Category Archives: Argentina

2019 Latin America in Review: Year of the Revolt of the Dispossessed

A year ago, John Bolton, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor, invoked the 1823 Monroe Doctrine making explicit what has long been painfully implicit: the dominions south of the Rio Grande are the empire’s “backyard.” Yet 2019 was a year best characterized as the revolt of the dispossessed for a better world against the barbarism of neoliberalism. As Rafael Correa points out, Latin America today is in dispute. What follows is a briefing on this crossroads.

Andean Nations

Venezuela, the leader for regional integration and 21st century socialism, continued to be ground zero in the clash between the empire and those nations pursuing post-neoliberal alternatives and a multipolar world.

On the evening of January 22, trained US security asset and head of the suspended Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaidó received a call from US Vice President Pence, giving Guaidó the green light to declare himself president of Venezuela. The next day, Guaidó proclaimed his presidency on a Caracas street corner. Within minutes Trump recognized the self-appointment, later followed by some fifty US allies. Still most nations in the world did not recognize Guaidó, and the United Nations continues to recognize Maduro as the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Guaidó called for harsher US sanctions on his own people and even the US “military option.”  Gone was the pretext that sanctions targeted only the government. The former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield  boasted that these measures “would have an impact on everyone… to accelerate the collapse.” From President Barack Obama’s sanctions in 2015, Trump progressively ratcheted up the pain to the current blockade. This illegal collective punishment had already caused over 40,000 deaths by the beginning of the year according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in a war by economic means, denying the Venezuelan people vital food and medicine.

Yet Guaidó failed to come to power. His publicity stunt on February 23 to bring “humanitarian aid” from Colombia fizzled. To make things worse, envoys of Guaidó in Colombia were caught embezzling some of the very funds slated for humanitarian assistance. Soon after this debacle, a staged coup on April 30 by Guaidó and a few military officers on an overpass in eastern Caracas aborted. In November, Guaidó made an even more pathetic coup attempt. His ability to garner support atrophied, drawing the ire even of some hardline opposition who formerly backed him, while the Maduro government continued to rally substantial popular demonstrations and signed a peaceful coexistence agreement with some moderate opposition parties in September.

Despite attempts by Washington to incite ruptures within the Venezuelan security forces, the “civic-military union” built by Chavez and continued under Maduro held firm, and the ranks of the militias continue to grow. And despite heavy lobbying by the Trump administration, Venezuela was voted onto the UN Human Rights Council on October 27.

In a bid to compensate for the diminished stature of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group,  on December 3, Colombia convened a summit for the activation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) against Venezuela, to ratchet up sanctions even further and keep the military option on the table. By the end of 2019, even the Wall Street Journal conceded, “Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, once thought ripe for ouster, looks firmly in place.”

In Washington, North American solidarity activists defended the Venezuelan embassy from being taken over by Guaidó collaborators (April – May 2019). With the permission of the Venezuelan government and pursuant to international law, the Embassy Protectors held out for 37 days until expelled by the Secret Service. The four last defenders – Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Adrienne Pine, David Paul – will go to trial, facing possible stiff penalties. On October 25, journalist Max Blumenthal was also arrested and charged (subsequently dropped), as the US government cracks down on dissent both at home and abroad.

Colombia is the chief regional US client state, distinguished by being the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere. Hillary Clinton called Plan Colombia a model for Latin America. Yet this model leads the world in extra-judicial killings of journalists, union leaders, and environmentalists. Meanwhile, Colombia continues to be the planet’s largest supplier of illicit cocaine.

A 2016 peace agreement saw the guerrilla FARC lay down their arms, but the government has honored the agreement mainly in the breach. Death squad activity continued in 2019, targeting former FARC militants. A faction of the FARC returned to the guerrilla path.

In a sign of growing disaffection with the hardline right-wing influence of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and his protégé and current President Iván Duque, the far right suffered significant losses in the October regional and municipal elections. Left-leaning Claudia López became the first woman and first lesbian to be mayor of the capital city of Bogotá. By year-end, Colombia experienced massive general strikes opposed to government austerity policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Bolivia. Evo Morales was the first indigenous president of this largely indigenous country. Under the 14 years of his Movement for Socialism party (MAS), Bolivia had the highest economic growth rate and the greatest poverty reduction in the Western Hemisphere. Bolivia became a world champion for indigenous and poor people, aligning with the progressive governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Morales was fairly re-elected president on October 20. Because the US-backed candidate lost, the US called his election “fraudulent.” A compliant Organization of American States (OAS) disseminated misleading information on the validity of the election. Thus, the stage was set for the November 10 coup, when Morales was forced to “resign” by the military.

Thirteen US members of Congress sent a “dear colleague” letter condemning the “Administration’s support for [the] military-backed regime and silence on violent repression [which] contributes to spiraling crisis.” This letter stands in stark contrast to the close association of key figures behind the coup with allies in Washington, the OAS Secretary General’s embrace of coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho, and the endorsement of the coup by the right-wing neighbors. President Trump “applauded” the Bolivian military despite its well documented systematic  violations of human rights.

The self-proclaimed President Jeanine Áñez smeared indigenous communities as “satanic” in tweets, later deleted. Morales is now in exile, and the indigenous and other poor continue to protest in the face of lethal, racist repression.  At this writing, Morales, the MAS, and most of the popular sectors have agreed to new elections but efforts are underway by backers of the de facto government to disqualify the MAS from participating in an eventual election.

Ecuador. Speaking of reversals, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno took the prize. Moreno had served as vice president in a previous leftist government headed by Rafael Correa, who had campaigned for Moreno. Upon assuming the presidency in 2017, Moreno inexplicably and unexpectedly betrayed the platform, the voters, and the party that put him in office. He jailed his vice president and later other leaders of his former party and put out an arrest warrant for Correa, who is now in exile. On April 11, Moreno handed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who had been in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, to the British police.

Moreno withdrew Ecuador from ALBA, the leftist regional organization of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and some Caribbean nations. Last January, he recognized the US puppet Guaidó as president of Venezuela. By mid-year, Moreno gave the US an airbase on the Galápagos.

Moreno forgave some $4.5 billion in fines and debt by major corporations and oligarchs and then papered it over by an IMF loan. With the loan came austerity measures, el paquetazo, including removing fuel subsidies. The mass protest of the dispossessed, led by the indigenous CONAIE organization, was so overwhelming that Moreno was temporarily forced to flee the capital city of Quito and rescind some elements of the paquetazo. Moreno continues to push IMF stipulated austerity measures, while repressing his former party’s elected representatives.

Peru is in crisis, wracked with corruption scandals. In April 2019, former President Alan García shot himself as the police were preparing to arrest him for corruption, while fellow former President Alberto Fujimori is in jail on corruption accusations and human rights violations.  Former President Alejandro Toledo also faces corruption accusations and is fighting against extradition from the US. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was the last directly elected president of Peru. Formerly a US citizen and an IMF and World Bank official, he was forced to resign for corruption in March 2018 shortly before he was slated to host a meeting of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group to expose Venezuela for corruption.

Ever since, the presidency of Peru has been disputed. The current moderate-right President Martín Vízcarra dissolved the congress; the congress controlled by the far-right Keiko Fujimori (free after a year in detention for corruption) impeached the executive, although Vízcarra recovered the presidency. In the context of this dog fight among the elites have been massive anti-corruption mobilizations from below.

The Southern Cone

Brazil. New Year 2019 marked the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil. The election of hard-right Bolsonaro – called the “Trump of Brazil” by friends and foes alike – was a major reversal from the previous left-leaning Workers Party governments.

Brazil has by far the biggest economy in Latin America and the eighth in the world and is part of the BRICS bloc including Russia, India, China, and South Africa. With a sycophant of Trump heading Brazil, both hemispheric and world geopolitics suffer the loss of a countervailing element to US hegemony. Brazil voted with the US and Israel for continuing the US blockade on Cuba and against 187 other UN members.

Former left-leaning President Lula da Silva would have easily beaten Bolsonaro, if the polls were any indication, but corrupt judge Sergio Moro sent Lula to prison on evidenceless charges. The judge was rewarded by ironically being made minister of justice in the new Bolsonaro government. Similarly, Dilma Rousseff, who was Lula’s left-leaning successor as president of Brazil, had been deposed on a technicality by the right-leaning congress in what amounted to a parliamentary coup in 2016.

An international campaign to free Lula finally succeeded in November, but far too late for him to run against Bolsonaro. Lula is free and fighting now, but could be incarcerated again.

Bolsonaro went about dismantling social welfare measures, firing government workers, and rewarding multinational corporations, while the Amazon burned. Predictably the popular sectors arose leading to an uncertain political situation in Brazil.

Chile. The Chilean people launched a general strike against austerity with slogans such as “neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die here.” Reacting to the “privatization of everything,” the uprising this fall has been truly from the grassroots with the established political parties sprinting to catch up with the popular revolt of the dispossessed.

Over a million protestors have taken to the streets in a country with a population of only 19 million. Many have remained there for weeks despite severe repression by the state, leaving numerous killed by live ammunition and rubber bullets. According to official state data, more than 8,000  have been jailed, almost 3,000 injured, and over 200 suffered ocular damage. Hundreds of  lawsuits for police brutality have been filed, including sexual abuses. The right-wing billionaire President Sebastián Piñera suspended some constitutional rights, declaring a “state of emergency” in a country still under the constitution created by the dictator Pinochet.

Argentina. After right-wing President Mauricio Macri imposed textbook perfect neoliberal economic reforms, the Argentine economy spectacularly and predictably failed with rampant inflation, food shortages, currency free-fall, and capital flight. Even the middle class protested in the streets in enormous uprisings of the dispossessed.

On October 27, the center-left ticket of Alberto Fernández as president and Cristina Fernández as VP won and announced Argentina will leave the regional anti-Venezuela Lima Group. They will also have to deal with Macri’s record breaking $50.1 billion IMF loan, saddling the people with austerity measures in a country that is broke and again at the edge of default.

Uruguay. The ruling left-center Frente Amplio’s candidate, Daniel Martínez, won in the first round of Uruguay’s presidential elections on October 27, but by a too narrow margin to avoid a runoff election. He faced a united right-wing in the November 24 runoff against Luis Lacalle Pou, which ended his party’s 15-year rule.

The Caribbean

Cuba. The US embargo of Cuba, initiated  by US President Kennedy and now a blockade (el bloqueo), along with covert regime-change operations and occupation of Guantánamo have continued in an unbroken policy of aggression through Democratic and Republican administrations alike. Most recently Trump resurrected Title III of the Clinton-era Helms-Burton Act to intensify the blockade. The Cuban people show no sign of capitulating.

Cubans welcomed a new president, as Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro. On April 10, they ratified a new constitution, after an extensive consultative process, engaging some 9 million people, 780,000 suggestions, 9,600 proposals, and 133,000 citizen meetings.

Puerto Rico and Cuba were the spoils of the first imperialist war, the 1898 Spanish-American War. Unlike free Cuba, Puerto Rico is still a neglected colonial possession of the US. And that political fact has never been clearer with Puerto Rico still not fully recovered from Hurricane María and still not governing itself to solve its own problems.

Puerto Rico experienced mass protests and a general strike in 2019. Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló was forced to resign on July 22. Puerto Rican liberation hero Oscar López Rivera observed: “Even before the governor announced his resignation, the fact is that he was not governing Puerto Rico.”

Haiti. After the harsh 29-year US-backed Duvalier dictatorships and the subsequent “military transition,” a brief flourishing of democracy ended in Haiti when the US brazenly kidnapped President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and flew him into exile in 2004. Since then, a series of dubiously elected presidents – some literally installed and all propped up by the US – have produced human rights and social welfare conditions worse than under the dictatorships.

Billions in relief after the 2010 earthquake and in Petrocaribe funds from Venezuela have largely “disappeared” into the pockets of corrupt politicians. In response, the ever-restive Haitian populace has yet intensified the uprising of the dispossessed throughout the country. The newly formed Patriotic Forum united 62 social movements, who call not only for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, but a complete dismantling of the “system of exclusion” and for a new republic of justice, transparency, and participation. They demanded chavire chodyè a (overturn the cauldron).

Central America and Mexico

Honduras. The designation of Honduras as a narco-state is supported by the October 18  conviction in US federal court of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s (JOH) brother Tony for cocaine smuggling.  JOH, the latest of a line of corrupt presidents since the 2009 US-backed coup, is identified as co-conspirator by the prosecutors. Testimony in the US court revealed that the notorious Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo gave JOH $1 million to help him rig the presidential election in 2013.

The US continued to prop up the tottering JOH regime staggering in the face of huge waves of popular protests including a prolonged national strike this summer. And those not opposing the government in the streets headed for asylum in the US, fleeing from gang violence and government malfeasance.

Guatemala. Right-wing comedian Jimmy Morales became president of Guatemala in August. In response to the revolt of dispossessed against his neoliberal rule, he declared a state of siege in five departments. Tens of thousands marched on Guatemala City, including the indigenous Xinkas, while many more Guatemalans fled the violence and everyday oppression seeking asylum at the US border.

The wounds of the US-backed genocidal dirty war of the 1980s against the largely indigenous population, taking some 200,000 lives, have not been healed but continue to be reinforced by harsh neoliberal measures and a regime of impunity fueling the exodus to the north. While lamenting the plight of these migrants, the corporate press in the US failed to recognize the made-in-America causes of their evacuation.

El Salvador. Likewise, El Salvador, another former victim of the US-backed dirty wars, added to the stream of Honduran and Guatemalan migrants seeking asylum in the US from the conditions created in large part by the country of their intended refuge.

Businessman Nayib Bukele, formerly associated with the left FMLN party and now turned right, was elected under the banner of the right-wing GANA party. He assumed the presidency on June 1, replacing Salvador Sánchez Ceren of the FMLN. Bukele has fallen in line with Washington’s drive to curtail emigration from the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and has reversed his nation’s foreign policy to accord with the Lima Group’s drive for regime change in Venezuela.

Nicaragua. 2019 was a year of hopeful recovery in Nicaragua, healing from successfully repulsing a US-backed coup the previous year. The domestic perpetrators were granted amnesty by leftist President Daniel Ortega, and social welfare indices were again on the ascent. Although the poorest country in Central America, Nicaraguans were for the most part not fleeing for the US but were rebuilding their homeland.

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin American and the eleventh in the world. After decades of right-wing rule, left-of-center Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) assumed the presidency last December and his new MORENA party swept local and regional offices with the expectation that corruption, inequality, and other long festering economic injustices would be addressed. AMLO dissented from the anti-Venezuelan Lima Group and instituted a series of progressive domestic reforms.

