents walk past a pro-government supporter after clashes with demonstrators in the Indigenous community of Monimbo in Masaya, Nicaragua, July 17, 2018. (Oswaldo Rivas/REUTERS)
Even as it waged a campaign against Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Canada’s government was engaged in a much less visible effort to pressure another Latin government that has long been a darling of the left: the ruling Sandinistas of Nicaragua.
But while Canada was at the forefront of public diplomacy against Maduro’s “Bolivarian” regime in Venezuela, it chose to keep its actions against the Sandinistas out of the public eye, according to a Global Affairs memorandum obtained by CBC News under access to information.
The memorandum, dated August 27, 2018, is marked “Secret” and signed by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ian Shugart, who has since been elevated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to replace Michael Wernick as clerk of the Privy Council, the top public servant in Canada.
The memo begins with a description of the “nationwide crisis” that started in Nicaragua with anti-government protests in April. “Almost all independent observers agree,” the memo reads, “that the government of Nicaragua is directly responsible for over 300 fatalities and 1,000 injuries, as well as a range of human rights abuses that include excessive use of force by police and paramilitaries against unarmed civilians, arbitrary use of lethal force [extrajudicial executions], arbitrary arrests and intimidation.”
The document goes on to discuss measures that were being taken by Canada at the time, and other measures it might consider “should the situation continue to deteriorate.”
The actions taken at the time included putting a stop to all federal government payments to the government of Nicaragua.
“The department does not recommend a public announcement of this decision,” the memo says. In fact, there never was one.
Relatives and friends carry the casket of Jose Esteban Sevilla Medina, who died during clashes with pro-government supporters in Monimbo on July 16, 2018. (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)
Freeze the money
“Canada is one of the top five largest bilateral donors to Nicaragua, with an overall assistance program of approximately $20 million per year via all aid channels,” the memo notes.
“However, given that the government of Nicaragua no longer meets the conditions for the provision of direct Canadian financial assistance to partner countries, the department has suspended all future payments to the government of Nicaragua for the five projects mentioned above.”
Those projects are:
A $19.8-million rural electrification project. This project was scheduled to continue into 2019 to help connect 12,500 households in the Nicaraguan countryside to the electrical grid. Enatrel, Nicaragua’s state-owned power company, is the official partner.
Growing Climate-Smart Family Enterprises. This $7.9-million project with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Family was scheduled to run through to 2023.
Preventing Adolescent Pregnancies. This sexual health and reproductive health program also involves Canada’s Ministry of Families and Social Development and would have received $7.6 million from Ottawa by its end in 2022.
Inclusive and violence-free communities. Nicaragua’s National Police is the partner in this five-year, $7.35-million project. The police are one of the main agents of government repression in Nicaragua.
Technolinks+. This program intended to improve the productivity and income of 35,000 small farmers in poverty-stricken northern Nicaragua, is administered by the Mennonite Economic Development Associates, with a value of $9.5 million and a timeline of 2016-22.
The suspension of the electrification project ends an effort that stretches back to 2009 and has seen hundreds of rural communities in Nicaragua connected to the grid.
“While there is no intention to publicly announce Canada’s suspension of direct aid to the government of Nicaragua,” reads the memo, “the decision can reach the public domain at any point and it would likely generate media attention.”
The decision to cut Nicaragua off came as a violent crackdown by the Sandinista government was peaking. Protests began in earnest in April 2018 with student-led demonstrations that quickly spread to other sectors of the population. In July, a national strike and a series of marches rocked President Daniel Ortega’s unpopular administration.
Nicaraguan police and Sandinista militiamen cracked down fiercely. Government supporters launched a series of attacks on the Nicaraguan Catholic Church, seen as sympathetic to the opposition.
In the third week of July, pro-government militia and police violently took over Monimbo, an Indigenous community south of Managua that became the epicentre of opposition protests, and Sandinista authorities put two of the country’s most prominent peasant leaders on trial for terrorism. The Ortega regime also began its harassment of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights mission in Nicaragua that would culminate in the delegation’s expulsion in September.
By August, a wave of arrests and firings — mostly targeting doctors, nurses and teachers — was driving about 200 Nicaraguans a day to seek asylum in neighbouring Costa Rica.
Adam Austen, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said the situation has not improved since the memo was written.
A demonstrator poses for a photo next to a graffiti that reads ‘Monimbo volcano of dignity’ in the Indigenous community of Monimbo on July 11, 2018. (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)
“Our government is concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation and economic downturn in Nicaragua. In light of these concerns, we made the decision to suspend direct financial assistance to the Nicaraguan government last summer,” Austen said. “We continue to provide support for projects that are implemented by NGOs and international organizations, with a focus on help for the most vulnerable.
“President Ortega’s repressive actions against his people are unacceptable. We continue to consider all diplomatic and policy options at our disposal in order to support the Nicaraguan people.”
Nicaraguan ambassador Maurizio Gelli did not respond to CBC News’ request for comment.
A discreet pressure campaign
Not all of Ottawa’s money for the projects was to be disbursed directly to the Nicaraguan government or Enatrel: $5.64 million that has been disbursed already is supposed to be frozen, while a further $7.39 that was to be disbursed during 2018-9 has been suspended.
“The department will also instruct the government of Nicaragua to freeze the use of any funds that have already been received, but remain unspent,” says the memo. “The department will communicate this decision in the coming weeks via diplomatic note to the government of Nicaragua, copying Nicaragua’s ambassador to Canada.”
Speaking on background, an official at Global Affairs Canada said he could not say whether the Nicaraguan government was complying with that request, or was still spending Canada’s money.
The official told CBC News that the reason for keeping the aid suspensions quiet was to give the government of Nicaragua a chance to respond to Canadian pressure without appearing to be acting under duress.
Police detain protesters in Managua, Nicaragua, on March 16, 2019. Nicaragua’s government banned opposition protests in September and police broke up a March 16 attempt at a demonstration to pressure the government to release hundreds of protesters held in custody since 2018. (The Associated Press/Alfredo Zuniga)
The official said it’s not uncommon in the early stages of a pressure campaign for Canada to act discreetly, to allow another government to rectify problems without losing face.
But the official added that Canada may still step up its pressure on the Sandinista government, saying that Freeland “is personally invested” in the Nicaraguan issue.
Options currently being considered include Magnitsky sanctions, which target individual foreign officials. So far, Canada has used Magnitsky sanctions only against individuals from three countries: Russia, Venezuela and South Sudan. (The U.S. government sanctioned three Nicaraguans under its Magnitsky law last July, including National Police Director Francisco Javier Diaz Madriz.)
Also on the table: a potential downgrading of relations between Canada and Nicaragua — something which already occurred with Venezuela in 2017.
