Category Archives: Colombia

Colombia: Where Life has to Defeat Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

Like Chile did, a few weeks earlier.

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

Colombia and Chile united in rage

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

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

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

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

What do you do; how do you react?

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

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

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

Where Dilan Cruz was killed, torn Colombian flag

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

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

That’s where Colombia is at this moment.

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

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

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

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

*****

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

Mainly indigenous protesters

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

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

A lady behind him begins to shout:

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

Mr. Rueda continues:

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

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

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

Another woman from the crowd screams at me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police in slums protects or scares?

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

*****

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

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

Constanza Vieira and her partne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joint US-Colombian Air Force Facilities

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

As recently reported by Reuters:

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

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

Misery and shame

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

He does not hesitate:

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

But Vladimir is still optimistic, and so am I.

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

*****

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

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

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

This will be a long and difficult struggle.

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Russia,” I said.

What?”

“Russia.”

“What’s that?”

“Russian Federation”.

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

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

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

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

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

First Published by 21WIRE

All photos by Andre Vltchek

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.

In the Eye of the Eagle: From Strict Catholic School to Adventures in Rainforests

A slow, tacking flight: float then flap. Then a pirouette and it has swung on to a different tack, following another seam through the moor as if it is tracking a scent. It is like a disembodied spirit searching for its host…” — description of the strongest of all harriers, the goshawk, by James Macdonald Lockhart in his book, Raptor: A Journey Through Birds

We’re watching a female red-tail hawk rejecting the smaller male’s romantic overtures barely 50 yards overhead.

There it is. Ahh, the male has full extension. So does his girlfriend. I see this every day from here. This courting ritual . . . testing each other’s loyalty. Watching them in a talon lock, spiraling down, now that’s an amazing sight.

I’m with Chris Hatten on his 10 acres overlooking the Siletz estuary along a gravel road. Saying he lives for that typical red-tail hawk behavior would be an understatement. His passion for raptors has taken him to many parts of the globe, and those trips involved exhilaration, danger, risks to his life, and the trials and tribulations of living primitively in tropical zones which Westerners sometimes deridingly call undeveloped countries or third world nations.

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 Wild Harpy eagle being recaptured and treated after being shot in leg, northern Guatemala.

We are traipsing around his property where Chris is ninety percent finished with a two-story 1,400 square foot home, a modern efficient house he’s been building for two years from a kit out of Lynnwood, Washington.

He told me he’ll never do that again – building a full-sized house.

The 42-year-old Hatten got a hold of my name when he found out I write about Oregon coastal people with compellingly interesting lives. He is in the midst of witnessing adjoining land (more than a hundred acres) to his property about to be clear-cut – forested hillside owned by Hancock Timber Resource Group, part of John Hancock Insurance (now owned by a Canadian group, Manulife Financial).

When he first bought the land eight years ago, representatives of Hancock told him that the company had so much timberland it would take years, maybe a decade, to get to this piece of property.

We discuss how Lincoln City and Lincoln County might prevent a clear cut from the side of the hill all the way down to Highway 101. “It’s amazing to witness in this coastal area — that depends on tourism — all this land clear-cut as far as the eye can see.”

The red-tail hawk pair circles above us again, while a Merlin flits about alighting on a big Doug fir.

When he first saw the property — an old homestead which was once a producing dairy farm — Chris said two eagles cawed above where he was standing, which for a bird-man is a positive omen and spiritual sign of good health. He calls his place “The Double-Eagle.”

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Hands on bio blitz Northern Brazil.

Non-Traditional Student Backpacks into Jungles

He’s not living in the house, per se, but rather he has a tent he calls home. “I feel suffocated inside four walls. I want to hear animals, hear the wind, be on the ground.” He’s hoping to rent out the house.

His current kip is set up near a black bear den, where mother bruin and her two cubs share an area he is willing to stay away from. “The mother bear and I have an understanding. We don’t bother each other.”

He’s part Doctor Dolittle, part Jim Fowler (from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom), and part John Muir. My own intersections with blokes and women around the world like him have put me eye-to-eye with pygmy elephants in Vietnam, great hammerheads off Baja, king cobras in Thailand, schools of barracudas off Honduras, and a pack of 20 javelina chasing me along the Arizona-Mexico border.

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Jaguar rescue northern Belize.

Hatten’s wildlife adventures indeed take it up a few notches.

“When I finished high school, I wanted to follow my dreams.” That was at Saint Mary’s in Salem, a school that was so constricting to Chris he had already been saving up dollars for a one-way ticket out of the country.

He had started working young – aged 8 – picking zucchini and broccoli in fields near where his family of six lived. “You feel invincible when you are young. You’re also more adaptable and more resilient.”

He ended up in Malaysia which then turned into trekking throughout Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, East Timor, and even down south to Darwin, Australia.

Those two years, from age 17 to 19, are enough to fill two thick memoirs. Upon returning to Salem, he applied to the National Park service and bought a one-way ticket to Alaska, working the trails in small groups who lived in tents and cleared trails with 19-Century equipment – saws, shovels, picks, pry bars.

With his cash stake growing, he headed back south, by mountain bike, along the Prudhoe-Dalton Highway. He hit Prince George, Vancouver Island, and stopped in the Olympics.

He then worked summers and attended Chemeketa College in Salem.

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Finding small spot fire Colombia River Gorge, Oregon, working for U.S.F.S.

Homeless-but-inspired at Evergreen State College

He wanted to study temperature rainforests, so he showed up unannounced hoping for an audience with a well-known scientist and faculty member — Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, who is an expert in temperate forests and sap maples. Chris had read the book she co-authored, Forest Canopies.

Before showing up to Evergreen, Chris had developed a sling-shot contraption to propel ropes into forest canopy. He barged into Nadkarni’s office with his invention. She was surprised Chris wasn’t already student, but she quickly made sure he enrolled in the environmental studies program.

Spending his last dollar on tuition, Chris resorted to sleeping in a tent and inside his 1988 Honda Civic while using campus rec department showers. He told me he received free produce on Tuesdays when the farmer’s market would pass out vegetables and fruit after a day’s sales.

Another faculty member, Dr. Steve Herman, motivated Chris to really delve into ornithology. Chris recalls coastal dune ecology trips, from Olympia in motor pool vans, all the way into the southern reaches of Baja. “We looked at every dune system from Baja all the way back north to Florence.”

The ornithologist Herman was also a tango aficionado, and Chris recalled the professor announcing to his students many times, in the middle of dunes in Mexico, it was time for some tango lessons. “He told us there was more to life than just science.”

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Educational Harpy eagle to take into classrooms Panama city, Panama, has one blind eye, could not be released into wild.

Adventures and Misadventures of a Bird Fanatic

My life’s work has been to produce scientists who will seek to protect wildness. But I also just really enjoy teaching people about birds. I’ve been lucky to get to do that for a very long time.

— Steve Herman, Evergreen State College faculty emeritus Steve Herman, 2017

Chris laments the lack of real stretches of wilderness in Oregon, most notably along our coast. These are postage stamp areas, he emphasizes, around Drift Creek, Rock Creek, Cape Perpetua, but “it’s abysmal.”

We have the Cascades in Washington and the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and lots of wilderness in Alaska. But really, nothing along the Pacific in Oregon.

After camping in the forest around Evergreen College, Chris still had the travel bug bad. On one foray, he went to Thailand, studying the mangrove forests there. He traveled with Thai army anti-poaching teams who went after poachers. He came across poachers’ camps, witnessed firefights and saw a few poachers laid out dead. “The captain gave me a pistol and one bullet. He said the torture would be so bad if I got captured by tiger poachers that I’d beg for a bullet.”

He’s worked on the island of Hawaii with the USGS focusing on a biocomplexity project looking at how mosquitoes are moving higher and higher because of global warming. The consequences are pretty connected to other invasives – pigs introduced to the islands several centuries ago – disturbing the entire natural ecosystem.

Pigs chew down the ferns, and places that have never seen pooled water before are now wet troughs where mosquitoes can now breed.

Those insects carry avian malaria, and alas, endangered honey creepers can’t adjust to the mosquitoes like their cousins elsewhere who have evolved over millennia to just rub off the insects. The honey creeper is being decimated by this minor but monumental change.