Trump forced AMLO to contain the Central American immigrants massing on the US southern border or face tariff increases and other measures that would wreck the Mexican economy. As nineteenth century Mexican President Porfirio Díaz famously lamented: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”

A New Year’s message

2019 has not been an entirely bullish year for US imperialism, notwithstanding the hard turns to the right in Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.  Powerful winds against neoliberalism are gusting in Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, and even in the US “Commonwealth” of Puerto Rico. Regime-change operations failed in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. US-preferred candidates suffered losses in Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia (later reversed by a coup). And the hegemon is challenged in its own “backyard” by the increased influence of Russia and especially China, now the second largest trading partner with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Recently Cuban President Díaz-Canel addressed the 120-state Non-aligned Movement (a third of which are sanctioned by Washington) with this perceptive thought for a multi-polar world: “There are more of us. Let us do more.”

Operation Condor 2.0 Expanded

According to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the US will help “legitimate governments” in Latin America, in order to prevent protests from “morphing into riots”.

From what we are seeing this “legitimization” may be expanded to rest of the world. Because Washington-instigated destabilizing unrest goes on throughout the world. We may as well call it “Operation Condor 2.0 – Expanded”. It promises to become devastating, oppressive and murderous on all Continents. A transformation from whatever ‘freedom’ may have existed to neoliberal dictatorships bending towards neofascism.

The original “Operation Condor” was a campaign by the United States to bring ‘order’ into her backyard; i.e., Latin America. In other words, it was a repressive move that started in 1968 and concluded around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We are talking about more than 20 years of right-wing repression especially, but not exclusively directed, on the Southern Cone of South America.

It included such military dictators like Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina. He came to power in 1976 by a US supported military coup, deposing Isabel Martinez de Perón. Comandante Videla stayed in power during five years until 1981, a period in which he brutally oppressed Argentinians, especially the opposition. It is reported that during this period more than 30,000 people ‘disappeared’ – never to return. They were tortured and killed. Some of the dissidents were dropped from helicopters into the Rio de Plata.

Another, better known dictator was Augusto Pinochet, who was directly helped by the CIA and then President Nixon’s National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger – to overturn the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in a bloody coup on 11 September 1973. Pinochet introduced as a first in Latin America neoliberal economics through a group of economists from the Economic School of Chicago, the so-called “Chicago Boys”. The resulting austerity brought extreme poverty and famine to Chileans. The ensuing 17 years were a horror, with over 40,000 people ‘disappeared’ or outright murdered.

Other countries that went through one or several “Operation Condor” cleansings, included Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and possibly others. It was a despicable and deadly period for Latin America. In all, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed and some 400,00 taken as political prisoners.

Secretary Pompeo’s words could not be clearer. He added that protests in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador reflect the “character of legitimate democratic governments and democratic expression. We’ll work with legitimate governments to prevent protests from morphing into riots and violence that don’t reflect the democratic will of the people.”

Not to forget any invented villains, he added, the US will “continue to support countries trying to prevent Cuba and Venezuela from hijacking those protests.” He went on and accused Russia of “malign” influence in Latin America and of “propping up” the democratically elected Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro.

Such remarks come after the US-led November 10 military coup in Bolivia. Amazing that nobody dares stand up and answer him. Are all afraid?

And this especially in the light of having in Bolivia now an opposition dictator, the self-declared interim President (much like Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó),Jeanine Añez, who acts with impunity following fascists and racist orders from Washington – indiscriminately killing her own country-women and men – who happen to be indigenous people. Although she promised new elections, Añez has not set a date, but rather is undoing almost everything Evo Morales has achieved for the people of Bolivia, by privatizing public assets and services, as well as abolishing social safety nets by decree.

Pompeo concluded by saying there remains an “awful lot of work to do” in the region, meaning Latin America as the US’s “back yard.” He also warned against “predatory Chinese activities” in the region, which he claimed can lead countries to make deals that “seem attractive” but are “bad” for citizens.

The new repression that we see in Latin America is not homogenous. In Chile at the surface it looks like the protests started over a metro-fare hike of the equivalent of 4 cents (US-dollar cents) – and then expanded violently to oppose political and economic injustice in Chile, directed against Chile’s neoliberal President, Sebastian Piñera. In Bolivia protests are against an US-induced military coup; in Ecuador they are directed against an austerity-inflicting IMF loan, in Colombia, they appeared suddenly against the corruption and injustice of the Iván Duque presidency; and in Brazil, against the neofascist austerity reforms by Jair Bolsonaro. Copy cats? What’s good for our neighbors, is good for us? – I don’t think so.

It looks much more like a concerted effort by the US to enhance and bolster protests from whatever side they come, to be able to install fully repressive governments, of course, with the help of the US and her secret services – funded by the usual NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and other NGOs that would help install within the respective governments strong 5th Columns, so as to detect early warning signals and crackdown in time on any opposition.

“Operation Condor 2.0 Expanded” – Expanded refers to similar violent protests going on in other parts of the world – practically simultaneously. Take Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and now France.  No matter from which side they come repression and state of siege, if necessary, are of the order – total repression, that is. All with the help of the US – and, not to forget NATO. This is certainly a key justification to keep NATO alive — to avoid opposition to spread and to risk abolishing the faltering US hegemony.

We are, indeed, in the midst of a new “Operation Condor”; or “Operation Condor 2.0 – Expanded”. Full repression worldwide. In preparation of the next planned global recession, planned by the US-led western banking and financial sector, a recession that will likely outdo whatever we have known in the recent past, and make the 2008 /09 downfall look like a walk in the park. The repression now, it is hoped, will prevent people from going on the barricades when they suffer the next cut in salaries, pensions and other social services, already at an unlivable level.  Authoritarianism and tyranny must be efficient and total with a para-military police, enhanced by the armed forces, if necessary. It’s going to be another transfer of assets and social capital from the bottom to the top.

This has been sensed perhaps intuitively by the French – who have been protesting in the form of Yellow Vests against Macron’s regime for more than a year – and now in the form of a CGT- syndicate organized open-ended general strike. Repression is massive – an estimated 1.5 million people in the streets of the major French cities, all public transportation disrupted. There have even been rumors that the police forces may also join the strike, because they realize they are part of the oppressed and abused by Macron’s neoliberal austerity policies. This is reflected by the four times higher suicide rates among police officers, as compared to the average French.

China and Russia beware. The rogue nation and bulldozer won’t stop necessarily in front of your borders. To the contrary, they may seek any entry they can get – as they are already doing in China with Hong Kong, not letting go despite the various concessions already made by HK’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, supported by Beijing; and also in the autonomous Region of Xinjiang, with the mostly Muslim Uyghur people, many of whom are being recruited  by the CIA across the border from Afghanistan, trained and funded to cause destabilizing unrest.

In view of all of this, President Putin’s recent overture to Israel, especially to PM Netanyahu, is worrisome. Netanyahu is by all accounts part of the repressive wave engulfing our Mother Earth, and, in addition, with his cruel policies against Palestine, he may be considered a mass-murderer.

China Breaks the Western Debt Stranglehold on the World

The west has colonized, exploited, ravaged and assassinated the people of the Global South for hundreds of years.

Up to the mid-20th Century Europe has occupied Africa, and large parts of Asia.

In Latin America, though much of the sub-Continent was “freed” from Spain and Portugal in the 19th Century – a new kind of colonization followed by the new Empire of the United States under the so-called Monroe Doctrine, named after President James Monroe (1817 -1825), forbidding Europeans to interfere in any “American territory”. Latin America was then and is again today considered Washington’s Backyard.

In the last ten years or so, Washington has launched the Monreo Doctrine 2.0. This time expanding the interference policy beyond Europe to the world. Democratic sovereign governments in Latin America that could choose freely their political and economic alliances in the world are not tolerated. China, entering into partnership agreements with Latin American countries, sought after vividly by the latter is condemned by the US and the west, especially vassalic Europe.

Therefore, democratically elected center-left governments had to be “regime-changed’ – Honduras, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay. So far, they stumbled over Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and maybe Mexico.

Venezuela and Cuba are being economically strangled to exhaustion. But they are standing tall as pillars in defending the Latin American Continent with economic assistance and military advice from China and Russia.

*****

Latin America is waking up – and so is Africa.

In Latin America, street protests against the US / IMF imposed debt trap and de consequential austerity programs, making the rich richer and the poor poorer, are raging in Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and even in Brazil. In Argentina, in a democratic election this past weekend, 27 October, the people deposed neoliberal President Macri. He was put in the Presidency via “tricked” elections by Washington in 2015. Macri ruined the prosperous country in his 4 year-reign. He privatized public services and infrastructure, education, health, transportation and more, leading to hefty tariff increases, worker layoffs, unemployment and poverty. Poverty, at about 15% in 2015, when Macri took office, soared to over 40% in October 2019.

In 2018 Macri contracted the largest ever IMF loan of US$ 57.2 billion – a debt trap, if there was ever one. The new, just elected Fernandez-Fernandez center-left Government will have to devise programs to counter the impact of this massive debt.

All over in Latin America, people have had enough of the US / western imposed austerity and simultaneous exploitation of their natural resources. They want change – big style. They seek to detach from the economic and financial stranglehold of the west. They are looking for China and Russia as new partners in trade and in financial contracts.

The same in Africa – neocolonialism by the west, mostly France and the UK, through financial oppression, unfair trading deals and western imposed – and militarily protected – despotic and corrupt leaders, has kept Africa poor and desolate after more than 50 years of so-called Independence. Africa is arguably still the Continent with the most natural resources the west covets and needs to preserve its luxury life style and continuous armament.

People, who do not conform especially younger politicians and economists, who protest and speak out, because they see clearly through the western imposed economic crimes committed on a daily basis, are simply assassinated or otherwise silenced.

Africans are quietly seeking to move out of the claws of the west, seeking new relations with China and Russia. The recent Russian-African summit in Sochi was a vivid example.

China is invited to build infrastructure, fast trains, roads, ports and industrial parks, and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is more than welcomed in Africa, as it projects common and equal development for all to benefit. BRI is the epitome for building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind. China also offers a gradual release from the US / western dominated dollar-debt claws. Freeing a country from the dollar-based economy is freeing it from the vulnerability of US / western imposed sanctions. This is an enormous relief that literally every country of the Global South – and possibly even Europe – is hoping for.

However, as could be expected, the west, led by the US of A, is pouncing China for engaging in “debt trap diplomacy”. Exactly the contrary of what is actually happening.

The truth is, though, countries throughout the world, be it in Africa, Asia, South Pacific and Latin America, are choosing to partner with China by their free will. According to a statement by a high-level African politician “China does not force or coerce us into a deal, we are free to choose and negotiate a win-win situation.” That says it all.

The difference between the west and east is stark. While anybody and any country that does not agree with the US dictate and doctrine risks being regime-changed or bombed, China does not impose her new Silk Road – the BRI – to any country. China invites, respecting national sovereignty. Who wants to join is welcome to do so. That applies as much to the Global South, as it does to Europe.

China’s President Xi Jinping launched the BRI in 2013. In 2014 Mr. Xi visited Madame Merkel in Germany, offering her to be at that time the western-most link to the BRI. Ms. Merkel, under the spell of Washington, declined. President Xi returned and China continued working quietly on this fabulous worldwide economic development project – BRI – THE economic venture of the 21st Century, so massive that it was incorporated in 2017 into the Chinese Constitution.

It took the west, however, 6 years to acknowledge this new version of the more than 2000-year-old Silk Road. Only in 2019, the western mainstream media started reporting on the BRI – and always negatively, of course. The preaching was — and still is — beware of the Chinese Dragon.  They will dominate you and everything you own with their socialism.

This train of thought is typically western. Aggression seems to be in the genes of western societies, of western culture, as the hundreds of years of violent and despotic colonization and exploitation – and ongoing – are proving. Does it have to do with western monotheistic doctrines? This is pure speculation, of course.

Again, the truth is multi-fold. First, China does not have a history of invasion. China seeks a peaceful and egalitarian development of trade, science and foremost human wellbeing – a Tao tradition of non-aggression. Second, despite the “warnings” from the throne of the falling empire, about a hundred countries have already subscribed to participate in BRI — and that voluntarily. And third, China and Russia, and along with them the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), are in a solid economic and defense alliance which encompasses close to half of the world population and represents about one-third of the globes total economic output.

Hence, SCO members are – or may be, if they so choose – largely detached from the dollar hegemony. The western privately run and Wall Street-controlled monetary transfer system, SWIFT, is no longer needed by SCO countries. They deal in local currencies and / or through the Chinese Interbank Payment System (CIPS).

It is no secret that the empire, headquartered in Washington, is gradually decaying, economically as well as militarily. It’s just a matter of time. How much time is difficult to guess. But Washington’s everyday behavior of dishing out sanctions left and right, disrupting international monetary transactions, confiscating and stealing other countries assets around the world, puts ever more nails in the Empire’s coffin. By doing this, America is herself committing economic and monetary suicide. Who wants to belong to a monetary system that can act willy-nilly to a county’s detriment? There is no need for outside help for this US-sponsored pyramid fiat monetary system to fall. It’s a house of cards that is already crumbling by its own weight.

The US dollar was some 20-25 years ago still to the tune of 90% the domineering reserve currency in the world. Today that proportion has declined to less than 60% – and falling. It is being replaced primarily by the Chinese yuan as the new reserve currency.

This is what the US-initiated trade war is all about – discrediting the yuan, a solid currency, based on China’s economy – and on gold. “Sanctioning” the Chinese economy with US tariffs is supposed to hurt the yuan, to reduce its competition with the dollar as a world reserve currency. To no avail. The yuan is a worldwide recognized solid currency, the currency of the world’s second largest economy. By some standards, like accounted by PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), the most important socioeconomic indicator for mankind, China is since 2017 the world’s number one economy.

This, and other constant attacks by Washington, is a typical desperate gesture of a dying beast – thrashing wildly left and right and above and below around itself to bring down into its grave as many perceived adversaries as possible. There is, of course, a clear danger that this fight for the empire’s survival might end nuclear – god forbid!

China’s and Russia’s policy, philosophy and diplomacy of non-aggression may save the world from extinction including the people of the United States of America.

First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Chile and Her History of Western Interference

Chile is experiencing the largest and most serious political crisis and public unrest throughout Santiago and the country’s major cities since the return to ‘democracy’ in 1990. A week long of fire, tear-gas and police brutality left at least 20 people dead, thousands arrested and injured. More than 1.2 million people protested on Friday 25 October in the Streets of Chile’s capital, Santiago, not just against the 4% hike in metro-fares. That was the drop that brought the glass to overflow. Years, decades of neoliberal policies, brought hardship, poverty and inequality to Chileans. Chile is the country with the world’s third largest inequality in wealth, with a Gini coefficient of close to 0.50 (zero = everybody has the same, 1.0 = one person possesses everything).

