All posts by Andre Vltchek

The Philippines are choosing new allies:  Asia is watching  

Now what? President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is outraged. He wants an end to the U.S. military presence in his country. He wants to curb all cooperation with the U.S. armed forces. He hits hard, talks big. And his people seem to be behind him, no matter what – his popularity rating is high and rising, now around 87%, which is something unimaginable anywhere else in Southeast Asia, or in the world.

Under a colorful headline on February 7, 2020, ‘End that son of a b*tch’: Duterte confirms US-Philippines military collaboration agreement is toast’, RT reported:

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is “terminating” the Visiting Forces Agreement, which provides legal immunity to US military drills, in retaliation for the US canceling the visa of a political ally and fellow drug-warrior.

The president said he is terminating the VFA,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told ABS-CBN News on Friday. “I asked for clarification and he said he is not changing his decision.” The agreement provides legal immunity for US soldiers conducting military exercises in the Philippines.

Enraged by the US decision to cancel the visa of former police chief and Senator Roland dela Rosa last month, Duterte had given Washington a month to fix its ‘mistake,’ refusing to back down even as other members of his government urged him to reconsider.

I’m warning you… if you won’t do the correction on this, I will terminate the… Visiting Forces Agreement,” Duterte said last month, daring the US to call his bluff.

Then few days later, on February 13, 2020, a letter was sent to his country’s tormentor and former colonialist master: ‘The Philippines has notified the United States that a major security pact is over.’

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Some say all this is nothing new. The United States, the European Union, and even the United Nations keep attacking President Duterte. He hits back, insults his counter-parts, regularly threatening to kick out the U.S. and its military forces. He personally insults the leaders of Western countries, international organizations and even the Catholic Church which, in the Philippines, used to be untouchable.

Making Western leaders desperate, he calls China “the kindest nation on earth”, and he admires Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. In Manila, the Russian leader is now a masculine idol.

President Duterte is a self-proclaimed socialist. Critics say that many of his economic policies are still capitalist, even if his social policies are left-wing. But he has done precisely what most of his fellow citizens wanted him to do: he introduced free medical care and free education all the way to university level; something unthinkable in most of the Southeast Asian countries.

“Not enough has been done to improve the state of the nation,” says the academia, as well as the NGOs. But the poor love him, and so does the middle class. For them, what he has done is enough; much more than enough. Nobody did more for them in the past. 87% is an unprecedented level of support! The majority of Filipinos do not just support him – they love him, unconditionally.

Western mainstream media trashes Duterte left and right. Pro-Western NGOs are calling him a mass murderer, because of the war on drugs, which allegedly has taken thousands of lives.

His supporters reply:

But before Duterte was sworn in, millions were rotting alive in desperate slums and enormous crime-infested cemeteries. Drug lords were murdering innocent people, and no Western NGOs were protesting.

I listen to both sides of the story. For three years, I have been all ears.

The criticism and attacks from the West, all this seems to matter nothing to Duterte – he is moving forward like a tank. And his long-suffering country is improving, year after year. It is moving up, even according to the Human Development Index (HDI, compiled by the UNDP).

I will kill you, you son of a bitch!

 Western media loves such statements, blasting them all over, as if they were some sort of proof that the President of the Philippines is a mafia-style murderous maniac.

But I am told by many in his restive home base in the south; in Davao City:

No way; this is how we speak on Mindanao Island. President is Visaya – he says what comes to his mind. Tagalog people are polite, but their actions are often brutal. Talking dirty means nothing bad where Duterte comes from.

*****

But for the Southeast Asian region, the most important topic is how President Duterte is handling foreign policy.

South China Sea

All over Asia Pacific, the United States, desperate to keep its global hegemony, is antagonizing Beijing on all fronts. It is pushing China from all directions. The South China Sea is constantly in the spotlight, through the international courts (often controlled by the Western countries and interests) as well as through the Western mass media. The dispute over the Spratly Islands has been poisoning the relationship between Beijing and Manila for decades.

However, after Duterte became president, things changed dramatically. The rhetoric significantly softened, and both China and the Philippines clearly stated that they are willing to talk, negotiate and compromise. To the great dismay of the West, any military conflict between two countries is now out of question.

This approach is having an enormous (although grossly under-reported) influence on the entire region’s policy towards China. The country that is watching particularly closely is China’s historic rival, and a fellow Communist state – Vietnam.

For quite some time, President Duterte expressed a desire to diversify his foreign policy, extending a hand towards both Moscow and Beijing.

In January 2020, in an exclusive interview for the RT, he stated, rebelliously:

I want to open new fronts with Russia and China as US lived off the fat of our land… America is not the Philippines and the Philippines is not America. It ain’t that way anymore, and I refuse to dovetail under American foreign policy…

But then again, his statements and actions do not seem to be adequate for everybody. Like in the West, many Marxist Filipino intellectuals are “purists”; they demand utopian Western-style Marxist, or even Anarcho-syndicalist methods of ‘governance’.

President Duterte is neither of the above. He is a spontaneous, emotional leader. He is pragmatic. He often acts on the spur of the moment; he makes good moves and he also makes blunders. Sometimes, after he makes mistakes, he corrects them; he steps back, and tries again.

He is not a simple man; he is tormented individual. Sexually molested by a priest when he was a child, he holds a grudge against Christianity. He grew up in a complex family. His mother and father came from different political spectrums: a socialist and an official, a civil servant.

To the horror of some, he has a soft spot for the former dictator Marcos. So were several members of his family.

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Roland Simbulan

The legendary left-wing academic, Roland Simbulan, a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) and a good friend of mine, is even increasingly skeptical about the direction of the Duterte’s foreign policy. He wrote for this essay:

On several occasions, Pres. Duterte has threatened to terminate either the Mutual Defense Treaty (1951) or the Visiting Forces Agreement (1999) with the United States. It seems and this view is measured by his actions, that he is just after more U.S. military assistance to equip his repressive army and police forces to repress the Filipino people’s resistance. Duterte is trying to soften U.S. government criticism of his violations of fundamental human rights of Filipinos, which is now the subject of investigation by the International Criminal Court, and the United Nations Council on Human Rights. He is also courting Chinese and Russian military assistance to likewise get additional military assistance from them. His coterie of more than 65 pro-U.S. ex- generals and military and police officers whom he has appointed to key positions in the civil government do not indicate a shift in policy. If he were really serious about having a “balanced and independent foreign policy”, he should have abrogated the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement the moment he became president in 2016, as he had promised during his presidential campaign. He is now on the 4th year of his 6-year term, and he has not touched these agreements. These agreements with the United States, have, in fact, been strengthened, despite all the rhetoric. Now we know better that the rhetoric is really to get more U.S. military assistance.

Joan Andrea Toledo and Prof. Mimi Fabe

Not everyone agrees. A daughter of one of the leaders of the Communist Party (New People’s Army), Joan Andrea Toledo, an accomplished social media reporter, is a staunch supporter of the President. We covered the battle of Marawi together, and this time we met again in the Cubao neighborhood of Manila, to discuss the current political situation in the Philippines:

Duterte is surrounded by hawks, who want to have a conflict with China and the Communists. Whenever he wants to solve the conflict, the military makes a noise. Many in his government are from the previous administration. I was a member of the peace panel in Norway. The generals did not want peace with the Communists to succeed.

It is the same when it comes to China.

In the Philippines, antagonizing China is a tremendously lucrative business. As it is actually a great business all around Southeast Asia. People from all walks of life are paid royally for attacking Beijing, particularly from Western sources.

Luzviminda Ilagan, a former MP (now Under-Secretary for Policy and Plans Legislative Liaison Affairs Department of Social Welfare and Development), used to serve in Duterte’s administration in Davao City:

Two biggest enemies of Duterte are the members of the Democratic Party in the United States, as well as the Christian Democrats in Europe.

At home, many members of the elite, be they from the business sphere (oligarchs), from the military or academia, are now siding with the foreign critics of the President.

Prof Jay L. Batongbacal (Professor, Associate Dean for Research and Development Director, Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, UP College of Law), appears to be vehemently against China’s maritime claims regarding the disputed islands, as well as against President Duterte, and any compromise that could be reached by Manila and Beijing.

He rejects accusations that it is Washington that has been trying to dictate the foreign policy of the Philippines towards China. He spoke to me on his campus about the situation:

In the disputed area, the Philippines are interested in oil. The U.S. is not; at least not in this part of the world. For China, it is not about natural resources, it is about defense.

‘But what precisely is it for the United States’, he did not specify.

He added though, that the compromises with China made by this administration, are turning The Philippines into “collateral”.

Professor Amparo Pamela “Mimi” Fabe (Countering the Financing of Terrorism Specialist & Senior Economist) offered a diametrically different view about Duterte’s approach towards the United States. She does believe that the U.S. is meddling in the state affairs of her country:

The recent threat of President Duterte to terminate joint military exercises is a permanent move away from the West. It constitutes a move towards China and Russia. Hence, it is essential that China and Russia reciprocate this presidential move through stronger bilateral defense relations.

Then she threw her punch:

The academia is a noisy minority. They are like that because most of them received their PhD scholarships from the US and the UK. It is hard to reason with them because they already have closed minds.

President Duterte has an 87 percent public support rating so his stand on independent foreign policy is well appreciated by the majority.

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When I speak to them, the Filipino people hardly see themselves as “collateral”. Lately, most of them are optimistic, happy that their lives are improving. They are endlessly grateful to their Presidente.

Recently, I have visited Manila on several occasions, but I also worked in the conflict-torn Marawi, in Davao City, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Zamboanga and many other corners of the country. Everywhere I went, Mr. Duterte was enjoying unprecedented popularity. And his controversial war on drugs is, even according to Reuters, generating the support of almost 8 out of 10 citizens.

Moving closer to China and Russia does not evoke much resistance inside the country, with the exception of various academics and US-backed and trained high-ranking military staff. Oligarchs and the elites are also generally loyal to the West.

Puerto Princessa airport – nearest to Spratly Islands

In February 2020 I flew to Puerto Princesa, which is the nearest city to the disputed Spratly Islands. Puerto Princesa International Airport shares a runway with the air force base, but I detected no military aircraft during my visit. All was quiet. No tension whatsoever.

I spoke to several local citizens, and not one of them expressed any concern about the proximity of China, or about China’s foreign policy towards the Philippines.

Allison, a local student, explained:

China is a good country. We never have any real problems with it. I don’t know much about the Spratly issue, but here we don’t worry about it at all.

Norman, who works at the SM mall:

I have no issue with China. Russians do not come here, so I wouldn’t know. America has joint military exercises with us for a long time. There have been a lot of them here at Puerto Princesa, for some period of time.

No urgency, obviously. No chest-beating patriotism. Nothing that you would imagine, reading Western newspapers.

*****

More than two years ago, while covering the Muslim extremist insurgency in the city of Marawi (Mindanao Island), I was arrested by the military and literally disappeared inside the barracks.

Author in Marawi with General Rey and his team

I was able to explain the situation, over the mobile phone, to my friends in Manila, who alerted the highest command there. Orders came from top generals: to release me immediately. But there was a mutiny. Local officers disobeyed, and I had to stay inside the compound until late-night hours. At some point, a jeep and an armored vehicle were dispatched in order to drive me more than 100 kilometers to my hotel in Cagayan de Oro.

