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.
Economic coercive measures, commonly known as economic sanctions, are a means of coercive pressure through disruption of trade relations and economic isolation. The use of sanctions under international law is governed chiefly by Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, providing that the Security Council may decide to enact a “complete or partial interruption of economic relations” in order to restore international peace and security.
Measures not authorized by the Security Council, or “unilateral coercive measures” (UCM), have become an increasingly common coercive tactic of the United States, which presently imposes sanctions on approximately one-third of the global population.
Since 2010, the United States has also been enforcing select secondary sanctions against international actors that maintain economic relations with sanctioned states. The adverse effects of these measures on civilian populations of targeted countries—“especially severe for vulnerable groups,” including “women and children”—have been repeatedly and unequivocally documented.
Issues surrounding the legality of UCM have largely centered around the question of compatibility with the United Nations Charter. One primary concern has been the claimed illegitimacy of sanction measures not authorized in multilateral fashion by the Security Council. Others allude to the problems raised by UCM in both the context of state sovereignty (principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states) and international humanitarian law (right to life, health and medical care set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
The United Nations General Assembly has also voiced regular concerns about UCM. A resolution overwhelmingly passed 29 years in a row calling for the cessation of the United States’s “economic blockade” on Cuba is illustrative.
UN General Assembly votes on a resolution (June 23, 2021) demanding an end to the U.S. economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. [Source: news.un.org]
On February 13, 2020, the government of Venezuela submitted a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) requesting an investigation into another possible legal frailty of the United States UCM—namely, whether such measures can constitute crimes against humanity pursuant to Article 7 of the Rome Statute. As recourse to economic warfare ramps up further amidst an intensifying new Cold War, pressure mounts surrounding the Court’s eventual decision.
Venezuela has a population of more than 28 million. Since the 1930s, it has been a significant oil-producing state and is considered to preside over the world’s largest oil reserves.
Under President Hugo Chávez (1998-2013), a new national constitution was adopted which provided for the use of national oil revenues to improve social conditions. The United States responded to this shift in policy with an attempted, but ultimately foiled, coup d’état in 2002. Despite hostile relations with the United States and a series of anti-terrorism and anti-drug trafficking-related sanctions, the Chávez social programs achieved impressive results in improving the standard of living for the Venezuelan population. Poverty and unemployment rates dropped markedly and education standards and literacy rates steadily increased.
Following the death of President Chávez and the election of Nicolás Maduro, the United States intensified its economic coercion. In March 2015, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13692, declaring Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” and providing for the blocking of Venezuelan assets.
The Trump administration ramped up the financial pressure with Executive Order 13808 in August 2017, denying the Venezuelan government, including the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, access to United States financial markets. Executive Orders 13827 and 13835 followed in spring 2018, prohibiting transactions involving the Venezuelan government’s issuance of digital currency and transactions related to the purchase of Venezuelan debt, respectively.
President Trump issued Executive Order 13850 in November 2018 setting forth a framework to block the assets of, and restrict certain transactions with, any person deemed by the Treasury Department to be engaging in transactions with the Venezuelan government that advances its “corrupt purposes.” In January 2019, the United States, in a display of open contempt for democracy, ceased to recognize the government of President Maduro, instead acknowledging Juan Guaidó as interim President.
Strangulation of the Venezuelan economy escalated further in August 2019 with Executive Order 13884, freezing property interests of the Venezuelan government in the United States, prohibiting U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with the Venezuelan government and authorizing financial sanctions and visa restrictions on non-U.S. citizens who assist or support the Venezuelan government.
Effect of United States UCM
All of the above-enumerated measures were enacted unilaterally by the United States government and have had a catastrophic impact on the Venezuelan economy, which has in turn precipitated a humanitarian crisis for the Venezuelan population.
In February 2021, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures, Elena Douhan, released preliminary findings on the impact of United States UCM on the enjoyment of basic human rights in Venezuela. Ms. Douhan notes that, before the imposition of UCM, Venezuela was committing 76% of its national oil revenues to the advancement of social programs. As a result of the monumental UCM-related drop in oil revenue (e.g., from $42 billion in 2013 to just $4 billion in 2018), the government is now unable to commit even one percent to the social programs.
The loss of these resources has led to a “devastating impact on the whole population of Venezuela” with basic human rights directly affected. These include the:
Right to food—more than 50% of food consumption has been impacted by United States UCM, which led to one-third of the Venezuelan population becoming acutely food insecure;
Right to water—water-related services have been significantly disrupted by United States UCM such that the average Venezuelan household has access to running water for only a couple of hours sporadically throughout a given week;
Right to health—access to quality healthcare has been significantly disrupted by United States UCM, resulting in extreme shortages of medical staff and equipment; maternal and infant mortality rates have increased, as well as mortality rates from various diseases; and
Right to education—United States UCM have resulted in a massive decrease in government funding for education, frustrating the ability of schools to procure staff and basic necessities, including meals for students; the situation has been further exacerbated by regular electrical and internet outages.
The severely beleaguered financial condition of the Venezuelan government has also inhibited its ability to provide basic health services amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to its unwillingness to unfreeze Venezuelan assets to enable the purchase of Covid vaccines, the United States has also declined to donate vaccinations to Venezuela, citing concerns over a lack of Venezuelan “transparency.”
The Venezuelan referral claims that United States UCM constitute crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute. Specifically, the claim asserts that the United States UCM represent a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population of Venezuela; that this effect is known to the United States; and that these UCM manifest themselves in punishable acts enumerated in Article 7—in particular, murder (Art. 7(1)(a)), extermination (Art. 7(1)(b)), deportation (Art. 7(1)(d)), persecution (Art. 7(1)(h)), and other inhumane acts (Art. 7(1)(k)).