Important for Chileans to understand is not to believe President Sebastian Piñera’s smooth talk and compromising words. Whatever he says and apparently does in terms of backtracking from his neoliberal policies is sheer deviation propaganda. Many of these policies he already initiated during his first term (2010 – 2014). They were kept alive by Madame Michelle Bachelet (2014 – 2018) under pressure from the Chilean financial system which remains closely linked (and funded) by Wall Street, and, of course, by her IMF advisers. Continuing Piñera’s job, she helped further dollarizing Chile to the tune of 70%, meaning that Chilean banks finance themselves on the US dollar markets, mostly in New York and London, rather than on the local peso market.

A healthy economy finances itself largely from nationally earned and accumulated capital. But more often than not, national oligarchs who possess this capital earned locally invest it outside their countries, as they trust more in foreign markets than in their own country. This is classic in many developing countries and particularly in Latin America, where the elite still – or again, after a brief democratic center-left respite in the 1990s and early 2000 – looks for success and capital gains to the northern masters in Washington.

Madame Bachelet was effectively bought by the system – a former socialist, having seen her father suffer under the Pinochet regime – she has become a sad turncoat. She demonstrated her ‘conversion’ by her recent report on Venezuela’s Human Rights – which was a travesty of the truth – a sham, full of lies and omissions. Another one who sold out and became chief of a UN Office – the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Commission. How did that happen?  Who pulls the strings behind the scenes for such appointments?

Since 2018, it’s again President Piñera, who is hell bent to complete his neoliberal project. Sebastian Piñera is one of the richest people in Latin America with a net worth of close to 3 billion dollars. How could he even remotely imagine what it is, having to take the subway every day to go to work, depending on pensions which are gradually reduced under his austerity programs, having to pay school tuition for a public service which is free in most countries and being subject to privatized health services, let alone steadily depressed salaries and rising unemployment. Mr. Piñera has no clue.

Only 24 hours before the mass-protests started about a week ago throughout Chile, Piñera prided himself in public of leading the politically and economically most stable and secure country, the world’s largest copper producer, where foreign investors were keen to place their money, a “paradise island”, he called Chile, adding the country was a model for all of Latin America.

Did he really not sense what was happening? How his austerity measures – plus privatizing everything – was hurting and infuriating his compatriots to the point of no return? Or did he simply ignore it, thinking it may go away, people will continue swallowing economic tightening as they have done before?  Whatever – it is amazing!

As Piñera’s popularity has slumped to an all-time low of 14%, and protests erupted every day to a higher level, he started using people-friendly language and tone, promising increasing minimum wages, pensions and unemployment benefits. In a move to court the working class, on Monday 28 October he reshuffled his cabinet, replacing 8 of his Ministers with more “people-friendly” officials – but from all appearance it’s too little too late.

He addressed the people in a televised speech from the Presidential Palace, La Moneda, saying, “Chile has changed, and the government must change with it to confront these new challenges”. Nobody seemed to take these empty words seriously, as the masses assembled in front of La Moneda asking for Piñera’s resignation. The UN is sending a team to investigate Human Rights abuses by police and military. While Argentinians waited for regular general elections (27 October 2019) to oust their western-imposed neoliberal lynch pin, president Macri, it is not likely that Chileans will have the patience to wait until 2022.

Ever increasing inequality and skyrocketing cost of living reached a point of anger that can hardly be appeased with Piñera’s apparent promises for change. For at least 80% of the people these conciliatory words are not enough.  They don’t believe in a system led by a neoliberal multi-billionaire who has no idea on how common people have to make a living. They don’t believe in change from this government. It is highly possible, they won’t let go until Piñera is gone. They see what was happening in neighboring Argentina and don’t want to face the same fate.

Let’s just look at a bit of history. Going way back to the War of the Pacific, also known as the Saltpeter War confronting Chile with the Bolivian-Peruvian alliance, Chile counted with strong support from the UK – supplying war ships, weaponry and military advice. The war lasted from 1879 to 1884 and centered on Chilean claims of Bolivian’s coastal territories, part of the Atacama Desert, rich in saltpeter, coveted by the Brits. Thanks to the British military and logistics support, Chile won the war and Bolivia lost her access to the Pacific, making her a landlocked country. The Government of Evo Morales today is still fighting for Pacific Sea access in The Hague. Peru lost also part of her resources-rich coast line, Arica and Tarapacá.

Fast forward to 11 September 1973, The Chilean 9/11, instigated by the West, again. To be precise by Washington. In the driver’s seat of this fatal coup that changed Chile as of this day – and counting – if Piñera is not stopped was Henry Kissinger. At the time leading up to the CIA instigated coup, and during the coup, Kissinger was US National Security Advisor (the role John Bolton occupied under Trump, until recently). Kissinger was sworn in a Secretary of State 11 days after the coup – 22 September 1973; a decent reward for whom is today the biggest war criminal still alive.

The murderous coup, followed by almost 20 years of brutal military rule by Augusto Pinochet (1973 to 1990), with torture, killings, human rights abuses left and right, was accompanied by an atrocious economic regime imposed by Washington, hired, so-called “Chicago Boys” ruining the country, privatizing social services, national infrastructures and natural resources except for Chile’s and the world’s largest copper mine, CODELCO which was not privatized during the Pinochet years. The military would not allow it for reasons of “national security”.

The large majority of the population was put under constant surveillance and threat of punishment / abuse if they would protest and not “behave” as Pinochet ordered. Pinochet, along with the western directed financial sector, turned Chile into a largely impoverished, complacent population.

The British empire, at the time from London, later from Washington acting as the American empire, was always influential in Chile, expanding its influence and exploitation mechanism to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. But then, in the late 1990s and early 2000, Latin America stood up, democratically electing her own leaders, most of them left / center-left, a thorn in the eye of Washington.

How could American’s “Backyard” become independent?  Impossible. Hence the renewal of the Monroe Doctrine, which emanated from President James Monroe (1817-1825), forbidding Europeans to interfere in any American territory. The Monroe principle has now been expanded to not allowing any foreign nation to even do business with Latin America, let alone forming political alliances.

While within a few years in the early 2000s, most of Latin America has been converted into puppets of the United States, Venezuela and Cuba stand tall. They are the corner stones, not to fall. They will be the pillars from where a new sovereign Latin America will rise. The Monroe Doctrine will not hold for a falling US empire – while peace seeking Russia and China are closely associating, commercially as well as militarily, with South America – in rebuilding and defending of their sovereignty.

In addition, people living under neoliberal regimes, under western financial and IMF-imposed killer austerity programs, are waking up, demonstrating and protesting in Ecuador and Argentina – where they just in democratic elections disposed of the US-imposed neoliberal despot, President Mauricio Macri. Now, Chile’s population is angry. Their patience is collapsing, their fear is gone. They want justice. They want to choose freely their leader – and it is not Sebastian Piñera.

Chileans’ fury is not just directed at Piñera’s latest distasteful economic and financial austerity measures. They – the Chileans – still suffer from measures dating back to the Pinochet era, the era of the western Chicago Boys, measures that have never been changed, not even under the so-called socialist Madame Bachelet.

The Pinochet Constitution of 1980, under pressure from Chicago-educated advisors, the IMF and the dollar-based banking system, imposed a culture of economic neoliberalism and ideological conservatism. These key parameters, remnants from that epoch, are still valid as of this day:

Education: Chile has the most privatized and segregated education system of the 65 countries that use the OECD student evaluation standard, PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). In Chile higher education (university level) is not a right. In 1981 Pinochet has privatized most of the higher education institutions giving access mainly to students from privileged families.

Health: In 1979 Pinochet created the Preventive Health Institutions, administered by private financial institutions, providing services that most Chileans cannot afford; i.e. the Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASE), replacing the former publicly financed health system.

Public Transportation: Chile has one of the most expensive public transport systems in all of Latin America. It’s run by private for-profit concessionaries. In Chile a metro ride costs the equivalent of US$ 1.13, in Brazil US$ 0.99, in Colombia US$ 0.67, in Argentina US$ 0.43. Mr. Piñera’s recent 4% tariff increase was just the trigger for a much larger discontent.

Abortion:  Since 1939 voluntary and secure abortion was possible in Chile. In 1989 Pinochet made abortion under whatever circumstances a criminal delict.

Pensions:  In 1980 Pinochet abandoned the old public system based on solidarity among pensioned adults and handed the accumulated funds to newly created and privately run AFPs (Administrations of Pension Funds), groups of private administrators of funds accumulated entirely by workers (no contributions by employers).

“Carabineros” – Chilean Police Officers:  Under Pinochet, Carabineros have been given powers with military characteristics. They have constantly and with impunity violated human rights. For years civil society groups have requested successive governments – and ultimately again the Piñera Government to change their regime to police officers, respecting human dignity and human rights. So far to no avail, as demonstrated by police interference in the most recent protests.

These Pinochet leftovers will no longer be accepted and tolerated by Chileans. Chile’s population, and in particular, the more than 1.2 million protesting in Santiago last Friday, are requesting nothing less than Piñera’s resignation and a people’s elected Constitutional Assembly to build a new country with less, much less inequality, more social justice, and, especially without any remaining “Pinochetismo”, which today is still very present under Sebastian Piñera, who sent the military to control the mass demonstrations in Santiago and other large cities. Chileans are clearly saying these days are over. We want our country back.  We reclaim our national political and economic sovereignty.  No more western interference.

The IMF Does Not Fight Financial Fires but Douses Them with Gasoline

Quito’s streets tremble between aspiration and repression; the smell of tear gas and the shouts for freedom reverberating in equal measure from one part of the city to another. President Lenín Moreno’s State of Emergency (October 3) and Curfew (October 12) give the men with guns more authority, but – despite hundreds of injured protestors and at least five dead – the violence has not broken the enthusiasm on the streets. The protests continue. Moreno’s options will soon run out. The oligarchy and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – with a wink from the White House – might ask him to resign. They like their comprador to be credible.

On 13 October, Moreno had to promise to withdraw Decree 833. Pressure from the streets, from the United Nations, and from the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference forced him to the table, where a televised discussion was held. The indigenous leaders won the ‘debate’ – they were much more prepared and far more humane than the president and his clumsy ministers. Moreno and his team – Minister of Government María Paula Romo and Minister of Defense Oswaldo Jarrín – left the room for a recess and surrendered. This is a triumph for the people. But now Moreno must go to the IMF. What pressure will it put on him? The battle continues.

The IMF’s board gathers in Washington, DC for its annual meeting. The Fund’s new leader is Kristalina Georgieva – from Bulgaria – who used to be at the World Bank. Her job is not easy. The IMF’s World Economic Outlook, published in July, calculates that 2019 world output is expected to shrink to 3.2%, compared to 3.8% (2017) and 3.6% (2018). In order to remain optimistic – with little data to support this attitude – the Fund estimates that world outlook will rise to 3.5% in 2020. But Georgieva and her associates on the Fund’s board know that matters are far grimmer. ‘Global economic growth continues to disappoint’, Georgieva said recently. Trade wars and high debt levels contribute further to a general crisis of capitalism.

The new Trade and Development Report (2019) from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), published in late September, says that a recession in 2020 is more than likely. Over the past few years, growth rates have been sustained by ‘one-off tax cuts and unsustainable deficits, made all the more precarious by a rapid build-up of private debt positions, particularly in the corporate sector’. Meanwhile, ‘unemployment figures hide problems of insecure jobs and discouraged workers’. Add to this ‘disrupted supply chains, volatile capital flows, and rising oil prices’, and it seems inevitable that ‘on these trends a slowdown – and possibly even a recession – looks likely’.

There is nothing that the IMF can do. It is beholden to the United States, from whom Georgieva hopes to raise funds towards the IMF’s cache of around $1 trillion. The United States continues to dominate the IMF. In 2015, the IMF released a staff study that argued against ‘supply-side economics’, suggesting that the policy that suggests tax cuts and budgets cuts does not lead to utopia. Instead, the authors write, tax cuts and budget cuts produce results whose benefits ‘do not trickle down’. The implications of this study did not penetrate the upper floors of the IMF, neither the office of the managing director nor the board. It is business as usual at the IMF. Its own economists are not as important as the whispers from the US Treasury Department and the White House.

Late last year, the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) released an important study on IMF loan conditionalities and the impact this has had on health care. The author – Gino Brunswijck – looked at IMF loans to twenty-six countries between 2016 and 2017. In twenty of these twenty-six countries, ‘people have gone on strike or taken to the streets to protest against government cutbacks, the rising cost of living, tax restructuring and wage bill reforms pushed by IMF conditionality’. Since the study came out, the people of Argentina, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Haiti, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sudan, Tunisia, and other countries have taken to the streets. For them, there is no alternative: either they protest, or they starve.

German soldiers, their mule, and tear gas (1916)

Several important points emerge from the study by the European Network which bear reflection:

  1. In the past few years, the IMF loans come with an increased number of structural adjustment conditions. The average number of conditions per loan between 2017 and 2018 was 26.8; between 2011 and 2013, the average number of conditions per loan was 19.5.
  2. Inside the dense language of the loan, there are a series of ‘hidden’ conditionalities; these are often in the annex documents for the loan.
  3. Once the loan agreements have been signed, the IMF returns to add more conditions on the same loan.
  4. Of the twenty-six loans studied, twenty-three of them demanded ‘fiscal consolidation’, which means that the governments were forced to restrict spending. The IMF, in other words, foisted austerity on these countries.
  5. Most of the countries that went to the IMF were ‘repeat borrowers’, which means that the IMF loans did not fix their problems but only exacerbated them. The IMF did nothing to solve the structural insolvency of these governments, but instead loaned the countries into unsustainable debt. In 2013, an IMF study admitted that due to the IMF agreement with Greece in 2010, ‘Market confidence was not restored, the banking system lost 30 per cent of its deposits and the economy encountered a much deeper than expected recession with exceptionally high unemployment’. The Fund’s demands only deepened Greece’s problems. This lesson has not been absorbed.
  6. Finally, the IMF demanded austerity of developing countries even in times of crisis, knowing full well that this is the time when it is important for governments to spend towards fiscal stimulation of a depressed economy. Advanced capitalist countries, on the other hand, do not observe the IMF demand. Between the autumn of 2008 and the start of 2009, calculates the French economist Cédric Durand, these states committed 50.4% of the world GDP to support the financial sector. Nothing of this generosity has ever been committed to support the poor, who make up the vast majority of the planet’s people.