Mennonites will keep working
The Mennonite agency that administers one of the frozen programs acknowledged that the decision to freeze disbursements has had an effect. But Mennonite Economic Development Associates say it continues to work with small farmers in rural Nicaragua.
“MEDA has been engaged in Nicaragua for three decades, and our work continues to build on earlier initiatives and partnerships,” said the organization’s Krista O’Brien. “Our outcomes are increased agricultural productivity, product quality and profitability for 35,000 female and male farmers, and for 85 processors and distributors. Additionally, the project will create 850 jobs in the agri-food sector.
“While direct disbursements to the government of Nicaragua have been suspended, all the planned activities are being implemented as we are still being funded, and our project is still active and achieving results. We have a strong relationship with Global Affairs Canada and have open lines of communication with them.”
Another project that may be affected, says the memo, is a government-to-government contract whereby Canada helps to maintain Nicaragua’s electronic national lottery. That contract runs through the Canada Commercial Company, which didn’t respond to CBC’s request for comment.
The memo also mentions the possibility that deteriorating relations could affect Canadian companies working in Nicaragua’s mining and apparel industries.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Evan Dyer has been a journalist with CBC for 18 years, after an early career as a freelancer in Argentina. He works in the Parliamentary Bureau and can be reached at email@example.com.
George H.W. Bush was laid to rest on Wednesday but some of his murderous policies lived on through his son’s administration and until this day, as Robert Parry reported on January 11, 2005.
How George W. Bush Learned From His Father
By refusing to admit personal misjudgments on Iraq, George W. Bush instead is pushing the United States toward becoming what might be called a permanent “counter-terrorist” state, which uses torture, cross-border death squads and even collective punishments to defeat perceived enemies in Iraq and around the world.
Since securing a second term, Bush has pressed ahead with this hard-line strategy, in part by removing dissidents inside his administration while retaining or promoting his protégés. Bush also has started prepping his younger brother Jeb as a possible successor in 2008, which could help extend George W.’s war policies while keeping any damaging secrets under the Bush family’s control.
As a centerpiece of this tougher strategy to pacify Iraq, Bush is contemplating the adoption of the brutal practices that were used to suppress leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the 1980s. The Pentagon is “intensively debating” a new policy for Iraq called the “Salvador option,” Newsweekmagazine reported on Jan. 9.
The strategy is named after the Reagan-Bush administration’s “still-secret strategy” of supporting El Salvador’s right-wing security forces, which operated clandestine “death squads” to eliminate both leftist guerrillas and their civilian sympathizers, Newsweek reported. “Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success – despite the deaths of innocent civilians,” Newsweek wrote.
Central America Veterans
The magazine also noted that a number of Bush administration officials were leading figures in the Central American operations of the 1980s, such as John Negroponte, who was then U.S. Ambassador to Honduras and is now U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.
Other current officials who played key roles in Central America include Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Central American policies at the State Department and who is now a Middle East adviser on Bush’s National Security Council staff, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a powerful defender of the Central American policies while a member of the House of Representatives.
The insurgencies in El Salvador and Guatemala were crushed through the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians. In Guatemala, about 200,000 people perished, including what a truth commission later termed a genocide against Mayan Indians in the Guatemalan highlands. In El Salvador, about 70,000 died including massacres of whole villages, such as the slaughter carried out by a U.S.-trained battalion against hundreds of men, women and children in and around the town of El Mozote in 1981.
El Mozote massacre. (Wikimedia Commons)
The Reagan-Bush strategy also had a domestic component, the so-called “perception management” operation that employed sophisticated propaganda to manipulate the fears of the American people while hiding the ugly reality of the wars. The Reagan-Bush administration justified its actions in Central America by portraying the popular uprisings as an attempt by the Soviet Union to establish a beachhead in the Americas to threaten the U.S. southern border.
By employing the “Salvador option” in Iraq, the U.S. military would crank up the pain, especially in Sunni Muslim areas where resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been strongest. In effect, Bush would assign other Iraqi ethnic groups the job of leading the “death squad” campaign against the Sunnis.
“One Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Perhmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with discussions,” Newsweek reported.
Newsweek quoted one military source as saying, “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving the terrorists. … From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”
Citing the Central American experiences of many Bush administration officials, we wrote in November 2003 – more than a year ago – that many of these Reagan-Bush veterans were drawing lessons from the 1980s in trying to cope with the Iraqi insurgency. We pointed out, however, that the conditions were not parallel. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Iraq: Quicksand & Blood.”]
In Central America, powerful oligarchies had long surrounded themselves with ruthless security forces and armies. So, when uprisings swept across the region in the early 1980s, the Reagan-Bush administration had ready-made – though unsavory – allies who could do the dirty work with financial and technological help from Washington.
A different dynamic exists in Iraq, because the Bush administration chose to disband rather than co-opt the Iraqi army. That left U.S. forces with few reliable local allies and put the onus for carrying out counterinsurgency operations on American soldiers who were unfamiliar with the land, the culture and the language.
Those problems, in turn, contributed to a series of counterproductive tactics, including the heavy-handed round-ups of Iraqi suspects, the torturing of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and the killing of innocent civilians by jittery U.S. troops fearful of suicide bombings.
The war in Iraq also has undermined U.S. standing elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world. Images of U.S. soldiers sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners, putting bags over the heads of captives and shooting a wounded insurgent have blackened America’s image everywhere and made cooperation with the United States increasingly difficult even in countries long considered American allies.
Beyond the troubling images, more and more documents have surfaced indicating that the Bush administration had adopted limited forms of torture as routine policy, both in Iraq and the broader War on Terror. Last August, an FBI counterterrorism official criticized abusive practices at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more,” the official wrote. “When I asked the M.P.’s what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment, and the detainee was not to be moved. On another occasion … the detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.”
Despite official insistence that torture is not U.S. policy, the blame for these medieval tactics continues to climb the chain of command toward the Oval Office. It appears to have been Bush’s decision after the Sept. 11 attacks to “take the gloves off,” a reaction understandable at the time but which now appears to have hurt, more than helped.
George W Bush as an infant with father George H W Bush at Yale University. (George Bush Presidential Library)
Many Americans have fantasized about how they would enjoy watching Osama bin Laden tortured to death for his admitted role in the Sept. 11 attacks. There is also a tough-guy fondness for torture as shown in action entertainment – like Fox Network’s “24” – where torture is a common-sense shortcut to get results.
But the larger danger arises when the exceptional case becomes the routine, when it’s no longer the clearly guilty al-Qaeda mass murderer, but it is now the distraught Iraqi father trying to avenge the death of his child killed by American bombs.