The referral is novel in multiple respects. First, UCM have not previously been challenged on grounds that they violate international criminal law. Claims abound that UCM are inconsistent with the United Nations Charter, with principles of state sovereignty and with international humanitarian law, but their possible criminality has not been investigated.
Second, the ICC has not previously investigated a case alleging crimes against humanity emanating from policies enacted in one state, but executed on the territory of another. The referral advances the argument that it is accepted in ICC case law that “non-state actors” can commit crimes against humanity even where they do not control the territory in which they are operating. As such, there is no principled reason why “states” cannot commit crimes against humanity in territory which they do not control—i.e., the United States can commit crimes against humanity on the territory of Venezuela.
Third, the referral also raises a jurisdictional oddity. While Article 12 of the Rome Statute clearly provides jurisdiction over qualifying crimes committed on the territory of a member state party, the question arises where precisely the alleged crimes against humanity flowing from United States UCM occur. The referral acknowledges that the actual decisions to impose the UCM in question occurred outside the territory of Venezuela, but argues that the clear intent of the decisions was to have effects within its territory. Thus, the question of whether the ICC can exercise territorial jurisdiction over actions by a non-Rome Statute member state directed against the territory of a Rome Statute member state must be addressed by the Court and further raises the stakes in connection with potential implications of the referral.
Assessment of Venezuela’s Challenge
In addition to raising serious international legal concerns under, inter alia, the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian law, UCM cause significant and well-documented suffering among innocent civilian populations and are ripe for investigation under international criminal law.
The Venezuelan referral advances sound arguments that United States UCM can constitute crimes against humanity. It appears unequivocal that the United States imposes these measures, which appear to satisfy the criteria set forth in Article 7 of the Rome Statute, knowing full well their effects on the Venezuelan population.
Despite calls for the investigation of others when politically expedient, the United States has hidden itself behind its non-party status to the Rome Statute to avoid investigation of its own actions and has a history of unprecedented hostility toward the ICC.
In 2002, the United States enacted the American Service-Members Protection Act “to protect United States military personnel and other elected and appointed officials…against criminal prosecution by an international criminal court to which the United States is not part.” The Act authorizes the president to use “all means necessary and appropriate”—including conceivably force—to bring about the release of United States personnel detained by the ICC.
In June 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13928, taking the extraordinary step of declaring the Court’s pending investigation into United States crimes in Afghanistan an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” and authorizing the freezing of assets of ICC personnel and placement of restrictions on their ability to travel to the United States.
The ICC has displayed a distinct wariness of confrontation with the United States, giving rise to credible concerns surrounding its impartiality. Upon taking office in 2021, the new Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan, immediately brought controversy and renewed doubts of credibility on the Court with his arbitrary decision to “deprioritize” inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by United States military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan under the Bush administration and to, instead, focus selectively on infractions of the Taliban.
The Court may well be tempted to skirt Venezuela’s requested investigation of the United States on technical jurisdictional grounds, but yet another dismissal of a sound case against the United States, all the while vigorously launching a new probe into Russian crimes in Ukraine, could further tarnish the ICC’s already suspect reputation.
Though the referral has unsurprisingly received little coverage in the United States, the stakes are indeed high. A decision to exercise jurisdiction and to proceed with investigation would set an unwelcome precedent for the United States—even if the chances of U.S. leaders actually standing trial is all but non-existent.
An investigation, and ultimate finding, by the ICC would cast concrete doubt on already dubious United States UCM and could possibly prompt a United Nations General Assembly request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the broader legality of UCM. At a time when its economic coercive tactics are coming to seriously jeopardize the global economy—and, accordingly, raise critical eyebrows around the world—the United States can ill afford an adverse ICC ruling. For the ICC, on the other hand, the referral presents an opportunity to show its courage and prove its impartial commitment to global justice.
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Ryan Swan is a doctoral researcher at the Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies in Germany. He holds a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law and a Master’s in international relations and politics from Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Ryan can be reached at email@example.com.
The United States government has revealed its contempt for human compassion and global solidarity by refusing to lift draconian sanctions on Iran and Venezuela during the Covid-19 crisis, director Oliver Stone has argued.
Iran has suffered immensely from the virus, Stone noted in an op-ed published by the New York Daily News, but due to US sanctions the Islamic Republic is “reportedly the only country in the world that cannot buy medicines needed to fight the pandemic.”
The outspoken Hollywood legend similarly condemned Washington’s decision to maintain – and in some cases, increase – its economic chokeholds on countries such as Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as coronavirus strains healthcare systems across the globe.
In the case of Venezuela, US “coercion” led to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) denying the South American state’s request for a $5 billion loan to help fight the pandemic, Stone contended. The US has ratcheted up its pressure on Caracas amid the global health crisis, accusing the government of drug trafficking and calling for a “transition government” to replace President Nicolas Maduro.
The award-winning filmmaker and activist said that the health crisis has shown the inhumanity of Washington’s foreign policy.
The current pandemic is exposing not only our government’s utter failures to protect its own citizens, but also its profound lack of human decency in dealing with other nations
Stone called for “serious moral self-reflection” in the US, warning that countless lives were at risk unless there is an “immediate change in course.”
Iran has registered nearly 3,500 Covid-19 deaths, with 19,700 confirmed cases, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. President Hassan Rouhani said last week that the crisis is “a great opportunity for Americans to apologize… and to lift the unjust and unfair sanctions on Iran.”