Camouflaged behind IMF phrases such as ‘forging a stronger social compact’ comes the old fashioned tonic of austerity for the poor, generosity for the rich. The agreement between the IMF and Ecuador called upon Moreno’s government to cut wages and to cut 140,000 public sector employees, while energy prices and fees for government services would be raised. The rich would pay none of the price. The money paid to buy gallons of tear gas and riot police equipment could just as easily have been paid out for health care and education. The ‘social compact’ that the IMF finds itself building in each country is forged not through the bonds of society but through the barricades of protest and repression.

Each IMF chief comes to the top office with a signature agenda. Christine Lagarde wanted to push gender equity, which meant – for Lagarde and the IMF – increasing the number of women in the workforce. In one of the staff papers, the IMF researchers pointed out that this would only be possible if countries invest in infrastructure (such as public transport), promote equal rights for women (such as equal inheritance laws and property rights), and promote access to affordable childcare. But, most IMF loan agreements demand cuts in public infrastructure and in childcare and healthcare. IMF policy, in fact, went against even the limited agenda promoted by Lagarde.

Lagarde, who is now in the running to head the European Central Bank, could have done well to listen to Ofelia Fernández, a 19-year-old Argentinian militant who is running for a seat in the Buenos Aires government. Ofelia does not want to define her politics narrowly. She wanted to make it clear to me last month that feminism must take up all the social issues from a feminist perspective – not allow itself to be restricted to ‘women’s issues’, which are themselves, she pointed out, everyone’s issues. In the poorer parts of Argentina, organisations have emerged to fight against the outcome of the crisis. Hunger is a serious issue, with special emphasis on the hunger of children. Most of the leaders of these popular organisations, Ofelia said, are women. Their fight around the economy of care and against austerity must also be seen as a feminist fight. The fight against hunger, Ofelia said, is also feminism.

Georgieva comes to her post eager to tackle ‘climate risks’ and to urge a move to a post-carbon energy system. Her policy form will be cuts to energy subsidies and a rise in carbon taxes. A recent IMF study shows that gasoline and household energy bills should rise dramatically to limit global warming. What we have here is austerity packaged as environmentalism. Rather than promote a policy slate of regressive taxes on the poor, the IMF could urge more expenditure on public transportation and on a transition from carbon-based energy to more sustainable forms of energy. But this is not the temper of the IMF. Neoliberal policy and austerity are its contours.

The headline of this newsletter does not come from a radical poet. It comes from the Wall Street Journal. During the Asian financial crisis in 1998, the WSJ ran an editorial that said that the IMF ‘has not been fighting financial fires but dousing them with gasoline’. The IMF pours the first tranche of gasoline.

People want to douse these flames. Their hopes explode out of the verse of Dennis Brutus (1924-2009), South Africa’s anti-apartheid poet:

There will come a time we believe
when the shape of the planet
and the divisions of the land
will be less important.
We will be caught in the glow of friendship.
A red star of hope
will illuminate our lives.
A star of hope.
A star of joy.
A star of freedom.

  • First published at The Tricontinental.
  • Pink Tide Against US Domination Rising Again In Latin America

    (Photo from Dissent Magazine)

    Once again, the left is rising in Latin America as people revolt against authoritarian regimes, many of whom were put in place by US-supported coups. These regimes have taken International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and are under the thumb of international finance, which is against the interests of people.After the embattled President of Ecuador claimed that President Nicolas Maduro was the cause of the massive protests against him, Maduro made clear what was occurring in Latin America, saying:

    We have two models: the IMF model which privatizes everything and takes away the people’s rights to health, education and work; and the humanist-progressive model which is emerging in Latin America and has the Bolivarian Revolution at the forefront.

    Maduro’s clear understanding of the conflict is why it has been so important for the US to remove him. His success in defeating ongoing US coup attempts is a model guiding Latin America to a future independent of US domination.

    Ecuadorians celebrate the repeal of Decree 883 (From Twitter)

    Ecuador in Rebellion Against IMF and the US Puppet Moreno

    On October 4, Moreno proclaimed the end of a 40-year policy of fuel and petrol subsidies, which had traditionally benefited his country’s working-class population. He also announced a 20 percent decrease in the salary of public employees and initiated plans to privatize pensions. He removed workplace and job security safeguards. Decree 883, known as ‘The Package’, was a series of neoliberal policies demanded by the IMF in return for a $4.2 billion dollar loan. It was preceded by policies for the wealthy including reducing their taxes.

    The IMF loan was part of Moreno serving as a puppet and bowing to multiple US demands. Ecuador promised to settle a long dispute with Chevron whose oil drilling and pipelines have polluted the country. Tens of billions of dollars in restitution from Chevron are at stake but Moreno said he is willing to give them up. In fact, the IMF loan is strange in that it was dependent on Ecuador paying external debt obligations; i.e., it was not new funds for Ecuador but new debt to subsidize paying back Wall Street.

    In making the announcement, Moreno called the people “Zánganos,” or Drone Bees leading to the uprising of the Drone Bees. The mass protests were called by the Popular Front, a group of unions, and the Unified Workers Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). Students and social movements joined protests throughout the nation in Loja, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ambato, and Riobamba, among other cites as well as Quito, the capital. Moreno claimed without any evidence that the uprising was financed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Correa.

    Protests in Ecuador were relentless with no end in sight. They grew when 20,000 indigenous people marched into Quito. Police responded with violence, tear gas, and mass arrests. An October 4 video circulated on social media showed nonviolent protesters killed in the street by the police as well as other police violence. On October 5, Moreno declared a 60-day state of Emergency. Sometimes police had to retreat in the face of mass protests. On October 7, Moreno fled the capital to hide in the Navy base 260 miles away in the conservative stronghold of Guayaquil.

    As we wrote this newsletter, unrest in Ecuador was escalating. On Saturday, the nation was put on military lockdown. Law enforcement attacked protesters with pellets and tear gas in the immediate vicinity of the  National Assembly. By Sunday, Moreno decreed a 3:00 pm curfew, which people defied. Then, facing an emergency session in the National Assembly, Moreno backed down. Protesters celebrated when Moreno’s government announced that Decree 883 had been repealed after eleven days of popular mobilizations.

    Peter Koenig describes a root cause of the problems:

    Since January 2000, Ecuador’s economy is 100% dollarized, compliments of the IMF (entirely controlled by the US Treasury, by force of an absolute veto). The other two fully dollarized Latin American countries are El Salvador and Panama.

    The US and IMF used the economic crises of the 1990s to dollarize Ecuador’s economy and gain full control over the nation’s riches as Ecuador is the second-largest oil economy in South America. This led to unaffordable goods for Ecuadorians, social unrest and a series of unstable governments until President Correa, who served from 2007 to 17, was elected.

    A Center for Economic and Policy Research 2017 report found under Correa Ecuador did well with an average annual GDP growth of 1.5%  compared to 0.6% average for the previous 26 years; a decline of 38% in poverty with extreme poverty reduced by 47%; and a decline in inequality with the Gini coefficient falling substantially. Correa doubled social spending from 4.3% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2016; tripling education spending from 0.7% to 2.1%; and, increasing public investments from 4% of GDP in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

    Correa served two terms. A third term would have required a constitutional amendment. Rather than running, Correa endorsed Lenin Moreno who had served as his vice president from 2007-13. He was expected to continue Correa’s policies but instead reversed them.

    Moreno was unpopular before announcing ‘The Package’ due to structural poverty increasing from 23.1 percent in June 2017 to 25.5 percent in June 2019 with projections of 30 percent by the end of the year. Injustices like the imprisonment of the popular former Vice President Jorge Glas on dubious charges and his continuous political witch hunt against Rafael Correa and other leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution Party added to his unpopularity. In addition, he has been engulfed in a personal corruption crisis involving an offshore Shell corporation INA, which cast Moreno’s presidency in doubt.

    Moreno’s forcible and illegal ejection of Julian Assange from the London embassy in return for payoffs from the US and UK resulted in a national strike in Ecuador in July. This, along with the arrest of Ola Bini, who is being prosecuted falsely as a conspirator with Wikileaks, was unpopular with Ecuadorians.

    Will repeal of ‘The Package’ end the protests and the threat to Moreno’s presidency? As we write, the answer to these questions are unclear. The people won a major victory, but the Moreno/IMF infection remains.

    Rally in Argentina (By Enfoque Rojo)

    Latin Americans Rising Against the Right and US Domination

    Latin American countries are rejecting neoliberalism and US domination using multiple strategies to achieve change.

    This month the deepening anti-capitalist movement in Bolivia is set to strengthen with the probable re-election of Evo Morales on October 20. Argentina is expected to remove right-wing President Mauricio Macri on October 27 and replace him with Alberto Fernandez. And, Mexico put in place its first progressive, left-of-center government with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on July 1, 2018. Elections are also upcoming in Uruguay on October 27 and in Peru in January. Venezuela may have National Assembly elections in January as well.

    Bolivia’s Evo Morales has a 13-point lead in polls as his governing party Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) looks to re-election for a third Morales term that will last until 2025. Morales has 38.8 percent, just 1.2 percent short of the 40 percent required for a first-round victory in the upcoming elections. The survey also indicated majority support for the nationalization of gas and strategic industries, 51 percent say that public ownership is positive for the economy. On social programs, 61.7 percent say they are essential for providing dignity to those of low incomes.

    Morales has launched a large reforestation plan and put in place a model healthcare program. He is under attack from the United States and segments of Bolivia. Morales leads an independent, sovereign Bolivia that has rejected US dominance, decolonized and displaced neoliberalism. A recent color revolution attempt by the wealthy, with the support of the US and western powers, failed.

    Argentina’s first round of voting on August 11 resulted in Fernandez, running with former president Cristina Kirchner, finishing 15 percent ahead of Macri. The surprising landslide brought into question Macri’s ability to govern between now and the election. As a result, the IMF put a $5.4 billion dollar loan on hold part of the $56.3 billion stand-by agreement signed in mid-2018. Fernandez opposed the loan, which required sharp budget cuts affecting public services at a time of increasing poverty.

    Under Macri, the economy has gone into crisis with poverty increasing to a record 36.4 percent, a recession accompanied by a 47 percent inflation rate in 2018 and an inflation rate of 25.1 percent during the first seven months of this year. Argentina’s unemployment is at the highest level in 14 years. Poverty was at 19.7 percent when Kirchner left office in 2015. Fernandez has put forward an anti-hunger plan, not dependent on the IMF. Three weeks before the election, thousands of people rallied in Buenos Aires as the Workers Left Front sent a message of opposition to neoliberalism and austerity to the two major political parties.

    In Mexico, AMLO won a landslide 53 percent of the vote on July 31 ending decades of right-wing rule. People were fed up with the corruption, impunity, and violence — decades of loss of rights, pillaging and destruction of the nation’s wealth and public enterprises. At his inauguration, AMLO decried 36 years of neoliberalism and public and private corruption, promised a “peaceful and radical” transition with “indigenous people as its priority,” in a government “for the good of all, first the poor.” His fight against neoliberalism is challenged by NAFTA II (or the USMCA), as AMLO is careful not to confront Trump on this. On border policy, AMLO offered migrants home in Mexico and urged investment in Central America.

    The Zapatistas have conflicted with AMLO over the exploitation of resources and the use of the military in policing, demanding its autonomy based on indigenous principles but he has sought diplomacy with them. AMLO has also faced massive strikes of tens of thousands of autoworkers, workers at US companies in Mexico and wildcat strikes at the border. AMLO has been a counterweight to US aggression in Latin America standing with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

    Peru is in the midst of a crisis. President Martin Vizcarra who came into office after a corruption scandal removed his predecessor, dissolved the Congress, a move supported by the left, because it is controlled by far-right politician Keiko Fujimori and was preventing Vizcarra’s anti-corruption campaign. Congress ignored the president’s order and voted to remove him from office instead. The vice president resigned rather than take over and Vizcarra remains in office with the support of the military. He has now called for new congressional elections to be held on January 26. Vizcarra is a conservative battling the oligarchic right. The left, which has been divided, is coalescing around the Popular National Assembly and allying with social movements. The movements want an end to neoliberal policies, a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution and to break with Washington’s domination.

    In Central America, Honduras has been in revolt against the coup government of Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), which for ten years has put in place neoliberalism, repression, and violence. Protests have been ongoing since his coup and fraudulent re-election. This summer, protests intensified with a national strike over austerity and privatization measures required by an IMF loan, leading to a 66-day uprising.  The US has trained Honduran police to use repressive measures in an attempt to stop the protests, but their actions feed more protests.

    Many have fled Honduras in caravans to escape the corruption and violence. Now, a coalition of civil groups is urging the president’s departure over a scandal ignited by accusations of large-scale drug trafficking to the United States being litigated against the president’s brother Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez. In the trial, several witnesses have declared JOH’s campaign was financed with drug money, and that he took millions in bribes from various Mexican drug lords, including the infamous Joaquin “El-Chapo” Guzman. The Liberal Party joined in calling for his resignation and protests have intensified. The trial may be the end of this cocaine-fueled presidency.

    Brazil’s election of Bolsonaro has been marred by scandal now that the corruption of Operation Car Wash has been exposed. Private conversations between the prosecutors and then-judge Sergio Moro, now Super Minister of Justice, show that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was the “victim of a conspiracy” to prevent him from running against Bolsonaro.  In the secret exchanges, Moro admitted that the corruption case was designed to frame him. Lula has said the US is behind the conspiracy.

    Calls to free Lula are increasing and the Supreme Court will be reviewing the case. Lula is demanding his record be cleared and refused a panicked offer from prosecutors that he be freed from jail and put under house arrest. Bolsonaro is also under attack for the Amazon fires, for an increase in police killings, for genocide against the Indigenous and for attacks on public education. Former President Michel Temer acknowledged that the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, the Worker’s Party leader, was a coup d’etat.

    Nicaragua survived a 2018 US coup attempt and the revolution continues to thrive after 40 years of independence from US domination after US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza fled. People were very confused about what happened in the 2018 coup attempt as media misinformation was prevalent. A group of us joined and produced a reader to help people understand the reality of Nicaragua. Peace is coming back to Nicaragua, even though continued pressure from the US is expected in the form of new illegal sanctions.

    Venezuela, which we have reported on intensively for years, has also survived ongoing coup attempts that continue to escalate in the post-John Bolton era of the Trump administration most recently with a threat of war through the Organization of American States (OAS). They are prepared for a military attack and have created new alliances to overcome the US economic war. This week, Russia announced it was investing $16.5 billion in Venezuela by the end of 2019.

    Russia has provided anti-missile defense systems, is keeping Navy ships in Venezuela to deter a US blockade and has helped gather intelligence on US actions. With their help, Venezuela has uncovered terrorist plots coming from Colombia and involving US-puppet Juan Guiado’s team. Guaido has faltered and failed time and again, and now is being investigated for ties to Colombian drug traffickers and corruption.