Rather than the dramatic scenes on TV, the reality is usually more like that desperate creature in Guantanamo lying in his own waste and pulling out his hair. The situation can get even worse when torture takes on the industrial quality of government policy, with subjects processed through the gulags or the concentration camps.
That also is why the United States and other civilized countries have long banned torture and prohibited the intentional killing of civilians. The goal of international law has been to set standards that couldn’t be violated even in extreme situations or in the passions of the moment.
Yet, Bush – with his limited world experience – was easily sold on the notion of U.S. “exceptionalism” where America’s innate goodness frees it from the legal constraints that apply to lesser countries.
Bush also came to believe in the wisdom of his “gut” judgments. After his widely praised ouster of Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001, Bush set his sights on invading Iraq. Like a hot gambler in Las Vegas doubling his bets, Bush’s instincts were on a roll.
Now, however, as the Iraqi insurgency continues to grow and inflict more casualties on both U.S. troops and Iraqis who have thrown in their lot with the Americans, Bush finds himself facing a narrowing list of very tough choices.
Bush could acknowledge his mistakes and seek international help in extricating U.S. forces from Iraq. But Bush abhors admitting errors, even small ones. Plus, Bush’s belligerent tone hasn’t created much incentive for other countries to bail him out.
Instead Bush appears to be upping the ante by contemplating cross-border raids into countries neighboring Iraq. He also would be potentially expanding the war by having Iraqi Kurds and Shiites kill Sunnis, a prescription for civil war or genocide.
There’s a personal risk, too, for Bush if he picks the “Salvador option.” He could become an American version of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet or Guatemala’s Efrain Rios Montt, leaders who turned loose their security forces to commit assassinations, “disappear” opponents and torture captives.
Like the policy that George W. Bush is now considering, Pinochet even sponsored his own international “death squad” – known as Operation Condor – that hunted down political opponents around the world. One of those attacks in September 1976 blew up a car carrying Chilean dissident Orlando Letelier as he drove through Washington D.C. with two American associates. Letelier and co-worker Ronni Moffitt were killed.
With the help of American friends in high places, the two former dictators have fended off prison until now. However, Pinochet and Rios Montt have become pariahs who are facing legal proceedings aimed at finally holding them accountable for their atrocities.
One way for George W. Bush to avert that kind of trouble is to make sure his political allies remain in power even after his second term ends in January 2009. In his case, that might be achievable by promoting his brother Jeb for president in 2008, thus guaranteeing that any incriminating documents stay under wraps.
President George W. Bush’s dispatching Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to inspect the tsunami damage in Asia started political speculation that one of the reasons was to burnish Jeb’s international credentials in a setting where his personal empathy would be on display.
Though Jeb Bush has insisted that he won’t run for president in 2008, the Bush family might find strong reason to encourage Jeb to change his mind, especially if the Iraq War is lingering and George W. has too many file cabinets filled with damaging secrets.
The late investigative reporter Robert Parry, the founding editor of Consortium News, broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His last book, America’s Stolen Narrative, can be obtained in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Mexico’s next president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor and outspoken critic of the political establishment – has a significant uphill battle once he is inaugurated as President on December 01: deadly violence in the country is intensifying and has hit an all-time high.
Mexico posted its highest homicides on record, with a new government report Sunday showing murders in the country rose by 16 percent in the first half of 2018.
The Interior Department said there were 15,973 homicides in the first half of the year, compared to 13,751 killings in the same period of 2017.
According to the AP, the record-breaking homicides have surpassed the violence seen during the dark years of Mexico’s drug war in 2011, along with exceeding all government data since records began in 1997.
At these crisis levels, the department’s homicide rate for the country stands around 22 per 100,000 population for year-end estimates — near the level of Columbia 24.2 and Guatemala 26.0.
Security analyst Alejandro Hope told the AP, “the figures are horrible, but there are some signs that are halfway encouraging.”
For example, the growth in homicides could be slowing; murders were up only about 4 percent compared to the second half of 2017. “The curve may be flattening out,” Hope noted, though he warned his forecast could be incorrect.
Hope noted that the northern border state of Baja California exhibited the largest surge in homicide rates, while other states saw declines.
“Baja California, home to the border city of Tijuana, saw 1,463 homicides in the first half of the year, a 44 percent increase over the same period of 2017. Authorities have attributed the spate of killings to battles between the Jalisco and Sinaloa drug cartels for control of trafficking routes in Baja California. The state is now Mexico’s second most violent, with a homicide rate for the first six months of the year equivalent to 71 murders per 100,000 inhabitants,” said AP.
By comparison, El Salvador and Venezuela are among the deadliest countries in the world — have homicide rates of around 54 to 60 per 100,000.
Thanks to the Jalisco drug cartel, Mexico’s most dangerous state is Colima, on the central Pacific coast, which experienced a 27-percent increase in killings and now has a shocking homicide rate of about 80 per 100,000
Guanajuato, a central Mexican state, saw a 122 percent increase in homicides, which now has a rate of about 40 per 100,000. Government officials have reported that much of violent crime is linked to gangs of fuel thieves who drill taps into government pipelines.
Here are Mexico’s eight most violent states by annual homicide rate, based on federal data. Over the past few years, killings rebounded in Baja California and Chihuahua states:
Mexico is on pace to top the record-setting violence of 2017. The 15,973 murders over the first six months of 2018 exceed the 13,503 reported over the same period last year.
Drug trafficking routes overlaid with homicide rates (2015) — notice a pattern?
Earlier this year, the US State Department published a new multi-tiered travel advisory system to warn U.S. citizens of traveling to Mexico. Travel advisories range from Level 1 (“exercise normal precautions”) to Level 4 (“do not travel”).
According to the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian-based think tank that focuses on emerging security and development issues, the murder epidemic is not just limited to Mexico, but across all of Latin America.
The Institute stated the current situation is incredibly complex and results from decades of corruption, drug trafficking, organized crime, contraband, illegal mining, land rights, and in some cases, violence by state military forces.
Family members wait outside the Air Force Base for the arrival of their relatives, who were deported from the United States, in Guatemala City, June 20, 2018. Luis Soto | AP
Unmentioned in America’s immigration debate is the role that both Democratic and Republican administrations have played in creating the volatile situations that force Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and other Latino refugees to flee in the first place.
TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS — Late on the evening of June 28, 2009, two days before voters were scheduled to go to the polls to vote on a referendum amending the Honduran Constitution, army officers forced President Manuel Zelaya — wearing only his pajamas and slippers — to board a military airplane for Costa Rica. Three months later, after the deposed president had returned surreptitiously to this capital city and holed up in the Brazilian embassy, police opened fire on thousands of his supporters who had assembled outside the mission to demand the cancellation of the November presidential elections.