Days before the deal was finalized, however, Brazil’s former president, the left-wing labor organizer Lula da Silva, spoke out vociferously against U.S. meddling in Latin America, harshly criticizing Washington’s putsch against Evo Morales in Bolivia and its ongoing coup attempt against Venezuela.
“Europe and the United States can’t recognize a fraud who declares himself to be president,” Lula said, referring to Guaidó. “It is not right. Because if fashion takes over democracy, it is thrown in the garbage, and any scammer can declare themself president. I could declare myself president of Brazil, but where would democracy go?”
Lula was interviewed by Folha de S.Paulo, the most widely circulated Brazilian newspaper, which is owned by an elite family of billionaire media oligarchs.
When the paper pushed back against his comments, calling Maduro a “dictator,” Lula stressed that the Venezuelan president was elected, and has shown the kind of patience and restraint that no other leader would in similar circumstances.
“He [Guaidó] should be in prison,” Lula said. “And Maduro was so democratic and did not arrest him when he went to Colombia to try to instigate an invasion of Venezuela.”
“The one who is taking the initiative to talk is Maduro, not Guaidó,” Lula stated. “Guaidó would like the Americans to invade Venezuela — in fact, he even tried to force it.”
The newspaper pushed back again, saying Maduro has presided over an economic crisis in Venezuela.
“Whether his government is doing well or not, that’s another story. But you aren’t going to attack all of the countries that aren’t doing well,” Lula responded.
“People can’t criticize Maduro and not criticize the blockade. The blockade doesn’t attack soldiers, it doesn’t kill the guilty, the blockade kills innocents,” the former Brazilian president said.
These remarks from Lula received virtually no coverage in the English-language press, although they were widely covered in Portuguese- and Spanish-language media.
Lula defended Morales and his government against the newspaper’s claims that the Bolivian election was marred by supposed “complications.”
“Wasn’t George Bush complicated in his election against Al Gore? It was complicated, Bush took control of the government for eight years,” Lula replied.
“Was Trump not complicated? It was complicated, and he took power,” he said.
“Was Bolsonaro not complicated? Everyone knows the farce of ‘fake news.’”
US Coups Usher Extreme-Right into Power in Brazil
Remarks like these illustrate why Washington has backed coups and meddled in Brazil’s internal politics in order to overthrow Lula and his left-wing Workers’ Party and prevent them from returning to power.
Lula has not only been one of the most popular politicians in Brazil, he represents a regional buffer against U.S. hegemony. When he left office in 2010, after completing his second term as head of state, he had a staggering 87 percent approval rating — one of the highest in the entire world.
Lula’s successor from the Workers’ Party, President Dilma Rousseff, was ousted in 2016 in a parliamentary coup led by Brazil’s right-wing opposition and a collection of oligarchs that was backed behind the scenes by the United States.
“The U.S. created the Lava Jato investigation,” Lula added, referring to the supposed “anti-corruption” operation that was used to oust the Workers’ Party and install the far-right administration of Jair Bolsonaro, an extremist who has called for restoring the military dictatorship.
In 2018, Lula was campaigning again for the presidential election, and leading the polls by a huge margin. It was only then that he was imprisoned on false charges of corruption, providing an opening for Bolsonaro to take power.
The judge who oversaw Lava Jato and imprisoned Lula, Sergio Moro, was subsequently rewarded by Bolsonaro with a post as minister of justice.
“No Brazilian president had ever paid a visit to the CIA,” commented Celso Amorim, who served as Foreign Minister under Lula. “This is an explicitly submissive position. Nothing compares to this.”
Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the “Moderate Rebels” podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.
In the middle of the current pandemic, you would think that the USA would develop compassion and revoke the sanctions against Venezuela and Cuba. Those sanctions were created unilaterally by the US, so why is the world following them anyway?
The US, UK, and EU, as well as Ukraine and Georgia, rejected a Russian draft declaration calling for unilateral sanctions to be lifted to fight Covid-19.
Moscow’s permanent mission to the UN issued a statement on Thursday questioning why Ukraine, Georgia, the UK, US, and EU had shot down its proposal, arguing that these nations “refused to cast aside politicized approaches and interests,” and that their decision could negatively affect “a great number of people” – especially in developing nations currently under sanctions.
The rejected motion called for broad international cooperation on combating the spread of Covid-19, as well as the “rejection of trade wars and unilateral sanctions adopted without the mandate of the UN Security Council, in order to ensure early access to food and medication.” The draft also called on member states to reject “stigmatizations of states, peoples and individuals with regard to the pandemic, and the need to circulate only reliable and science-based information about it.”
The declaration was co-sponsored by 28 UN member states, Russia’s UN mission said. The General Assembly ultimately passed a different resolution calling for “international cooperation” and “multilateralism” to combat coronavirus.
There are more than 1 million confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, resulting in more than 50,000 deaths, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido argues for National Guards to let him and all opposition lawmakers into the National Assembly, outside the legislature in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 7, 2020. (Matias Delacroix/AP)
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be offered a preview of Haiti Betrayed, a documentary by filmmaker and photographer Elaine Brière. The film, which concerns the lengthy history of interference, subversion and outright invasion by developed nations to undermine Haitian sovereignty, begins with a cri de coeur against one of the countries most responsible for Haiti’s current state of immiseration: Canada.
In the opening scene, a Haitian man, standing across the street from the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince, screams remonstrations against the edifice in Haitian Creole: “We don’t have anything against Canada! Why are you against us?”