Later on, it was explained to me what really happened: while the pro-Duterte generals were happy to have me on the ground in the war zone, several pro-U.S. commanders were trying to make sure that non-Western and especially Russian reporters were to be kept out of the place. For many reasons. One of them: Marawi was full of ‘Western allies’ – extremist groups from other Southeast Asian countries, and other jihadi cadres, including, some said to me there, Uyghurs.

The next day, the pro-Duterte men asked me to return, and personally drove me back to the front. I was one of the few foreigners allowed to the frontline.

A small incident? Perhaps. But it clearly illustrates how complex, how divided the situation is, even inside the armed forces.

Military-patrol-in-Zamboanga- on which side are they?-Philippines

And the division is not only in places like Marawi, Zamboanga, Sulu and the other restive areas of the South.

The most divisive issue is that of China, and whether Rodrigo Duterte, the most popular President in the history of the Philippines, will be able to, against all odds, fully change the foreign policy of his country.

He wants to. I am convinced that he does. I know enough people around him to make this statement.

But the inertia is tremendous. The forces that are trying to prevent him from going with China and Russia are powerful. These forces have been controlling this country for decades, even centuries.

But the President is not scared. Physically he is not well. Sometimes he is not even sure he can survive until the end of his term in power. He wants to change his country, while he is still alive.

He has already called Barrack Obama a son-of-a-bitch. He even described the Christian God as “stupid” and a “son of a bitch”. And now, the military pact with the United States…

The world is watching. Asia is watching. Secretly, people want him to succeed. Almost nobody from abroad dares to support him publicly. The Western Empire is brutal and vindictive. It kills. Duterte does not care. When he charges, he does it “in the name of his people”. He has 87% of the nation with over 100 million inhabitants covering his back. That’s a lot. And no matter what the foreign analysts say, that’s actually damn truly a lot!

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published by 21 Century Wire

Italy tries to kick out the Right-Wing Extremist Steve Bannon from the “Gladiator Cloister”

Steve Bannon, a former White House strategist and Breitbart editor, was finally kicked out of an Italian monastery, which even Newsweek wittily described as a “far-right boot camp”.

This author, along with a few others, has been warning for some time that the former Trump’s top advisor had crossed all lines, and began directly interfering in the internal affairs of the European Union, by promoting and amalgamizing dangerous extreme right-wing alliances of all natures; political, philosophical and religious. The monastery was supposed to offer “classes”, which Bannon described as “the kind of underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian West”.

Tactics?  “A modern gladiator school”, according to Steve Bannon’s own assessment.

Journal NEO (New Easter Outlook) has already published one essay in 2019, analyzing Bannon’s activities in Italy and beyond: “Steve Bannon – a Profile of a US Apparatchik. From China to the Pope”. There, it was argued:

Steve Bannon is a talented propagandist and promoter of Western supremacy and imperialist “culture”. He is extremely dangerous, mainly because he knows precisely what he is doing and what he wants to achieve: total control over the world.

Last year, it was hard to imagine that Italy would dare to rock the boat, disturbing the activities of one of the most powerful and canny neo-cons in the world.

But the unimaginable suddenly took place.

Reported by Newsweek’s Rosie McCall:

The Italian culture ministry has announced it evicted what has been described as a far-right political bootcamp from a thirteenth-century monastery, AFP reports. The bootcamp has ties to Steve Bannon, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, through its Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), which Bannon funds.

According to AFP, the bootcamp—which had been established to train students to “defend the West”—had been given a 19 year lease on Trisulti Charterhouse in the Province of Frosinone, central Italy, in February 2018. However, the ministry said on Thursday that the group had falsely tendered for the lease, and thus they were evicted. This follows reports from May that the ministry was intending to revoke the lease due to “violations of various contractual obligations,” according to The Telegraph.

This will come as a blow to Benjamin Harnwell, a British conservative and the director of DHI, who had hoped to launch the first three-week course to a small group of students this year and was in the process of securing planning permission to revamp the venue. Harnwell is an associate of Bannon, who had reportedly promised to give $1 million to the project.

Of course, the “boot camp” has been evicted on technicalities, not on ideological bases.

My contacts inside the ruling 5-Star-Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle) are hushed and cautious on the topic. Usually outspoken, they are reluctant to go on the record. I am only receiving bits and pieces of news. But what I get is telling. These are big, and extremely dangerous issues. Mr. Bannon has not been on Donald Trump’s team for quite some time, but only few have any doubts that he is still working on behalf of the President’s neo-con crew.

What do I get from Rome? Barks of confused inside news, and requests not to use real names in my essays, when it comes to Bannon’s case:

We have orders not to speak to the press, Andre… Until a decision is made by State Council… Here, inside the administration, it is a war; more than a war; a battle inside the government… and the Church. Pope Francis is against conservatives. The new Minister of Culture, Franceschini (PD) is linked to the Church… Things are uncertain until now. The Tar (Administrative Tribunal), threw its support behind Bannon and blocked the decision of the Minister of Culture. And now the State Council has to decide.

Another source coming from Rome offered much more concrete analyses:

There are parties in Italy, like the Northern League and “Fratelli d’Italia” [Italian Brothers] who are producing propaganda and take direct orders from Bannon, yielding to his hate towards China.

 Of course, this is big. The Northern League and “Fratelli d’Italia” are some of the most powerful political forces in Italy. The fact that they are under the boot of a U.S. right-wing extremist, is tremendous and scandalous news.

*****

 For a long time, Steve Bannon has been cheering right-wing forces in Italy and beyond.

According to La Presse (23 September, 2018), he praised Italian right-wing movements, claiming that “with them here in Italy the revolution works”:

On the Roman stage of “Atreju”, the event of Fratelli d’Italia, Steve Bannon praises the parties of Salvini and Meloni: “In the elections the Italians spoke against the system, saying that it is time for a change. They are tired of the feeling of being told that they are racist and xenophobic, just because they want to defend their culture and their country,” said the former White House strategist. “Yours is the most important experiment, if the revolution works here, then it will spread,” added Bannon.”

Unsurprisingly, Steve Bannon evokes wrath in those on whose behalf he is claiming to be speaking for; the modern-day Catholic Church, and even Christianity in general.

Pope Francis, whom Bannon has personally insulted on several occasions, is clearly against his politics.

I also approached one of the most important living theologists/philosophers, my friend John Cobb Jr., who clearly stated his point for this essay:

Steve Bannon makes it clear that one can today renew Charlemagne’s kind of Christianity without embarrassment and gain significant support from other “Christians.”  He makes little if any pretense to follow Jesus or the Hebrew prophets.  His heroes are the gladiators. He is preparing people to fight in all sorts of ways including, it seems, violent ones. The war is in support of the West rather than any one nation, what we once called “Christendom.” From the point of view of the Bible, devotion to a nation state or to the West is idolatry.

John Cobb concluded:

Christians of the first sort, those who seek to be followers of Jesus are called to love even those who spread hatred. But one aspect of that love must be to identify those who make the defense of the West their highest priority as idolaters. Christians should go on to show the consequences of this idolatry. It is destructive of society. It also damages the idolater. If we truly love Steve Bannon, we are called to try to reduce the damage that his idolatrous thought and action does both to others and to himself. If his understanding of Christianity gives any place at all to the teachings and ministry of Jesus, we can point out how radically his work opposes that of Jesus. If he has any interest in the Biblical God, we can point out that he is profoundly failing to serve those whom God calls him to serve. If he really cares about the future of the West we can show that he is blocking paths to a flourishing future. Perhaps, just perhaps, he can listen.

It becomes clear that for Steve Bannon, it is not going to be easy to sail through the turbulent waters of European politics. True, Europe has been moving, consistently and alarmingly, towards the right. Some would even say towards the extreme right.

But it is not the Bannon’s right, not Trump’s right. Europe feels that it does not need yet another U.S. apparatchik, to dictate to it in which direction to go.

The European right is exceptionally nationalist. But Mr. Bannon is trying to create a united fascist European front. It does not appear that the European countries are searching for unity, of any type. U.K., Hungary, and even Italy are proving this point.

Europeans are willing to work with Russia or China, if it serves their interests (and very often, it actually does). People like Bannon are cultural and religious fundamentalists. They are made exactly from the same stuff as the colonialists and fascists were, who attacked countless countries and murdered millions of people precisely in countries like Russia and China. At least now, this kind of attitude is not very popular in Berlin, Rome and Madrid. There, populations want all the benefits they have been getting from neo-colonialism, but without the risks of wars or any other direct belligerent interventions.

Bannon is ready to go “all the way”; to bomb and even to put Western boots on the ground.

And he provokes, arrogantly and undiplomatically.

Even when the tiniest détente is forged, with Russia, China or other adversaries of the West, he immediately begins pouring salt into the wounds.

Just recently, he insulted China and its diplomacy in a most vulgar way. On January 20, 2020, Forbes wrote:

What you are seeing in the signing today with China and with the USMCA is the beginning of the end of the managed decline of the United States,” said Steve Bannon, former Trump advisor, speaking on CBNC Wednesday. “This is a huge win for the U.S., and it’s why you don’t see Xi Jinping over here signing it and no one in the Chinese media writing about it. Trump has changed the center of gravity from the way the elites have to think of China.”

But even Forbes is doubtful about such shots off the hip.

Things get even deeper and more sinister. Bannon is searching for funding, teaming up with the most anti-PRC and anti-Communist individuals, be they from the West, or originally from China (PRC) itself. In October 29, 2019, Axios reported:

The mystery of who’s funding Steve Bannon’s work has been at least partly solved: Guo Media, a company linked to a controversial Chinese billionaire, has contracted Bannon for at least $1 million for “strategic consulting services,” according to contracts obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The billionaire fugitive — a man named Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok — is embroiled in the U.S.-China conflict. He’s a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party and is reportedly a member at Mar-a-Lago. He’s on China’s most-wanted list for alleged bribery, fraud and money laundering, per the New York Times…”

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Steve Bannon does not do analyses; he manipulates, he does politics as he speaks or writes.

And now it appears that Italy has had enough. Or at least some people inside the Italian administration. The country is going through a complex period of transformation. It does not appreciate the U.S.-style right-wingers, anymore.

Italy needs China. And China has various allies in the 5-Star Movement. And the same could be said about countries like Venezuela and even Iran. This is not Berlusconi’s Italy, anymore.

If Bannon is kicked out of the “gladiator cloister” for good, it may be a signal that yet another Italian and European beginning has arrived. Not necessarily a left-wing or a ‘progressive’ beginning, but a beginning nevertheless. It could signal that Washington is not going to be allowed to rule from across the ocean totally unopposed, through ideological gladiators obsessed with lethal combat. Bannon miscalculated both geography and the era: 21st Century Rome and its vicinities have nothing to do with the ancient Greek city of Sparta.

• First published by NEO (New Eastern Outlook), a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Coronavirus: China Fights Determinately While Others Smear

China has been hit by coronavirus as if by a brick over the head; heavily and mercilessly. Instead of help, Beijing has received criticism, even verbal attacks.

In spite of doing tremendous job fighting the epidemy, China is getting almost no tributes for its performance.