A teacher and union activist, Agustina Flores had gone to fetch coffee when the shooting began. Just as she returned, she was cornered by police officers who punched and beat her with batons, then took her and hundreds of others to a nearby soccer field that had been converted into a makeshift jail. Flores told the Guardian newspaper in 2016:
The police and soldiers were firing rubber and live bullets into the crowd, beating women and the elderly. One [tear gas] grenade exploded near me; after that I blacked out.”
Continuing, she said:
They hit my face, neck and body. We were trying to defend the constitution and the democratic process.”
But the tens of thousands of Hondurans who poured into the streets in support of Zelaya quickly discovered that they had powerful political enemies both at home and abroad. Rather than condemn the coup, President Obama’s then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, refused to even use the term and instead pressured Honduras’ neighbors to recognize the new government and proceed with the scheduled elections. The ensuing legitimization of the coup government ushered in an era of state repression, violence, and pro-business policies that have delivered at the United States’ doorstep a flood of asylum-seekers from this impoverished Central American country, which was the murder capital of the world as recently as 2011.
In her autobiography Hard Choices, Clinton wrote:
We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot and give the Honduran people a chance to choose their own future”
In a 2014 interview, the indigenous-rights and environmental activist Berta Caceres described Clinton’s diplomacy in Honduras as a kind of “counterinsurgency” intended to aid and abet “international capital” in its efforts to extract resources from an adversarial population. Said Caceres:
We warned that this would be very dangerous. The elections took place under intense militarism and enormous fraud.”
A man, flanked by police, holds a placard showing an image of slain activist Berta Caceres, during a protest demanding justice for her murder, outside the Prosector’s Office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 2, 2018. Fernando Antonio | AP
Describing the impact of the government’s crackdown on dissident, she said in another interview:
Every day, people are killed.”
Caceres was herself murdered only days later, gunned down by a team of assassins with ties to a hydroelectric dam opposed by the country’s indigenous community.
Alex Main, an expert on U.S. policy in Central America at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told The Nation magazine:
With the coup, Clinton had a real opportunity to do the right thing and shift U.S. policy to respect democratic processes. But she completely messed it up, and we’re seeing the consequences of it now.”
Fleeing to the country that ruined their countries
As of late, the Washington press corps and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have, understandably, expressed their unique loathing of the Trump White House’s mistreatment of undocumented Central American immigrants filing for political asylum in the U.S. But what typically goes unmentioned in the public debate is the role that both Democratic and Republican administrations have played in creating the volatile situations on the ground that force Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and other Latino refugees to flee in the first place.
It’s important to contextualize the Americas historically as a battle between the mostly European settlers who own the New World and the mostly indigenous and black workers who built it. Destabilizing Central America allows multinationals to continue to exploit labor and resources, and dates back to the CIA’s 1954 plot to overthrow the democratically elected government of Guatemala’s Socialist President Jacobo Arbenz, whose plan to redistribute land to the country’s landless peasant farmers threatened the massive holdings of the United Fruit Company, the predecessor of Chiquita Brands. The coup eventually triggered a civil war between leftist rebels and the U.S.-backed military, led by avid anti-Communist generals.
In an attempt to pressure Guatemala’s government to cease its human-rights abuses, President Jimmy Carter banned all Defense Department sales of military equipment to Guatemala in 1978, followed by a ban of commercial sales in 1980. Shipments previously approved continued, however, and so did the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, disproportionately members of the indigenous Mayan tribe. Ronald Reagan lifted the sanctions in 1981; the war escalated and, by the time it ended 15 years later, nearly 200,000 Guatemalans had been killed.
An Ixil Mayan woman cleans a coffin holding the remains of a civil war victim prior to a mass burial in Santa Avelina, Guatemala, Nov. 30, 2017. After seven years of work by forensic anthropologists, including DNA tests to locate relatives, the remains of 172 indigenous Ixil Mayans killed during the civil war between 1978 and 1982 were buried in the western mountains of Guatemala. Moises Castillo | AP
U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, told the Huffington Post:
It set a pattern. You look at the decades following [the coup], and the military strongmen, and the juntas, and the mass killings, and it’s no wonder Guatemala is in such terrible shape today.”
Fearing the spread of communism, Carter also supported the decades-long war against El Salvador’s leftists guerillas, known by the Spanish acronym FMLN, which cost an estimated 75,000 lives, ruined the country’s infrastructure, and displaced one-fifth of the population.
Experts note that Nicaraguans are not among the hordes of Central Americans trying to enter the U.S. today — at least not in any significant numbers — and attribute their absence to the success of the leftist Sandinista movement in combating U.S. efforts to install a puppet regime. The country is beginning to experience some political unrest today but, for the most part, President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista movement — which took power in 1979 and managed to hold off the U.S.-backed Contras at the polls for a decade, before regaining power — remains alive and well.
President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista movement — which took power in 1979 and managed to hold off the U.S.-backed Contras at the polls for a decade, before regaining power — remains alive and well.
Greg Grandin, a professor of Latin American history at New York University, told the Huffington Post:
You see the direct effects of these Cold War policies. Nicaragua doesn’t really have a gang problem, and researchers have traced this back to the 1980s and U.S. Cold War policy.”
Just on basic humanitarian grounds we should do the right thing by these kids and accept them as refugees — or the legal term is ‘asylum seekers’ — but we also own this problem, we have culpability in it, whether it’s our involvement with thuggish governments there in the past, or whether it’s the fact we are the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs that are transited through these countries, or whether it’s the war on drugs that we’ve foisted upon these countries.
All of those things contribute to the destabilization, the insecurity, the failed governance, the lack of civil-society development. So, one, we should help now that we’ve done so much to create this situation and, two, we should work constructively with regional partners to rebuild these societies to the best that we can.”
Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”
When citizens began to ask questions about why Walmart stores were suddenly closing in in southern states in 2015, the mainstream media insisted that the closures were due to plumbing problems and that any suggestion of government involvement was a crazy conspiracy theory. Three years later, the MSM is finally admitting that several of those Walmart stores were converted into detention centers, which now house immigrant children who have been separated from their parents.
At least 1,500 boys are currently being detained in Brownsville, Texas, where NBC News reported that they “spend 22 hours per day during the week (21 hours on weekends) locked inside a converted former Walmart,” where at least five boys are packed into rooms built for four. Many of those in prisons across the United States get more yard time than these children.
The boys range in age from 10 to 17 years old, and the average stay at the center is around 52 days. If the idea of imprisoning young boys as if they are felons for two months straight sounds agonizing and cruel, that is because it is. A small group of reporters was allowed inside the facility, and the report from NBC claimed that guard asked them to “smile at the hundreds of detained migrant kids in line for a meal because ‘they feel like animals in a cage being looked at.’”