The film makes a damning case for Canada’s role in facilitating the ousting of Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This coup-from-without enabled the military regime that followed his overthrow; Canada has never apologized for the horrific violence committed by the RCMP-trained National Police against the Haitian protesters who rose up in response.
The film arrives at a rather fortuitous time, as today’s Liberal government continues the tradition of undermining the ability of oppressed people in foreign nations to achieve self-determination, while covering its actions in the gossamer-thin ruse of actually supporting those human rights abroad.
In late January, Juan Guaidó, the disputed leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly and self-declared “interim president,” embarked on a global tour to garner support for his year-long bid to militarily oust President Nicolás Maduro. He was received warmly by Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who addressed him as “interim president.” It bears mentioning that Guaidó did not run as a presidential candidate in the 2018 Venezuelan elections. Even if he had wanted to, he does not lead a political party, nor does he belong to one (Guaidó resigned from Voluntad Popular last year to “focus completely on the freedom of Venezuela”).
In fact, prior to Guaidó’s appointment as the head of the National Assembly in January 2019, he was practically unknown. And yet there he was in Ottawa, with our government lending support to another would-be coup regime…
“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.
Almost a year on from the Trump administration’s failed bid to oust Venezuela’s socialist leader, the media is scrambling to make sense of where it all went wrong – and finally admitting that Nicolas Maduro is going nowhere.
When the “virtually unknown” US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido declared himself “interim president” in January, he won instant support from Washington’s global allies as the “legitimate” leader of Venezuela. Western media was soon consumed with a sense of hopeful anticipation that Washington was on the verge of overthrowing another ‘bad actor’ and preparing to pat itself on the back for supporting the cause of “democracy” and “human rights.”
Change of tune
Now, nearly a year later, the sense is one of reluctant resignation and an admission that, despite best efforts, another attempt at ‘regime change’ has failed – and that Guaido’s opposition was not all it was cracked up to be.
In a recent lament for the failed coup, the Wall Street Journal admits that Maduro appears to be “in firm control” and bemoans that the Trump administration had predicted his “imminent downfall” too early. The WSJ admits that the White House showed “excessive optimism” and suffered from what critics called “unrealistic expectations that [US] pressure tactics” would easily force Maduro from power. The newspaper acknowledges that Maduro’s position is secure despite debilitating US oil sanctions and attempted international isolation.
It’s a common pattern and one analysts watching US regime-change efforts around the world know all too well. The same script played out in Syria as Washington and its allies predicted the swift downfall of President Bashar Assad as early as 2012, but are still waiting today, causing Foreign Policy magazine to admit recently that he is now Syria’s “best case scenario” after US efforts to install “moderate” jihadis into power failed.
What went wrong?
In Venezuela, US media is even starting to admit that the troubled economy is showing signs of improvement under Maduro, thanks to an uptick in oil exports and increased dollarization, while the Guaido-led opposition grapples with its own corruption scandal, proving to Venezuelans that it may not be an “honest alternative” to Maduro at all.
The WSJ points to the removal of former national security adviser John Bolton (one of Maduro’s “staunchest adversaries”) as part of the reason why US efforts failed. It also points to the eruption of anti-government protest movements across the region, in Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile, which it says allowed Maduro to distract from his own “misrule” and food and medicine shortages. Though there is no mention of how crippling US sanctions directly impacted the lives of ordinary Venezuelans, despite a study showing that they’ve caused “very serious harm to human life and health” including an estimated 40,000 deaths.
Determined not to admit defeat, top US envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams, whose career has been defined by repeated efforts to topple uncooperative leaders in Latin America, told the paper that it was “flatly wrong” to assume things were improving for “precarious” Maduro – but reality seems to tell a different story.
What to do next?
A recent piece published by Bloomberg gives an indication of where US policy on Venezuela may be headed next – and it’s another familiar road. When all options are exhausted and failed, it seems the next step is always to look to Russia for help.
Sources “familiar with the matter” told Bloomberg that the Trump administration is “losing confidence” that Guaido can ever topple Maduro and, as such, is considering “new and more aggressive strategies.” One of those strategies, they said, would be “an attempt to partner with Russia” –an ally of Maduro– in order to “ease out” the leader.
This has echoes of US policy in Syria, too, where Washington repeatedly demanded that Moscow change its strategy and abandon its support of Assad – before eventually seeming to admit that ousting him should no longer be a top priority.
Indeed, there was a time when Western media were suggesting that, under US pressure, Moscow could help push Assad out, too. There were even reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin had asked the Syrian leader to step down. Nothing came of that pipe dream and a US effort to partner with Russia to push out Maduro seems equally likely to fail, since Moscow has remained supportive of the democratically-elected leader and shown no indication that it takes “interim president” Guaido very seriously.
While US media is still largely reluctant to offer the perspective of pro-Maduro Venezuelans or analysts who point out that Washington’s policies have wreaked havoc on Latin America for decades – they are at least finally painting a picture closer to reality.
“It’s really scary that someone could be hauled out of his house by a team of cops, listed falsely as ‘armed and dangerous,’ and then jailed for two days and possibly put on trial because someone who doesn’t like their political views decides to level a false allegation against him,” he said. “There has to be some deterrence against this happening again.” Max Blumenthal
Journalist Max Blumenthal says assault charges against him have been dropped by the US government partially because the case would have turned into a great embarrassment for the Secret Service.
Blumenthal was subjected to an early morning arrest in October on a five-month-old warrant, which stemmed from an accusation against him and fellow activist Ben Rubinstein. A Venezuelan opposition activist said they attacked her when they were delivering food to people who took cover in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC trying to prevent supporters of US-backed self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido from taking over the place.