Peregrine Fund

Right after matriculating from Evergreen with a bachelor’s of science, Chris ended up in Panama, working throughout Central America rehabilitating, breeding and introducing Harpy Eagles – the biggest forest eagle in the world with a wingspan of six and a half feet – into their native jungle habitat.

These are massive birds. They dwarf our American bald eagle, for sure. My job was to follow them when the fledglings were grown and released.

He acted like an adult Harpy who catches prey and puts it in the trees for the youngster to eat and learn some hunting skills. Frozen rats, GPS backpack transmitter fashioned on the birds, and orienteering throughout Belize and Southern Mexico were his tools.

It sort of blew me away that here I was living the dream of studying birds in a rainforest.

Territorial ranges for these birds spread into Honduras and south to Colombia. Wild Harpies eat sloth, aunt eaters, howler monkeys, even giant Military Macaws.

He ended up in the Petén, Tikal (originally dating back 2000 years), one of Central America’s premier Mayan archeological and tourist sites.

His role was to study the orange-breasted falcon, a tropical raptor which is both endangered and stealth. “We got to live on top of pyramids off limits to anyone else,” he says, since the bird was using the pyramids as nesting and breeding grounds.

He recalled tiring of the tourists down below repeating the fact that one of the Star Wars movies was filmed here – “I got tired of hearing, ‘Wow, is this really where Yavin 4,  A New Hope, was filmed? We’re really here.’”

Imagine respecting this ancient Mayan capital, and studying amazing raptors as the antithesis of goofy tourista comments.

No 9 to 5 Working Stiff

He tells me that his idols are people like Jane Goodall and David Attenborough. While he went to school in a conservative Catholic setting where his peers were mostly farm kids —  and some were already pregnant and married (before graduation), his family was not of the same stripe.

“We were like the people in the movie ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’’’ he says with a laugh. His parents took the brood to the Oregon Coast a lot, and that 1976 yellow VW van’s starter was always going out. “I remember we had my sister and mom blocking the intersections in places like Lincoln City while we pushed the van to get it started.”

He’s got a brother, Steve, an RN in Portland, and another Portland-based brother, Mark, owner of a micro-car shop. His older sister, Amy, is a newspaper journalist in Grand Junction, Colorado – a real lifer, with the written word coursing through her blood. She’s encouraged Chris to write down his story.

Their mother went to UC-Berkley, and has been a public education teacher for over 25 years. Their father (divorced when he was 12) got into real estate but is now living in New Zealand.

That one-way ticket to Singapore that got him into Southeast Asia, ended with him running out of money after a year, but he was able to get to Darwin, Australia, by paying a fishing boat in East Timor to get him down under illegally. He spent time picking Aussie Chardonnay grapes to stake himself in order to see that continent.

He was blown away by the kangaroo migration, a scene that involved a few million ‘roos kicking up great clouds of red dust. He ended up going through Alice Springs to see the sacred Uluru (formally known as Ayers Rock). He met undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Greece while making money picking oranges.

We talk about some frightening times in our travels, and per usual, the worst incidents involved criminals or bad hombres, not with wildlife. For Chris, his close call with death occurred in Guatemala where he, his female supervisor (a Panamanian) and another raptor specialist were confronted by men on horses, brandishing machetes and leading tracker dogs.

“’We’ll let you live if you give us the woman.’ That’s what they gave us as our option.” The bird team went back into the jungle, the two male researchers buried their female companion with leaves, and then Chris and the other guy took off running all night long.

The banditos chased them through the jungle. He laughed saying they ran virtually blind in places where eyelash vipers (one bite, and three steps and you’re dead), coral snakes and tropical rattlesnakes lived in abundance.

“It’s a very creepy feeling being hunted by men with dogs.” Luckily, the female team member headed out the opposite direction, with a radio. All in a day’s work for environmentalists.

That’s saying, “all in a day’s work,” is ominous since we both talk about how most indigenous and local environmental leaders in so many countries have been murdered by loggers, miners, oil men, ranchers, and coca processors (many times executed by paid-for military soldiers).

Never Return or There Will Be Tears

Two telling quotes from world-renown traveler and writer, Paul Theroux, strike me as apropos for a story about Chris Hatten:

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.

You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.

We talk about a crackling campfire being the original TV, and how being out in wilderness with 5 or 10 people for an extended period gets one really connected to working with people and counting on them to be friends and support.

“It’s tough going back to places I’ve been,” he says with great lamentation. In Borneo, a return trip years later discombobulated him. “The rainforest is being plowed over daily. I couldn’t tell where I was walking miles and miles through palm oil plantations. It was as if the jungle had been swallowed up.”

What once was a vibrant, multilayered super rich and diverse place of amazing flora and fauna has been turned into a virtual desert of a monocrop.

This reality is some of the once most abundant and ecologically distinct places on earth are no longer that. “This is the problem with any wildlife reintroduction program. You can breed captive animals like, for instance, the orangutan but there’s nowhere to release them. Everywhere is stripped of jungle, healthy habitat.”

The concept of rewilding any place is becoming more and more theoretical.

We climb the hill where the clear-cut will occur. Chris and I talk about a serious outdoor education center – a place where Lincoln County students could show up for one, two or three days of outdoor learning. We’re serious about reframing the role of schools and what youth need to have in order to be engaged and desirous of learning.

That theoretical school could be right here, with Chris as the lead outdoor/ecological instructor.

All those trees, terrestrial animals, avian creatures, smack dab on an estuary leading to a bay which leads to the Pacific is highly unique – and a perfect place from which to really get hands on learning as the core curriculum.

We imagine young people learning the history, geology, biology, and ecology of where they live. Elders in the woods teaching them how to smoke salmon, how to build a lean-to, how to see outside the frame of consumption/purchasing/screen-time.

Interestingly, while Chris has no desire to have children, he has taught tropical biology/ecology to an international student body at the Richmond Vale Academy on the island of Saint Vincent (part of the Grenadines).

Koreans, Russians, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Vincennes learned organic farming, bio-fuel production, solar power design, how to grow passion and star fruit. There is even a little horse program in the school, founded by two Danes.

Chris said that the local population is taught about medicinal plants, recycling and responsible waste disposal. “Everything used to be wrapped in banana leaves in their grandparents’ time. Now there is all this single-use plastic waste littering the island.

Like the dynamic rainforest that once carpeted the Central Coast – with herds of elk, wolves, grizzlies and myriad other species – much of the world is being bulldozed over, dammed and mined. Wildlife leave, stop breeding, never repopulate fractured areas where human activities are the norm.

But given that, when I asked Chris where he might like to go now, he mentioned Croatia, his mother’s side of the family roots. He may have swum with 60-foot-long whale sharks and kayaked over orcas, but Chris is still jazzed up about raptors – maybe he’d end up on the Croatian island of Cres which is a refuge for the spectacular griffon vulture.

“Nature has a purpose beyond anything an extraction-based society puts its monetary value on trees. We have to show young people there is value to natural ecosystems beyond extracting everything for a profit.”

One-Minute Q and A

Paul Haeder: What is your life philosophy?

Chris Hatten: Make the best use of your time. Time is short.

PH: How do we fix this extractive “resources” system that is so rapacious?

CH: We need to value forests for the many multitude of services they provide, not just quick rotations. Forests are not the same as fields of crops.

PH: Give any young person currently in high school, say, in Lincoln County, advice on what they might get out of life if they took your advice? What’s that advice?

CH: Get off your phone, lift up your head, see the world for yourself as it really is, then make necessary changes to it and yourself.

PH: What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve experienced — what, where, when, why, how?

CH: I have had very poor people offer to give me all they had in several different countries. Strangers have come to my aid with no thought of reward.

PH: In a nutshell, define the Timber Unity movement to say someone new to Oregon.

CH: They are people who mostly work in rural Oregon in resource extraction industries and believe they are forgotten.

PH: If you were to have a tombstone, what would be on it once you kick the bucket?

CH: “Lived.”

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Running in step, at sunset on the beach with horse St. Vincent and Grenadines

Venezuela: “Landowners Persecute and Murder the Yukpa with Impunity”

The French journalist Angèle Savino lived in Venezuela for thirteen years, during which time she followed closely the conflict between the Yukpa and the major landowners. “After Chavez decided to hand over the land to the Yukpa, the assassinations ensued” – she confides. Convinced that in Venezuela, the indigenous struggle for land is also that of the peasants, Angèle Savino has long developed the idea of making a documentary that pays tribute to these men and women murdered with impunity. This documentary is called “Hau Yuru”. She tells us more in this interview.