A report from ABC News also noted that the detention center in Brownsville “was once a Walmart,” and while it claimed that the facility was “clean and well-staffed, with activities to keep the kids busy and their minds off their unfortunate situation,” it also noted that this was “a media tour, and journalists weren’t allowed to interview any of the children.”
“Where there were once racks of clothes and aisles of appliances, there were now spotless dorm-style bedrooms with neatly made beds and Pokémon posters on the walls,” The New York Timesreport noted that the converted Walmart store is now the largest licensed migrant children’s shelter in the country, but failed to point out that it was one of many stores that mysteriously went out of business when President Obama was still in office.
At the time, citizens became concerned when a number of Walmart stores mysteriously went out of business in Texas, Oklahoma, California, and Florida starting in April 2015. The mainstream media and its “trustworthy fact-checker” Snopes.com were adamant that the closures were due to plumbing problems, as Walmart claimed, and that there was no government involvement.
However, the reality that the former stores are, in fact, being used by the government, and that they are being used to imprison migrant children who have been separated from their parents, made headlines recently when Senator Jeff Merkley attempted to enter the converted Walmart in Brownsville, and he was denied entry by police.
“When I was at the center at McAllen Border Station, this is the processing center, earlier and I was admitted there and I did see the people, hundreds of children locked up in cages there at that facility,” Merkley said in an interview with CNN. “They have big cages made out of fencing and then wire and nets stretched across the top of them so people can’t climb out of them.”
While it is not clear whether any of the children in the detention center in Brownsville are being kept in cages, it is clear that the government worked diligently to keep facts from the public.
The young children who are forcefully separated from their parents are treated like prisoners and taken to detention centers where they are forced to live among hundreds of other children they have never met. The lifelong consequences can be detrimental; and, in some cases, these children will never see their parents again.
The individual cases are horrific, and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal recently shed light on her experience visiting a facility near Seattle where she met with more than 170 women who were taken into custody near the southern U.S. border.
“Thirty to 40 percent of these women came with children who had been forcibly taken away from them. None got a chance to say goodbye to their children—they were forcibly taken away,” Jayapal toldThe Nation. “One said she was deceived because they were in detention together. Then the CBP officers told her she was going out to get her photograph taken. When she came back, she was put in a different room, and she never got to see the child again. Some of them said they could hear their children screaming for them in the next room.”
A father from Honduras, who came to the United States with his family to seek asylum, was so distraught after he was separated from his wife and child that he killed himself while he was left alone in a jail cell last month.
In another case, a mother from Honduras who came to the U.S. seeking asylum with her family said she was breastfeeding her infant at a detention center when her baby was suddenly taken from her with no warning and no explanation.
A former employee of one of the detention centers is now speaking out after he said he quit in protest after he saw how horrific the process was for the children. Antar Davidson said he watched young children being “ripped from their parents” and sent to a detention center, where in some cases, no one spoke the same language they did.
Davidson claimed the facility was understaffed, the employees lacked the proper training, and as a result, the children were “extremely traumatized.” He also said the workers were underpaid, while “the CEO and his wife clear more than a million dollars a year in mostly federal tax money and undercut the services we need.”
“It’s a basic private prison deal in the guise of this shelter,” Davidson said. “So the people at the end of the day, when they have to put the kids to sleep have already worked an eight-hour shift and are often times asked to stay overtime. On top of that, these kids are running up and down the halls screaming, crying for their mom, throwing chairs. Everyone is tired. The under-trained staff is dealing with an increasingly traumatized population of minors.”
As The Free Thought Project has reported, while there have always been people seeking asylum in the U.S. from other countries, it should be noted that the “War on Drugs” in the United States has contributed both to violence in the countries immigrants are seeking asylum from, and an increase in drug trafficking over the border that has resulted in all migrants being treated like criminals.
Former Congressman Ron Paul noted last year that the War on Drugs has “produced no benefit to the American people at a great cost,” and “just as with the welfare magnet, there is an enormous incentive to smuggle drugs into the United States.”
There is also the troubling concern over what is happening to the immigrant children who are separated from their parents. While the idea of an innocent child being locked in a cage is troubling, it is not the worst fate many of the children are subjected to. The Health and Human Services Department recently admitted that nearly 1,500 immigrant children have gone missing, and many of them are suspected to have been kidnapped by human traffickers.
In 2015, Snopes attempted to fact-check “rumors” that “began to swirl in April 2015 when several Walmart stores around the U.S. were abruptly closed due what Walmart claimed were “plumbing problems.“ Walmarts in Pico Rivera, CA, Livingston, TX, Midland, TX, Brandon, FL, and Tulsa, OK, all suddenly closed their doors, with Walmart corporate announcing that some of those outlets would be shuttered for six months or more. We now know, even though Snopes has not updated its web page, that at least one of those Walmarts is a detention center to house children of immigrant families.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) attempted to enter the converted Walmart in Brownsville, TX to inspect the living conditions of immigrant children who had reportedly been separated from their parents and were rumored to be kept in cages and concrete floors of the converted Walmart. Merkley streamed live on social media his attempt to enter the facility but was denied entry by Homeland Security.
All the windows and doors to the facility—which is a shuttered Walmart—have been blacked out with window tinting. Merkley arrived and was immediately asked to leave by a female government worker.
One of the country’s most powerful lawmakers then demanded to speak with a supervisor. Instead of complying with his wishes in the name of transparency, the shadowy government workers called Brownsville police on the U.S. Senator. After 10 minutes of waiting and being confronted by local police, he was denied entry and forced to leave.
Later, in a Facebook live video, Merkley remarked:
When an organization has something to hide, not allowing members of congress to see it, in a democracy, is completely unacceptable…What’s going on is an effort to prevent the press from being able to report to the American people what is happening. And that’s simply unacceptable.
Later on in the video he added:
So far, as far as we know, no member of Congress has actually been allowed to see what’s going on with this program.
The detention facility is run by Southwest Key Programs, who promptly issued an apology to the Senator from Oregon on Wednesday for disallowing Merkley entry to its converted Walmart on Padre Island Highway in Brownsville. The statement reads:
We regret having to turn away Senator Merkley at our Casa Padre shelter. The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) prohibits any facility from allowing visits that have not been approved by them, even if it is a U.S. Senator. With ORR approval, Southwest Key shelters have welcomed elected and other public officials at our facilities in the past, and will continue to do so, because we are proud of the caring environment we provide these children. We have reached out to the Senator and connected with his staff because we would like to see this happen.
After the video began gaining traction, the White House lashed out at the senator, claiming that he is “spreading blatant lies” about the reality of the situation.
“Senator Merkley is irresponsibly spreading blatant lies about routine immigration enforcement while smearing hardworking, dedicated law enforcement officials at ICE and CBP,” deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News.