The journalist says the charge was bogus from the start, but his defense took a surprising turn when Blumenthal’s lawyer requested exculpatory evidence in the form of logs from the US Secret Service, whose agents were present at the scene. If agents failed to call an ambulance after a violent incident resulting in an injury, a lack of such call would indicate that the allegations were false, he reasoned.
However, the logs for the day were completely missing. Blumenthal believes the Secret Service obstructed the request because the logs would confirm that they were acting hand-in-glove with the crowd trying to take over the diplomatic mission, he told RT.
“What I think could be the case here is that they are concerned that their collusion with this right-wing band of hooligans, who were used to do what the Secret Service was legally forbidden from doing, which is prevent food and medicine from getting into the embassy,” would have been exposed, he said.
[Releasing the logs] would have exposed that collusion and embarrass the Secret Service.
The Grayzone journalist said he was obviously targeted with a false accusation because he personally and his colleagues were vocal opponents of Guaido and his Washington-backed attempts to overthrow the Venezuelan government. The opposition activists simply used the friendly US government to harass their critics, and there needs to be a push-back against such malpractice, he believes.
“It’s really scary that someone could be hauled out of his house by a team of cops, listed falsely as ‘armed and dangerous,’ and then jailed for two days and possibly put on trial because someone who doesn’t like their political views decides to level a false allegation against him,” he said. “There has to be some deterrence against this happening again.”
The confrontation at the embassy happened between April and May, and resulted in the pro-Guaido crowd taking over the building. Two Grayzone journalists were covering the tense standoff from inside the embassy.
“…the evidence is glaring that the US has just moved blatantly to destroy the democratic process in Bolivia, to terrorize a nation and blackmail its president to resign. Yet Western media dutifully turn off that narrative to keep chasing their fantasies about Russia. Another illustration of why corporate Western media are more accurately defined as propaganda channels, not news outlets.”
The whole scenario fits Washington’s standard-operating procedure for instigating coups or regime change against governments it disapproves of. Bolivia’s socialist president Evo Morales was in Washington’s cross-hairs for toppling.
What has happened in Bolivia is similar to the US-backed violent protests which earlier this year rocked the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Fortunately for Maduro, the Venezuelan military has remained loyal to the constitution and was not turned by Washington’s pressure.
Unfortunately for Morales, however, sufficient pressure was exerted on the Bolivian military and police. When those institutions called for Morales to step down on Sunday, he did so in order to spare his nation from further deadly conflict. “The coup mongers are destroying the rule of law,” said Morales, who was re-elected for a fourth term on October 20.
Several countries have denounced what they see as a coup against the democratically elected leader. Russia, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina have all condemned the subversion of Bolivia’s constitution.
When Morales won the election last month, the Organisation of American States (OAS) alleged “manipulation” of the voting system. Such claims by the OAS were predictable because it has long served as a pro-Washington agency which is vehemently opposed to left-wing governments in Latin America. Critics call it a relic of the Cold War.
The organization has spearheaded international criticism of the Venezuelan government and served to whip up public disturbances earlier this year in that country which challenged the elected president, Nicolas Maduro. The orchestrated coup in Venezuela has since subsided over recent months.
Washington supplies the OAS with 60 per cent of its financial budget. It is, therefore, a tool for promoting US geopolitical interests across Latin America, as amply noted by the Grayzone.
It’s meddling in Bolivia seems to have succeeded, unlike its failed attempts in Venezuela.
The allegations of voting fraud in Bolivia gave immediate fuel for street protests by rightwing groups loyal to opposition politicians. Those opposition factions are linked to the past oligarchic regimes which ran Bolivia before Morales came to power in 2006. Morales was the first indigenous president in a country which has traditionally been dominated by a ruling class associated with Spanish colonialists. His policies gained much international praise for lifting millions of Bolivians out of poverty, especially the indigenous people who had historically been marginalized by the ruling elite.
For the past three weeks, since the election result designated Morales as the clear winner, Bolivia has been convulsed by extreme violence. Protesters attacked members of Morales’ party, burning homes and offices and intimidating journalists from broadcasting the scenes of anarchy on the streets. It is reported that one of Morales’ family relatives was kidnapped at the weekend.
Given the reign of terror threatening to destroy the country, the president was compelled to relinquish power at the weekend.
The implication of US senators colluding with Bolivia’s rightwing opposition to create a climate of hate and fear is straight out of the same playbook for subversion that Washington has used most recently in Venezuela and in dozens of other countries around the world. The coup d’état that occurred in Ukraine in February 2014 leading to a takeover by neo-Nazi parties is just one other example.
The irony is that Washington and its European partners are consumed with accusations made against Russia for allegedly interfering in their political systems. US and European media relentlessly claim with scant evidence that Moscow is running “influence campaigns” to distort elections.
Just this week the New York Times has published yet another report in a recent series of reports alleging that Russia is cranking up interference and meddling in African states.
Meanwhile, the evidence is glaring that the US has just moved blatantly to destroy the democratic process in Bolivia, to terrorize a nation and blackmail its president to resign. Yet Western media dutifully turn off that narrative to keep chasing their fantasies about Russia. Another illustration of why corporate Western media are more accurately defined as propaganda channels, not news outlets.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
Iran has been subject to crippling U.S. sanctions and military provocations in recent weeks. The most recent U.S. escalation began in mid-July when the U.K., through its territory of Gibraltar, seized an Iranian oil tanker accused of violating E.U.-imposed sanctions against Syria. Iran has since taken three “foreign” tankers into custody and placed seventeen Iranians accused of spying for the CIA under arrest. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the 2020 election buzz has been temporarily drowned out by the deaths of over thirty people in three mass shootings. From Iran to Ohio, the U.S. empire is in a state of decay.