    The non-aligned movement of 120 nations met in Caracas this summer and expressed support for Venezuelan sovereignty.  Venezuela has been a lynchpin for left movements in Latin America. When oil prices were high, it shared its wealth not only with poorest Venezuelans but with other countries seeking to challenge US and oligarch domination. Even in the midst of an escalating economic war with the United States, they continue to provide housing, food, and essentials to their people.

    Protesters in Haiti (Twitter)

    Caribbean Resistance

    In the Caribbean, Cuba is challenged by the US economic war but continues its revolution. Mass protests in Haiti threaten the survival of the government and Puerto Rico’s revolt removed a governor.

    Cuba, despite the increasing US economic war, continues to be a bulwark against US imperialism, standing with governments like Venezuela and Nicaragua when they are under attack. Cuba completed a successful transition to a new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and voted on a new constitution developed using a participatory process involving 9 million people through 133,000 citizen meetings. The constitution includes “universal and free health, education, sports and recreation, culture and respect for human dignity.” Cuba is currently facing major economic challenges as the US is blocking their access to oil. Russia and Venezuela are helping Cuba overcome this oil blockade.

    Haiti has been in protest since April calling for an end to neoliberal US domination and the resignation of Jovenel Moise. The president has not spoken in public since the beginning of this latest round of protests and this week he named a commission of seven politicians to lead discussions for a solution to end the crisis.

    In Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, massive protests led to Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló resigning on July 22, 2019. People also want the corrupt legislature cleaned out, the Fiscal Control Board, created by Obama, ended and the debt to be audited. Former political prisoner, Luis Rosa, said three things are needed: “decolonization, an end to our colonial status through a constitutional assembly; health care, free for all Puerto Rican citizens; and free public education up through the university level.”

    Stephen Sefton wrote a country-by-country review of Latin America and the Caribbean in June describing the decline of the United States in the region and how changes were coming to many nations. He predicted that we are seeing “the last throw of the dice for the US to retain its accustomed power and influence against the relentless fundamental drive for emancipation by the region’s impoverished majority.”

    Rafael Correa said: “Neoliberalism is what failed, not socialism of the 21st century, on the contrary, socialism of the 21st century is what has us firmly on our feet, withstanding all of these difficulties.” This hemisphere is a key battleground in the conflict between neoliberalism v Socialism and US dominance v. independence. People are demanding democracy from the bottom up and a fair economy that meets their needs.

    Ecuador and the IMF’s Killing Spree

    For close to 40 years the IMF has weaponized its handle on the western economy through the dollar-based western monetary system, and brutally destroyed nation after nation, thereby killed hundreds of thousands of people. Indirectly, of course, as the IMF would not use traditional guns and bombs, but financial instruments that kill. They kill by famine, by economic strangulation, preventing indispensable medical equipment and medication entering a country, even preventing food from being imported, or being imported at horrendous prices only the rich can pay.

    The latest victim of this horrifying IMF scheme is Ecuador. For starters, you should know that since January 2000, Ecuador’s economy is 100% dollarized, compliments of the IMF (entirely controlled by the US Treasury, by force of an absolute veto). The other two fully dollarized Latin American countries are El Salvador and Panama.

    The Wall Street Journal recently stated that Ecuador “has the misfortune to be an oil producer with a ‘dollarized’ economy that uses the U.S. currency as legal tender.” The Journal added: “The appreciation of the U.S. dollar against other currencies has decreased the net exports of non-oil commodities from Ecuador, which, coupled with the volatility of oil prices, is constraining the country’s potential for economic growth.”

    Starting in the mid 1990’s, culminating around 1998, Ecuador suffered a severe economic crisis, resulting from climatic calamities, and US corporate and banking oil price manipulations (petrol is Ecuador’s main export product), resulting in massive bank failures and hyper-inflation. Ecuador’s economy at that time had been semi-dollarized, like that of most Latin American countries; i.e., Peru, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, and so on.

    The ‘crisis’ was a great opportunity for the US via the IMF to take full control of the Ecuadorian (petrol) economy by 100% dollarizing it. The IMF propagated the same recipe for Ecuador as it did ten years earlier for Argentina, namely full dollarization of the economy in order to combat inflation and to bring about economic stability and growth. In January 2000, then President Jorge Jamil Mahuad Witt, from the “Popular Democracy Party”, or the Ecuadorian Christian Democratic Union (equivalent to the German CDU), declared the US dollar as the official currency of Ecuador, replacing their own currency, the Sucre.

    Adopting another country’s currency is an absurdity and can only bring failure. And that it did, almost to the day, 10 years after Argentina was forced by the same US-led villains to revalue her peso to parity with the US-dollar, no fluctuations allowed. Same reason (“economic crisis”, hyper-inflation), same purpose: controlling the riches of the country.  Absolute failure was preprogrammed. Did Ecuador not learn from the Argentinian experience and convert her currency at the very moment the Argentinian economy collapsed due to dollarization, into the US dollar? That is not only a fraud, but a planned fraud.

    Ecuadorian goods and services quoted in dollars, became unaffordable for locals and uncompetitive for exports. This led to social unrests, resulting in a popular ‘golpe’. President Mahuad was disposed, had to flee the country, and was replaced by Gustavo Noboa, from the same CDU party (2000 – 2003). Ever since the dollar remained controversial among the Ecuadorian population. President Rafael Correa’s quiet attempt to return to the Sucre, was answered by a CIA-inspired police coup attempt on 30 September 2010.

    In 2017, the CIA / NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and the US State Department have brought about a so-called “soft” regime change. They urged (very likely coerced) Rafael Correa to abstain from running again for President, as the vast majority of Ecuadorians requested him to do. This would have required a Constitutional amendment which probably would have been easily accepted by Parliament. Instead they had Correa endorse his former Vice-President (2007-2013) Lenin Moreno, who ran on Correa’s platform, the socialist PAIS Alliance, therefore expected to continue in Correa’s line with same socioeconomic policies.

    Less than a year later, Moreno turned tables, became an outright traitor to his country and the people who voted for him. He converted Ecuador’s economy to the neoliberal doctrine – privatization of everything, stealing the money from the social sectors, depriving people of work, drastically reducing social services and converting a surplus economy of tremendous social gains into one of poverty and misery.

    President Correa left the country a modest debt of about 40% to GDP at the end of his Presidency in 2017. A debt-GDP ratio that would be no problem anywhere in the world. Compare this to the US debt vs. GDP – 105% in current terms and about 700% in terms of unmet obligations (net present value of total outstanding obligations). There was absolutely no reason to call the IMF for help. The IMF, the long arm of the US Treasury, ‘bought’ its way into Moreno’s neoliberal Ecuador, coinciding with Moreno evicting Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

    The IMF loan of US$ 4,2 billion increases the debt / GDP ratio by 4% and brings social misery and upheaval in return, and that as usual, at an unimaginable cost, by neoliberal economists called “externalities”. It was practically a US “present” for Moreno’s treason, bringing Assange closer into US custody. What most people are unaware of is that at the same time, Moreno forgave US$ 4.5 billion in fines, interest and other dues to large corporations and oligarchs, hence decapitalizing the country’s treasury. The amount of canceled corporate fiscal obligations is about equivalent to the IMF loan, plunging large sectors of the Ecuadorian population into more misery.

    Besides, under wrong pretexts it allowed Moreno to apply neoliberal policies, all those that usually come as draconian conditions with IMF loans and that eventually benefit only a small elite in the country but allows western banking and corporations to further milk the countries social system.

    According to a 2017 report of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), an economic think-tank in Washington, Ecuador’s economy has done rather well under Rafael Correa’s 10-year leadership (2007 – 2017). The country has improved her key indicators significantly: Average annual GDP growth was 1.5% (0.6% past 26 years average); the poverty rate declined by 38%, extreme poverty by 47%, a multiple of poverty reduction of that in the previous ten years, thanks to a horizontally distributive growth; inequality (Gini coefficient) fell substantially, from 0.55 to 0.47; the government doubled social spending from 4.3% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2016; tripled education spending from 0.7% to 2.1% with a corresponding increase in school enrollments; increased public investments from 4% of GDP in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

    Now, Moreno is in the process of reversing these gains. Only six months after contracting the IMF loans, he has already largely succeeded. The public outcry can be heard internationally. Quito is besieged by tens of thousands of demonstrators, steadily increasing as large numbers, in the tens of thousands, of indigenous people are coming from Ecuador’s Amazon region and the Andes to Quito to voice their discontent with their traitor president. Government tyranny is rampant. Moreno declared a 60-day state of emergency with curfew and a militarized country. As a consequence, Moreno moved the Government Administration to Guayaquil and ordered one of the most severe police and military repressions Ecuador has ever known, resulting within ten days to at least 7 people killed, about 600 injured and approximately 1,000 people arrested.

    The protests are directed against the infamous Government Decree 883, that dictates major social reforms, including an increase in fuel prices by more than 100%, reflecting directly on public transportation, as well as on food prices; privatization of public services, bringing about untold layoffs, including some 23,000 government employees; an increase in Aggregated Value Taxes – all part of the so-called “paquetazo”, imposed by the IMF. Protesters called on Moreno, “Fuera asesino, fuera” – Get out, murderer, get out!  Will they succeed?

    The IMF’s guns are needlessly imposed debt, forced privatization of social services and public assets as railways, roads, and worst of all, health, education, water supply and sewerage services. Unemployment rises, extreme poverty skyrockets, public service tariffs – water, electricity, transportation – increase, often exponentially, depriving people from moving to work or look for new employment elsewhere. Diseases that otherwise may have been curable, like cancers, under the new regime lack medication. Patients die prematurely. Depression brings about rapidly rising suicide rates, as the British medical journal Lancet has observed in many IMF oppressed countries, but especially in Greece.

    Targeted are primarily those nations that do not want to bend to the dictate of Washington, and even more so those with natural resources the west covets, or countries that are in strategic geographic locations where NATO wants to establish itself or get a stronger foothold; i.e., Greece. The IMF is often helped by the World Bank. The former providing, or rather coercing, a ‘debt-strapped’ country into accepting so-called rescue packages, billions of dollars of loans, at exorbitant “high-risk” interest rates, with deadly strings attached.

    The latter, the WB, would usually come in with loans – also euphemistically called “blank checks” – to be disbursed against a matrix of fulfilled conditions, of economic reforms, privatizations. Again, all usually resulting in massive government layoffs, unemployment, poverty. In fact, both the IMF and the WB approaches are similar and often overlapping – imposing “structural adjustment” (now in disguise given different names), to steal a country’s resources, and sovereignty, by making them dependent on the very financial institutions that pretend to ‘help’ them.

    The three most recent and flagrant cases of IMF interference were Greece, Ukraine and Argentina. Greece was doubly destroyed, once by her brothers and sisters of the European non-Union that blackmailed them into staying with the euro, instead of exiting it and converting to their local currency and regaining financial sovereignty.

    Ukraine, possibly the richest country in terms of national resources and with an enormous agricultural potential due to her fertile soil, was “regime changed” by a bloody coup, The Maidan massacre in February 2014, instigated and planned by the CIA, the EU and NATO and carried out through the very US Embassy in Kiev. This was all long-term planning. Remember Victoria Nuland boasting that the US has spent more than 5 billion dollars over the past five year to bring about regime change and to convert Ukraine into a fully democratic country and making it ready to enter the European Union?

    The western allies put a Nazi Government into Kiev, created a “civil war” with the eastern Russia-aligned part of Ukraine, the Donbass. Thousands of people were killed, millions fled the country, mostly to Russia, the country’s debt went through the roof, and in comes the IMF, approving in December 2018 a 14-month Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine, with an immediate disbursement of US$ 1.4 billion. This is totally against the IMF’s own Constitution, because it does not allow lending to a country at war or conflict. Ukraine was an “exception”, dictated by the US. Blamed for the ever-changing and escalating Ukraine fiasco was Russia.

    Another IMF victim is Argentina. In December 2015 through fraudulent election, Washington put a neoliberal henchman into the Presidency, Mauricio Macri. He carried out economic and labor reforms by decree and within the first 12 months in office, increased unemployment and poverty from about 12% he inherited from his predecessor, Christine Kirchner, to over 30%.

    Within 15 years of Kirchner Governments, Argentina largely recovered from the collapse of 2000 / 2001 / 2002, accumulating a healthy reserve. There was no need to call the IMF to the rescue, except if it was a pre-condition for Macri to become president. In September 2018, Argentina contracted from the IMF the largest ever IMF loan of 57.1 billion dollars, to be disbursed over a three-year period, plunging Argentina in an almost irrecoverable debt situation.

    The Bretton Woods Organizations — World Bank and IMF — were created in 1944 precisely for that reason, to enslave the world, particularly the resources-rich countries. The purpose of these so-called international financial institutions, foresaw an absolute veto power of the United States, meaning they are doing the bidding of the US Treasury. They were created under the UN Charter for good disguise, and are to work hand-in-glove with the fiat monetary system created in 1913 by the Federal Reserve Act. The pretext was to monitor western “convertible” currencies that subscribed to the also newly modified gold standard (1 Troy ounce [31.1 grams] of gold = US$ 35), also established during the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944.

    Both organizations started lending money – the Marshall Fund, managed by the world Bank in the 1950s – to war devastated Europe, moving gradually into economic development of “Third World” countries, and eventually, in the 1980s, showing their evil heads by introducing the neoliberal doctrines of the Washington Consensus worldwide. It is a miracle how they get away with spewing so much misery, literally unopposed for the last 30 – 40 years, throughout the world. Why are they not stopped and dismantled?  The UN has 193 members; only a small proportion of them benefit from the IMF-WB financial crimes. Why does the vast majority, also potential victims, remain silent?

    Jeffrey Zwi Epstein Migdal


    The story of Jeffrey Epstein has lost its mystery as more and more commentators allow themselves to express the thought that it is a strong possibility that Epstein was connected to a crime syndicate affiliated with a Zionist political organisation or Israel and/or at least a few compromised intelligence agencies. Whitney Web and others have produced superb studies of possible scenarios, I would instead like to attack the topic from a cultural perspective. Epstein wasn’t the first Jewish sex trafficker. This seems like a good time to look back at Zwi Migdal, a Jewish global crime syndicate that operated a century ago and trafficked tens of thousands of Jewish women and under age girls as sex slaves. According to contemporary Jewish writer Giulia Morpurgo the Zwi Migdal had turned Argentina, “into a nightmare of prostitution and exploitation.”

    During the first three decades of the 20th century Argentina was a rich country. It outgrew Canada and Australia in population, total income, and per capita income. Just before the first world war Argentina was the world’s 10th wealthiest state per capita. When Argentina was a rich country, large parts of its economy, culture and politics were controlled by crime syndicates and particularly a Jewish organised crime apparatus named ‘Zwi Migdal.’