“He voted against closing the ‘catch-and-release’ loopholes used by child smugglers, and his reckless open borders policies are responsible for the permanent separation of thousands of American families who have been forced to bury their loved ones,” Gidley added. “No one is taking a public safety lecture from Sen. Merkley, whose own policies endanger children, empower human smugglers and drug cartels, and allow violent criminal aliens to flood into American communities.”
What’s more, DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton said Merkley was actually able to visit the facility—in spite of the video showing otherwise.
“At 2pm on a Friday, the Senator asked to visit a secure DHS facility over the weekend where children are present and we worked with him to provide him access,” Houlton said. “This presented obvious and serious privacy concerns – not to mention disrupting operations. He was able to visit the facility on Sunday.”
That never happened.
According to Merkley, however, he says that he’s actually been inside another one of these facilities in which he witnessed hundreds of children being kept inside cages.
“When I was at the center at McAllen Border Station, this is the processing center, earlier and I was admitted there and I did see the people, hundreds of children locked up in cages there at that facility,” Merkley said in an interview with CNN. “They have big cages made out of fencing and then wire and nets stretched across the top of them so people can’t climb out of them.”
After the White House issued the statement on Merkley allegedly spreading lies, Merkley Communications Director Ray Zaccaro fired back and insisted the White House be more transparent on what’s going on with these children.
“The White House is smearing Senator Merkley because they can’t defend their indefensible policy of snatching children from their parents,” Zaccaro said. “Senator Merkley and his staff saw children in cages yesterday at the DHS processing center. We still have no idea what’s happening in the detention center where reportedly up to a thousand children are being held, since they refused the Senator’s request to go inside.”
Even if Merkley is doing all this as a means to smear Trump or garner political support, the reality of the situation is that children have been documented by politicians and local news crews during the Obama administration being kept in cages.
Photo: McAllen, TX, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02) tour of processing center.
Sadly, these children are being used as pawns in a political game as rivals bicker over how to handle them while ignoring real factors that would curb criminal immigration.
As the Free Thought Projectreported, Ron Paul provides penetrating wisdom on truly effective ways to deal with the situation, while providing a financial benefit and removing a giant injustice being perpetrated by the U.S. government.
Likewise, the 40 year war on drugs has produced no benefit to the American people at a great cost. It is estimated that since President Nixon declared a war on drugs, the US has spent more than a trillion dollars to fight what is a losing battle. That is because just as with the welfare magnet, there is an enormous incentive to smuggle drugs into the United States.
We already know the effect that ending the war on drugs has on illegal smuggling: as more and more US states decriminalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses, marijuana smuggling from Mexico to the US has dropped by 50 percent from 2010.
This view is backed by data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In fiscal year 2015, illegal immigrants were responsible for 75 percent of federal drug possession charges.
Amusingly, both Sean Hannity and PolitiFact confirmed this. Data show that the ‘illegal alien” category accounted for “1,640 of 2,181 total convictions (75 percent) in which the primary charge was simple drug possession.”
It is important to note that a rise in gang violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala has caused a massive influx of immigrants seeking refuge lately. They are coming in by the thousands in an attempt to escape this violence. Instead of looking at the cause of this violence, however, US policy is to separate immigrant children from their parents while prosecuting the adults—and this is supposed to somehow be a solution.
Paul also points out the burden of free medical benefits, food assistance, and education given to illegal immigrants which amounts to about $100 billion a year. Granted, many of them are part of the workforce in sectors such as agriculture, but not paying taxes and sending money back to Mexico creates a significant imbalance.
Instead of wearing the badge of the “largest prison population in the world” and continuing to convert Walmarts into detention centers, the United States could begin eliminating the national debt, reduce crime, foster personal liberty, and drastically decrease criminal gangs that flourish from prohibition—and all it would have to do would be end the war on drugs.
Sadly, at least for now, it appears that these dinosaurs in DC think that caging children, ripping them out of their parents arms, and repeatedly deporting them at the expense of the taxpayer, is the only solution. Thanks government.
The United States has been quietly funding and equipping elite paramilitary police units in El Salvador accused of extrajudicially murdering suspected gang members, according to a forthcoming United Nations report reviewed in advance by CNN.
Beginning with George W. Bush in 2003, successive US administrations have provided tens of millions of dollars in aid for Salvadoran military and police in support of the government’s “Mano Dura” (“Firm Hand”) security program, an aggressive campaign to combat out-of-control gang violence in a country with one of the world’s highest homicide rates.
“Mano Dura” aid increased significantly during the Obama administration, which compared the effort to Plan Colombia, the decades-long anti-drug campaign in which billions of US aid dollars funded mafia-like army units that, along with allied paramilitary death squads, kidnapped, tortured and murdered thousands of innocent civilians with impunity. As was the case with Plan Colombia, the new UN report will accuse Salvadoran security forces, in this case some of its elite police units, of “a pattern of behavior by security personnel amounting to extrajudicial executions” and a “cycle of impunity” in which such killings go unpunished.
One police unit, the Special Reaction Forces (FES), killed 43 suspected gang members during the first half of 2017, according to the UN report. While FES officers were executing suspects in the streets, the US government continued to fund and equip the unit. Washington’s total assistance increased from $67.9 million in 2016 to $72.7 million last year. The deportation of members of MS-13 – formed in Los Angeles by young Salvadoran refugees fleeing civil war in a homeland ruled by a US-backed military dictatorship – and other gangs has further exacerbated the crisis.
A spokesman for the US Embassy in San Salvador assured CNN that “the US government takes allegations of extrajudicial killings extremely seriously,” that it has “consistently expressed concerns” regarding human rights abuses and that it heavily vets units receiving aid. These assurances ring hollow to many Salvadorans who recall how the Ronald Reagan administration covered up horrific human rights violations in order to keep military aid flowing to the anti-communist military regime during the 1980s civil war.
MS 13 member
That aid, which included forming, training, funding and arming military death squads, began during the Carter administration and dramatically increased under Reagan. Officers, troops and police were trained in kidnapping, torture, assassination and democracy suppression at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), also known as the School of Coups and School of Assassins because it produced so many of both.
SOA graduates and other US-backed Salvadoran security forces planned, ordered and committed the most heinous atrocities of the 12-year civil war, including the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of four American nuns and church volunteers in 1980, the assassination of the country’s beloved Catholic archbishop, Oscar Romero, that same year and the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989. After the four churchwomen were slain, the Reagan administration undertook a shameful effort to place blame on the victims.