*****

Alex Anfruns: To make your film, you have chosen the Sierra de Perijá — on the Colombian-Venezuelan border — and the indigenous community of the Yukpa who have always lived there. What is your relationship with this geography and its inhabitants?

Angèle Savino: It is almost a love story with this Yukpa community, from Chaktapa in the Sierra de Perijá. I met them exactly ten years ago on a trip I made with students from the Bolivarian University in that region. I was a radio journalist, I only had a small audio recorder and a camera, and I wanted to understand a little bit about the complexity of the conflict in the region. I had worked a lot as a press correspondent during Hugo Chavez’s mediation to achieve peace in Colombia. As a result, I wanted to understand more deeply the Colombian conflict and its indirect effects on the border. I had been working for several years with the indigenous people, first in Chile with the Mapuches, then with the indigenous people of Mexico in Oaxaca who had a community radio project and who were then imprisoned… To try to obtain their release, I accompanied some activists to the European Parliament in Brussels, for instance. I was already very much involved in the struggle of the indigenous people for their territory and their rights.

So I went with a group to the Sierra de Perijá region, after being deeply influenced by a conference at the Bolivarian University; the title of the conference was “The conflict as told by women”. At that moment I was greatly impressed by the testimony of Sabino Romero’s wife, his daughter, other women leaders in this community… and I decided to make that trip.

There I met them, and something magical happened: my last name is Savino and I discovered that there was an indigenous rebel leader named Sabino. Something very powerful happened at that moment. I accompanied them in their militant activity until the imprisonment of Sabino Romero. I had done a report for Radio France Internationale because I was working there at that time.

Angela Savino had a “magical” meeting with the rebel leader Yukpa Sabino Romero in 2009, in the Sierra de Perijá.

AA: It is known that in 1999 the Venezuelan Constitution granted rights to indigenous communities for the first time. Based on your experience with the Yukpa, would you say they are respected?

AS: In trying to understand this issue, I realized that in Venezuela there was a lot of talk about recognized indigenous rights; Chavez had been a voice for the recognition of indigenous rights, which helped to give them visibility… but I had the impression that everything was not so simple. I had previously been to the Pemones region and I realized that the issue of demarcating indigenous lands was a complex one.

When Sabino Romero came out of prison, Chávez realized that he too had his hands somewhat tied in relation to this land problem because there is a lot of interest in mining resources in this region, especially coal. Chávez, who was already sick in 2011, decided to hand over the land to the Yukpa. It was from that moment that the murders began. Sabino Romero was the first to be attacked, of course. In April 2012, he had escaped an assassination attempt, then he came to Caracas and I interviewed him there. I decided to make a film about him. He agreed.

At the end of 2012 there was another event: after Chávez’s re-election, the transfer of land had not progressed. Chavez may have ordered it, but there were alliances between the former minister of indigenous peoples and bureaucrats linked to the power of landowners and multinational mining companies, which blocked the transfer.

Sabino Romero went back to Caracas, accompanied by about fifty Yukpas. They tried to stop them from speaking, but all the social movements mobilized and it was finally broadcast on national television on November 9, 2012. He was received by William Castillo, the journalist who was president of VTV at the time. He expressed the contradictions of the Revolution but also his support for Chávez and his willpower. He said this phrase that I remember perfectly: “I am here to revolutionize the country and myself”. He insisted that he was a revolutionary and also a Chavista, but that he wanted to denounce absolutely the manipulations, the false officials, instrumentalised by certain branches of power, including some soldiers, bureaucrats, landowners, not to mention the complexity of the border with Colombia and paramilitaries.

AA: Can you tell us about the event you referred to earlier?

AS: Yes, it was Chavez’s speech known as the “golpe de timón “, with the slogan “communa o nada”, on October 20, 2012. During his fourteen years in power, Chavez spoke a lot about indigenous issues, but during this self-criticism he addressed them again. His speech took place just after a confrontation between the landowners and the Yukpa, on a piece of land that was to be handed over to them. Zenaida, Sabino’s daughter, had been injured.

After that, Chávez’s illness gave Sabino’s murderers an unimaginable opportunity to act with ease, since he had received protection from the state, but at the same time many decisions were focused on Chávez. When Sabino was on television, after years of censorship, perhaps he felt that with that media coverage he had finally been heard and that he had less need to protect himself.

He was assassinated shortly after, during the election of the new chief officers. He opposed the election of one of those caucuses, which was linked to the landowners to defend their interests. It was March 3, 2013, two days before Chávez’s death (emotion temporarily interrupts this conversation, NdR).

AA: We understand that this disappearance was what pushed you to follow the documentation of this conflict?

AS: Exactly. After that difficult moment, I decided to return there. Then something very important happened: I realised that the women who had always accompanied me were the protagonists of this silence. They had always been present. Since Sabino would no longer be able to speak, I addressed the women. I went to the Sierra, did some interviews in May 2013 and little by little I came up with the idea of making a film to tell the story of the journey of the Yukpa women, who would recall the key moments of their lives.

“Sabino lives, his struggle continues,” says Angèle Savino’s t-shirt, which still accompanies the Yukpa women’s struggle, ten years after the meeting.

This journey began in the Sierra de Perijá, where Lucía Romero, Sabino Romero’s wife, was born. It was also a return to the roots, but if the film started there, it was also because those mountains are not the place where the Yukpa originally lived, but where they were pushed by the landowners who seized the fertile lands.

The woman would tell of her childhood, her encounter with Sabino, her love story and then the descent to the lowlands. She would travel there with four other women: Anita, Sabino Romero’s cousin, who also fought hard for Yukpa rights. She is the chieftain of another community; Kuse. Four of his sons were murdered, one of them before the death of Sabino, who had been in prison with him. There is also Ana Maria, who is Anita’s daughter. And then Guillermina, the daughter of Sabino Romero, witness to the murder of his grandfather in 2008, Atancha José Manuel Romero. And one last character that was recently added, Marys, who is also Anita’s daughter. Initially, she was not in the script and then she prevailed, as she was the victim of a kidnapping in November 2018. She was tortured for a week and saved from death in extremis.

AA: Are you saying that the persecution of this community is still going on?

AS: Yes, the current situation related to the economic crisis has led to an increase in cattle trafficking to Colombia. It is a place of passage and the conflict is still very strong. This makes the situation quite complex if we want to understand what happened more recently…

AA: Mining companies are present in this border region, both in Colombia and Venezuela. Can you elaborate on their impact in the region?

AS: The Sierra de Perijá is a geographical area located at the end of the Colombian Cerrejón, which is the largest open-pit coal mine in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. This area contains high quality coal, which is being sold at a higher price, but there is not only coal. As Sabino explained, there is also gold, uranium, lime and oil, of course. Obviously, there are many interests at stake.

It is said that Chávez was born of the “Caracazo”. Well, Sabino Romero was born out of an encounter with an environmental activist named Lusbi Portillo who founded the NGO Homo et Natura, which was criminalized by the government for years. She was accused of being a cover for the CIA, etc. That was nonsense. This encounter between Sabino and Portillo was a very important moment, Portillo was a professor at the university and helped in the fight against coal mining, which had begun with the Wayuu people of the northern Sierra de Perijá. In the area near the Guajira there are two open-pit coal mines that have completely destroyed the area and the Wayuu have been decimated. There have been many illnesses related to coal mining, with the displacement of populations, of course. This left a mark on Sabino Romero, who said to himself: “I don’t want this to happen to my community”. This is also a story of awareness of the indigenous people and in particular of Sabino Romero, which was an outstanding case.

What is certain is that it is a region very rich in mineral resources and, in addition, it is part of the IIRSA (Infrastructure for the Integration of Latin America) axis. It is a huge project of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, which plans to build highways and river highways throughout Latin America. This is one of the reasons for the TIPNIS (Indian Territory and Isiboro-Secure National Park in Spanish, NdR) conflict in Bolivia. Chávez himself signed this convention in 2000 in Canada. He had just been elected president, he could not do anything else because it was something so big that he could not afford to oppose it, and he was not supported by other presidents, ALBA did not exist! This IIRSA axis affects both Colombia and Venezuela.