Iran is responding to U.S. imperial decay by defending itself on behalf of the former colonial world, much of which is still under the thumb of neocolonial and imperialist exploitation. The Islamic Republic has been under a state of siege by the imperialist world for over half of a century. Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh was overthrown in 1953 with the help of the CIA. This placed Iran under the autocratic puppet rule of the Shah. The Shah used a secret police force, the SAVAK, to murder, kidnap, and torture of tens of thousands of Iranians. All of this occurred under the supervision of the U.S. and U.K.
The Iranian people overthrew the Shah and re-nationalized the nation’s vast oil reserves in 1979. Washington never forgave Iran for refusing to bow down to its imperial dictates. Iran maintains sovereignty on several fronts. On the domestic front, Iran has developed an advanced military infrastructure capable of defending the country from foreign invasion. On the international front, the Islamic Republic has developed firm ties with Russia, China, Syria, and a litany of nations which has allowed it to modernize its economy. U.S. sanctions have kept Iran’s people without key medical and other resources necessary for survival, but this hasn’t stopped them from defending the self-determination of Iran and allied nations.
When Iran stands up to the U.S. and its imperial allies, it isn’t merely defending itself. Iran is defending the rest of the world’s peoples. Iran has given critical aid to the Syrian government in its righteous fight against foreign-sponsored “jihadist” mercenaries. Iran has also been a key ally of Venezuela; which, like Iran, has suffered gravely because of U.S. sanctions. Iran’s seizure of foreign oil tankers and CIA agents shows that it is not afraid of the U.S. or its allies. U.S. imperialism is in decay and cannot assert hegemony in the old way. There are no CIA-backed coups in the cards and a full-scale attack on Iran would be political suicide not just for Trump, but for the entire U.S. and E.U. political establishment which has rapidly seen its political legitimacy dwindle over the last several decades.
Just as the U.S. is unable to operate in the same way around the world, mass shootings in the U.S. represent a domestic example of a militarized, racist Empire in decay. White America has historically acted as the foot soldiers in the Empire’s system of racialized social control dating back to the original sin of slavery. Slave patrols, lynch mobs, and their modern manifestations in the American police and prison state are historical byproducts of a ruthless system of profit rooted in the white supremacist dehumanization of Africans in America. For several centuries, most white Americans relished in the benefits conferred to them by a system that placed Black and anyone else deemed a sub-human race to the bottom of the class structure. Only in the last forty to fifty years since Black Americans forced concessions upon the state has it been distasteful to publicly rejoice in the fruits of white supremacy.
Mass shootings demonstrate the U.S.’ descent into barbarism. In 2017, in response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Democratic Party presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg remarked on Twitter that “I did not carry assault weapons around a foreign country so I could come home and see them used to massacre my countrymen.” Democratic Party representative Steve Cohen deleted a similar tweet not long after the most recent string of mass shootings in California, Ohio, and El Paso “You want to shoot an assault weapon? Go to Afghanistan or Iraq. Enlist!” Such responses to white violence in the U.S. reveal the double standard inherent in the logic of white superiority and imperial violence. Mass shootings that disrupt the mythical tranquility of white society represent a crisis worthy of response while institutionalized mass murder in the form of military intervention is characterized as a necessary and heroic act.
A social system predicated on white supremacy, empire, and a declining capitalist economy inevitably brings about conditions of depravity like those seen in the recent mass shootings. Fascism festers when capitalism forces those who have become comfortable with certain conditions, such as the presence of (white) jobs, into a state of precarity. That’s why the El Paso shooter’s manifesto can simultaneously condemn both U.S. political parties and automation while taking out murderous rage on undocumented immigrants. Economic and political violence is supposed to be reserved for subhuman “savages” such as indigenous peoples, undocumented migrants, and Black Americans. The chickens have come home to roost in White America and it should come as no surprise in an alienated, heavily surveilled society that one of the responses is violence at the barrel of the gun.
Much of the world, including large sections of the U.S. population, is no stranger to U.S. imperial violence. Black Americans and indigenous peoples native to what is now the U.S. mainland are murdered by law enforcement nearly every day in the United States. Iraq lost over one million people during the U.S. invasion beginning in 2003. Iran lost one million itself in the war two decades prior when the U.S. supplied Iraq with chemical weapons to invade the Islamic Republic post-revolution. An empire in decay only becomes more violent and ruthless in its attempt to maintain hegemony. The U.S. has killed over 40,000 Venezuelans in one year’s worth of sanctions. And with China and Russia labeled the greatest threat to U.S. “national security,” the threat of a global war of nuclear proportions looms over humanity like a storm cloud.
The U.S. has long been on the path to barbarism. Iran’s resistance to U.S. imperialism provides an international example of heroism and is a continuation of the anti-colonial struggle of the 20th century. Mass shootings and global provocations are a sign of an empire that is even more dangerous because it is dying. Only by joining in this struggle can exploited and oppressed sections of the U.S. population achieve true peace and justice in our lifetime. Without mass resistance to white supremacy and war, the U.S. empire threatens to devour itself alive and will no doubt attempt to take the rest of us with it.
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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Leading English-language news organizations have provided extensive and dramatic coverage of anti-government protests in Venezuela, but mostly ignored large-scale rallies against US sanctions, which took place over the weekend.