Now Bangkok, Jakarta and other regional capital are in panic. After trying to sweep the crises under the carpet in order not to rock their tourist industries which are heavily dependent on annual arrival of the millions of Chinese package tourists, they are trying to introduce coherent health measures. A bit too late, complain their own citizens.  However, the West has no appetite to criticize them. All criticism is reserved, as always, for China.

*****

No one knows precisely where the present disease really comes from. Chinese doctors (as well as the Russian ones) are working days and nights, trying to find the answers, as well as the cure. But until now, people are still dying.  The mortality rate of the infected patients is very high; some sources say at about 50%. As this article is being written, around 210 have already lost their lives, mainly in China.

In 2013, The Guardian wrote that there were similar cases in Saudi Arabia, where the research was brutally swept under the carpet:

A doctor in a Saudi hospital was fired for reporting a new, deadly strain of the coronavirus. Now, with half of all confirmed cases ending in death, the World Health Organization has issued a global alert and scientists are preparing for the worst…

This example exposes an approach so commonly adopted by different nations.

In many countries, similar emergencies are not confronted directly. The governments hope that they will, quietly, go away, until it is often too late to prevent disaster.

My doctor friends in Hong Kong commented on the above-mentioned case:

That was MERS, and MERS is a corona virus, and so is a common cold. The present virus has not got a name yet, but belongs to the corona virus family, too.

*****

China has risen, with zeal and determination. It is confronting deadly disease frontally, as if it would be confronting enemy military battalions. It has been clearly a Communist approach, similar to that which already saved millions of lives in Cuba.

From Szechuan and elsewhere, I began receiving brief but powerful messages, penned by my friends and colleagues; messages reflecting heroic struggle of Chinese nation against the disease:

China is now introducing the highest level of emergency. Treatment and prevention are the most important political missions.

Nobody can now neglect his or her duties… In my city’s education department, they issued an order to postpone school opening day.

A factory in Zhejiang province was told to produce 80 million masks in just a few days. In the same time, the government ordered factories and shops not to raise the price of the masks. It also allocated billions of RMBs for preventive measures and products, including paying for trucks and trains distributing the equipment.

Patients infected with this virus get free medical care.

A young Chinese diplomat, a friend of mine whom I will only identify by her first name – Langqi – here, reported to me from her hometown in Northern China, near Beijing:

Despite the ineffective response of the Wuhan government at the initial stage, all governments, from central to local, have been doing everything they can to contain the spread of the virus. It is not an easy task, considering the “biggest human migration” happening during the Chinese New Year. It is with immense commitment and voluntary contributions, from doctors, nurses, people working in service and delivery industry, as well as from Wuhan people themselves, that China is able to manage the spread of the virus to its current situation. The responsive measures are also largely backed up by experts, including those who contributed during the SARS epidemic. It can be said that the whole country now is working as a whole to face our common challenge: the coronavirus. The solidarity comes not only from the trust in the government, but also from the identity as part of the community.

 A doctor with whom I work in Hong Kong, re-confirmed, in summary:

In Wuhan, some officials tried to hide the information at the beginning. But the higher authorities made everything clear and the world appreciates government’s work, afterwards.

Not all do, of course; unfortunately, not all.

Attacking China (as well as Russia, Iran and other independent nations) is now a sport, or a well-paid profession, or both, for many individuals, particularly those living in the West.

*****

But many people, particularly those with the first-hand experience, decided to line-up in their support for China. An Indonesian student Yessy Liana, based in Wuhan, recently sent passionate plea to her native country, which has an on-going tendency to smear everything Chinese, on behalf of its Western masters:

Today I am in Wuhan City and I want to share the situation where I am now. We all heard about the coronavirus and for those of you who are worried or curious, hopefully this video can give light on the situation.

This is my school canteen, usually closed during winter holidays. But because of the coronavirus, the school reopened the canteen although only on the 1st floor… Because the school wants students to stay in the school and reduce the interaction with the outside.

This is the street in front of the campus. Now in Wuhan, public transportation is not in operation for a while. But private vehicles can go around without a problem. You can see for yourself that… it quieter than usual.

Now we are at one of the Chaoshi (market) that is still open. You can see the stock of food and drinks in this chaoshi are plentiful, and usually those of us who stay in dormitory in Wuhan buy food and drinks here.

Now we are in campus area and in front of us is a campus hospital and it is still open.

The building in front of us is a dormitory for international students. There are basketball courts and also place to play table tennis…

Now we are at my dormitory. Next to the entrance, there is a security guard who is on duty, and he will check the temperature of all people entering and leaving the dormitory.

For parents and friends who are worried about friends or family in China, please don’t worry because the government here and the school are taking care of us…

Similar stories are circulating all over social media, uploaded by foreign students and workers who are based in China. They speak about the determination and strength of the state, the Communist Party and the citizens.

Entire factories are ordered to produce protective gear, laboratories are working on developing vaccines and medicine to fight this latest type of coronavirus. Hospitals are constructed literally overnight.

My friend, a doctor from Hong Kong, has no doubts why the West ignores this dedicated fight of China, against the deadly disease:

People are accusing China from everywhere. This means that China is really strong!

He shared with me an image, with a comment:

Look at this. A Danish newspaper insults China by using the coronavirus as the stars of the national flag. This has lots of feedback from the citizens of China. The Prime Minister refused to apologize because ‘there is freedom of expression in Denmark’.

Things are getting wilder and wilder. Attacks are intensifying.

In Hong Kong, rioters are burning shelters intended to host future victims of coronavirus. They are also forcing local government to close all border posts with Mainland China: ferry terminals, bridges. Rail links have already been suspended.

Some in Hong Kong are lamenting that the rioters have already lost their humanity and compassion. It is Chinese Lunar New Year, after all; beginning of the auspicious Year of Rat. Time when solidarity and kindness should be shown. But that is not what the rioters are paid for to do by their Western masters.

China is now fighting successfully, but alone. Chinese people are clearly aware of the fact that their entire nation is ‘quarantined’ politically by the West. Even during such hard times of medical emergencies, there is malicious sarcasm coming from Washington, London and Paris, never an extended hand.

Some publications, including Global Research in Canada, are not excluding a possibility that what we are witnessing could be a Western biological warfare against China.

If they are correct, chances that China will be defeated are truly slim. On 31 January, 2020, RT reported that Chinese scientists made first giant step in their epic battle:

Scientists in China have reportedly developed an express test which can detect the 2019-nCoV novel coronavirus in under fifteen minutes, in a major breakthrough which will hopefully help stem the tide of infection.

Experts from a tech company based in Wuxi in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, working with the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, developed the rapid nucleic test kit in just ten days, according to the Xinhua news agency.

China will win the battle against this malicious virus soon, but the situation will be remembered for many years to come. It has already broken trust, and soon it will negatively influence the way this world is functioning. For years and decades, China has stood alone, smiling and with the extended hand, offering peace and friendship. Many are now wondering whether such unilateral kindness is capable of improving the world.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook – a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences

How is Washington “Liberating” Free Countries

There are obviously some serious linguistic issues and disagreements between the West and the rest of the world. Essential terms like “freedom”, “democracy”, “liberation”, even “terrorism”, are all mixed up and confused; they mean something absolutely different in New York, London, Berlin, and in the rest of the world.

Before we begin analyzing, let us recall that countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United States, as well as other Western nations, have been spreading colonialist terror to basically all corners of the world. And in the process, they developed effective terminology and propaganda which has been justifying, even glorifying, acts such as looting, torture, rape and genocides. Basically, first Europe, and later North America literally “got away with everything, including mass murder”. The native people of Americas, Africa and Asia have been massacred, their voices silenced. Slaves were imported from Africa. Great Asian nations, such as China, what is now “India” and Indonesia, got occupied, divided and thoroughly plundered.

And all was done in the name of spreading religion, “liberating” people from themselves, as well as “civilizing them”.

Nothing has really changed.

To date, people of great nations with thousands of years of culture, are treated like infants; humiliated, and as if they were still in kindergarten, told how to behave, and how to think.

Sometimes if they “misbehave”, they get slapped. Periodically they get slapped so hard, that it takes them decades, even centuries, to get back to their feet. It took China decades to recover from the period of “humiliation”. India and Indonesia are presently trying to recuperate from the colonial barbarity, and from, in the case of Indonesia, the 1965 U.S.-administered fascist coup.

But if you go back to the archives in London, Brussels or Berlin, all the monstrous acts of colonialism, are justified by lofty terms. Western powers are always “fighting for justice”; they are “enlightening” and “liberating”. No regrets, no shame and no second thoughts. They are always correct!

Like now — precisely as it is these days.

Presently, the West is trying to overthrow governments in several independent countries on different continents. From Bolivia (the country has been already destroyed) to Venezuela, from Iraq to Iran, to China and Russia. The more successful these countries get, the better they serve their people, the more vicious the attacks from abroad are, the tougher the embargos and sanctions imposed on them are. The happier the citizens are, the more grotesque the propaganda disseminated from the West gets.

*****

In Hong Kong, some young people, out of financial interest, or out of ignorance, keep shouting: “President Trump, Please Liberate Us!” Or similar, but equally treasonous slogans. They are waving U.S., U.K. and German flags. They beat up people who try to argue with them, including their own Police Force.

So, let us see, how the United States really “liberates” countries in various pockets of the world.

Let us visit Iran, a country which (you’d never guess it if consuming only Western mass media) is, despite the vicious embargos and sanctions, on the verge of the “highest human development index bracket” (UNDP). How is it possible? Simple. Because Iran is a socialist country (socialism with the Iranian characteristics). It is also an internationalist nation which is fighting against Western imperialism. It helps many occupied and attacked states on our planet, including Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia (before), Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, to name just a few.

So, what is the West doing? It is trying to ruin it, by all means; ruin all good will and progress. It is starving Iran through sanctions, it finances and encourages its “opposition”, as it does in China, Russia and Latin America. It is trying to destroy it.

Then, it just bombs their convoy in neighboring Iraq, killing its brave commander, General Soleimani. And, as if it was not horrid enough, it turns the tables around, and starts threatening Teheran with more sanctions, more attacks, and even with the destruction of its cultural sites.

Iran, under attack, confused, shot down, by mistake, a Ukrainian passenger jet. It immediately apologized, in horror, offering compensation. The U.S. straightway began digging into the wound. It started to provoke (like in Hong Kong) young people. The British ambassador, too, got involved!

As if Iran and the rest of the world should suddenly forget that during its attack on Iraq, more than 3 decades ago, Washington actually shot down an Iranian wide-body passenger plane (Iran Air flight 655, an Airbus-300), on a routine flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai. In an “accident”, 290 people, among them 66 children, lost their lives. That was considered “war collateral”.

Iranian leaders then did not demand “regime change” in Washington. They were not paying for riots in New York or Chicago.

As China is not doing anything of that nature, now.

The “Liberation” of Iraq (in fact, brutal sanctions, bombing, invasion and occupation) took more than a million Iraqi lives, most of them, those of women and children. Presently, Iraq has been plundered, broken into pieces, and on its knees.

Is this the kind of “liberation” that some of the Hong Kong youngsters really want?

No? But if not, is there any other performed by the West, in modern history?