AA: And precisely what is the relationship between these companies and the Venezuelan state?

AS: When I discovered this conflict in 2009, there was something very special about it. The indigenous people had managed to reach an agreement with the landowners. The Cattlemen’s Association said: “It’s okay that they keep part of their land, but we need them to pay compensation: for years we’ve been producing on this land, etc.”. So this harmed the government in some way.

I even asked Chávez: “Can the demarcation of the land and the payment of compensation resolve the conflict in the Sierra de Perijá? And he replied quite rightly: “If we have to pay compensation, we will do so in some cases, but we must not forget that the owners have to leave, because they are the only ones who have appropriated the indigenous lands, it is not us”. It sounds good in words, but, in fact. it is more complicated. Chávez always said “Indians first”. The second is the state and the third is those who came after: the cattle ranchers, the displaced peasants from Colombia, the Wayuu too … So it is a complex situation.

One of the possibilities to demarcate the indigenous land and hence avoid future exploitation of mineral resources was to pay compensation to the farmers in the context of land demarcation. This is where the conflict occurred. There was already a “revolutionary bourgeoisie”, which unfortunately is increasingly visible at this time in Venezuela. The Minister of Agriculture himself uses this term, and enrages the peasants who are being evicted from their lands by the landowners in complicity with certain governors. Because the conflict between indigenous people and peasants is the same. A few days ago, the anniversary of the admirable Peasant March of 2018 was celebrated, and the situation is unchanged or worse: 25 peasants were killed in one year and more than 300 since 2001.

Two months after the murder of Sabino Romero, the state finally paid compensation for the lands of Chaktapa. But Kuse’s lands have not yet been demarcated. The landowners see themselves as the legitimate owners of these lands, and persecute and murder the Yukpa with impunity. On the issue of mineral resources, there is complicity between certain members of the government, the military, the landowners and the paramilitaries, of course. It is a zone of no rights. Natural resources are extremely attractive.

To return to the subject of this conflict and especially the case of Marys, she was kidnapped and tortured by a landowner who wanted to recover her land. In 2008, her mother received a loan from Chávez to raise cows and make cheese. The landowner hired Yukpas to create a conflict within this ethnic group, as well as guerrillas. After her kidnapping, Marys was received by the country’s deputy prosecutor, the Ministry of Education, the Minister of Communes, former vice-president Elias Jaua also received her… She was strongly supported by the institutions of the Revolution that want impunity to end; but the most urgent issue today is to establish a peace dialogue among the Yukpa themselves. Those who benefit from this conflict are the landowners, and they like to see them kill each other. And the Yukpa are Caribs, they are warriors, they are very combative. This negotiating table must be established, as in the case of the war in Colombia, and there must be a demarcation of indigenous lands so that natural resources cannot be exploited. It depends on the good will of President Nicolás Maduro.

AA: Since July 30, 2017, there is a Constituent Assembly, whose objective is to improve the 1999 Constitution. There is also a Minister of People’s Power for Indigenous Peoples, Aloha Nuñez. What is your impression of the debates taking place in this constituent process?

AS: It’s quite complicated. Aloha Núñez has received Marys Fernández, the latest victim of this conflict. But the institutions are not present on the ground. The message does not reach its destination. When Sabino Romero’s son and his mother return to the Governorate of Maracaibo, they are ignored. The activists in Caracas have a network of support in the institutions to welcome these women organized in the association Oripanto Oayapo Tuonde (women for the defense of the territory) and it is in this context that they manage to be received. Last time, she came with all the witnesses of her kidnapping to testify in front of the Public Ministry, in Caracas, because the Machiques prosecutor’s office is completely corrupted by the landowners who have real power in this region. Those connections also exist in Maracaibo. It is complicated, you have to constantly be moving to achieve justice.

What we are asking Aloha Nuñez today is to facilitate this dialogue. Because today there are divisions among the Yukpa. And these divisions are linked to the fact that the landowners have formed their own indigenous groups that defend their oppressors.

AA: To make the story of your film, you let yourself be guided by these Yukpa women. In your opinion, the transmission of a collective and feminine voice is capable of bringing something that has not been seen or heard until now?

AS: That’s right, that’s exactly what it is. Lucía is an incredible woman, she is a fighter. The film could be about her, but I chose a women’s collective because I think she’s not the only woman fighting. Despite being Sabino’s wife, Lucía has never been behind him, she is a woman with a very strong character, who certainly doesn’t speak very good Spanish. In my filming I will ask her to tell her story in Yukpa, because it is obvious that it is not the usual way to tell it. Women’s voices are essential: they have a different way of describing conflict, because as women with children, they carry life within them. It is also their children who will be able to continue Sabino Romero’s struggle.

Furthermore, if we speak in the more general context of the Bolivarian Revolution, where white, black, Indian, peasant and working women have appropriated power… I think they have learned how to say to themselves: “We can also speak, we can also fight for our land”. It is true that Lucía, Anita and Carmen are women brimming with a force that leaves us breathless. Four of their children have been murdered and they are still standing! They have a special feminine perspective: they are mothers, daughters, widows. Guillermina is a woman who lost two murdered husbands, Ana María had three murdered brothers. They are the ones who continue, because there are no more men in these lands. Their words are really important.

An Interview with Daniel Kovalik

In his last book on Venezuela, Daniel Kovalik, a lawyer and a long standing friend of Latin American people in countries such as Colombia and Central America, is tearing away the veil of war propaganda: “The humanitarian part of the intervention is now barely a fig leaf for the real and usual intention – the control of another country’s oil supplies“. To know more about the ins and outs of The Plot To Overthrow Venezuela, we have interviewed author Mr. Kovalik.

 *****

Alex Anfruns: In a chapter of your book on the birth of the Bolivarian Revolution, you point at some historical figures from the pre-revolution period that have been concealed to the western public opinion. I quote an excerpt: “A report mentions that critical poverty had tripled from 11% of the population in 1984 to 33% in 1991, meaning that only 57%” of Venezuelans could afford more than one meal a day”. Which conclusion should we draw if we compare those figures to the situation that has prevailed the last 20 years of Bolivarian government?

Daniel Kovalik: Certainly between 1999, when Hugo Chavez became president, until 2015, the government did a great job of eradicating poverty and extreme poverty; of building houses, providing free education to children – which also included a hot meal every day, etc.  So that was a real critical piece of Bolivarian Revolution. They struggled after 2015 with those social programs because of the lowering of oil prices — which was done intentionally by Saudi Arabia and the United States beginning in 2014 — and then, because of the sanctions that were imposed on 2015 and have been ramped up ever since.

But even in spite of the sanctions, the government has made huge efforts to get food to people through the CLAP program (Local Committees for Supply and Production in Spanish) and it continues to build housing for people. It has built 2.5 million housing units. The gains of the revolution continue to exist, but the sanctions are certainly cutting into them.

AA: You also highlight the rights that Venezuelan government has given back to the Afro-descendant and indigenous people, the majority of which are supporting the revolution. Could you draw a comparison with the situation of these people in the US and how their specifical rights are being treated there?

DK: Well, there is really no comparison, because indigenous groups in the US have been treated in a horrible way. Since the initial years of the US, the attacks against indigenous peoples can only be described as genocidal. It was an extreme genocidal violence against them. And still, to this day, you have massive amounts of poverty amongst the indigenous peoples in this country  – the suicide rate is huge; you have situations in which indigenous children are taken away from their families on a huge scale. In truth, indigenous peoples have been pushed to the margins of society, where they remain.

In Venezuela, on the other hand, the government made a huge attempt, since the Bolivarian Revolution in 1999, to enshrine the rights of indigenous peoples in the Constitution, not only to recognize their languages but actually to preserve them.  They have gone out of their way to create programs to preserve indigenous languages. They gave stolen land back to indigenous peoples.

So I mean the differences in both countries are very stunning, and similarly with Afro-descendants! This country (the US), of course, was built on trade slavery, and then there was Jim Crow and legal segregation, and still today African Americans are living much worse than the rest of the population in terms of poverty, hunger, and access to social services and critical infrastructure. You have disproportionately high rates of infant mortality, maternal mortality amongst African Americans. And there is the huge rate of incarceration of African Americans in this country. The first thing to say about this is that the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world — in both absolute numbers and by percentage of the population. Over 2.2 million people in this country are incarcerated, and about 40% of those are African Americans even though they only make up around 14% of the total population. So you see, African Americans are still being greatly oppressed in this country.

And again in Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution has given land back to Afro-descendants, has recognized their rights as a people, in a way which really didn’t exist before the revolution. And that’s the reason why Afro-Venezuelans and indigenous people are supporting the government there. And, of course, it makes sense in many ways that the US government, which oppresses indigenous and Afro-descendants here, have aligned with the white elite in Venezuela to try to topple the government.

AA: Ex ambassador of the US in Venezuela has recently admitted it, in other words, explaining why a traditional military intervention couldn’t be put into practice in Venezuela contrarily to the case of Libya’s, for at least two reasons: the lack of rebel forces ready to overthrow the government, and the state of the public opinion, still not unanimous enough against Maduro. Can this “collapse strategy” benefit somehow the Venezuelan opposition or is it rather a political impasse?

DK: Obviously the goal is to destroy the Venezuelan economy and to blame all of this on the Venezuelan government, with the hopes to overthrow the government and bring the opposition into power. But even the opposition and Juan Guaido have recognized that, though they have supported that strategy, they have also recognized that if the economy is destroyed beyond repair — by sanctions and other means — then, how are they going to govern if they take power? So Juan Guaido, for example, asked Trump a few months ago to lift the international sanctions which prevent Venezuela from getting international financial assistance and loans. Again, he didn’t want to see the economy hurt so badly that he would inherit a mess if he came to power.  However, Trump turned him down on that.

So the point is even the opposition recognizes that the damage could be too great and could be irreparable. And indeed, we are seeing that the US is imposing such draconian sanctions on that country, that they really could destroy the economy in a way that it would be nearly impossible to repair. I don’t think this economic warfare is going to work to replace the Maduro government, but certainly it could destroy that nation.

By the way, that’s the alternative goal of the US.  If you look at US regime change operations throughout the years, if the US is unable to unseat the government it wants to unseat, it will accept as an alternative simply destroying the nation. Vietnam is a great example. The US knew at some point that it would not defeat the national liberation forces in Vietnam and so it simply proceeded to bomb that country to the stone age so as to leave them with nothing. If we look at Libya there is a similar situation, in Venezuela and Iran too.  The US would settle for just destroying which is quite shocking and obscene, and people should oppose it. But I do think we are witnessing that strategy being played out.

AA: Venezuelan government has denied there is a “humanitarian crisis”. On the contrary, the opposition has been using on purpose this concept, which is linked to the UN’s “responsibility to protect” norm that could lead to a military intervention. To which extent are US sanctions affecting Venezuelan people?

DK: There is a recent report that was put out by The Center for Economic Policy Research which was co-authored by Jeffrey Sachs, a very well-respected economist from Columbia University. They have concluded that at least 40 thousand Venezuelans have been killed by the sanctions since August 2017 when Trump imposed a very draconian round of sanctions which cut Venezuela off from the international financial markets. So they are virtually unable to get things like HIV medicine, dialysis equipment, chemotherapy medicines and food.

This report concludes that because of this, 40 thousand Venezuelans have died, and they also conclude that at least another 40 thousand or more will die this year.  So the sanctions have been very devastating for people there, which, of course, exposes the lie that this is a humanitarian operation. If you truly wanted a humanitarian operation, you wouldn’t intentionally cut people off from medicine and food.

AA: So, how has the Venezuelan government been dealing with them in order to protect its own people’s rights?

DK: What the government has done in response is the CLAP program in which it buys mostly locally grown food, and then provides it at very cheap cost to those who need it. For a long time they were providing food to people once a month, and now they are trying to do it every 15 days in order to make sure people are getting food. The government try to get medicines from the eastern market like China, Russia, Iran, because it can’t get them from the West. And again, incredibly the US now wants to sanction the CLAP program that is providing food for people. So this is an obvious attempt to starve the population. The hope of the US is that the Venezuelans cry uncle (specifically, Uncle Sam) and overthrow the government. This is a form of terrorism, clear and simple!

AA: A few people have denounced how the western public has been disinformed by propaganda in favor of a coup d’Etat during the first half of the current year. Do you think the debate about foreign issues in the US public opinion will evolve, specially now that there is a dialogue process between the Venezuelan government and the opposition?

DK: I can only speak about what is happening in the US, and in the US the press is very one-sided in its coverage of Venezuela. It barely covers the negotiations that have been taking place between the government and the opposition. Once it became evident that Juan Guaido was not going to succeed in overthrowing the government, the press just stopped covering Venezuela like they were covering it before.  Instead of trying to deal with the situation in an honest way, and reconsider whether this gambit of supporting Guaido was right to begin with, the media just moved on. The point is that it would be hard for most of Americans to be forced to reassess the situation, because the media isn’t giving them any information or any reason to rethink what’s happening there.

AA: In the 2000’s you have had a rich experience in defending Colombian trade unionists – there is a documentary film that talks about that. Nowadays we learn about the killing of Colombian social leaders on a daily basis, but it seems that this issue is not important enough to make big news…

DK: That’s another point that I mention in the book: if you look at Colombia, which is right next door to Venezuela, there are record numbers of social leaders being killed, including trade unionists. This year has been terrible for them, with about over 150 social leaders being killed in the last year, and that number is really climbing. There is massive displacement of people. Colombia has the largest internally displaced population on earth, at around 8 million people. And disproportionately, the displaced are Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples. So there is a terrible human rights record in Colombia, but again it’s not being covered in the press.

The press barely whispers anything about Colombia. So people don’t understand what the reality of Colombia is, especially as compared to Venezuela’s. The other thing that the media doesn’t talk about is the fact that 5.8 million Colombians are living in Venezuela. There has been a mass migration going the other way, from Colombia to Venezuela, which is not talked about. So people are then led to believe that Venezuela is a uniquely troubled country in the region when that is far from truth.

AA: In your opinion what is the importance of that country for the US, and what is your view on the future of the Colombian peace agreement?

DK: The government never honoured the peace agreement in a serious way. There has been 130 ex-FARC combatants murdered. The government has never halted the paramilitaries as it was required to do by the peace agreement. So the peace agreement is dead. That is a fact. Colombia is the US’s beach head in South America. The US operates from over at least 7 military bases there, its regime change operations for Venezuela are largely staged from Colombia. Some people say Colombia is the Israel of South America, the US’s surrogate in South America. That’s why the US is so protective of Colombia and gives it so much military aid, because that is where it projects power from.

Venezuela: Another Failed Coup Attempt

In the early morning hours of 30 April, 2019, the self-declared “Interim President”, Juan Guaidó, launched what at first sight appeared to be a military coup – Guaidó calls it “Operation Freedom” (sounds very much like a Washington-invented title) – against the democratically elected, legitimate government of Nicolas Maduro. With two dozen of defected armed military from the Carlota military base east of Caracas (not hundreds, or even thousands, as reported by the mainstream media), Guaidó went to free Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition leader, who was under house arrest, after his 13-year prison sentence for his role in the deadly 2014 anti-government protests, was commuted. They first called for a full military insurrection – which failed bitterly, as the vast majority of the armed forces are backing President Maduro and his government.

As reported straight from Caracas by geopolitical analyst, Dario Azzelli, Guaidó and López rallied from the Plaza Altamira, for the people of Venezuela to rise up and take to the streets to oust President Maduro. According to them, this was the ‘last phase’ of a peaceful coup to bring freedom and democracy back to Venezuela. The nefarious pair issued a video of their “battle cry” which they broadcast over the social media.

They mobilized a few hundred – again not thousands as pers SMS – right-wing middle to upper class protestors and marched towards the Presidential Palace. On the way, they were confronted by the Venezuelan Civil Guard with tear gas – not even the military had to intervene – and only few protestors reached Miraflores which was protectively surrounded by thousands of Chavistas. And that was basically the end of yet another failed coup.

Leopoldo López was seeking asylum in the Chilean Embassy which rejected him, and now, it looks like he found his refuge in the Spanish Embassy. This is a huge embarrassment and outright shame for Spain, especially after the Socialist Party, PSOE, just won the elections with 29%, though not enough to form a government by its own, but largely sufficient to call the shots as to whom should be granted asylum on their territory. Looks like fascism is still alive in Spain, if Pedro Sanchez is not able to reject a right-wing fascist opposition and illegal coup leader of Venezuela to gain refuge on Spain’s territory.

As to Guaidó, rumors have it that he found refuge in the Brazilian Embassy, though some reports say he is being protected by his Colombian friends. Both is possible, Bolsonaro and Duque are of same fascist kind, certainly ready to grant criminals – what Guaidó is – asylum.

What is important to know, though, is that throughout the day of the attempted coup, 30 April, the US State Department, in the person of the pompous Pompeo, accompanied by the National Security Advisor, John Bolton, kept threatening President Maduro in a press round. Pompeo directly menaced President Maduro, saying – “If they ask me if the US is prepared to consider military action [in Venezuela], if this is what is necessary to restore democracy in Venezuela, the President [Donald Trump] has been coherent and clear: The military option is available, if this is what we have to do.” – These threats are repeated throughout May 1 – day after the Venezuelan attempted coup defeat by both Pompeo and warrior Bolton.

Pompeo’s audacity didn’t stop there. He went as far as suggesting to President Maduro to flee to Cuba and leave his country to those that will bring back (sic) freedom and democracy.

Let’s be clear. Although this has been said before – it cannot be repeated enough for the world to understand. These outright war criminals in Washington are in flagrant violation of the UN Charter to which the US is – for good or for bad – a signatory.

UN Charter – Chapter I, Article 2 (4), says:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

We know that the White House, Pentagon and State Department have zero respect for the UN, and, in fact, use the international body for their purposes, manipulating and blackmailing its members into doing the bidding for the US. That is all known and has been documented. What is perhaps newer is that this is now happening, especially in the cases of Venezuela and Iran, openly, in unveiled flagrant disrespect of any international law, against bodies and sovereign countries that do not bend to the whims and will of the United States.

As a result of this open violation of the UN Charter by the world’s only rogue state, some 60 UN member nations, including Russia and China, have formed a solid shield against Washington’s aggressions. The group was created especially in defense of Venezuela, but is also there for Iran and other countries being aggressed and threatened by the US. Hence, the blatant blackmailing and manipulation of weaker UN member countries becomes more difficult.

To be sure, the Russian Foreign Ministry has immediately condemned the coup as illegal and warned the US of any military intervention. This is, of course, not the first time, but just to be sure – Russia is there, standing by her partner and friend, Venezuela.

This Guaidó–Lopez attempted coup was most certainly following instructions from Washington. Super-puppet Guaidó, US-groomed and trained, then self-declared “presidente interino”, would not dare do anything on his own initiative which might raise the wrath of his masters. But would the US – with all her secret services capacity – seriously launch a coup so ill-prepared that it is defeated in just a few hours with minimal intervention of Venezuelan forces? I doubt it.

What is it then, other than a planned failure? A new propaganda instrument, for the corporate MSM to run amok and tell all kinds of lies, convincing its complacent western public of the atrocities produced by the Maduro regime, the misery Venezuelan people must live, famine, disease without medication, oppression by dictatorship, torture, murder, whatever they can come up with. You meet any mainstream-groomed people in Europe and elsewhere, even well-educated people, people who call themselves ‘socialists’ and are leading figures in European socialist parties, they would tell you these same lies about misery caused by the Maduro regime.

How could that be if the Maduro Government doesn’t even arrest Juan Guaidó for his multiple crimes committed since January, when he self-proclaimed being the ‘interim president’ of Venezuela? Arresting him, for the coup attempts he initiated or was party to since his auto coronation to president. That’s what a dictator would do. That’s what the United States of America would have done a long time ago. Washington and its internal security apparatus would certainly not tolerate such illegal acts, and to top it off, foreign manipulated political illegality.

Why, for example, would the media not point out the real crimes of the US vassals of South America, like Colombia, where over 6 million people are internal and external refugees, where at least 240,000 peasants and human rights activists were massacred and many were burned by US-funded paramilitary groups, atrocities that are ongoing as of this day, despite the November 2016 signed  “Peace Agreement” between the then Santos Government and the FARC for which President Manuel Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize. Can you imagine!

What world are we living in? A world of everyday deceit and lies and highly paid lie-propaganda, paid with fake money – fake as in indiscriminately printed US-dollars – of which every new dollar is debt that will never be paid back (as openly admitted by former FEDs Chairman, Alan Greenspan); dollars that can be indiscriminately spent to produce the deadliest weapons, as well as for corporate media-propaganda lies – also a deadly weapon – to indoctrinate people around the globe into believing that evil is good, and that war is peace.

I have lost many friends by telling them off, by telling them the truth, the truth about Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria – mostly to no avail. It’s actually no loss; it’s merely a repeated confirmation of how far the western society has been veered off the path of conscience into a comfort zone, where believing the propaganda lies of reputed media like The Guardian, NYT, WashPost, BBC, FAZ, Spiegel, Le Monde, Figaro, el País, ABC  and so on, is edifying. They are so convincing. They are so well-reputed and well-known. How could they lie? No loss, indeed.

Let’s stay on track, comrades. Venceremos!

NATO: No Need, NEXIT

“EXIT NATO!”  was the glaring title on a huge screen greeting the several hundred participants of the Anti-NATO Conference in Florence, Italy, on 7 April 2019. Officially it was called The International Conference on the 70th Anniversary of NATO, sponsored by Global Research of Canada and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). I had the privilege to attend this important forum.

Following the EXIT NATO poster, was another huge slide decorating the conference wall proclaiming that NATO, as a reward for all their work for Peace, should be rewarded with the Peace Nobel Prize. No doubt, nuclear armament and eventually nuclear wars to be fought by NATO – by whom else – will make the world a safer place. Wars are actually good for Peace. They are also good for economics, but they are particularly good for Peace.

I’m not kidding you – these are declarations one can read – and has been able to read since practically 9/11, in such prominent “Truth News” papers like the Washington Post and the NYT.   So, why not the Peace Prize to NATO? It wouldn’t make much difference.  Considering the track record of the Nobel Prize Committee, it would fall right into place.

Other than that, the conference basically outlined the atrocities committed by NATO, its associate and crony terrorist armies, ISIS, Al Qada, Al Nusra and so on, changing names for revolving terrorists, recruited and trained by the CIA and funded by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and, of course the US directly or through her many State Department funded and subsidiary NGOs, like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and many others. And, of course, not to forget a prominent funder of terrorism, Turkey, who is now trying to make a smiling face to Russia and the east, even flirting with the idea of entering the club of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); on the one hand purchasing Russian military defense systems – the S-400 – and at the same time US fighter planes F35, dancing on as many weddings simultaneously as they can. Who would trust Turkey under Erdogan? Turkey also still hosts one of the most strategic and most dangerous nuclear-equipped NATO bases literally between east and west.

The Conference recalled the Cold War. By now everybody knows – really? – well, for those who don’t – that the so-called Cold War was one of the best propagated and fakest news of the 20th Century. It’s a brilliant idea that sprung out of the McCarthy Nazi-era – like NATO itself – to arm the US to the teeth, maximizing profits of the military industrial complex, under the pretext of halting the advancement of the Soviet Union into just liberated western Europe, just liberated from Hitler’s Nazi-Germany. Never mind that western Europe has been saved by the Soviet Union who lost 25-30 million people and basically their transport and production infrastructure. Yes, it was not the so-called allies – US, UK and France – they came in last, when the bulk of the job was already done by what is today Russia. But, of course, no western history book would tell you the truth. In fact, it must be said here too that the US funded Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union with money channeled from the FED, through Wall Street banks, and eventually through the Rothschild dominated Bank for International Settlement (BIS), located in Basel, Switzerland, right at the border to Germany, from where it was easy to pass the money on to the Reichsbank – Hitler’s Central Bank. Yes- that’s how the US was already then dancing on various fiestas at the same time; on the one hand bombing Germany and, on the other, financing Germany’s war against what the US already then perceived as an archenemy – The Red Scare – the Soviet Union. Well, these acts of treason then were the precursors of NATO today.

Anything socialist is evil for the US, still today. Trump, himself, and his minion clowns — Pompeo, Bolton and Pence — are lambasting Venezuela and Cuba for being evil and destructive socialist countries and that socialism will not be tolerated anywhere by the falling empire – sorry, falling it is – of the United States of America.

The other purpose of the Cold War farce was to make the Europeans believe that they were under a constant threat of a Soviet invasion, that they had to arm themselves also to the teeth – imagine war-recovering Europe having to spend their money on arms for no use! – and, of course, most of these weapons had to be bought – yes, you guessed it – from the US military industrial complex meaning more profit for the war oligarchs. The Anglo-media giants even created a virtual barrier between western “free” Europe and the bad-bad Red Scare, the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain. Yes, the Iron Curtain; children in school were indoctrinated to be aware that the enemy is hiding behind the Iron Curtain, and that the enemy always comes from the East. Hilarious, when you think back. At that time (almost) everybody believed it.

And the third, or perhaps first objective of the Cold War, was to block the Soviet Union from developing a viable and autonomous economy with which they could thrive, as most socialist countries do, until they are boycotted, punished and financially “sanctioned” into suffocation by the west. These illegal financial manipulations with and within sovereign countries’ economies, are, of course, illegal by any standards of international laws, laws that have become meaningless in the light of US / NATO power, scary nuclear power. These acts of financial and human rights high crimes are only possible because of the all dominating, fraudulent US-imposed – and NATO-protected – western monetary system.

The NATO-driven Cold War, a constant nuclear threat towards the Soviet Union, was intended to force Russia also to arm for their defense, instead of being able to use their economy’s added value to rebuild their devastated country. The USSR was never a threat to Europe. There was never an intention of the Soviet Union to invade western Europe. The same today, we are being made believe that Russia wants to invade Europe.  That’s why NATO needs to build all these military bases at the door step to Russia. Russia is by far the largest country, territory-wise, in the world, they don’t need to add more land. Historically, neither Russia or China have a record of expansionism.

In the end, the NATO-led Cold War managed to dismantle the Soviet Union by ‘buying’ some corrupt Soviet leaders, so that the new Russia, whose socialist system just was made to collapse, unprepared with legislation for what was to come – privatization by fire-sale of their entire economy. Like vultures, the financial institutions, IMF, World Bank, agents of the FED, descended on Moscow to literally steel by indebting whatever had any value. This misery still has not entirely abetted, as the Russian Central Bank was restructured, following the image of the FED – today, under President Putin, much has changed and was reformed; however, the financial sector is still heavily invaded by the Atlantists – or what you may also call the Fifth Columnists. And, of course, even those are protected by NATO as NATO issues threats, nobody knows from where they come, but you know who executes them, in case of…

The Florence Anti-NATO Conference also recalled some of the most abject killing sprees of NATO in its 70 years of existence, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Ukraine – the Maidan massacre followed by the so-called Ukrainian civil war – and the crowning of sorts, the ten-year war on Yugoslavia, the total destruction of Yugoslavia, with the final blow 1999, the merciless bombing of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Why Yugoslavia? Let’s dwell just a moment on this war of cruel destruction and killing because it is so typical for Pentagon-driven wars of annihilation. Yugoslavia, a socialist country, in the 1970s and 80s under Maoist President Tito, had a prosperous economy, much more so than the rest of Europe. The US-dominated west cannot let a socialist economy flourish. Other countries, especially stagnating western Europe, could get ideas.

Remember, socialism is evil. So, with what is today called the “Balkanization” – cut into pieces – of Yugoslavia was the old-old tactic of divide to conquer, as well as by creating internal chaos, the western powers kept control of the people, and eventually NATO was able to advance closer and ever closer to the Russian border, by occupying former Yugoslav republics with NATO bases (Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia and Kosovo is waiting in the wings), in addition to the further expansion east to Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, not to mention the former Soviet Republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

This expansion east, ever closer to Moscow, is a flagrant breach of a promise made by the allied forces. In 1991, then German Foreign Minister Genscher promised Russian President Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch further east than Germany. In fact, he assured Gorbachev that NATO would not move into what before the German unification was Eastern Germany. This promise was unfortunately never recorded in writing, and Gorbachev was miserably betrayed. As we know by now, a betrayal by the west is very normal.In the meantime,12 more NATO bases east of Germany, including in former East-Germany, were built.

In their 70 years of existence, US-NATO, allied and proxy forces, as well as mercenaries, have killed between 20 and 25 million people around the globe, in wars and conflicts – in the eternal war against “terror” – that was “justified” by self-inflicted 9/11, the start to the final phase of the PNAC – Plan for a New American Century – to reach Full Spectrum Dominance.

Wars have a cost – a financial, economic and a social cost. The US official military budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 is US$ 700 billion; for FY 2019 Trump proposes US$ 750. If approved it would be a 40% increase in the last 9 years. But that’s not all. This is just the officially published figure. The real cost for the war, defense and security apparatus to which also the opaque CIA and associated secret services count is well over a trillion dollars, perhaps as much as US$1.5 trillion per year.

The US has currently about one million military personnel stationed in 175 countries around the globe. The Pentagon maintains about a thousand military bases in more than 100 countries. The war cost, in currently seven war theatres, is prohibitive – medical costs for veterans, for social services to returning veterans – and we are not talking about the cost of off-battle ground lives; i.e., by ever-mounting suicide rates. The Veteran Administration released a study that covered suicides from 1999 to 2010, showing that roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes.

The reality is most likely a much higher figure – and the despair and human depression from anxieties related to the never-ending wars has increased exponentially in the last 9 years – more suicides, more desperation, more broken families, entire generations of kids with fathers at war. This cost cannot be put in figures of dollars and cents.  It’s a social cost that bears its toll in years, perhaps generations from now.

The US spends per capita ten times more than the rest of the world together on military / war expenses. President Trump requests European NATO countries to increase their military budget by contributing more to NATO, first up to 2% of GDP, threatening he may decide to withdraw NATO from Europe, if Europe does not comply with his request, still making believe that NATO is a defensive force  protecting Europe — from what and from whom?  Good-bye NATO. This is the moment to call Trump’s bluff.

But NATO – the Trans-Atlantic Treaty Organization – has also gone overseas to Latin America. NATO has since 2013 a Cooperation Agreement with Colombia, where the US has 5 military bases which will automatically convert into NATO bases. NATO is also negotiating with Brazil’s new Nazi-leader, Bolsonaro, to enter Brazil, and, as such being a threat and a potential attack force to topple the Venezuelan democratically elected socialist government. Washington makes no secret – they want Venezuela’s hydrocarbon resources, the world’s largest reserves, gold and other minerals of which Venezuela is rich. NATO is perfect to do the dirty job.

But it gets worse, this Trump clown or the masters behind him, had recently the audacity to ask for a European military budget increase to 4% of GDP – or else…. Yes. Let’s decide for else. Good riddens, NATO.

The overall NATO budget is well over a trillion dollars per year – yes, per year. And that is – people of Europe, people of the world! – that is to finance a killing machine that bulldozes countries into the ground with bombs and tanks, that kill indiscriminately civilians and other countries’ defensive military, countries that have never done any harm to the United States, nor to Europe which follows the Washington mandate like a bunch of vassals, what Europe has become.

Imagine what could be done with more than a trillion dollars or euros per year in terms of building up education, health services, public infrastructure, and other social services and expand these services to developing countries, to those very countries that are now bombarded mercilessly by NATO! This, dear People of Europe, is your tax money. Do you want it to be spent killing people around the world for Washington’s world hegemony?  NATO does not protect you. NATO has been designed as an aggressive force. You were just never told. But look out of the window, the window of your ‘safe space’, and you will see the squandering of your tax money.

NATO is invading the space of Russia and China, countries that are seeking friendly relations with the rest of the world, they are seeking a multi-polar world, but encounter instead a response of aggression. NATO is preventing the natural, namely friendly relations and trading as equals within the huge Continent Eurasia, of which Europe has been artificially separated as a continent. This tremendous landmass Eurasia, includes also the entire Middle East and connects to Africa. This enormous mass of land and people and resources does not need the west, the west called America.

Wouldn’t it be wise for countries and people of Eurasia to just live sovereign lives, with friendly interactions, trading as equals not with a one-upmanship as is currently the norm for trading between the rich OECD nations dominating the World Trade Organization (WTO), with the rest of the world- which depends on trade but is always on the losing end?

One more point that needs to be understood. Europe, the European Union as it was conceived and is limping along today, has never been the idea of Europeans, but was born during WWII in the heads of the CIA, then transplanted into some “willing” European heads and then ‘defended’ by NATO – the “unifying force”. Europe has no Constitution, only a number of non-binding accords, like Maastricht and Lisbon – but no Constitution that holds it together, that outlines a common vision in defense, in economic development, in monetary policy. The European Union results in a bunch of countries, some even hostile to each other. They have a common currency, the Euro, without even having a common economic base and development objective. This currency, forged as the little brother of the US-dollar, equally is nothing but fiat money, no backing whatsoever; this currency is not sustainable. So, the currency barely 20 years old, will eventually collapse or fade, and so will the European Union. It hasn’t happened yet, because NATO is holding it together, because Brussels is nothing but a puppet of the Pentagon. It is Washington through the Pentagon, and through NATO that is running Europe.

People of Europe, is it that what you want? Your tax money spent killing people and destroying countries around the globe, and having lost all independence, autonomy as a country, as well as monetary sovereignty – by being run by a military killing machine, called NATO?

It’s time to kill NATO, rather than being killed by NATO. Exit NATO now. It’s time for NEXIT.

NATO: 70th Anniversary of the Most Murderous and Legal Organization on our Planet

On 4th of April 2019, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) “celebrated” the 70th Anniversary of its murderous existence. This horror organization was born sort of as a “Rosemary’s Baby”, signed into life in Washington DC, as the North Atlantic Treaty. Its creation was absolutely unethical but also absolutely “legal” — meaning what we, the west, have made the law, a man-made law for war, was applied by the Washington-Pentagon driven NATO. Estimates have it that NATO and its ‘allies’, cronies, proxies and mercenaries killed more than 20 million people since NATO’s existence, basically since the end of WWII. Compare this with about 70 to 80 million killed in WWII. The 70 years of NATO are considered “Peace Time”. Were they really a period of Peace?

This is a call on all NATO members to exit NATO, to opt for Peace and to exit NATO! To stop fighting wars, to liberate yourselves from the shackles of NATO.

Was the artificially and under totally false pretenses, as we know today, Cold War, which started immediately after WWII and lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a period of Peace?  Or was it rather a period of constant intimidation for war, a period of armament of the west, a period of maximizing profits for the mainly US military industrial complex, a period to destroy any chance the Soviet Union may have had to economically advance, as the arms race made it impossible for the USSR, the country that won WII, to concentrate on economic development at home after having lost 25 million lives and her basic production infrastructure.

And, yes, it was the Soviet Union not the “allies” (US, UK, and France) that liberated the world at the time from the German Nazi dominance. And, yes, western history books tell you a different story. Western history books are never to be trusted.

The entirely Pentagon-run NATO has today 29 member countries (NATO member states), 26 of which are in Europe, and one, Turkey, in Eurasia. Plus, there are a number of “associated” or wannabe members, like Ukraine, Israel – and in recent months, would you believe! – Colombia in South America joined NATO through a so-called “Cooperation Agreement”, dating back to 2013, and Brazil is perhaps the next candidate. The US wants to control again their “backyard”, by applying again their Monroe Doctrine (no foreign power, other than the US, in Latin America) except, that the backyard has learned its lesson.

While Venezuela and her hydrocarbon and other mineral riches is the main target right now for NATO’s presence in Colombia and perhaps soon in Brazil, the most democratically elected government in the western world, is not just buckling under, as Washington is used to from the past. No. Venezuela has a solid strategic, economic and MILITARY alliance with Russia and China. Despite all the infamous Trump-Pompeo-Bolton saber-rattling, it’s Russia and China who are drawing the red line. So much for the Monroe Doctrine. Times ar’ a changing.

The US / NATO, all ruled by the Pentagon, have about 800, and according to some estimates, more than 1,000 military bases in about 100 countries. Not all are known to the public. The funds used to arm and maintain the bases are your tax-payer’s moneys. While producing weapons for the NATO killing bulldozer, these moneys are not available for much needed education and health care, let alone basic infrastructure in poor countries, precisely those countries that are being colonized by the US / NATO military bases.

It has, of course, never been a priority for the western elite – those financial-military-petrol and lie-propaganda giants – that dark shady neofascist state that pretends to manipulate the rest of the world, to care for people’s health, and, of course, even less so, for people’s education. Educated people are dangerous for these nefarious lecherous, greedy kingpins.

Take note! People around the world, your education is not wanted. Instead the money – YOUR MONEY – your government is supposed to spend to give you a decent education so you can earn a decent living and understand the ropes of this ever more complex globe – these funds – YOUR FUNDS – are spent for arming to the teeth the NATO bases, to colonize you and your countries, to enslave you to a One World Order under a western dollar-dominated financial hegemony.

They have already all the instruments in place, IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO); they are subordinates to NATO. Get out of them too. They are the “elite’s” (for lack of a better term) tool to suffocate you with debt so you will be at their mercy and sell them your resources for a pittance. Create your own economy, outside of the realm of GLOBALIZATION, of globalized neoliberalism, bordering already today on neofascism. Get out of NATO and the rest will follow.

Because that’s what Europe has become: A US-NATO-Pentagon colony. European Nations, you think since you are a member of NATO, you have a say in NATO decisions? Better think again. You know, you have no say in NATO. It couldn’t be more obvious that the Pentagon is calling the shots. Trump and his minions, on behalf of the Pentagon and, of course, on behalf of the military industrial oligarchs, is threatening you – you European members, better pay up to NATO, or else… Whatever “else” means, it’s supposed to scare you. You know, you leaders (sic) of so-called EU members, you have been coopted to obey. Your non-elected European Commission (EC) that calls the shots on European legislation – yes, not the EU Parliament – has also been bought by Washington. The EU is nothing but a puppet of Washington and run by NATO.

But, then, what can you expect? The European Union was never an idea of Europeans. It was an idea born by the CIA already during WWII, then transplanted to some “willing” Europeans, with the promise of NATO protection from the evil Soviets. And, bingo, the red scare did it. It was the US Senator Joseph McCarthy era. The Red Scare. And today, we live in the entire western era Russia Scare, then the China Scare, scares no-end.  They keep NATO in place, keep NATO in Europe and gradually moving around the world – South China Sea, Latin America; the scares keep NATO ravaging and killing millions around the globe.

All the while there is a real danger of a nuclear war. People, wake up! The Masters of WAR, NATO, are just waiting for the moment to provoke that infamous Red Button. People of this Universe, don’t you realize if that happens, we are all doomed; mankind is doomed. Mother Earth may recover, but humans self-destruct.

People! Before that happens, kill the killing machine; kill NATO in its roots. Exit NATO! Contribute no penny anymore to the NATO budget. Withdraw from NATO, get out of NATO. Kick NATO out of your sovereign countries. Regain your NATO-stolen sovereignty.  And you will see the feeling of Peace enhances your well being, while the constant fear of war destroys your soul.

Getting out of NATO is actually easy, it’s also legally possible. As per Article 13 of the NATO charter, all of you members are eligible to exit NATO and to opt for PEACE:

There most likely may be multiple attempts to coopt (buy) your leaders again, under the false pretenses of security. Don’t fall for it. There is no danger from the “East”. In fact, neither Russia nor China have an expansionist history. They have a different philosophy. They are seeking a multipolar world, by connecting to what is most logical – the so-called European Continent, which is geographically just the western most part of the huge contiguous Continent of Eurasia, even including the Middle East. Trading with friendly nations within this huge land mass is not only logical, it had been done in the past for thousands of years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, six years ago, launched the so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also called the New Silk Road, connecting the world with transport, industrial, cultural, learning and research infrastructure; the largest and most brilliant all-inclusive economic development project of known human history. It aims at connecting people, not separating them. It aims at equality and justice, including those left behind, for a world of Peace. As a Chinese delegate to an international conference recently said – we are building bridges to connect people, while the west is building walls.

It’s time for a new era of Peace. Seventy years of NATO, of killing for dominance and greed, is passé. Stop NATO. Exit NATO. Abolish NATO.

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.