Tens of thousands of Venezuelans flooded the streets of the country’s capital, Caracas, on Saturday to denounce the economic blockade and sanctions imposed by the US. Many were wrapped in national flags and sported red shirts, typically worn by the supporters of the government. The rallies were held under the slogan ‘No More Trump’.
The mainstream media stayed largely silent on the massive anti-sanctions rallies. This is a striking contrast to the extensive and often dramatic coverage the leading English-language news organizations have provided during anti-government protests, led by opposition leader Juan Guaido.
CNN gave a brief mention to the ‘No More Trump’ protests on its Spanish-language website, CNN en Espanol, but the company’s English-language service, CNN International, ignored the story altogether. As did the New York Times, whose weekend coverage passed over Venezuela entirely, but found space for an opposition march in Moscow.
The event did get some attention from Latin American public broadcaster Telesur, as well as other smaller left-leaning publications such as the British Morning Star, but they were outliers in the world press.
President Nicolas Maduro had earlier called on “all Venezuelans” to gather at the city’s squares to sign a manifesto, decrying US pressure and affirming the will to “defend independence, peace and sovereignty” of the country. The government said it expects to collect more than 13 million signatures by early September, after which the document will be delivered to the UN as proof of what people think about the sanctions.
In January, opposition politicians declared Guaido, who leads the nation’s parliament, ‘acting president’ of Venezuela, challenging Maduro. The move was dismissed by the government. The opposition has since staged several large-scale protests, some of which spiraled into riots and clashes with police. More than 100 protesters have died in the ensuing violence.
Guaido is openly backed by the US, its allies in Europe and the majority of South American states, including Venezuela’s neighbors, Colombia and Brazil. Nations like China, Russia, Iran and Turkey continue to recognize Maduro as the legitimate leader of the country.
Imagine just for a moment, the World would stand up in unison, sick and tired of the aggressive killer arrogance of the United States and her vassals – and their joint war-force called NATO – and this World, our World, what’s left of it when you deduct Washington and its Brussels allies, would at once block every shipment of everything destined for the ports of the United States of America; every sea port, airport and road port. Hermetically. Nothing would enter. Nothing, no food, no medicine, no electronics, no cars – no nothing. And nothing could leave. No exports, no petrol, no grains, no meat, no pharmaceuticals and foremost, no weapons. Nothing.
And now, take your mind a step further – and imagine the same – exactly the same, a total and full blockage of Israel – nothing would enter, no food, no fuel, no medication, no machinery and especially no weapons – and nothing would leave; a full and total blockage.
This would of course be totally illegal; illegal and unacceptable, by any international law, by the standards of the UN Charter, by the Human Rights Laws and Directives – by any ethical values of human morals. Wouldn’t it? – Yet, this is exactly what these countries are doing, have been doing for decades, sanctioning to strangle and murder entire populations into death or submission. The US with Cuba; Israel with Palestine. And the coercion and strangulation go on, unabated.
The longest embargo – illegal, inhuman and outright criminal – Washington imposed on Cuba – 60 years. Because Cuba has chosen socialism as her form of state and government. Cuba survived and will never give in to the tyrant of the north.
Now the US is expanding her palette of killing by impunity to dominate and subjugate nation after nation which they do not consider bending sufficiently to the dictate of their masters. Venezuela has been targeted for two decades, ever since former President Hugo Chavez was democratically elected in 1998; and Iran, ever since the US-imposed Shah was deposed in 1979 – exactly 40 years ago – by Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Both Venezuela and Iran are rich in natural resources, especially hydrocarbons but also in gold, rare earths and other precious metals and stones.
Contrary to what one would like to imagine, international world bodies, like the United Nations and her sister and associated organizations remain just about silent. When a high-level official utters some benign criticism of the US or Israel – it flairs up for a moment in the ‘news’, then it disappears again, as if it never happened. And indeed, nothing happens. They – the US and Israel – go on with their crimes in impunity.
The latest is an open declaration of economic warfare by Washington, a total embargo on Venezuela; the embargo is now being turned into a naval blockade. Similar steps are to be taken for Iran. That literally means that no merchandise – no matter how vital for survival, like food and medication, is allowed into Venezuela. Three days ago, the US seized, totally illegally, a cargo ship attempting to deliver food and medication to Venezuela – in the Panama Canal, territory which the US does not own or control anymore.
The ship was carrying soy cakes, from which Venezuela was to produce food. Never mind, that the cargoes are fully paid for by Venezuela. And this seems to be just the beginning. Vessels leaving Venezuela with petrol deliveries to client countries are also targeted for blockage, thus confiscating, or rather stealing, Venezuela’s main source of income on which she intends to survive and feed and provide health care for her people. This, in addition to the more than 130 billion dollars total Venezuelan assets confiscated – stolen – by the US worldwide.
And nobody says beep. Almost. Yes, there are some collective protests by countries in solidarity – like key members of the Sao Paulo Forum, as well as more than 60 members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM – total 120 members) that have become especially active in recent years in defense of Venezuela within the United Nations. Protests and protest declarations also take place by ALBA members, a Latin American trade alliance (ALBA – Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, 11 members [Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Grenada and the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis]).
>But most interesting are the hypocrites, those who write and scream that Venezuelans are starving to death, that the Maduro government neglects its people – yet these accusers-in-falsehood – let the US and her vassals strangle Venezuela and steal her foreign assets, including foreign reserves and gold, food and medical imports – they are saying zilch, nada, nothing. Just watching.
To top it all off, the Human Rights Commissioner, Madame Michelle Bachelet, Hypocrite-in-chief, who recently visited Venezuela, at the invitation of President Nicolas Maduro, on a Human Rights mission, and who delivered a devastating report about Venezuela’s HR, full of lies, half-truths and outright omissions, not mentioning with one word the US inspired coup attempts, the US-funded opposition and its bloody atrocities perpetrated on the Chavista population, and the strangulating and starving by the US and US-dictated European sanctions – Madame Bachelet now came forward condemning the naval blockade. Great. But she did not stand up against the deadly embargo by the US and the European Union. – What credibility remains for the Human Rights Commission? – The world can see it – it’s all bought, coerced into submission, like so many other UN agencies by the Murderers Inc.
If we are not careful, they are soon going to rule the globe. Thanks god, for Russia and China – which are also subjects of US-EU sanctioning and targeted for take-over. But they are a tiny little bit too big and too strong for this sort of games by the decaying US empire and her obedient rats on the sinking ship.
Similarly, the European Union – despots as they have been for hundreds of years as colonialists in Africa, Asia and Latin America – and continue in a modern colonial role through economic control of much of Africa – this very EU, has been sanctioning Venezuela for years on the orders of Washington, naturally, who else? – Now they condemn the naval blockade, but continue their routine sanctions regime.
According to a study carried out by the Washington DC based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), under guidance of Mark Weisbrot, CEPR co-director and Jeffrey Sachs, economics professor, Director, Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University, New York, US and EU sanctions have cost some 40,000 Venezuelan lives. This mainly since August 2017, when Washington escalated its unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela and her state oil company, PDVSA, cutting them off international financial markets.
Yes, the world would have plenty of reasons to stand up and dish out similar naval and air blockades against the US and Israel. Just as a teaser to begin with, and if that doesn’t send a strong enough wake-up message, perhaps such embargoes should be considered on a longer-term indefinite scale. It’s illegal. But we are living in a world where international laws don’t count – where laws are made, as we go, by the self-declared hegemon, the US of A, and her symbiotic Middle East ally, Israel. – So, why not nudging the legal, moral and ethical order back into balance?
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Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.
The original source of this article is Global Research
China has lashed out at the US for warning Beijing over its support for Venezuela, urging Washington to stop its bullying actions across the world.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remarks on Wednesday in an online statement released in reaction to a warning by US National Security Advisor John Bolton that China and Russia must stop their business with the government in Caracas.
The Chinese spokesperson described the comments as “a wanton interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs.”
“China urges the US to… let the Venezuelan people decide their own future and immediately stop the bullying actions of suppressing other countries at every turn,” she added.
Bolton said on Tuesday that Washington could impose sanctions on any international company for conducting business with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“We are sending a signal to third parties that want to do business with the Maduro regime: proceed with extreme caution,” Bolton said in a summit on Venezuela in the Peruvian capital Lima.
The measure means that international companies will have to choose whether to access the US and its financial system or do business with Maduro, he noted.
His remarks came after US President Donald Trump ordered a freeze on all Venezuelan government assets in the US and barred transactions with its authorities.
China has had close relations with Maduro over the years and is one of Caracas’s main creditors.
Venezuelans are suffering from a lack of basic necessities under US sanctions. According to United Nations statistics, a quarter of Venezuela’s 30-million-strong population is in need of humanitarian aid.
Washington has imposed several rounds of sanctions against the oil-rich country to oust Maduro and replace him with opposition figure Juan Guaido, who declared himself “interim president” earlier this year.
Since May, the government of Maduro has engaged in negotiations with the opposition led by Juan Guaido in a bid to resolve sharp political differences.
The US has imposed new restrictions on Venezuela, blocking its government assets and threatening anyone dealing with it with secondary sanctions. The move prompted an angry reaction from Caracas.
The sanctions target Venezuela’s government assets in the US, as well as individuals, companies, and countries doing business with Caracas.
“All property and interests in property of the Government of Venezuela that are in the United States… are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in,” the executive order signed by US President Donald Trump reads.
The announcement was reinforced by a barrage of threats issued by US National Security Advisor John Bolton, who said “anyone” dealing with President Nicolas Maduro and his government will face secondary sanctions. He singled out Moscow, which has been engaged in economic and military cooperation with Venezuela for a long time.
“The United States is acting assertively to cut off Maduro financially, and accelerate a peaceful democratic transition,” Bolton said. “We say again to Russia, and especially to those who control its finances: ‘Do not double down on a bad bet!’”
The US will not recognize any elections held in Venezuela as long as Maduro stays in power, Bolton warned, adding that countries, companies, and individuals must choose between doing business with Caracas or Washington.
The aggressive move and rhetoric prompted an angry reaction in Caracas, which branded the US’ actions acts of “economic terrorism,” but said the US’ decision is hardly surprising. The new sanctions only “formalize a criminal economic, financial, and commercial blockade that has already started,”Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said. It also vowed to not allow the “escalation of aggressions” to affect “political dialogue processes.”
Relations between the US and Venezuela have not been smooth for the past two decades, but the past few months have seen them taking a nosedive. Earlier this year, the political situation in Venezuela rapidly deteriorated after the leader of the National Assembly (which opposes Maduro’s government), Juan Guaido, proclaimed himself ‘interim president’ of Venezuela.
Washington and its allies rushed to recognize the self-styled ‘president’ as legitimate, but Guaido’s repeated attempts to install himself in the presidential palace have failed so far. Russia, China, and many other countries have voiced their support for the elected government and have condemned the attempts to push through the US-backed coup.
“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