The most notorious Salvadoran army unit, the Atlacatl Battalion, was created in 1980 at the SOA and hailed as “the pride of the United States military team in El Salvador.” As a rite of passage its new troops collected roadkill carcasses – “dogs, vultures, anything,” according to one former member – and boiled them into a soup they all drank. Atlacatl Battalion’s human victims fared even worse than the dead animals its recruits consumed. The unit committed countless massacres, including the slaughter of 117 men, women and children at Lake Suchitlan in 1983 and the mass murder of 68 civilians, many of them children, at Los Llanitos the following year.
But even these massacres paled in comparison to Atlacatl’s deadliest crime, the wholesale slaughter of more than 900 villagers, mostly women, children and the elderly, at El Mozote on December 11, 1981. There, soldiers shot, stabbed, hacked, smashed, and hung helpless villagers to death. They gang-raped women and girls before killing them. They skewered babies on bayonets. They dropped large rocks on the bellies of pregnant women. When the raping and murdering finished, they burned El Mozote to the ground, reducing the village to what one witness called “a moving black carpet” of scavenging vultures, flies and dogs feasting on the victims.
The day after El Mozote made front page headlines in the US, President Reagan officially certified that El Salvador was “making a concerted and significant effort to comply with internationally recognized human rights,” and was working to “bring an end to the indiscriminate torture and murder of Salvadoran citizens.” Meanwhile, Elliott Abrams, then a State Department human rights official who was later convicted in the Iran-Contra scandal before serving as a special assistant to President George W. Bush, helped lead an effort to deny the El Mozote massacre ever happened.
US aid to El Salvador was doubled, and heinous atrocities continued through the end of the civil war.
It wasn’t just El Salvador. The United States also supported or covered up death squad activity throughout Central and South America in the 1970s and ‘80s. In Guatemala, it backed right-wing military dictators including Efraín Ríos Montt, who recently died facing genocide charges, as well as brutal death squads like the army’s elite Kaibiles unit, which tortured, raped and murdered more than 200 villagers at Dos Erres in December, 1982.
In Honduras, Reagan’s ambassador, John Negroponte, supervised the creation of the notorious Battalion 316, which was tasked with eliminating students, academics, labor unionists, clergy, journalists, indigenous rights activists and others deemed a threat to the dictatorship. Negroponte also played a key role in supporting the US-backed Contra army as it waged a terrorist war against the people of Nicaragua.
It also wasn’t just in the past. After a 2009 military coup deposed the progressive Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya, Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton backed the repressive right-wing regime even as reports of its brutality, which included forced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions of opponents, were revealed. Despite the assassination of high-profile critics including the environmental activist Berta Cáceres, the Obama administration lavished the Honduran coup regime and its murderous security forces with tens of millions of dollars in military and other assistance.
The United States has long operated or supported death squads, from the CIA’s Phoenix Program in Vietnam (40,000 killed) through the implementation of the “Salvador option” during the recent invasion and occupation of Iraq. The latter effort was run by Col. James Steele, a decorated veteran of Central America’s dirty wars, including a stint training Salvadoran death squad units during the civil war. Unsurprisingly, secret prisons, torture and extrajudicial killings became commonplace throughout occupied Iraq.
It now appears that the “Salvador option” has made its way back home from halfway around the world, further terrorizing guilty and innocent alike in what was already one of the most frightful corners of the planet.
Brett Wilkins is editor-at-large for US news at Digital Journal. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. This originally appeared at CounterPunch.
The number of migrant children held without their parents by the US government has surged 21% since last month to 10,773 children, the Washington Post reported.
The uptick comes after the Trump administration imposed a new “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute migrants who cross the US border illegally.
The policy means that migrant parents who cross the border with their children are forcibly separated while they await criminal prosecution.
The Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy toward migrants who cross the US border illegally has driven up the number of migrant children held in government custody without their parents, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The US Health and Human Services Department said it was holding 10,773 migrant children in custody as of Tuesday — up 21% from the 8,886 it was holding a month earlier.
The surge comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s new tactic to criminally prosecute every person who crosses into the US illegally, which requires them to be separated from any children they brought with them while they’re detained.
But it’s unclear exactly how many of the 10,773 children being held in government custody were actually forcibly separated from their parents — a Customs and Border Protection official told lawmakers at a hearing last week that 658 children had been separated from 638 adults between May 6 and May 19 under the new zero tolerance policy.
Bloody protests against Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega’s government have the United State’s fingerprints all over it. Over 100 people have been killed since the civil unrest broke out in mid-April and it doesn’t take much to realize the US government is fueling the bloodbath.
These are all coalescing as other democratic and not-so-democratic removals of leftist governments from power continue. NATO has nabbed itself a foothold in the Latin American region, now that Colombia has joined the obsolete yet aggressively expanding Cold War alliance, in a thinly veiled threat to neighboring authoritarian Venezuela.
Now it’s Nicaragua’s turn for the US to interfere in the government’s efforts to “police the entire world,” paid with by our stolen tax money, of course. Student demonstrations began in the capital Managua as a reaction to the country’s failure to handle forest fires in one of the most protected areas of the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve. The situation was then exacerbated when, two days later, the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front announced it was slashing pensions and social security payments, sparking further anti-government protests. Targeted opposition violence along with police repressions have led to a mounting body count on both sides. Violence persists in the country, despite the fact that President Ortega has now ditched the proposed welfare reforms and has been engaging in talks with the opposition.
The government has adamantly denied it was responsible for snipers killing at least 15 people at a recent demonstration. And, while we may never know what really happened, it’s fair to say an embattled national leadership in the midst of peace talks has little to gain from people being gunned down in front of the world’s media at an opposition march on Mother’s Day. All I’ll say on the matter is it’s not like we didn’t have mysterious sharpshooters picking off protesters during US-supported coups in Venezuela and Ukraine. –RT
It is unsurprising then that the US is apparently attempting to capitalize on the growing discontent, stoking dissent among the youth in a deliberate attempt to destabilize the Sandinista government. Infamously nefarious US soft power organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, also known as the CIA’s ‘legal window’, have set up extensive networks in Nicaragua. Among the leading Nicaraguan student activists currently touring Europe to garner support for the anti-government movement is Jessica Cisneros. Cisneros is a member of the Movimiento Civico de Juventudes, which is funded by Madeline Albright’s National Democratic Institute (NDI). Albright is the former US Secretary of State that said that 500,000 Iraqi Children dying as a result of US sanctions against Saddam Hussein was “worth it”.
If the idea of Washington supporting progressive anti-government forces in Latin America confuses you, then you’re failing to grasp the nature of US interference. During the Cold War, for example, the US supported both the Mujahideen inAfghanistan as well as eastern European trade unionists against the Soviet Union. Indeed, throughout the Syrian conflict, Washington has been arming leftist groups alongside jihadist organizations. It goes without saying that, despite US politicians getting all dewy-eyed over “freedom fighters,” the likes of Jihadists or even trade unionists are not welcome in US society. –RT
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.”