*****

Washington is getting more and more aggressive in all parts of the world.

It also pays more and more for collaboration.

And it is not shy to inject terrorist tactics into allied troops, organizations and non-governmental organizations. Hong Kong is no exception.

Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, China, Venezuela, but also many other countries, should be carefully watching and analyzing each and every move made by the United States. The West is perfecting tactics on how to liquidate all opposition to its dictates.

It is not called a “war”, yet. But it is. People are dying. The lives of millions are being ruined.

• First published by China Daily – Hong Kong

The Sadness of Submissive, Quietly Re-Colonized Malaysia

I am not sure when and how it happened or even what precisely took place, but suddenly, nothing feels the same, and nothing feels right in Malaysia.

Several years ago, things used to be totally different here. One would land at KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) – in the past one of the most modern and well-run mid-sized airports in the world, located some 70 kilometers from the city – and feel the omnipresent optimism and pride.

Malaysia was on the rise: a fast train was connecting the airport to the sprawling metropolis. It was passing near the famous Formula-1 circuit, the new capital city of Putrajaya, a modern city designed for science and technological research – Cyberjaya – and finally terminating at the modern KL Sentral train station and public transportation hub.

Futuristic Kuala Lumpur also counted with a super modern and elegant concert hall fully dedicated to classical music. It was right under the Petronas Towers, once the tallest building in the world. Modern monorail and driverless trains were transporting people in style to different corners of the city. Bookstores were well stocked (censorship was present, but everyone knew that Malaysian censors were too lazy to read). Extreme, Indonesian-style, misery hardly existed. Malaysia had ‘made it’ – it had landed itself on the list of the highest development index countries (Human Development Index, HDI, measured by UNDP) – together with countries such as Chile and Argentina, Russia and Qatar, as well as the nations of Europe and North America.

Malaysia was manufacturing its own car brand – Proton – and was teaming up with Japan, hoping to co-produce aircraft.

Nightclubs were packed, political humor thriving, and even religions were not immune to criticism, as long as the punches were being delivered in an ‘appropriate’ and secular environment, behind the curtains of bookstores and private events.

In those days, I loved visiting Malaysia. I loved living there, for weeks and months.

Next door, collapsed Indonesia felt like the de-composing carcass of a huge fish: covered by smog, intolerant, intellectually destroyed, racist and at war with itself and its colonies. I used to escape to Kuala Lumpur for weeks in order to gain perspective, in order to eat well, to visit theaters, concerts, parks, to interact with my Malaysian friends – writers, filmmakers, and academics.

Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur felt as if they were existing on two different planets. A 1 hour and 40 minutes’ flight, and everything would diametrically change. Suddenly it was possible to walk under the trees and on wide sidewalks, to attend great concerts, to read to excited audience from my books, and above all, to be understood.

*****

And yet, yet even then, there was something rotten in the intellectual fabric of Kuala Lumpur. It was hard to detect, to explain, but it was constantly there, right under the surface.

Now I am looking back, and I am trying to comprehend. It is not easy, but not impossible.

I recall a Malaysian filmmaker who made a 2-minute long film, and attended dozens of international film festivals showing it – all expenses paid. It was just a tiny bark, nothing serious. But he was a Malaysian, and therefore worth being pampered and supported. Because Malaysia had very few filmmakers, and the West wanted to make sure that it owns them. It felt obnoxious, even perverse, as I knew several great, brilliant left-wing filmmakers in Chile, Brazil, France, U.K. who made ground-breaking films, but were not supported by anyone, living near-starvation existence.

I remember how, decisively, all Malaysian ‘intellectuals’ were refusing to criticize, or even to acknowledge, the horrors that were taking place in neighboring Indonesia. Why? Because Indonesia, after 1965, became a true Western neo-colony; plundered, brainwashed and looted by both local treasonous and corrupt ‘elites’ and by multi-national corporations and Western governments. Someone was, of course, paying for this silence.

I recall how Malaysian writers were falling over each other to attend a “Writers’ and Readers’ Festival” in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia – an anti “LEKRA” (pre-1965 coup left-wing writer’s organization to which belonged such great novelists as Pramoedya Ananta Toer) event organized by pro-Western institutions and pseudo-intellectual Goenawan Mohamad. All expenses paid, of course. (By whom, we could only guess).

Unlike in many Latin American countries, or in China or Russia, for Malaysian and Indonesian intellectuals, there is nothing like “dirty money”. Money is money – always halal.

Malaysian filmmakers, writers and other intellectuals never criticize the West, but diligently support Western propaganda, when it is targeting Russia, but even such far-away countries such as South Africa.

The United Kingdom has been omnipresent, through family ties, ‘education’, through the British Council which has been spreading funding and ideological dogmas, but also through its main propaganda outlets such as the BBC.

I met a writer who had her entire work sponsored by the Western outlets, and who was flown to places as diverse as the Caribbean Islands and Alaska, as a reward for her writing, which has been glorifying both transgender rights and big business construction of motorways. When I confronted her, she replied, simply and honestly: “I have two children to raise”.

Malaysian art festivals have been clearly propagating the Western line of thinking. By mistake, I was invited to one (in old city of Georgetown). But never again. There are certain unwritten rules, including: no open criticism of Western imperialism, and no direct support for countries like China, Russia, Cuba or Venezuela. Local artists and writers are paid to talk and write about sexual habits, such as homosexuality or trans-gender issues, instead of the horrors taking place next-door, like the genocide in West Papua, where Indonesia has managed to murder around 500,000 people on behalf of Western multi-national companies and governments.

Country destroyed by palm oil

Taboo is also touching what made Malaysia relatively wealthy – thorough plunder of its environment through palm oil plantations and mining, as well as mistreatment of indigenous people on the territory of two of its states located on Borneo Island.

*****

Malaysia changed; became unrecognizable. And it happened unbelievably fast.

Smog in Kuala Lumpur from Indonesian burning islands

Kuala Lumpur (as well as Singapore) have been choking on smog from the burning Indonesian islands of Kalimantan (Indonesian part of Borneo, the third largest island in the world) and Sumatra, but no explosion of outrage has been detectable from the Malaysian “thinkers”.

No outrage over US and EU attacks against Afghanistan, Libya or Syria.

Even Malaysian leaders, at times, were more outspoken than the funding-hungry local intellectuals. Prime Minister of Malaysia, according to Reuters, reacted to assassination of Iranian General Soleimani:

Muslim countries should unite to protect themselves against external threats, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday after describing the U.S. killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani as immoral.

Malaysian ‘educated circles’ have been proving, again and again, that their country is a well-behaved colony. A cowardly, client state.

Suddenly, for people like me, those who were well known but at odds with Western imperialism, it has become near impossible to work (give speeches or to get interviewed) in Malaysia. All the doors have gotten shut. We cannot get any quotes from Malaysian academics, artists or politicians.

Cowardice and self-interest has become the main driving force. I have never forgotten how, during the conflict between the Philippines and Malaysia, I went to Borneo, and wrote an extremely sarcastic essay about the event. I got powerful quotes from the Filipino people, who even crossed the sea in order to talk to me on the record. I got a couple of quotes from Malaysians, too. But after my long essay was published, the Malaysians protested: “We did not know you will be so sarcastic in your work”. They were too careful, too disciplined, unwilling to risk anything.

There is no way to get quotes from the Malaysians about the terror which the West is spreading all over the world, or about the West’s best ally – Wahhabism. Or about the shameless collaboration of the Southeast Asian nations with the West. Not even about that “greatest Malaysian secret”: “Almost all that scientific research, and native production, totally failed: the country basically lives, like Indonesia, although on a much higher level, from the plundering of its natural resources; from irreversibly and brutally ruining of its land by cutting down the native forest and turning both peninsular Malaysia and Borneo into one huge and horrific oil palm plantation, dotted with mining pits. Malaysia also functions as an assembly like, a maquiladora for multi-national companies.”

Those who protest or speak out about what has been done to the native people of Borneo, die. And so nobody does anymore.

This is what broke the spine of Malaysia: its unwillingness to risk. Its lack of courage. Its dependence on former and present colonial masters. Its submissiveness. I described this kind of behavior in this part of the world in my political novel Aurora.

The great fiery socialist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist Indonesian leader, Ahmed Sukarno, knew all this very well. He saw Malaysia as basically a puppet state of the West. He had launched a campaign of Konfrontasi against his neighbor and its British handler. And the neighbor – Malaysia – fired back: it later quietly embraced the fascist regime of General Suharto, which overthrew Sukarno and the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), in the bloodiest coup in the history of mankind; a coup which was triggered by the West in 1965.

Since the coup, Malaysia has flatly refused to openly criticize anything about Indonesia: from murdering 2 million people in 1965, to the genocide in East Timor, as well as the on-going genocide in occupied West Papua. And, of course, no word about the monstrous destruction of Indonesian nature as something similar, although not as extreme, has been taking place in Malaysia itself.

*****

Now, Malaysia feels depressed, and looks depressing.

Here, in this essay, on purpose, I do not talk much about the previous political era, and about the return of “Doctor M.” to power. Nor do I write about who used to sponsor Anwar Ibrahim, and who then decided that it is unwise, for now, to sponsor Anwar, shouting that it is time to give “another chance to Doctor M”. Let me just say that almost all these decisions came from abroad.

Let me recall, however, how most of the foreign-sponsored members of the so-called Malaysian opposition were determinedly supporting the totally discredited neo-liberal Anwar Ibrahim, when he was a ‘Washington’s favorite’. And they dropped him precisely when the marching order arrived from far away Europe and the US. Doctor M whom they “fought” so determinedly against, but, of course, for a fee, suddenly deserved a “second chance”, when they were told that he does, by their “handlers”. It all happened so openly, so shamelessly, and so predictably.

Yes, Malaysia is a sad country. Two of its wide-body passenger jets went down, killing hundreds of people and ruining one of the proudest airlines in Asia, but no one here truly investigates, how and why it occurred. It is not a fully taboo topic, but it is definitely semi-taboo.

Almost no one is investigating the past, either. Things are hushed up, hidden, not unlike in the neighboring Indonesia. Of course, the horrors that have been taking place in Indonesia are incomparably greater in comparison to the ‘mild devilishness’ which happened in Malaysia. But still… It took a Sri Lankan born author, Lloyd Fernando, to describe the religious ‘riots’ in Malaysia; the 1969 killings and wave of torture unleashed against non-Muslims in his powerful novel “Green is The Color”. Locals would never dare.

And who really questions in the open that bizarre, racist arrangement which has been governing Malaysia for so many decades? Here, the slight Muslim majority (bumiputera) has many more rights than the highly productive Chinese group, as well as deeply discriminated against Indians. Bumiputera (children of the land) somehow does not extend to original people living in Borneo.

In Malaysia, there are different laws for Muslims and non-Muslims. Here, a Malay person is “born Muslim”, by definition. He or she cannot change his or her fate. It is a simply grotesque reality.

And try to address it, try to criticize! You would be finished in no time if you live in Malaysia.

*****

But back to the “sadness of Malaysia”. That’s where I wanted to begin and end this essay.

Things did not go well. Doctor M’s plans never really materialize.

Petronas Towers remained the tallest building only for a few years, and even the fountains in front of them went on an austerity regime and began working only in the evenings.

The concert hall below now feels increasingly small, for such a sprawling city. Now it is also compromising. There are more and more cheap pop shows performed behind its lavish doors; and there are less and less great performances.

Broken escalator in luxury KLCC Mall in Kuala Lumpur

The ‘flagship’ KLCC Mall suffers from constantly broken escalators, and its once prestigious art gallery is closed, almost half of the time.

The Formula-1 circuit in Sepang closed down in 2017.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) has become a traveler’s nightmare, with inefficient staff, terrible lines, unnecessary double or even triple security checks, fingerprinting, photographing and other excessive inconveniences to the passengers.

After reduced frequency of public transport in Kuala Lumpur

Public transportation has survived only in Kuala Lumpur and its greater area. Elsewhere, there were countless projects, and monstrously costly failed plans to build monorails, trams, and an urban rail: from Malacca, Georgetown, Johor Bahru, to Putrajaya.

Cyberjaya never managed to ‘fly’, or to compete with Singapore. Nothing great came from its research facilities. Only second-rate scientists settled there.

As in the much bigger Indonesia, Malaysia could not give birth to even one single great writer, scientist or thinker.

In smaller towns, the situation is even more pathetic. Kuching was celebrating the fact that the long postponed light rail project will soon start being constructed. But the 2nd era of Dr. M has begun. Countless public works have been stopped. What was already there, like the only existing public railroad in Borneo, which originates in Kota Kinabalu, has been castrated, its service reduced to two runs per day.

Why? So, just as in Indonesia and Thailand, private vehicles could be force-sold to the citizens, so gas could be burned, and corporations could make billions from building new roads, further ruining the natural environment as well as the urban areas.

And those well-funded Malaysian intellectuals? As mentioned earlier in this essay, they began glorifying the highway-builders in their books, even in novels. Coincidence? I will leave it up to you to decide!

Dr. M. torpedoed many grand projects previously signed with China. That was most likely the deal that was made behind the closed doors: the “new” government would enjoy peace with the West. London and Washington will stop trashing the old man and his coalition. Local NGOs and Malaysian artists and ‘intellectuals’ paid by the Western organizations, institutions and governments will scale down or even entirely stop their criticism. In exchange, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will be almost entirely kicked out of Malaysia, or at least, thoroughly castrated.

This is, of course, an absolutely horrible deal for Malaysia, but it appears that for as long as this government is in place, the trend is here to stay. After all, ‘it is all about China, isn’t it?’ At least for the West and its dependencies.

Everything has somehow failed in Malaysia, but especially those dreams about the building of a great, proud and productive nation.

Homeless children from the Philippines in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia

I filmed in Kota Kinabalu, recently. Two years ago, there was an attempt to build a boardwalk, a public area facing the sea. You know, a small replica of those grand waterfronts that one can see in Latin America, South Africa, Europe, and, of course, in China, and even in the Gulf. Now, with the new government, even that tiny public space was privatized; rented to some businesswoman from Kuala Lumpur. She fenced it off, put some kitsch figures and a tiny shack with a “horror show” performance, and began charging an entry fee of RM5 (US1.25) per person.

I asked the cashier how she felt about this corporate takeover of a stunning public space?

She did not understand. I asked about savage capitalism in Malaysia; she had no idea what I was talking about.

Later, I asked several of my Malaysian friends about the ruined land, which has been unbearably scarred by the oil palm plantations (almost half of the world’s production), or by mines and other terrible ventures. They refused to comment, at least on the record. Reason: “Too dangerous”. “They all have families”.

I talked to the indigenous people of Borneo, in Sabah and Sarawak. They did talk. About brutality, about being forced to convert, religiously. About people who were killed, who disappeared.

I talked to people in Papua New Guinea and from the Solomon Islands, where the Malaysian logging companies had been committing crimes against humanity, including rapes, torture and sexual abuse of children. I described my finding in my book – Oceania.

But this is just an essay, not an investigative report full of names and numbers, about a country which I used to love, but which has collapsed, sold itself, and reduced itself to a gloomy mediocrity.

Malaysia was set to take off, to fly, to show the way for so many other countries of the world.

But its people, its ‘elites’ and ‘intellectuals’, decided to put their personal interests first. They helped to re-introduce the mentality of a colonized nation.

“Go to hell with your aid!” The Indonesian President Sukarno screamed into the face of the US Ambassador in Jakarta. As a result, Sukarno was overthrown, and 2 million Indonesians were killed – the rest was frightened into insanity, and then brainwashed.

Malaysia never truly rebelled. It never went from one extreme to other, from pride to slavery. Its people never refused the aid (or payment for services provided) from the West. They survived as a result. But have they ever truly lived?

Malaysia has never really experienced real freedom and exaltation from moving forward on its own without looking over its shoulder, and without fear.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

First published by 21 Century Wire

Western “Political Correctness” does not make all people equal

In the West, there is a new wave of political correctness at work: it is all about one’s sexual orientation; who has sex with whom, and how. Suddenly, the mass media in London, Paris and New York is greatly concerned about who has the right to change his or her sex and who does not want to belong to any ‘traditional’ gender bracket.

Thinking about ‘it’, writing about it, doing it, is considered “progressive”; cutting edge. Entire novels are being commissioned and then subsidized as far away as in the Asia Pacific.  Western organizations and NGOs (so-called “non-government organizations” but financed by Western régimes), are thriving on the matter.

These days it is not just LGBT that are in the spotlight, glorified and propagandized; there are all sorts of new types of combinations that many people never even heard about or imagined could exist.

Even some Western airlines do not call their passengers “ladies, gentlemen and children” anymore  in order “not to offend” those who do not want to be any of the above.

Accept any sexual habit, repeat loudly many times that you have done it; then preferably write about it, and you will be lauded as progressive, tolerant, and even “left-wing”.

This is a discussion which is clearly encouraged, even invented by, the Western regime: a safe discussion which is aimed at diverting dialogue from topics such as the fact that even in the West a great number of people are living in fear and misery, and that the majority of neo-colonies of North America and Europe are once again being totally, shamelessly exploited.

Talking about poverty and exploitation, about military coups triggered by Washington are rarely spoken about. Such discussions are even being portrayed as old-fashioned if not regressive.

Hype is, these days, all about the interaction of penises, of vaginas, or about the lack of such interactions. It is about one’s “identity” and about the right to change one’s gender. What you do with your private parts is much more important than billions of people who are forced to live in filthy slums. Surgery that is aimed at changing one’s gender is more newsworthy than the “regime changes” and consequent destruction of millions of human lives.

Such focus is totally fragmenting Western societies. It leads to extreme individualism and dark nihilism. What should stay behind closed doors is being brought out to the center of attention.

Don’t think that it is all a coincidence. It is clearly designed this way. Like the enormous flood of free pornography did not come from out of the blue. The hidden message is clear: watch as much free porn as you can in your free time, watch football, enjoy booze, and put your sexual identity at the very center of your existence.

Then, define all those who disagree with these sorts of lifestyles as ‘intolerant’, ‘backward’, and even ‘oppressive’.

Why is all this happening? Why are Western countries so obsessed with “sexual identities”?

The answer is simple: because those who are obsessed with their own bodies, desires, identities and endless “rights”, have hardly any time left to think about the rest of the world.

And vice versa: those who are passionately fighting for a better world, building people-oriented societies, sacrificing their own comfort and personal benefits; those individuals often have no time, or very little time, to think about the nuances of their sexuality. For them, sexuality is simply part of their life; often powerful and important, but it is definitely not their center of gravity, not their very essence.

And precisely this kind of optimistic, unselfish mindset is extremely dangerous for the survival of Western regimes and the Empire itself.

*****

I am all for people to have their right to choose how they want to express themselves sexually. As long as it is done discreetly, and without forcing anyone into anything.

But I am strongly against the so-called sexual identity monopolizing political narrative of entire nations.

There are much more important issues that Western societies should be concerned with and obviously are not.

And the Empire knows it, and precisely for that reason it does everything possible to elevate sex and sexuality into something tremendously important, glorified, as well as untouchable. Terms and definitions then get confused: centering people’s identity around their genitals gets defined as “their identity”. Their struggle for sexual rights is now being defined as “progressive”, even bizarrely as left-wing.

It is, of course, an absolute nonsense. The fight for sexual rights is the fight for sexual rights: it is not right, or left.

There is absolutely no guarantee that a man who undergoes gender-changing surgery would gain a deep interest in the US-triggered coup in Bolivia or in the tremendous torment, inflicted by the West, on the people of Syria or Afghanistan.

I have discussed this issue, in depth, with my friends and relatives who happen to be professional psychiatrists and psychologists: Jung, who attacked Western imperialism as a clinical disease (pathology), has been criticized and discredited by almost all Western schools. While the self-centered Freud has been glorified to this very day. He became untouchable in Europe and North America. We are all encouraged to see ourselves through his eyes.

We are supposed to think and analyze the world in a Freudian way. To say “penis” or “vagina”, or to show them, and especially change them, is supposed to send a shiver up our backs, to make us feel heroic, progressive.

While the Empire murders millions of people worldwide. While British and North American children are suffering from hunger, while NATO is bringing our planet closer and closer to the next huge war which our humanity may not survive, people inhabiting the Empire are encouraged to think, to write and to fight for totally different issues than those that could save our humanity.

*****

I have to report that, after working in some 160 countries of the world on all continents, the issues that I am addressing above are prevalent only in the West. Well, also in countries and territories that have been deeply indoctrinated by the West, like Argentina and Hong Kong, to give just two examples. Which makes one wonder what is really going on?

I am not talking about people being born gay or lesbian and then getting discriminated against (such discrimination should be, of course, confronted), or forced by brutal family practices (like I witnessed in Samoa) to unwillingly change their sexual identity. I am fully, and determinedly supporting people to have their rights, to practice what they feel like, and to be fully protected by the law.

I am addressing here this totally wild obsession with the topic. I am talking about forcing people in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and some European countries, to accept as essential a dialogue, which is absolutely irrelevant to more than 99% of the population on our planet. It is not about LGBT anymore. This is now about something absolutely else; about color shades, about nuances, about details: while the entire world is burning; in flames.

Can we please talk finally about Hong Kong, Iraq, Bolivia, North Korea?

And as a writer, as a novelist, I reserve my right to create, to write as I want to! If I want to say,” ladies, gentlemen and children”, you can all stop reading me, but I will write it precisely as I want. You can go and read the latest generation of politically correct scribes. Although you know as well as I do that you will never find any great literature created by them.

The Empire makes sure that many essential topics, including those like whether the world should continue to live under the boot of savage capitalism or whether it should be selecting socialism, hardly ever get discussed on the television screens, and on the front pages of the internet.

Gender changing surgery is now obviously a much more important topic in the U.K. and the U.S., than whether Western imperialism should be stopped, once and forever.

But remember: We will all burn if we burn. Heterosexuals, homosexuals, trans-gender individuals, even those whose sexual orientation I still do not understand. If there is a Third World War, we will all be fried.

Therefore, I suggest that we first try to disarm the Empire, stop savage capitalism, give freedom and the right to choose their destiny to all nations of the world, and then… Only then, shall we make sure that we support all the people of countless sexual orientation, that our humanity has.

But first things first, please!

Unfortunately, the majority of people do not have the capacity to fight on various fronts for numerous causes. And they often choose to struggle for the issues that are extremely close to their waist.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook (a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Letter to the Young People of Hong Kong

Now that your city has been in flames for more than six months, your families divided, and no end to the violence is in sight, I have decided to write this short essay, in the form of an open letter, to the young people of Hong Kong.

First of all, I want to ask: Why?

Why all this smoke and fire, wrath and violence? Were your lives, before the so-called “protests”, or “riots”, really so dismal?

You have been living in one of the richest cities on earth. Even according to Western evaluations, Hong Kong has one of the highest “freedom indexes”, higher than that of most of Western countries.

Water that comes from your taps is clean, the Internet is extremely fast, public transportation is cheap and one of the best in the world. You can enjoy an exciting cultural life, as well as great public spaces constructed along your impressive coasts.

Naturally, Hong Kong is not a perfect place, as there are no perfect places on this planet.

Your housing is some of the most expensive in the world. Job opportunities for college graduates are not really excellent. Some cities on Mainland China are now more exciting places to live, to create and to dream, than ‘good old’ Hong Kong. But still, it is a fascinating, solid city, with its own culture, mindset and complex history. And in many ways, it is a beautiful city; beautiful and unique.

So, why? What happened? Why suddenly such anger, and such frustration?

Should we talk? Please let’s.

*****

I have worked in around 160 countries and territories on all continents. I have written about and I have filmed many wars and conflicts. I have been covering revolutions and rebellions, but also terrible riots ignited by Western countries. You probably have heard about the so-called “Color Revolutions”, or the “Arab Spring”.

I have witnessed, first hand, the fate of countries that have been occupied and then thoroughly destroyed by the United States and NATO: Afghanistan and Syria, Iraq and Colombia, to name just a few. I have seen millions of ruined lives in nations where the West overthrew left-wing governments, and then injected fascism: places like Indonesia (1965), and Chile (1973). Now there is nothing left of Indonesia; its nature is thoroughly ruined and the great majority lives in misery. In Chile, people have stood up, and are proudly fighting and dying for socialism which was stolen from them by Western governments and corporations.

I have lived and worked all over the African continent, the most devastated part of the world, colonized and terrorized first by Europe, and later by the United States, for many centuries.

lat-love for the US

In Hong Kong, I see you waving flags of the United States. You want that country to “save you from China” (from your own nation, in essence). I have read a translation of your school curriculum. It smears China, and it glorifies the West. Were you told, ever, that in the name of that flag, consisting of the stars and stripes, tens of millions of people, worldwide, were murdered, democracies were raped, and freedom of expression horrendously oppressed? Or are you only reading what is brought to you by Reuters and other Western press agencies?

When waving the U.K. flags, nostalgically recalling your British masters and their rule over Hong Kong, do you even think about some of the most monstrous crimes committed in the history of humankind? On all continents of the world, the British Empire murdered, humiliated, violated and plundered; hundreds of millions of people. Human beings were reduced to slaves. Their lives, identities, were reduced to nothing.

Were you told this? Do you realize it? When you wave these flags, when your leaders are taking bribes from the U.S. and the E.U. establishment, do you ever think what kind of money you are touching? Do you ever consider that this money is soaked in blood?

I saw several of you demanding “independence from China”. I even witnessed some of you calling China a “terrorist” state.

Have you ever, seriously, compared the Chinese political system to that, so-called, “democracy” of the West?

Let me give you a simple quiz: In the last decades, how many countries have been attacked by China, and how many by the West? Just do a simple calculation, please. It is so simple; so clear. How many countries have been bombed to the ground, and thoroughly ruined by China, and how many by the West?

And democracy? In China, the government listens to its people. In reality, democracy means nothing more than the direct translation from Greek – rule of the people. In PRC, the government is working to improve the lives of its citizens, while building a global infrastructure for all (BRC). Now, look at the West: most of the citizens in North America and Europe hate their system, but cannot get rid of it. Some of you regularly travel to the West: don’t you hear what the people are saying there?

In the last two decades, China has lifted up hundreds of millions out of poverty. In the West, the governments have buried billions of people in misery in all their colonies. Despite of the terrible plunder of the world, tens of millions are destitute at home, in both North America and Europe.

Despite of the not too high GDP per capita, China has almost no misery, while tens of millions of the U.S. citizens are living in poverty. There are many more prisoners (per capita) in the U.S. prisons, than in the Chinese ones.

Many U.S. prisons are now privatized: it is a big business. The more that are held behind bars, the bigger the profit!

Is this a system in which you’d want to live? Is it, really?

I know the West very well. And I know China. These days, in Hong Kong, some of you are waving Western flags, while insulting Beijing.

The West has the most powerful propaganda on earth. It has the ability to twist everything; to call black – white, and vice versa.

But frankly, it is Beijing, which has the ability and desire to help solve the problems of Hong Kong.

Do you really think that Washington, London or Berlin are genuinely interested in helping your city? I am convinced that they only want to break China, and to continue ruling over the world.

To conclude this letter, let me say what has to be said: After speaking to people that are now angrily waving black banners, as well as U.S. and U.K. flags, I realized that they know very little about the state of the world. And, they do not want to listen to different points of view. When confronted intellectually, they become violent.

That is not a democratic approach; not at all.

I suggest we talk. Publicly. Let us debate the very definitions of democracy. Let us discuss who has done more harm to the world: China or the West? I am ready, anytime.

If the leaders of Hong Kong riots, or “protests” are confident that they are correct, let us face each other, in front of microphones and cameras.

I love your city. I love Hong Kong. I love China. And I strongly believe that China and Hong Kong are one beautiful, inseparable entity.

I am ready to give my best, proving that point.

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

* First published by China Daily/Hong Kong

Iran’s Hero has Fallen and Now the World is an Even More Dangerous Place

They say he came from a humble background, and worked himself up the ranks, becoming, as many believe, the second most powerful man in Iran. They say he had the chance to become the next Supreme Leader of the country.

Whenever I visit Iran, I am told how much he is loved by his people. He became the symbol of resistance against the West; the symbol of the strength and dignity of the nation which was attacked, colonized and starved by several Western capitals.

And now, Iran’s Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani is no more. And the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump, is proudly claiming responsibility for his demise.

The statement from the Pentagon came promptly, and it was clear:

At the direction of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani… This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and interests wherever they are around the world.

Defensive action…

Almost immediately, RT and others asked me to analyze.

I could not help but to define what was done at the airport outside Baghdad, Iraq, as a vulgar and brutal extra-judicial killing.

*****

For the last two months, I have been flying all over the world, writing about (and filming) all those horrors that the Empire unleashed against the people with different cultures, living in various parts of the world.

The Middle East, China, Latin America.

It appears that all boundaries have been crossed. Washington and its NATO allies have lost all restraint, shame and decency. They actually never had much of those, but now they have almost none.

Everything appears to be primitive, as in a badly directed mafia film. If the rulers of the West do not like some country? In that case they simply attack it, starve and destroy it. As brutal as that. No U.N. Security Council mediations, no arguments, and no pretending that there should be some legal process.

It has been happening to Hong Kong, to Bolivia, Venezuela and West Papua. It has also been happening to Iran, as well as China and Russia, although those countries have proven to be much tougher to eliminate than Washington’s planners originally thought.

The same applies to individuals: people get murdered without second thought, some quickly, some very slowly and painfully. Julian Assange is one of them, being slowly tortured to death in front of the entire world, despite legal and medical experts protesting and demanding his release.

The killing of Qasem Soleimani and others in Baghdad was quick and totally unexpected.

The facial expressions of U.S. officials were absolutely shocking: as if mafia bosses were caught in a corner of some filthy den by a bunch of amateur journalists. Unapologetically, they grinned at the lenses, suggesting: “So what? What are you going to do now? Challenge us? Us? We’ll break your legs, or something…”

And nobody, absolutely nobody, really dares to challenge them! Not yet. Not at this moment.

It is one tested, bulletproof game. You destroy an entire country, or you kill a person, and then you show your piece; your well-maintained revolver, or two. You expose your guns and ugly row of teeth. You say, or you suggest without pronouncing it: “You have a wife, and two daughters back home, don’t you? You don’t want anything to happen to them, right?”

It is on that level now. It is not any better than that, don’t you see?

If you defend yourself – you die; your family dies. Or your family members get violated. Or both.

You like it? You don’t like it? You absolutely detested it? Who cares! The Empire has guns. It is all it has. The ability to kill and to rape. It has become dumb, degenerate. It produces hardly anything of value. But it has millions of weapons, as well as a monstrous propaganda machine.

*****

Now, seriously: what can Iran do? What can a nation with thousands of years of culture do?

Can it defend itself? Honestly, if you think it can, then say it: how?

If it retaliates, it could be erased from the face of the earth. If it doesn’t do anything, it will lose face, self-respect, as well as the purpose to continue with its struggle for true independence and its unique form of socialism.

For years and decades, Iran has been a thorn in the eye of the West. Its allies have fought against Western-injected terrorism in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Iranian ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, has been defending the country against Israeli invasions, while providing social support to poor and needy citizens. Iran has been giving jobs and temporary shelter to many Afghan citizens, particularly those from Herat, people who have absolutely nothing left after the horrendous U.S./NATO occupation of the country. I worked in Afghanistan, and I saw tremendous lines in front of the Iranian consulate in Herat. Iran has even been deeply involved in Latin America, helping, building social housing in Venezuela, Evo’s Bolivia, and elsewhere.

And now, recently, it began moving closer and closer to two of Washington’s arch enemies: China and Russia.

Therefore, it has been decided in the annals of Washington and the Pentagon: Iran has to be stopped; destroyed. At any price. Meaning, any price which would have to be paid by the Iranian citizens.

*****

I am convinced that this madness has to be stopped.

For Iran’s sake.

But also, because, if Iran is ruined, destroyed like Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan, someone will be next. First, most likely, Venezuela, and then Cuba. But then, perhaps, most likely, Russia or China, or both.

The Empire will not stop by itself.

If not opposed, it will get more and more emboldened.

It is a tremendous mistake to let it literally ‘get away with a murder’.

Today, a brave Iranian General has been murdered. Washington is smiling provocatively, cynically.

It is sending vibes to all corners of the world: “Stay on your couches in front of television sets. Be petrified. Do nothing. Or else!”

Yes, the world is scared. There are reasons to be scared. But the world simply has to act. These brutal, cowardly acts of degeneracy and fundamentalism/fanaticism committed by the Empire have to be stopped, sooner or later, in the name of our human race. Otherwise, soon, there will be no humanity left!

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook – a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences, under the same title

Colombia: Where Life has to Defeat Death

In one of the poorest neighborhoods of Bogota, Belen, I saw two people bleeding in the middle of the road. One person was clearly dead. A group of onlookers was moving frantically, shouting loudly. There was an attempt to resurrect an injured man. I asked the driver to inquire whether our help was needed, but he was told something insulting by the locals, and insisted that we leave the scene immediately.

Was it a traffic accident? Or a murder? The driver did not know. He actually did not want to know.

“Look,” he said. “You may be a Russian or Chinese Communist, or whatever, but here, in the middle of this slum, you kind of look like a gringo, and that is a damn big disadvantage to both of us, and to my car. So, if you don’t intend to bury your bones here, we should not stop in the middle of this neighborhood, for too long.”

“I thought they love Gringos in Colombia,” I uttered, sarcastically.

“Down there, yes,” my driver waved his hand towards the financial center of Bogota. “But not here. Not up here.”

Before becoming a driver, this individual used to be a top manager at one of the biggest South Korean electronics companies operating in Colombia. I have always been having good luck with my drivers. During the Dirty War in Peru I once was driven, for weeks, by a retired and thoroughly broke army general, and in Bulgaria, after the East European collapse, by a former ambassador to the United Nations.

Neo-liberal Colombia has some of the greatest and most bizarre disparities I have witnessed anywhere on Earth.

After filming and photographing in the middle of various tough slums that have mushroomed along the hills ‘above’ the capital, I returned to my hotel.

Just a few kilometers away from the misery-stricken dwellings, in a coffee shop of my hotel, a group of upper-class Colombians from Cali was having a casual dinner. The people were loud and I could not avoid overhearing their conversation. They spoke about their dogs having diarrhea, regularly, and how it could actually be stopped or prevented.

“It is outrageous,” one of them lamented. “Poor animal has been shitting and shitting. What is it telling us about the quality of Colombian food and water?”

*****

Obviously, someone had enough of such contrasts. Or more precisely, few millions of Colombian people decided that the situation is, should we say, “indigestible”.

And, so, on November 21, 2019, Colombia exploded.

Like Chile did, a few weeks earlier.

The explosion has been spontaneous, angry, and for the extreme right-wing government of President Iván Duque Márquez, very embarrassing. Some would say even, scary. His approval rating hit the bottom, 26%. Not as bad as in Chile, where the admirer of Pinochet’s dictatorship, President Pinera, ended up with just a pathetic 10% support from his citizens. Not as bad, but bad enough.

Colombia and Chile united in rage

Imagine that you are presiding over a fundamentalist neo-liberal country with hardly any public education or healthcare, with monstrous disparities, with some 9 U.S. military bases (it really depends how you count them; could be bit less or more), and with a foreign policy which has been shamelessly dictated from the North. Imagine that you still have those semi-active left-wing guerilla movements on your territory, but at the same time your government is simply super-hostile towards anything socialist, Communist, red or pink or even slightly progressive. And that many people in your own country actually strongly dislike the direction in which you are moving the nation.

Imagine that you have all sorts of problems at home, and that the left-wing guerilla movements are not the only issues you have to face here: you also have fascist militias which are murdering and disappearing people, you have those narco-mafias which sometimes have better social programs for the poor than your government does, and you also have the anti-imperialist Venezuela fighting for its survival immediately next door; a country which the United States has been trying to destabilize, ruin and turn into a regressive, oppressive Gulf state.

You have hundreds of thousands of the Venezuelan ‘refugees’ on your territory. Some say millions. People who have been escaping from the monstrous U.S. sanctions and from the outright U.K. and German theft of the Venezuelan gold, and monetary assets. It is scary, isn’t it? You have no idea who these people are. Are they really against the Venezuelan President, Maduro? For decades, millions of your people, Colombians, were crossing the border, escaping misery, seeking a better life in Caracas and Maracaibo. You know why it is now the other way round: because Venezuela has been raped, plundered by your masters in the United States and Europe. And it was done with your help, Mr. Duque. Now nobody knows what is coming next.

Your people are waking up, rising and starting to demand your resignation, or even the demise of the entire Colombian regime.

What do you do; how do you react?

First you pretend that you are listening. Even that you have some sympathy with your own people. But when you see that the protesters think that all that you offer (actually, not that much) is not enough, you deploy the special forces; you do it the Chilean way; you start using brutal police and military contingents, as well as under-cover para-military units. That is what your masters in the North tell you to do, and you are a good obedient servant of the U.S. government and those several “international organizations” controlled by Washington, including the Organization of American States” (OAS), World Bank, IMF, to name just a few.

You get a clear and loud message from Mike Pompeo in Washington. You can go ‘all the way’. You can kill, without being criticized. You can torture. This is all in the frame of the Monroe Doctrine, or, as some say, of the Second Operation Condor. As long as the killing and torture are done by the “right” people, against the “wrong” ones, they can never be criticized.

You begin frightening people. People begin getting injured, or even dying.

Where Dilan Cruz was killed, torn Colombian flag

You killed a boy. A young kid. His name was Dilan Cruz. His entire life was ahead of him. He was only 18 years old. Your forces shot him in the head with a bean bag round.

I went there, where it happened. People waved torn Colombian flags where Dilan was murdered.

That’s where Colombia is at this moment.

National strikes are shaking the capital and other major cities. Smoke and teargas are filling the air above several major streets. The atmosphere is tense. Nihilist, frightening graffiti is everywhere. The glass at your idiotic, overpriced ‘public’ transportation system (just glorified buses, nothing else) is shattered.

It may be just a beginning. Most likely it is.

Your regime is waiting. Will the demonstrators get tired and return home? If they retreat, fine. If not, it is likely that the state is ready to protect the status quo by crushing them; by killing many, injuring thousands, like in Chile.

In neo-liberal Latin America, which is governed by the U.S. and its “Monroe Doctrine”, human lives are worth nothing. What people demand is listened to, then analyzed, and in the end, used against them.

*****

In Bogota, in front of the building of the Attorney General of the Nation (Procuraduria General de la Nacion), hundreds of protesters, mainly indigenous, were blocking a square, despite a heavy police presence in the area.

Mainly indigenous protesters

One of the protest leaders, Mr. Felix Rueda, spoke to me, in front of the camera, while the notorious Colombian police force, “Esmad” (the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron), was slowly closing in on us, controlling all the nearby streets:

We are victims of the armed conflict. We are people who were hit hard by violence; something we thought would never happen again in this country. I represent the victims. And I fight for human rights. All these people around here are victims of the armed conflict.

A lady behind him begins to shout:

Here, almost all of us are victims. We are peasants, with no protection, whatsoever.

Mr. Rueda continues:

These people are victims of the state violence; perpetrated by the armed groups.

I asked him why there are no mass media outlets covering their plight.

Sometimes they come. But mostly just when we break down some doors, or when someone dies. One person has already died during the last weeks. Many were injured. Again, Colombians are now fighting against Colombians.

Another woman from the crowd screams at me:

There are also rapes; girls are being raped, even boys…

Police, military and the para-military response to the protests in Colombia has been so outrageously tough, so violent, that even some mass media outlets in the West had no choice but to notice and to report the gravest excesses. The Guardian wrote on 11 December, 2019:

For the past three weeks, Colombia has been racked by demonstrations triggered by widespread discontent with the proposed economic reforms of the rightwing president, Iván Duque, whose approval rating has dropped to just 26% since he took office in August last year.

Protesters are also angry at the lack of support for the historic 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), which formally ended five decades of civil war that killed 260,000 and forced more than 7 million to flee their homes.

In a country which not long ago suffered the highest kidnapping rate in the world – and whose security forces have themselves been implicated in forced disappearances – the videos of police snatching protesters evoked disturbing memories.

According to the national victims’ agency more than 150,000 people were forcibly disappeared between 1986 and 2017, with up to 80,000 still missing. Combatants on all sides of the conflict engaged in the practice.

Police in slums protects or scares?

Since the beginning of the protests, Colombian forces have been disappearing people from the streets; something that is bringing traumatic memories to the citizens. In one case, a young woman protestor, was grabbed and pulled into an unmarked vehicle. Two people jumped into their car and chased the vehicle, persistently, until the victim was released. This was a well-documented case: “a young woman dragged into an unmarked Chevrolet”. But I was told that there were many other cases, that went unreported and almost unnoticed.

*****

I flew to Barranquilla, a city on the majestic River Magdalena. This is where this great Colombian waterway joins the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.

This is where one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century, Love in the Time of Cholera, written by the Colombian Communist writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, took place. This is where Florentino Ariza waits for the love of his life, Fermina Daza, for fifty-one years, nine months and four days. This is where he makes love to her, finally, on a river boat, at old age. Looking at the surface of this majestic river, Garcia Marquez, finishes his novel. I always thought that the book was fully connected to Cartagena, but I was explained to, that no; it was linked inseparably to the Magdalena River.

Constanza Vieira and her partne

And this is where my friend, one of the most important Colombian journalists, Constanza Vieira, lives.

She picked me up at the airport, together with her partner, drove me to the long, new riverside, where we sat down and spoke for hours about Colombia; her beloved and tortured land.

Her father had met Mao, on two occasions. She knew all about the negotiations between the government and FARC. She is a walking encyclopedia, when it comes to Colombia. But this is not what I wanted to know this time.

Latin America was in turmoil. The Bolivian government was overthrown in a brutal, fascist coup. Chile and Colombia were rising. Venezuela was fighting for its survival. Where was this country going?

Constanza spoke about corruption under Duque, about Uribe’s crimes, and about the grave violations of human rights in her country:

Colombia in a setting of South America, is a conservative country; very conservative. It is suffering from one right-wing government after another. Here, the inequality is tremendous, one of the greatest in Latin America. When the protests had erupted here, the governments negotiated with the protesters, but never delivered on what they agreed. Colombia is a neo-liberal country. Now it is being shaken by huge protests. In this context, we have to thank Chile. Because whenever in the past Colombians were demanding true changes, our government would tell us: ‘look at Chile! Chileans and all of us have to be thankful to General Pinochet. The country is so prosperous. Capitalism works!  So, the uprising in Chile, where people are rejecting neo-liberalism, is having a tremendous impact on Colombia.

The situation in Colombia is truly grotesque, and the cynicism endless. Constanza mentions just one example, which would be hard to even imagine in most of the other countries on the continent:

In this country, corruption is just enormous. And so are violations of human rights. Now imagine: the government of Duque decided to pay compensation to the victims of human rights violations, as well as victims of corruption – from the budget allocated to public universities!

Joint US-Colombian Air Force Facilities

I asked her about the U.S. military bases.

You see, it is not as simple as it used to be. United States is not staffing the bases with its own soldiers, permanently. The soldiers who come here are usually under-cover. It is often an intelligence unit or two, or these are soldiers who come and go, using local military bases only when they need them.

As we are parting at the airport, late at night, her partner, a writer, goes back to the “basics” – to Simon Bolivar:

If you talk to people all over Latin America, the great majority will say that they admire Simon Bolivar. Our great Liberator! But if you listen and look closer, you soon realize that the Bolivarian ideals are being betrayed, almost everywhere, all around us.

*****

Colombia is boiling. There is not just one problem that the country is facing; there are dozens, perhaps hundreds.

While indigenous people have been marching on Bogota, protesting and struggling for their rights and culture to be respected, the coca leaf cultivating farmers (most of them indigenous families) are demanding that their crop finally gets legalized.

All this, while the Colombia peace court is exhuming some 50 bodies in extra-judicial killings cases, presumably committed by the military.

As recently reported by Reuters:

False positive killings numbered at least 2,248 between 1998 and 2014. The majority of the murders took place during the term of former President Alvaro Uribe, according to the attorney general’s office.

People were defined as dying in combat, but in reality, they were victims of extra-judicial killings.

Misery and shame

Extreme poverty, extra-judicial killings, corruption, unemployment, an embarrassing foreign policy, police brutality, extremely high crime rate – everything is inter-connected. Everything seems to be explosive.

*****

One night, all around rebellious Bogota. Graffiti everywhere. Police on high alert. Clusters of people, assembling, then disappearing into the night.

Behind the airport, in the center of a town called Fontibon, there is a meeting of the committee which is organizing one of the strikes. I am being taken there by David Curtidor, a prominent Colombian activist.

He introduced me to Ms. Luz Janneth Zabaleta, a professor of mathematics, who is deeply involved in the organization of the protests. She explained to me:

Until now, all those government’s so-called reforms were made against the workers, indigenous people and students. This uprising will change everything.

 Her comrade, Arturo Partilla Lizarazo, a labor lawyer passionately supported her words:

Now Colombia is entering a huge struggle; it is fighting for the dignity of human beings, inhabiting this country. Neo-liberal policies have failed, here and elsewhere. And Colombia is ready to defeat those neo-liberal policies, which have already destroyed so many lives of our people.

We talk about the former government of President Uribe, which according to both, was basically following a policy of war. We also discuss the awful plight of the common Colombian people, of millions of starving children, the horrendous unemployment rate among young people, and the unimaginable hardship endured by elderly, retired people.

Later, at Parkway, which is a narrow park in the center of the city, I witnessed protesters waving Colombian and Chilean flags. There is live music. Young people are dancing. Units of the riot police are moving along the edges of the park. Are they going to attack? If yes, when? Nobody knows.

I drive through the now empty Bolivar Square, then near the Presidential Palace, barricaded, blocked by the military. Several government buildings are covered by black, protective curtains. Somehow, they look like a funeral halls.

Right next to the government district, there is a red light district’; full of sex workers, pimps and police units. In Colombia, power and misery shamelessly coexist next to each other.

*****

On my last day, before departing Bogota for La Paz, Bolivia, I was visited by a legendary educator, German Vladimir Zabala Archila, a liberation theologist who used to work with, among others,  Ivan Illich.

Still very active all-over Latin America, helping to set up revolutionary educational systems in various, particularly indigenous-majority countries, Vladimir is promoting the so-called “Pedagogy of Otherness” (Pedagogia de La Otredad).

Vladimir is an eternal optimist. He believes that Colombia, as well as the entire Latin America, are undergoing tremendous, irreversible transformations:

We are in the middle of great cultural changes. I can see it even in my own middle-class part of the city. My neighbors, whom I thought were very conservative ladies, are these days banging their pans in the middle of the street, in what is clearly a protest against the system and the government. We call it here “I am scared, but I am marching!”

One of our previous presidents used to say: ‘All we have to do is to become part of the United States.’ Colombian paramilitary groups infiltrated Venezuela, on behalf of the West. But look now. There is growing solidarity among black and indigenous people in such places like Cali. And even Evo [Morales] was here, marching with us. He is beloved by the people of Colombia.

“And now?” I asked Vladimir. “Evo… How does it all look from here?”

He does not hesitate:

We didn’t expect this coup. We were quite certain that Evo’s popularity in Bolivia would protect him. We were confident in Cuban intelligence. We did not think that Santa Cruz would succeed, with its horrible Nazis like Camacho, who are connected with narco-traffickers, and backed by the West…

But Vladimir is still optimistic, and so am I.

Latin America is waking up. United, as they say here, people can never be defeated. And slowly, reluctantly, Latin American nations are finally trying to unite.

*****

Things will not change overnight in Colombia, but they will eventually change.

As I drive through Bogota, I see anti-government graffiti, I see damaged buildings, the remains of the battles fought between protesters and the security forces. But I also see some strange attempts to infiltrate the rebellion, like the clenched fists that look just too familiar; like Otpor, a symbol of the Western-backed “Color Revolutions”.

It is too early to draw conclusions, but Colombian rebels have to be vigilant. While people are fighting for a new South America, while they are getting injured, while some are even dying, the West is plotting, together with President Duque and his regime; they are analyzing and trying to figure out how to keep things as they have been, for those long stagnant decades. If the government can get away with it, it would give absolutely nothing — zero.

This will be a long and difficult struggle.

Colombia is one of the most damaged places in Latin America; one of the most turbo-capitalist, and one of the most sold out to the West.

On the other hand, its opposition is vibrant and diverse. Its people are amazing; many very brave, educated and determined people.

*****

My last day in Bogota, as I was falling asleep, I heard some loud gunshots right in front of my hotel.

After years in Beirut, I was used to such sounds. ‘Celebratory shooting into the air’, I thought, half asleep. But people were screaming, too. Exhausted, I fell asleep.

The next morning, on the way to the airport, I was told by my driver: “At night, they killed a French man, right in front of the entrance to your hotel.”

‘Too many corpses’, I thought. ‘Too many people are dying in Colombia. For whatever reasons, but dying unnatural deaths.’

At Bogota Airport hundreds waiting for hours in line while officers playing and chatting

At the airport, passport control check took almost two hours. Immigration officers were showing absolute and open spite towards the passengers. They were chatting with each other, banging into their mobile phones, even eating. While people waited in endless lines, like cattle. Absolute impunity.

On the Avianca flight from Bogota to La Paz, my neighbor was a typical US lady-apparatchik.

“Where are you from?” she asked me in an arrogant tone of voice, right before take off.

“Russia,” I said.

What?”

“Russia.”

“What’s that?”

“Russian Federation”.

“Oh, Ru-siah!” She gave me a bizarre, pre-programmed, aggressive look.

I was leaving an old US colony for a new one, recently ‘acquired’ one.

The woman who was sitting next to me on the plane was radiating the unmistakable chill of death. My body began shaking slightly. But then I recalled the last words of Garcia Marquez’s brilliant novel, written on the shores of the Rio Magdalena:

The Captain looked at Fermina Daza and saw on her eyelashes the first glimmer of wintry frost. Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.

My body relaxed. And I was suddenly certain that it will be life, as well as the great passion for it, that will finally liberate Colombia from the appalling embrace of death.

First Published by 21WIRE

All photos by Andre Vltchek

Police in Hong Kong Brutalized by Rioters While Attacked by the Western Press

It is much more than what you are allowed to see. The Hong Kong police force are heroically fighting both the rioters and a complex and extremely dangerous international network which is aiming at destabilizing the People’s Republic of China.

Uighur, Taiwan, USA, EU – united against socialism and China

I never saw such cynicism before; such a vulgar media set up as in Hong Kong. I am talking in general, but also about what took place particularly on Sunday December 22, 2019. Rioters, waving blue Uyghur, Taiwanese, British and U.S. flags were shouting “independence” and “China is terrorist” slogans, in the middle of the city, just two blocks away from the International Financial Center while the police stood by, peacefully, in their full protective gear.

Journalists, real and fake, foreign and local, were there, in full force, clearly setting the stage for the ugly confrontations ahead. I observed “media outlets” working, and I ended up photographing and filming their involvement.

The truth is, they were nor reporting; not at all. They were participating, arranging things, provoking and manipulating actions.

All camera lenses, and all lenses of mobile phones, were pointed directly at the police, never at the rioters. Meanwhile, the rioters were shouting at the police, brutally insulting the men and women in uniform. This part was, of course, edited out; never shown in New York, Paris, Berlin and London. Often not even shown in Taipei or Hong Kong itself.

“Media” people were clearly advising the rioters what action to take and when, from which angle to throw things, from where to attack; how to make things “effective”.

At one point, rioters started charging, throwing bottles and other objects at the police.

Hong Kong police in spotlight-provoked

Eventually, the police would have little choice but to react; they would begin moving against the rioters. And that is when all cameras would begin to roll. That was the moment to start “reporting”.

As a professional, I could clearly imagine how the results of such twisted “coverage” would look like on television screens and on the front pages of Western newspapers: “An unprovoked, brutal police force charging at poor, peaceful, freedom and democracy-loving protesters”.

The insanity, madness of all this had no boundaries. Next to me, just two meters away, several members of the “press corps” were “helping each other from teargas poisoning”. They were frantically washing their faces with water, kneeling in the middle of the street, pretending that they were sick. I felt no teargas effects at first, and only after few minutes, I detected something very, very mild in the air. I photographed journalists, and then I photographed my own face, to show that my eyes were not affected.

It was all a great setup, perfectly polished, designed to manipulate public opinion in the West and in Hong Kong itself.

Media gaga in Hong Kong

Of recent I felt real combat tear gas in places like France, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia. That stuff breaks you in half; makes you fall to your knees, shout, fight for your life. In Hong Kong, the police force has been using the mildest gas I have ever detected anywhere in the world. But police actions here have been described as “outrageous” by individuals such as Benedict Rogers, a so-called human rights activist and chairman of the UK-based non-governmental organization “Hong Kong Watch”.

As in the past, Mr. Rogers has been calling Hong Kong police force actions, which are aimed at defending the city against the multi-national hostile coalition, as “police brutality”. Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, fired back, declaring that “Christmas in Hong Kong was ruined by protesters”. The Hong Kong government said that there had been arson and police had been attacked with petrol bombs.

*****

During my recent work in Hong Kong I realized that the situation has been dramatically deteriorating, and the police force is now facing much greater challenges than it did in September and October, 2019. While the number of rioters is decreasing, those who remain on the streets (and in the underground cells) are much better organized, and better funded, particularly from abroad. Both the funding channels and propaganda support for the rioters are functioning professionally, and they are amazingly well coordinated. The funding from the West is massive.

For Hong Kong and its police force, the situation is increasingly dangerous.

Fake staged gas alert

The external forces operating on the Hong Kong territory are diverse and often very brutal. They include Taiwanese right-wing organizations, Japanese religious sects, Western-backed Uyghurs, fascist Ukrainian militant groupings, as well as European and North American propagandists, posing as press corps. There are several Western anti-PRC NGOs stirring hatred towards Beijing, all around Hong Kong and the region.

The rioters themselves are more and more radicalized, now often resembling extremist Islamic groups in the Middle East. They are thoroughly brainwashed, they use comfort women, and they are consuming narcotics, including “ice”, amphetamines and certain so-called “combat drugs”, which have been already injected into places such as Syria and Yemen, by the West and its Saudi allies.

As a war correspondent who regularly works in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria (all these countries have been damaged and later destroyed by Western assaults or occupations), I am shocked to see the West using the same destabilizing strategies in Hong Kong; strategies which have been used in the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is obvious that the desire of Washington, London and others to harm China is too great, and will not stop, no matter what the price.

The hidden truth is that the Hong Kong police force is now facing a tremendous and extremely dangerous group of adversaries. It is not just a bunch of hooligans with black scarves covering their faces that are threatening the safety of the city and the entire People’s Republic of China. Those are only a vanguard – what you are allowed to see. Behind them, there are complex and diverse international right-wing forces: political, religious and yes, terrorist.

At this moment, the heroic Hong Kong police force is the only thin blue line which separates the city from anarchy, and possibly from imminent collapse.

* First published by China Daily, Hong Kong

• All photos taken by Andre Vltchek