    In 2009 The International Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault (JCACA) published a comprehensive article about the Zwi Migdal titled Understanding the Zwi Migdal Society which I am about to quote from extensively.

    The Zwi Migdal, was an association of Jewish mobsters who were involved in the “sexual exploitation of Jewish women and children, which operated globally.” Apparently the Zwi Migdal originally picked a pretty innocent sounding name: “Warsaw Jewish Mutual Aid Society.” It does indeed sound almost as innocent, humane and charitable as ‘Anti Defamation League,’ ‘Jews against Breast Cancer,’ or even ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’  but the Warsaw Jewish Mutual Aid Society wasn’t innocent at all. It forced thousands of women and girls to become sex slaves and destroyed their lives.

    On May 7, 1906, the Jewish syndicate had to change its title after the Polish ambassador to Argentina filed an official complaint to the Argentine authorities regarding the use of the name ‘Warsaw.’ Clearly, the Polish government did not want to be associated with a Jewish crime syndicate. In that line, it would be appropriate to ask how long is it going to take before the American government  and its politicians insist that AIPAC drop its first ‘A’ or before The Neocon Project of the New American Century are ordered to drop American from their title.

    “Zwi Migdal means ‘strong power’ in Yiddish and it also honoured Zvi Migdal, known as Luis Migdal, one of the founders of the crime organization.”

    The Zwi Migdal organization operated from the 1860s to 1939. In its heyday, after the First World War, it had four hundred members in Argentina alone. Its annual turnover was fifty million dollars in the early 1900s.

    Unlike Epstein and Maxwell who allegedly recruited non-Jewish underage women, the Zwi Migdal specialised in trafficking Jewish women. “Most of the Jewish women and children who were kidnapped were taken from impoverished shtetls (Jewish small towns) and brought to Buenos Aires.”

    The recently released documents related to the Jeffrey Epstein affair suggest that Epstein and Maxwell were to be charged with child sex trafficking, and as the alleged procurer of underage girls. It seems none of that is really novel in the Jewish world: “The Zwi Migdal Society lured decent girls and young women from Europe in many inventive and deceitful ways.  A very well-mannered and elegant-looking man would appear in a poor Jewish village in places such as Poland or Russia.  He would advertise his search for young women to work in the homes of wealthy Jews in Argentina by posting an ad in the local synagogue.  Fearful of pogroms and often in desperate economic circumstances, the trusting parents would send their naïve daughters away with these men, hoping to give them a fresh start.”

    The last line recalls Virginia Giuffre’s account of her encounter with the elegant British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell  who allegedly lured her victims to ‘escape’ their misery.

    The JCACA continues “The girls, aged mostly 13 to 16, packed a small bag, bade their families farewell and boarded ships to Argentina, believing that they were on their way toward a better future. However, they soon learned the bitter truth. Their period of training as sex slaves, which began on the ship, was cruel and brutal. The young virgins were “broken in” ~ raped, beaten, starved and locked in cages.”

    The Zwi Migdal Organization reached its peak in the 1920s when some 430 rufianos, or pimps, controlled 2,000 brothels trafficking around 30.000 Jewish women and girls in Argentina alone. “The largest brothels of Buenos Aires housed 60 to 80 female sex slaves. There were brothels all over Argentina, but most of them were in the big city, in the Jewish quarter, on Junin Street.”

    Apparently “Prostitutes who failed to satisfy their clients were beaten, fined, or taken to work in provincial houses. Every business transaction was logged. The rufianos ‘held a meat market’ where newly arrived girls were paraded naked in front of traders in places such as Hotel Palestina or Cafe Parisienne.”

    One may wonder how all of that fit with Judaic tradition and Talmudic law. “In one brothel,” the ACACA reports,  “the Madam, an observant Jewish woman, would not let her women work on Fridays but instructed them herself in the art of lovemaking.”

    Many commentators on the Epstein affair are amazed by the incapacity of America’s law enforcement, legal system and federal agencies to bring justice to Epstein’s victims and its failure to lock him away. Once again, that is not new.   The JCACA writes of the Zwi Migdal criminality: “These activities went on undisturbed because they were frequented by government officials, judges, and reporters. City officials, politicians, and police officers were paid off. The pimps had powerful connections everywhere.”

    The Jewish community didn’t rush to save their abused daughters. “The prostitutes, who were mostly illiterate, destitute and despised by the mainstream Jewish community, banded together to form their own mutual-aid societies.” However, rarely, some Jewish ethnic activists stood for the abused women and girls. “One night Nahum Sorkin, a well-known Zionist activist, stood outside the theatre and physically stopped the rufianos (Jewish pimps) from entering. Next, they were banned from the synagogues, and to top it all, they were refused burial in the Jewish cemetery.”

    From Rachel  (Raquel) Lieberman to Virginia Roberts Giuffre 

    We learn that the rufianos’ audacity eventually led to their demise. “It happened when they refused to forgo their income from the work of one woman, Rachel Lieberman from Lódž, Poland. She, like so many others, was tempted to travel to Buenos Aires answering a matrimonial ad, but was taken to Jonin Street where she was forced to prostitute.”

    “After five years she had enough money to go into the antique furniture business to support herself and her sons but the rufianos made it impossible for her. They did not want her to set an example for their other slaves. But this woman had not been broken.”

    As was the case for Virginia Giuffre, it needed brave Rachel to come forward.

    In desperation, Rachel Lieberman “contacted Superintendent Julio Elsogray. She had heard his name mentioned on the street as one who would not take Zwi Migdal’s money and was actually looking for ways to destroy the organization. She slipped into his office one day and gave a detailed account of the connections among the various pimps in the organization management.

    Her testimony led to an extensive investigation. The findings reached Dr. Rodriguez Ocampo, a judge who would not take Zwi Migdal bribes either.

    The lengthy trial ended in September 1930, with 108 detainees. “The very existence of the Zwi Migdal Organization directly threatens our society,” the judge wrote in his verdict, handing down long prison terms.”

    As with Epstein and his mobsters friends, things changed quickly and not in favour of justice let alone guided by ethical principles. The Zwi Migdal mobsters were at least as well connected as Epstein to politicians, judges and prosecutors. “While in prison, the pimps pulled some old strings, appealed their sentences in January 1931, and senior Justice Ministry officials left only three of the convicts in jail, discharging the rest.”

    As was the case with The Miami Herald’s Julie Brown and many of us in the alternative media who didn’t allow the rottenEpstein  and his pedophile ring’s crimes to be shoved under the carpet, the 1930s Argentinian media didn’t agree to turn a blind eye to the Jewish syndicate’s impunity.

    When the media reported the release of the Zwi Migdal’s mobsters from jail, “the public was very upset and pressured the authorities to reverse the discharge decision. Thereafter, hundreds of pimps were deported to Uruguay. “Over the years, they slowly returned one by one, but the era of the huge brothels ended.”

    The JCACA sums up the Zwi Migdal saga by stating that the Jewish crime syndicate was “an organization that traded in women while its members wore tefillin (a Jewish religious garment)  and built themselves a synagogue.” I guess the same can be said about Epstein’s ring. They may not be religious, they may not wear Tefillin but they are self identified Jewish Zionists who donate to Israel and vocally support Israel’s criminal  politics.

    The JCACA proclaims that the Zwi Migdal’s “history is an embarrassment to all decent Jews. It involved loads of money, corrupt politicians, violent sex, international women trade, hard brutality, rape, and cheating, all lightly spiced with yiddishkeit and God-fearing traditions. Among those traditions, according to Jewish beliefs as expressed in the Torah, is that it is perfectly fine to keep slaves so long as they are not Jewish. Yet these Zwi Migdal also enslaved Jewish girls and a great many who ran the bordellos were Jewish women.” 

    I find myself admitting that except for Benjamin Netanyahu who denounced Ehud Barak for his ties with Epstein for political opportunist reasons, I have yet to see a single Jewish organisation express any embarrassment in regard to Epstein and his sex trafficking operation. On the contrary, Epstein’s lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, announced that he is actually a victim of the #metoo movement. He  also occasionally insists that Jews should never apologise for using their strength. Maxwell has kept quiet. Wexner has yet to apologise. Like Dershowitz, he adopted the victim path announcing that Epstein ‘misappropriated’ a few shekels from his family and he regret being associated with the sex trafficker. JVP that cares so much for Palestinians must be slightly less bothered by Guiffre’s plight.  I am left wondering, is it the fact that Zwi Migdal abused Jewish women and girls that provoked Jewish discomfiture? I guess that, at least for the time being, it seems as if Jews do not posses the cultural or psychological means to look refectively into Epstein and his ring. The only question left open is whether the FBI has the cojones to do its job.

    Venezuela Diary: January 24 to February 23, 2019

    Below is a diary, edited slightly for style and clarity, directly from Facebook posts of mine from January 24, 2019 through the culminating day — for now — of Saturday, February 23, 2019 when the US propaganda whirlwind and concerted campaign caught up with the political realities on the ground. Although I have not been a regular user of Facebook, resisting the entreaties of friends, in this period I found it a compelling vehicle to follow, speak out, and get feedback on the Trump Administration-led drive for a military coup and the accompanying propaganda build-up.

    Trump and bipartisan Washington have been forced into a political climb-down for now, leaving the Duque and Bolsonaro governments, not to speak of Juan Guaidó, twisting in the wind. Unfortunately, this only slows down Washington’s efforts at regime change. These are fueled by the Venezuelan capitalist economic and financial crisis which is set to deepen considerably with new US sanctions and US seizures of Venezuela’s significant assets in the United States. Venezuela and the United States have broken off diplomatic relations, with Washington recognizing its client Guaidó as the sovereign Venezuelan government.

    The month chronicled here is nevertheless a marker not only for Venezuela, but also for the coming period of intensifying social and class polarization and struggles across the Americas, including inside the United States.

    *****

    January 24

    The Donald Trump White House, amid all its other domestic and international crises, is mounting a concerted effort to overthrow the Venezuelan sovereign government. This is Washington’s greatest regime-change effort since the 2002-04 failed coup and the oil bosses and bureaucrats “strike” period.

    This takes place amid a devastating economic crisis in Venezuela stemming from a collapse in oil and raw-materials commodity prices in world capitalist markets and US-backed economic sabotage by Venezuela’s capitalist class and large landowners. Trump, Vice-President Pence, and National Security Advisor John Bolton are working with the rightist regime of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and other conservative governments in Latin America to delegitimize and overturn the Nicolas Maduro government. The mass generation of migrants and refugees are disrupting and deepening social and political crises in a number of Latin American governments already reeling from mounting economic and financial crises and political polarization.

    These anti-Venezuela policies, despite the otherwise highly contentious polarization of US electoral politics, have broad bipartisan support in both big-business parties in the US. The big-business press in the US has painted a broad canvas of half-truths and disinformation that distorts Venezuelan reality, hoping to create favorable conditions for stepped-up Washington subversion and direct intervention. This effort aims to draft Latin American governments as servile covers and lackeys for Yankee intervention.

    Who says there’s never any “bipartisan” agreement in Washington! They all agree on trying to overturn the sovereign Venezuelan government. How to do it, however, is another question. Let’s see how “radical” and courageous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is when and if she takes a position on the bipartisan assault on Venezuelan sovereignty. Pretty disgusting segment about Venezuela on Chris Hayes’s MSNBC cable show tonight. Towing the Washington line. No mention of any of the massive mobilizations in defense of the Venezuelan government. Some anxiety was expressed about the consequences of US escalation. Barely repressed anger at Mexico for not joining the lynch mob!

    January 27, 2019

    Any overt US aggression against Venezuela will open up a Hemispheric Pandoras Box of incalculable, unintended consequences for Trump-Bolton-Abrams-Pompeo-Pence, backed, with some anxiety, by 90% of the Democrats in Congress.

    The Trump White House and State Department are overplaying a weak political hand. I suspect we will soon see fissures and splits within the bullshit united front of conservative and reactionary LA governments that are lining up as shameless lackeys of Washington.

    January 29, 2019

    In Venezuela we are seeing the unfolding of a “virtual coup,” that is, Washington – and, so far, it is solidly bipartisan –  is working hard, with full RAH-RAH-RAH from the media oligopolies, to flood the zone with full-throttle propaganda and hope and pray that it becomes the reality. Do they actually believe their bullshit? Some do, some don’t. But the actual reality on the ground is that counter-mobilizations are mounting and there is no dynamic that is about to put Guaidó in power. There is no path right now for Trump and his forward team of Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Abrams to carry out military aggression against Venezuela (or Cuba) through either the UN or the OAS. They have the political cover, for now, of an eclectic gang of elected reactionary and conservative governments, but how solid will that be through an actual, overt Yankee aggression, which you can be certain will lead to fierce Venezuelan resistance and a political explosion across the Americas, including in the United States.

    12:12 PM

    From CNN:

    Guaidó also said he had spoken with Donald Trump a number of times…when asked about a possible military option in Venezuela, Guaidó said the US president had told him all options were on the table.

    So here you have this guy coordinating with Trump and, you can be sure, all the others (Pence-Pompeo-Bolton-Abrams) on the mechanics, tactics, political viability, etc. for a direct Yankee aggression. And he held up a picture of Simon Bolivar at his “inauguration”!!

    5:06 PM

    It’s not helpful to view events unfolding in Venezuela and Washington through the subjective prism of one’s “optimism” or “pessimism,” regarding the capacities or limits of the Maduro-PSUV government. Rather we must try to be objective and grasp the class relationship of forces – from within and between both sides. Clearly Washington is openly moving to create the political conditions for an overt act of military aggression, that is, some sort of strike or assault. Can this be avoided through organizing a successful military coup from inside the country? But, if not, and the Venezuelan military and top officer corps and soldiers defend the Maduro government, then any direct US military strike (in coordination with the Colombian military at least logistically) means a clash with the Venezuelan military. It is necessary to try and think through what the political consequences of that will be – in the Americas and in the world.

    Morally this a first-class imperialist monstrosity, but as someone who lived through and struggled against the Reagan-era bipartisan US government crimes and lies…What else is new?

    January 30

    When controlled forces are set in motion, uncontrolled forces are also unleashed.

    — Frederick Engels

    Because the Trump White House, Bolsonaro’s already-off-to-a-difficult-start government in Brazil, the Duque regime in Colombia (already trying to distance itself from Bolton’s “note-pad” provocation about US troops in the country) and their lackeys in the Canadian and EU governments have not created the political (or logistical) conditions for a US-led invasion or a US-organized direct military assault, they are striving hard to do so through a ubiquitous, but IMO, pretty crude and non-resonating, propaganda and even psychological warfare effort.

    Canadian imperialism and the EU capitalist bloc have put aside for the moment their fierce trade and tariff battles and wide-ranging “geopolitical” clashes (Iran, climate change) to present a touching display of advanced capitalist unity for “democracy” and “human rights” in Venezuela, that is, in Marxist translation: a campaign to bring into power a reliable and pliable neocolonial dependency in Venezuela (which BTW has a lot of oil!). Of course, within them and between them, they have large tactical and political differences on what to do next in Venezuela or what comes after they do what they don’t yet agree to do.

    It seems as if the Maduro government is taking some serious steps to politically burst the Guaidó balloon. Every day shows Guaidó to be a stooge and front for Trump and his four little piggies  (Pence-Bolton-Pompeo-Abrams) in particular and Washington in general. He is openly coordinating with them as he doesn’t even bother to hide. The situation is demanding radical economic, financial, social, and political measures to defend the nation’s sovereignty and the rights and space for the working class.

    February 3

    Just finished a very “party-line” article in today’s New York Times which painted an egregiously one-sided account of yesterday’s mass mobilizations of the opposition in Venezuela, while relegating to an afterthought or footnote the mass counter-mobilizations in defense of national sovereignty  and against Yankee intervention. Guaidó has openly sided with Trump’s offensive and the Times interviews at the opposition mobilization (which remain confined to affluent neighborhoods) portray a clamoring for deliverance by the US government and military by any means necessary, preferably a military coup. No one should doubt for a nanosecond that this would not lead to massacres of workers and socialists. Very democratically carried out, of course!

    I maintain that the class-political relationship of forces remains far short of what is needed to carry out a military coup (although you can be sure US agents are seriously on the ground in Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil working overtime on logistics, bribery, and every means of subversion in their considerable arsenal to facilitate a coup) let alone a direct US-Colombian-Brazilian military strike or assault.

    The reports and videos I’m reading and seeing point to growing mobilizations on the side of the Maduro government and a definite diplomatic muddle, especially in the Americas and the UN, that has slowed down and created political obstacles to a Trump-Bolton war drive, which Trump is fulminating over with a weak political hand in the US and internationally.

    I think the most likely scenario is a short-term political semi-debacle for Washington. But again this poses sharply the need for radical financial, economic, and social measures to stop and reverse the economic depression in Venezuela.

    February 4

    Reading the New York Times page 1 long article by Ernesto Londono (whose articles and editorials in the Times several years ago were influential in the shift and retreat, under Obama, to freeing the remaining Cuban 5 revolutionaries, restoring Washington-Havana diplomatic relations, and removing Cuba from the bullshit terrorism list) on Juan Guaidó, it struck me that if propaganda alone could change the course of events and history, then this article would do the trick.

    For all the shilling and pumping and polishing, Londono cannot simply write Guaidó into the Miraflores Palace.

    The operative part of the fawning piece – a day-in-the-life of the dashing young “democratic” “anti-authoritarian” “right-man-for-the-right-moment” who is about to take a call from none other than…wait for the drum role…Justin Trudeau…how thrilling! – is this more sobering passage:

    Oil sanctions imposed by the United States last week will soon strangle the country’s already-devastated economy, which will likely cause shortages of fuel and make food and medicine even more scarce.

    Bracing for the destabilizing effects of the sanctions, Mr. Guaidó and his allies in the international community said they intended to start pumping humanitarian aid into the country this week. Doing so would undermine Mr. Maduro, who recently scoffed at the prospect by saying ‘We’re not a nation of beggars.”

    Mr. Guaidó and his allies see the coming week, and the arrival of aid, as a potential make-or-break moment for a movement that has stirred hope for millions of Venezuelans, but has yet to take steps that meaningfully improve their lives.

    Like I said, if spin and propaganda alone were enough to catapult Guaidó into power, then articles like this would suffice.

    There is a particularly ominous paragraph in Londono’s dispatch that points to the extremely high stakes at hand for the workers’ movement and socialist-minded Venezuelans – consciously many, many millions of people – if Washington and its Venezuelan lackeys drive through a military coup or, through a US-led invasion, install a pro-Washington regime:

    Even if the armed forces were to throw their weight behind Mr. Guaidó, which would almost certainly spell the end of Mr. Maduro’s reign, Mr. Guaidó said he was worried about the actions of the paramilitary forces that would likely to stay loyal to Mr. Maduro.

    ‘We cannot allow that to proliferate,’ he said, drawing a parallel with the struggle neighboring Colombia has faced from guerrilla and paramilitary groups over the years. ‘It could portend very serious consequences, even in the short term.’

    Clearly Washington and Guaidó anticipate that a serious bloodletting will be necessary. The social and class forces that would post-coup hold unfettered “executive” power in Venezuela have been thirsting for revenge for the limits placed on their class prerogatives by the hated Chavistas for 20 years. And once these things get rolling the dynamic is unstoppable for a definite period while the blood of the workers and the oppressed flows freely; e.g., China 1927, Spain 1938, Indonesia 1964, Chile 1973 and so on.

    February 6

    As push comes to shove in Venezuela, the inability of Trump and his team on point – Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Abrams – to force the collapse of the Maduro government through propaganda and the forging of a (very shaky) united front of the most developed capitalist states (the former lords of a once-colonized world) is apparent.

    A military coup greased with copious amounts of Yankee cash has not materialized so far. Recent pro-Yankee, pro-military coup mobilizations in Venezuela have been smaller and more confined to affluent neighborhoods. Counter-mobilizations are growing and appeals to national sovereignty are resonating.

    The exposure of open coordination between Guaidó and the Trump White House is shaking up Latin American politics and class polarization in Venezuela.

    Of course, the point now for Washington is to “turn the screws” and “make the economy howl” (as Nixon and Kissinger put it in the period leading to the 1973 coup in Chile). And to dangle “humanitarian aid” as a cover for military intervention in the service of a military coup that would necessarily be exceedingly bloody and brutal.

    The Maduro government has inconveniently refused to capitulate and even accurately pointed out that direct US (with or without Colombian partnership) military intervention will meet military and popular resistance and a potential “Vietnam in Latin America.”

    Therefore, we are starting to see a shift in the tone in leading bourgeois mouthpieces such as the New York Times towards the “negotiations” track as a way to achieve their goal of replacing Maduro with a more reliable and pliable government in place in Venezuela. They seem to think this can clear the obstacles to profitable investments and ramping up production in a privatized and capitalized oil industry there. And be a new base, with Brazil, Colombia (and Argentina if Macri holds on) to carry out a continental neoliberal anti-working class austerity assault and bury the “Left Keynesian” legacy of the so-called “pink tide.” Military threats are always “on the table” as a permanent factor in bipartisan Washington’s political goal of consolidating its political and economic position in Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean after a period of political retreat.

    Anyway…that is what Trump and almost all Democratic elected officials want. What they will get is class struggle, the rise of continental national liberation consciousness, and social revolution.

    More and more Washington and the big-business media lapdogs are trying to frame the situation in terms of “geopolitical” lineups and intrigue and the narrative of the benevolent “democratic West” against demonic Russia, authoritarian China, Iran, Turkey, and, let’s never forget the “source of the problem” (as Reagan’s Pompeo-Bolton, one Alexander Haig, put in in the 1980s when Washington grappled with a revolutionary upsurge in Central America) revolutionary and socialist Cuba. This is a cover, a framing they are more comfortable with. They are, as Ho Chi Minh put it, “throwing dust in your eyes.”

    February 10

    I have to say that this anti-Venezuela operation is one of the most poorly rolled out and tactically inept coup attempts in memory. Guaidó has (rather stupidly on his part I think) brazenly identified himself with Trump and is openly coordinating with Yankee power. He even says he is considering “authorizing” US military intervention. This does not help him inside Venezuela or in Latin America.

    Already one unintended consequence seems to be giving a boost to militant workers and Chavista cadres in economically devastated barrios to defend national sovereignty and counter-mobilize. Pompeo, Bolton, and Abrams evidently thought that by now they would have split the Venezuelan army and won decisive elements to commit to the violent movement of troops to seize Miraflores and arrest or kill Maduro. That didn’t happen. Perhaps they thought the barrage of sophistry and one-sided propaganda would cause the Maduro government to melt down and surrender. That also hasn’t happened.

    It seems apparent that whatever momentum Washington was manufacturing has now slowed down, although they did put together a shaky front of Latin American conservative governments, Trudeau in Canada,, and some European governments together to endorse helicoptering Guaidó, a protégé of the violent, coup veteran Leopoldo Lopez, into power. They are left with tightening sanctions to the point of forcing real hunger and starvation or an actual invasion. The first would be a political disaster and I don’t think they are ready for the second.

    The Venezuelan working class must now use this time to get production and distribution going. Food production must be increased. Real land reform would point to this imperative.

    February 13

    I understand Trump and Colombian President Duque are meeting today. I imagine accompanying meetings with Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Abrams will take place. I’d sure like to be a bug on those walls.

    Their discussions will undoubtedly lead to some public bombast against Venezuela and Cuba, but in reality they have to manage a shift and retreat flowing from facts such as Maduro’s survival, the strength of working-class counter-mobilizations, the fiasco of their “humanitarian aid” campaign which is viewed disdainfully by UN bodies, and the growing jitteriness of their NATO allies who voluntarily were strong-armed all aboard the Yankee Intervention Express against sovereign Venezuela. I would also add the modest but growing protests in the US and worldwide. These would mushroom if there were an overt move of US aggression with a coup attempt.

    February 14

    Today’s New York Times has a piece on what is shaping up as an unfolding US political debacle around the so-called “humanitarian aid” supposedly waiting “delivery” at a Colombian-Venezuelan border. Despite the Times  reporter’s best effort to spin around the obvious, it’s clear that this was not working  politically for Washington, Guaidó, or the right-wing Duque government in Colombia. They can’t seem to find any reputable NGO-charity to collaborate with them. The International Red Cross, the UN, and the Catholic Church charity Caritas are all declining to be identified with the US political campaign under the State Department’s Agency for International Development. Actually they all feel rather insulted by it. “We will not be participating in what is, for us, not humanitarian aid,” stated Colombia’s International Red Cross spokesperson.

    The Times reports:

    [The opposition’s] goal was to bring the supplies into Venezuela, forcing a confrontation with Mr. Maduro, who has refused to help. This would cast Mr. Maduro in a bad light, opposition leaders said, and display their ability to set up a government-like relief system in a nation where the crumbling economy has left many starving, sick, and without access to medicine.

    But there was no dramatic confrontation.

    Instead Mr. Maduro’s administration erected a crude, but effective blockade across the border bridge with Colombia. The move brought the relief effort to a halt, and left the opposition and its leader, Juan Guaidó, at a standstill, aware that each passing day dampens its considerable momentum toward winning the trust of Venezuelans and the recognition of other governments. A delay could also mean reverting back to the status quo, in which Mr. Maduro retains control.

    Every day it becomes clearer that Trump’s Washington gang, with Pelosi’s backing, has run into political and logistical obstacles that is creating – only some, and only for now!) time and space for the Maduro government and Venezuelan working-class fighters to begin to take the offensive politically against coup supporters and, more importantly, to implement the radical measures to contain and reverse the economic, food, and medicine crises.

    Imperialism will be unrelenting even as it is forced to reel itself back some.

    February 17

    When it comes to Venezuela coverage in the New York Times and the entirety of the national media oligopolies, one must develop skills of “reading between the lines.” Whatever useful facts that are there have to be extracted carefully like gold from river sand.

    Today’s Times piece is put on page 13 and is focused on the “humanitarian aid” scheme that is, as the author Ernesto Londono puts it, the “cornerstone of the quest to oust President Nicolas Maduro.” The article registers, in its smarmy way, the mounting political crisis of US policy under Trump (backed by Nancy Pelosi).

    It seems evident that this “cornerstone,” actually the spearhead to create the political and logistical conditions for direct military aggression as a necessary lever for a military coup, is not working out so well so far. In fact, it has the makings of a political debacle. (That is BTW why the article is on page 13; you can be certain it would be front page if the overall campaign were advancing more smoothly.)

    So the Times now has to rationalize this deteriorating political reality on the ground, that is: 1. The Maduro government has not surrendered to the US-led campaign to murder it and put in a pro-US neocolonial regime headed by Guaidó; 2. The Venezuelan army in general, and the officer corps in particular, have not moved to coordinate with Washington and Bogota to take power in a coup (a coup that would necessarily be an exceedingly bloody affair, that would immediately have to carry out massive repression). In fact, the Venezuelan army is on high alert and mobilizing at key crossings along the Colombian border to counter US-Colombian provocations.

    Anyone who thinks this Keystone Cops effort at violent regime change can be successfully implemented in Venezuela relying on psychological warfare; over-the-top propaganda overflowing with world-class hypocrisy; or photo ops and unctuous words of concern from a US government that humiliates and brutalizes refugees and children fleeing US-propped up gangster regimes in Honduras and Guatemala, has no grip on the realities of Venezuelan and Latin American politics for the last 20 years.

    So how does the Times explain this self-made unfolding political crisis facing the Trump Administration and the foolish lackeys they have dragged behind them – from the Lima Group to the shameful posture of Trudeau and Freeland in Canada, the hanging-on-by-its-fingernails Tory government in the UK, the hated Macron government in France, and other EU governments and NATO allies who have touchingly put aside their clashes over trade and tariffs, climate change, and relations with Iran to “unite” and gang up on Venezuela.

    I don’t think this is going to end well politically for any of them.

    The “chief reason” Londono reports for the failure to oust Maduro in a military coup “is the enormous amount of money the country’s more than 2,000 generals stand to lose in a post-Maduro era,’ Adm. Craig S. Faller, the head of the United States Southern Command, said in an interview.”

    Faller is in Rio de Janiero in Brazil meeting and coordinating regime-change efforts with his “counterparts” from the Jair Bolsonaro regime.

    The Times then allows Faller to assert and repeat old US slanders that predate Trump that, “There are a lot of generals and a lot of leaders on Maduro’s illicit payroll through illicit drug trafficking, money laundering, and any number of businesses in the oil industry. Maduro has bought their loyalty.”

    Furthermore, “The United States military has concluded that more than 1,000 Cuban military and intelligence advisers, working with the Russian government, have been instrumental in keeping the top echelons of the Venezuelan military loyal to Maduro,” Faller pulls out of his hat.

    Now we know for sure that Washington and its agents on the ground have endless amounts of cash, privileges, condos in Miami, and all manner of blandishments to buy off and corrupt these generals that are supposedly already mired in drug trafficking, money laundering, and private profit-taking from oil and other businesses. Does the Maduro government, dealing with economic depression, have deeper pockets to buy “loyalty” than the US government, its vast intelligence apparatus flush with cash, or private US capital drooling at the prospect of the good-old-days before Chavez, especially in oil.

    These obvious rationalizations are really pathetic. If Washington and its regional lackeys make the decision to provoke some incident at the border under the pretext of delivering aid to “starving” Venezuelan people, then I hope at least some “advisers” are telling the Trump “team” that the Venezuelan army and working people will fight and fight hard. Washington will learn again that it is easier to start a war than to escape its political consequences and get out of it.

    February 18

    February 23 is set up as the day Guaidó has promised to “deliver” the phony “humanitarian aid” across Venezuela’s sovereign borders by land and sea. We also know from Cuban and other reports that the US government is moving military forces around the region and, in any case, Washington already has military bases inside Colombia. So we will see on Saturday, February 23 how much of the “line” between provocation and actual military aggression will be crossed….

    February 19

    Trump gave an extremely bellicose and threatening speech in Miami yesterday as part of the propaganda buildup to this Saturday’s Yankee-Guaidó promise to “deliver” the “humanitarian aid” that is the cover and spearhead for military provocation aimed at setting in motion a dynamic leading to the collapse of the Maduro-PSUV government. The speech ratcheted up considerably direct threats against revolutionary Cuba.

    The speech doubled down on the Trump-Bolton “strategy” that seems to think it can just huff-and-puff and scare the Venezuelan government and working people into surrender. But today’s New York Times article makes clear that for all the threats and bluster, particularly aimed at the Venezuelan military officer corps, the political obstacles to translating this stunt into actual regime change and a military coup, are, if anything, deepening.

    The Times piece sums up the Trump gang’s “logic:”

    If Mr. Maduro’s stranglehold on the food and medicine supply can be broken, and he can be shown to have lost control of the border, his legitimacy as the country’s president will weaken, the reasoning goes. If the military can be convinced to not stand between the Venezuelan population and the humanitarian aid, he may fall.

    Trump has no partners for this border stunt among legitimate humanitarian aid organizations such as the International Red Cross or UN bodies.

    The Times piece continues:

    On the Venezuelan side, the government has amassed soldiers, militiamen, armored vehicles, and even missiles. On the Colombian side sit news camera crews and trucks full of supplies. Richard Branson, the British billionaire, has invited a lineup of Latin American musicians to perform an aid concert on Friday night.

    The Trump-led “strategy” has boxed Washington into a political corner where they must either push forward and carry out reckless military adventurism or manage a climb-down and retreat that gives the Maduro-PSUV government time and space to organize genuine international aid and supplies (which is already happening); further isolate Washington politically in Latin America where anti-Yankee intervention actions are starting. Political pressure is bound to increase on the “Lima Group” governments collaborating with Washington.

    At any rate, bloodcurdling speeches against “socialism” and promises to create a Hemisphere “free of socialism” to the Gusano International in Miami will not do the trick!

    February 21

    Important piece in today’s Financial Times. Propaganda slant and buzzwords aside, it shows that military and popular resistance to Yankee-led provocations on the border is being organized, mobilized, and deployed on the ground (and on the seas).

    On this 54th Anniversary of his assassination:

    Long Live the Memory, Ideas, and Example of Brother Malcolm X!

    February 22 9:00 AM

    The countdown is beginning for the Saturday weekend political confrontation between Washington and its allies, including the pro-imperialist opposition inside Venezuela, and the Venezuelan government and its allies. Events are unfolding concretely in real time. What is shaping up is bound to be a turning point not only in Venezuela but across the Caribbean, Central America, and Latin America. The direction and dynamics of bipartisan US policy – and its suppressed fissure lines within and between Democrats and Republicans – is being posed sharply with these events and what happens this weekend on the ground.

    From today’s Washington Post:

    Maduro on Thursday ordered the closure of the border with Brazil and weighed sealing the border with Colombia…as his government scrambled to respond to the planned Saturday operation. Venezuela’s National Institute of Civil Aviation issued an order grounding private jet traffic nationwide. Commercial flights were still operating, though Air France said it would cancel flights to Caracas through Monday, given the heightened tensions.

    US bellicose threats are mounting. Admiral Craig Faller, head of the US Southern Command blustered, “This message is for the Venezuelan military: You will ultimately be responsible for your actions. Do the right thing. Save your country and your people.”

    Faller was just repeating Trump’s arrogant threats to the Venezuelan officer corps and did so after meeting with the leader of Colombia’s armed forces. Meanwhile, the conservative Colombian government appears to be trying to distance themselves from US military intervention to facilitate a military coup. And there is just no way Washington can carry such a scheme off without the intimate coordination of Colombia and Brazil. This is a big problem for Trump and Pelosi’s Washington.

    Another big problem politically is the opposition of credible large-scale international humanitarian aid organizations to the US State Department’s shameful provocation obviously tied to regime change.

    From the Washington Post:

    “In an apparent bid to counter international criticism of turning away the aid – provided by the United States and other countries advocating for Maduro’s ouster – Maduro’s vice president Delcy Rodriguez, said the government on Thursday a list of medicines the country needed for ‘humanitarian assistance.’ Maduro also announced that 7.5 tons of medical supplies had arrived Thursday from Russia and the Pan American Health Organization.”

    Additionally, I’ve read that China is also part of the real humanitarian aid effort with many more tons in the pipelines. Cuba is, of course, strongly involved in the overall effort. All of this aid will be handled by legitimate aid organizations who are on the ground inside Venezuela.

    10:51 AM

    Just saw a hopelessly one-sided report on CNN shamelessly parroting the US propaganda line on Venezuela under the cover of crocodile tears over the reality that the Maduro government seems to have effectively countered the Yankee moves over the “delivery” of the State Department’s “humanitarian aid.”

    These mouthpieces of US imperialism would have us believe that the US government that expedited mass murder, starvation, and cholera for civilians in Yemen; that brutalizes refugees from Central America that are seeking humanitarian and political asylum as they flee US-backed and sustained gangster neocolonial states; that has supported every blood-soaked tyranny in the Americas since before I was born (and I’m an old man!)…that THIS TIME they really care.

    11:17 AM

    The Trump State Department’s bogus humanitarian aid of supposedly “$20 million” contrasts with the devastating effects of the latest US sanctions and seizures of Venezuelan assets that will dwarf many times over the alleged $20 million. It reminds me of a recurrent tactic of Cocaine King Pablo Escobar who would dedicate a hospital somewhere out of his huge drug trafficking profits to show what a great humanitarian and philanthropist he was! I wonder if he had a wing or two set aside for drug addicts.

    10:53 PM

    The Trump State Department has dispatched veteran war criminal Elliot Abrams to the Colombian border to “support the delivery of humanitarian aid to some of the most vulnerable people in Venezuela in response to Interim President Guaido’s request.” The Washington Post writes: “Abrams spoke to a crowd near the border Friday, promising that the Maduro government would eventually fall.” (my emphasis)

    The Post also quoted a veteran US Latin American diplomat who worried about the Trump gangs “impatience.” She said, “It isn’t happening fast enough for them, there aren’t enough defections…”

    “Eventually” sounds like Abrams is conceding that it will not be anytime soon. Abrams may end up as Wile E. Coyote (for those too young to remember the Road Runner cartoon reference look it up on YouTube).

    Here we go!

    Saturday, February 23

    First conclusions from Saturday’s clashes:

    The Colombian army did not accompany the US State Department “humanitarian aid” across the border and thereby avoided clashes with the Venezuelan army. Of course, they have allowed the whole Yankee circus to be staged from their territory. The same for the Brazilian army.

    The political failure of the US border exercise supervised by “commanders” Rubio and Abrams on the ground was deepened by their inability to get backing or collaboration from any reputable international aid groups. They got denounced instead.

    From the February 23 New York Times: “Getting the aid in would be a symbolic victory and signal Mr. Maduro’s loosening grip on power.” They expected Maduro to surrender. Now they will settle for a “loosening grip.”

    “Despite a handful of defections, the country’s National Guard has so far not deserted Mr. Maduro en masse as the opposition had hoped.” They hoped?!

    In an online update the Times later reported:

    As the day progressed, some of the humanitarian aid pierced Mr. Maduro’s blockade – one truck got through on a remote section of the border with Brazil – but most of it did not. And although a few members of the security forces defected, Mr. Guaido’s hope [there’s that eternally springing hope again] that the armed forces would step aside and even join his flag-waving supporters did not come to pass.

    How utterly pathetic! One truck got through on a remote section of the border with Brazil!! That should become very interesting when the vehicle runs low on gas.

    This is political humiliation and logistical fiasco. Clearly the Duque and Bolsonaro governments are nowhere near ready to use their armies to accompany Guaidó’s US-backed staged adventurism on the borders.

    And, leaving this debacle in the hands of Rubio and Abrams, Trump is heading off to the beautiful city of Hanoi, capital of a unified, independent Vietnam, for a much anticipated meeting with North Korean (DPRK) leader Kim Jong Un. The only way he can bring anything – in terms of actual nuclear weapons dismantling – that he can present-spin as a personal “victory” from the DPRK would be to ease US sanctions (and maybe sign a formal peace treaty to great fanfare legally ending the Korean War). Trump is being pressured to do so by both Koreas as well as China. It is what the North has said all along must happen for them to “denuclearize.” But the idea that while all of this is going on, with huge international stakes, he is going to be able to rely on Colombia, Brazil, and Juan Guaidó to go to WAR against a mobilizing Venezuelan army and popular militia forces just does not compute at this point.

    This particular imperialist campaign to put in power a neocolonial government that will crush the Chavistas, break with revolutionary, socialist Cuba, and open up the oil industry to US and private capital – the most serious effort since 2002-04 – has failed and if you read this morning’s Times clearly the momentum and dynamics has shifted away from Trump and his agents and lackeys. For now.

    Guaido is now stewing in Colombia. Trump is headed to Hanoi. Pence is meeting with Duque to assess the debacle. Rubio and Abrams are in command of a few truck parks. And Maduro is addressing mass anti-coup mobilizations and is likely to be politically rewarded.

    Time and space have been gained by the PSUV government to get genuine humanitarian aid flowing on a mass scale – which has begun – and, concurrently, to carry out radical and decisive social and economic measures to stem and reverse the economic crisis and the deepening effects of US sanctions and seizures of Venezuelan state assets in the United States.

    Argentina: Is the IMF Intervention helped by HAARP?

    HAARP – the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program – was initiated as an ionospheric research program, established in 1993 in Gakona, Alaska and operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. It was and is funded by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Its alleged purpose “was to analyze the ionosphere and investigate the potential for developing ionospheric enhancement technology for radio communications and surveillance. HAARP is a high-power, high-frequency transmitter used for study of the ionosphere.”

    That is the official version. HAARP was supposed to be shut down in May 2014, but then it was decided that the facility would be transferred to the University of Alaska. In reality, this sophisticated research project, owned by the military, and most probably with CIA hands in it, is continuing in some secret location, working on “ionospheric enhancement technologies”, to be used to influence weather patterns – in fact, to weaponize weather.

    The first known occasion when the US air force used high power, high frequency transmitters, was to influence the intensity and duration of the monsoon during the Vietnam war in the 1960s. The idea was to render the transition of the Vietcong from North to South Vietnam on their jungle paths more difficult or impossible through extended heavy rains. To what extent this attempt was successful is not known.

    However, since then, research has evolved and it is now possible to influence weather patterns throughout the world. In other words, to create droughts, floods, storm, hurricanes – wherever such weather phenomena are convenient for the purposes of empire and its vassals. Talk about man-made climate change. Imagine the amount of money that can be generated by such unsuspicious weather modifications – let alone the amount of human suffering, famine, despair – chaos, economic collapse – eventually entire segments of populations can be wiped out. And all will be attributed to ‘climate change’, which are claimed to be man-made due to our civilization’s excessive CO2 emissions. Man-made – indeed!

    Extensive and prolonged changes in weather patterns can have devastating economic impacts. The Pampas, stretching over some 750,000 km2, is one of South America’s most fertile region, covering Argentina’s norther tier from the Atlantic to the Andes and also all of Uruguay and part of southern Brazil. The area was struck in 2017 / 2018 by one of the harshest droughts in the last 10 years, severely curtailing Argentina’s main staple – wheat, corn, soybean and beef. Argentina is the world’s third largest exporter of soybean and corn.

    Argentina was counting on record agricultural yields that would contribute significantly to the expected 3.5% GDP growth in 2018. Instead, 2018 agricultural exports are expected to be reduced by some US$ 3.5 billion. This is expected to result in a cut of GDP growth by at least 1% to 1.5%, not counting agriculture-related industries that will suffer losses, many of which may have to close and thereby also increasing unemployment and human misery.

    The neoliberal Mauricio Macri, who came to power in December 2015 as an implant by Washington, has already devastated the country by drastic austerity programs, combined with severe tariff increases for public and social services; i.e., transportation, electricity fuel, water supply, as well as health and education. The country is in shambles with an unemployment rate, officially hovering around 10%, but in reality, it is more like 20% to 25%. The poverty rate increased under Macri’s dictatorship to about 35%, from about 15% in November 2015, before Macri came to power. Strikes and social protests abound. There is not one week without social unrest – which drives the country further into the ground. Like the Yellow Vests in France who want to oust President Macron, Argentinians want to get rid of Macri.

    In comes the IMF which has recently published a devastating report about Argentina’s state of the economy. It predicts a grim scenario with rising interest rates on Argentina’s mostly dollar denominated debt, triggering local money production and a predicted inflation of 40% – a continuous loss of purchasing power, hurting especially the poor and average income earners, prompting more social unrest, a vicious downward spiral.

    In June 2018, the IMF, invited by Macri to the rescue, followed its usual recipe of more debt and more austerity. The scenario looks pretty similar to what happened in 2010 / 2011 and forward in Greece, just on a much larger scale, at least by a factor of 5 over a 3-year period. In Argentina, the IMF “agreed” to a standby credit of US$ 50 billion – the largest in the IMF’s history – with a tranche of US$ 15 billion to be drawn immediately. However, in September 2018, the peso crashed under the burden of debt and inflation and Argentina faced insolvency. No problem. The IMF came to the rescue with an additional US$ 13.4 billion bringing the total for 2018 to US$ 28.3 billion (Greece’s first ‘bailout’ tranche in 2010 which was €20 billion (US$22.6 billion at today’s exchange rate).

    That the IMF repeats Greek “mistake” in Argentina, is, of course, a joke. This is not a mistake. This is calculated greed, administered to the people of Argentina, usurpation at its worst. Argentina is a much larger and richer country. Much more, almost infinitely more, can be extracted from her economy than from Greece’s. And Argentina has been primed by a complacent president, put in place by those financial oligarchs, intent to milk Argentina to the bones.

    Would it therefore be surprising, if the Argentine economic disaster, and consequently the IMF “rescue action” was helped a bit by “climate change” à la HAARP?