“Washington has always comprehensively supported oppositional groups in the countries of Latin America with “inconvenient” regimes without hesitating in the choice of methods. Mercenaries recruited among political refugees and citizens of neighboring countries have always been one of the most widespread tools of the CIA arsenal if the Hawks wanted to change the government in such a country. As we can observe today, the style of the CIA is invariable.”
This July, the people of Venezuela elected the National Constituent Assembly that, as expected, would be aimed at preparing amendments to the Constitution. The convocation of this body was initiated by President Maduro. The opposition condemned and failed to recognize the elections stating the National Constituent Assembly convocation should be held by the referendum.
These events urged forward the mass protests proceeding in the country since the beginning of April as the result of the discontent with state leaders policy, essentials’ deficiency and a mass population impoverishment against the background of drop in oil prices – a crucial resource for the economy of this mineral-rich Latin American country.
The opposition tries to seize power in Venezuela with broad political support of the USA. The term of the current head of state Nicolás Maduro ends in 2018, but protests organizers, as well as their American curators, do not want to wait, they demand to hold the elections immediately.
The White House makes all efforts to drive the “Bolivarian” regime from power in Venezuela. Latin America is a traditional sphere of influence of the USA since the end of the 19th century, and Washington extremely painfully reacts to loss of positions in its “backyard”. Taking into account the Venezuela situation, the main stake for Washington are oil fields since the American business lost access to them as a result of reforms of President Hugo Chávez.
It should be noted that the Venezuelan question is under special control of the Secretary Tillerson, one of the most influential figures of an oil lobby. During the management of ExxonMobil “Texas T-Rex” proved to be the real predator able to take any measures for achievement of goals. For example, the similar situation happened in 2011 when the company has begun oil development in the Iraqi Kurdistan counter with opinion of the Barack Obama Administration.
Such animal grasp should be expected from Rex Tillerson also with Venezuela. The Secretary of State commenting the hearings in the House of Representatives on the difficult situation which had developed in recent months in Venezuela declared that “the USA has to continue pressure upon Caracas, and also give support of local opposition in this connection the White House needs to take steps through various organizations”.
The recent tour of the vice-president Mike Pence across Latin America also indicates the high priority Washington gives to “the Venezuelan question”. The trip resulted in the coalition of Latin American countries created for political support of Washington efforts to topple President Maduro. Colombia, Argentina, Panama and Chile act as the US allies.
In turn, CIA director Mike Pompeo affirmed the dialogue the agency leads with Colombian and Mexican authorities within the work against the Venezuelan government. The chief of CIA obviously dissembles, claiming that contacts with the Latin American partners are limited only to political consultations. Groups of the Colombian fighters are thrown in the country to carry out provocations against police officers during protests and organize murders of oppositionists in order to create an occasion to accuse Maduro’s government of use of lethal weapon against own people.
Interior Minister Nestor Riverola announced the arrest of several
Columbians in Tachira state bordering on Colombia. They were dressed as Bolivarian national guards of Venezuela and took part at street clashes between the protesters and police. Moreover, the governor of Tachira state José Gregorio Vielma Mora reported about elimination of the Colombian fighters’ camp and added that the number of detainees reached 120 people.
Washington has always comprehensively supported oppositional groups in the countries of Latin America with “inconvenient” regimes without hesitating in the choice of methods. Mercenaries recruited among political refugees and citizens of neighboring countries have always been one of the most widespread tools of the CIA arsenal if the Hawks wanted to change the government in such a country. As we can observe today, the style of the CIA is invariable.
The situation in Venezuela is aggravated to the brink. The American oil business strongly intends to return the positions lost during the presidency of Chávez and Maduro. The USA will do everything to change power in Caracas and disrupt the upcoming presidential elections in Venezuela in 2018. Participation of fighters from Colombia against Maduro serves as the evidence of the White House intention to plunge this Latin American country into chaos of political turbulence and civil war.
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.
As if Americans, or Israelis, listen to anything the UN says. Another fake war is coming courtesy of the Barbaric States of Dumbmerica. Why can’t the USA live and let live? Go home Yankees and take your troops home while doing it. Barbarians.
The 72nd Regular Session of the U.N. General Assembly will convene on Sept. 12, 2017. | Photo: Reuters
Venezuela is most likely headed for the U.N. Security Council’s agenda as the White House seeks to ratchet-up global action.
Having failed to excite or influence Latin American and Caribbean neighbors to gang-up collectively against Caracas, Washington is now placing its bets on mobilizing international action through the United Nations ahead of very possibly marching U.S. troops in urgent fury into Venezuela.
Following the success of previous military invasions with ‘Urgent Fury’ in Grenada in 1983 and “Desert Storm” in Iraq, persistent efforts in recent years to get the Organization of American States, OAS, to join in a U.S.-led invasion march against founder-member Venezuela have failed.
Since the advent of former President Hugo Chavez and his “Bolivarian Socialism” declarations and policy initiatives in 1998, successive administrations led by his United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV, have come under continuing pressure from Washington.
Successive U.S. ambassadors in Caracas have openly supported anti-Chavez and now anti-President Nicolas Maduro policies while embracing the opposition and supporting their actions with both material assistance and political and economic sanctions against the PSUV governments.
Badly burnt over Grenada and Iraq, Latin American and Caribbean nations, as well as other similar groupings of developing states worldwide, have been very cautious about quickly, overly and overtly supporting direct U.S. intervention in countries.
The mainly English-speaking Caribbean Community, Caricom, has repeatedly expressed its opposition to foreign intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs and support for a peaceful, political solution to the country’s problems.
The smaller Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, OECS, has also supported a peaceful, negotiated solution.
At the wider regional level, while the Mercosur group has shut its doors on Caracas, the majority of Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA, and PetroCaribe member-states support Venezuela’s right to determine its internal affairs without outside intrusion.
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, and the Association of Caribbean States, ACS, have not yet become major players in the current dispute, but when they eventually do, there is no doubt they will also oppose external intervention.
Having failed to stop the peaceful and credible election of the National Constituent Assembly, NCA, on July 30, Washington has now declared it an exercise to lead Venezuela on “a path of dictatorship,” according to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in neighboring Colombia last weekend.
Rejecting the transparent vote for the ANC by over 40 percent of the electorate — a greater comparative amount of voters than in any recent U.S. presidential or legislative elections — Washington opted to criminalize the ANC and punish people and entities doing business with it.
Now, having recently persuaded Peru to lead Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and others to take separate unilateral punitive action against Venezuela over the ANC, Washington’s next stop is the U.N., where the annual General Assembly starts in September.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone