Category Archives: Coup

Morsi Died, or was Murdered, while Reciting a Patriotic Poem in a Cage

Former President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, had finished his 15-minute discourse in a courtroom, while being locked inside a sound-proofed cage. He read a poem about his love for Egypt, and then collapsed, and died.

His demise sent shock-waves all over Egypt, the region and the Muslim world.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to accept the official story, claiming that the former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi “did not die, he was murdered”.

More came from different corners of the world. According to Reuters:

A British member of Parliament, Crispin Blunt, who had led a delegation of UK lawmakers and lawyers last year in putting out a report on Mursi’s detention, slammed the conditions of Mursi’s incarceration.

We want to understand whether there was any change in his conditions since we reported in March 2018, and if he continued to be held in the conditions we found, then I’m afraid the Egyptian government are likely to be responsible for his premature death,” he said in remarks to the BBC.

Human rights organizations, heads of state, as well as the common citizens of Egypt, were outraged by the demise of Mohamed Morsi (also spelt as Mursi), a former Egyptian leader who governed the nation after winning the first democratic elections in the modern history of the country in 2012, just a year after the brutal pro-Western dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was deposed in 2011.

Mr. Morsi was overthrown in 2013, in a violent military coup just one year after he was sworn into the highest office.

*****

Let’s be clear: Mohamed Morsi was not a ‘good president’. In fact, he was not supposed to be a president at all: the original candidate from his party was disqualified from the elections on a technicality, and Mr. Morsi was asked to take his place. And he won, by a small margin.

He made some serious errors, politically, economically and socially.

He flooded tunnels between Gaza and Sinai.

And under his leadership, more than 40 people died during the violence in Port Said.

Frightening streets of Port Said at night

When he felt threatened, he used to give orders to fire poisonous gasses at the protesters.

But he was not a murderer. And in ‘modern’ Egypt, that was quite an achievement.

He tried to improve the dire situation in his country, but he kept failing.

On the other hand, he separated his government from the gangrenous military embrace. The western-sponsored Egyptian military has been managing to infiltrate everything (under Mubarak’s rule as well as now), fully controlling all aspects of the Egyptian state.

Mr. Morsi tried to please everyone in the terribly divided Egyptian society. But in the end, nobody was satisfied.

Hard-liners in his Muslim Brotherhood hated him for not being radical enough. The anti-religious Left despised him for not pushing harder for social reforms, and for a secular state. He was both obeying the US and the IMF, while at the same time alienating them.

In the end, he appeared like an uncertain, confused and weak man.

*****

In 2012 and 2013, my friends, my left-wing comrades, were battling police in front of the Presidential Palace in Cairo. I was there, with them, filming, face covered with water-soaked rags in order to at least somehow protect myself from the highly poisonous teargas.

In those days, no one seemed to like Morsi.

The rallying cry during the anti-Morsi protests was:

We sing to those who deserve to die;
Morsi-Morsi-Morsi!

Protesters could not have known that 7 years later, their prophecy would come through.

After the military overthrew the democratically elected government (on 3 July 2013), massacres began. Officially hundreds, but most likely thousands of people lost their lives. Tens of thousands were arrested, disappeared, tortured, raped, and exiled.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood were liquidated (soon after the coup it became a banned organization), but also various left-wing organizations and individuals, as well as all those people who were against the corrupt right-wing military and its dictatorship.

Protesting disappearance of activist in 2013

Several of my friends had to leave the country. Others are still in prison. Or in hiding.

Former dictator, Western puppet and assassin Hosni Mubarak, is now a free man again. He is 91 years old.

67-year-old Mohamed Morsi is dead.

*****

During the Morsi era, as well as during and after the 2013 coup, I was working in Egypt, making a documentary film for the Venezuelan television channel Telesur (“Egipto – El Fin de Una Revolucion” – “Egypt, End of the Revolution”).

First, I investigated and wrote about the crimes committed during the reign of President Morsi in the city of Port Said: “Notes from a Besieged City

And then, I was right there, in the middle of the battles, when the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi’s government and began liquidating both the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Egyptian left wing. I described the events in my essays “Egypt End of Hope” and “Egypt in the Eye of the Storm“. Many more essays from Egypt were then compiled in my book Exposing Lies of The Empire.

Once, while filming after the coup, I found myself facing 5 talks, all pointing their cannons at me. How I survived, I am not sure. Others did not. By the time I finished collecting footage for my film, my body was covered by scars and bruises.

From among those individuals who used to work with me on the film, and from those who used to protest against then President Morsi, there is hardly anyone now who would support the current rule of pro-Western military junta.

Rallies in 2012 and 2013 were all about improving Egypt; about forcing Morsi to deliver what millions of mostly young Egyptians hoped would be a just, secular and socialist society. Morsi was expected to deliver, or to resign, giving way to a better, more ‘progressive’ leader.

Adore your military

What came instead was a coup, a return of the fascist clique of Mubarak, supported by the US, Europe and Israel.

Looking back, I believe that Mohamed Morsi was a decent human being, but at the same time a bad, untalented, naive and confused ruler. That was still much, much better than what was before and after him.

*****

In her opinion piece for the New York Times, the Egyptian author Mona Eltahawy wrote about the demise of Mohamad Morsi:

…He always looked like a man caught up in something much bigger than him. That he died in an Egyptian courtroom inside a soundproof cage designed to silence him, almost exactly six years to the day he took office and almost completely forgotten by all but his family and human rights activists, is a reminder of the bathos that surrounded him.

Then, Ms. Eltahawy put his death into the context of the present-day Egypt:

Decimated as it is, however, the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to be able to pull off mass protests in Egypt, where protests became all but impossible under a draconian law passed soon after Mr. el-Sisi came to power. This, too, is what Mr. el-Sisi has achieved: From July 2013, when Mr. Morsi was overthrown, and January 2016, when the Egyptian parliament reconvened, between 16,000 and 41,000 people, most supporters of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, were reportedly arrested or detained (Some were liberal or secular activists). Since then, a spike in death sentences and executions, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and a determined effort to wipe out any form of dissent have all but crushed the Brotherhood, as well as most other forms of opposition. Muslim Brotherhood supporters are insisting that Mr. Morsi be eulogized as a martyr at the same time that many state-owned media are reporting on his death without even mentioning that he was once president.

Frankly speaking, the era of Morsi feels like the only period in modern Egyptian history, when ‘everything was possible’, and when one was at least allowed to dream and to fight for a much better future. Yes, of course, the fight was taking place through teargas, and people got injured, some even killed. But they dared, they were not broken and humiliated like now.

After the coup in Alexandria they wanted Morsi back

The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ was manipulated, and most likely ‘created’ by the West. But in 2011 to 2013, there was also a parallel, independent, left-wing upsurge of anti-establishment, anti-capitalist and anti-military movements. There was a struggle, and Egypt could have gone in any direction.

I will never forget that year; “the year of Morsi”. We were risking our lives, often suffering direct physical assaults. Different political factions were at each other throats. Steam was out. Passions were boiling. Nothing was certain, everything possible.

That year, while making my film, I was with a group of socialist doctors; true Marxists. They did not doubt that Egypt could go socialist, if they fought harder. I also worked with Wassim Wagdy, one of the leaders of Revolutionary Socialist Organization.

And then, everything collapsed, literally overnight. 3 July 2013.

Egyptian-upper-class-family

When did I realize that everything was over? It happened in Heliopolis – in a affluent suburb of Cairo – in a park. Hundreds of rich families went to celebrate the coup, wearing T-shirts depicting el-Sisi and his cronies. It looked like some historic photos from 9-11-1973 – from the days when the coup perpetrated by General Pinochet against President Allende in Chile. It was different, of course, it was; but it looked the same. US-sponsored coups always look the same. And so do the faces of the elites that support them!

I read about the demise of Morsi onboard MEA, from Istanbul to Beirut. I felt immense sadness. I did not know why, precisely. Certainly, it was not for Mr. Morsi’s reign. But most likely it was for that time, for that hope that was now totally choked and abandoned. For the days when ‘everything was possible’; when people were ready and willing to fight for their country.

Battles after the coup

Egypt is a ‘failed’ state now. Scared, frustrated, poor and totally corrupt. A state that is devouring its own people.

When I go to one of countless slums of Cairo these days, people look at me with open hate. They see me as a foreigner, as someone who helped to throw them back to hopelessness and misery. Of course, they don’t know that several years ago I fought for them, at least as a filmmaker, side-by-side with their nation’s socialist vanguard.

I also feel sadness for Morsi the man, if not Morsi the president. I somehow sense that the patriotic poem that he read before collapsing and dying, came straight from his heart.

In one single year when he governed, he did his best. His best was not good enough. He failed.

But he did not deserve to die like this, muzzled and humiliated, in a cage!

He deserved better. And his country, Egypt, deserves much, much better, damn it!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Canada enables corrupt Haitian president to remain in power

At the front of a protest against Haiti’s president last week a demonstrator carried a large wooden cross bearing the flags of Canada, France and the US. The Haiti Information Project tweeted that protesters “see these three nations as propping up the regime of President Jovenel Moïse. It is also recognition of their role in the 2004 coup.”

Almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media, Haitian protesters regularly criticize Canada. On dozens of occasions since Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government was overthrown in 2004 marchers have held signs criticizing Canadian policy or rallied in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. For their part, Haiti Progrès and Haiti Liberté newspapers have described Canada as an “occupying force”, “coup supporter” or “imperialist” at least a hundred times.

In the face of months of popular protest, Canada remains hostile to the protesters who represent the impoverished majority. A recent corruption investigation by Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes has rekindled the movement to oust the Canadian-backed president. The report into the Petrocaribe Fund accuses Moïse’s companies of swindling $2 million of public money. Two billion dollars from a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela was pilfered under the presidency of Moïse’s mentor Michel Martelly.

Since last summer there have been numerous protests, including a weeklong general strike in February, demanding accountability for public funds. Port-au-Prince was again paralyzed during much of last week. In fact, the only reason Moïse — whose electoral legitimacy is paper thin — is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”.

Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released another statement effectively backing Moise. The brief declaration called for “a broad national debate, without preconditions”, which is a position Canadian officials have expressed repeatedly in recent weeks. (The contrast with Canada’s position regarding Venezuela’s president reveals a stunning hypocrisy.) But, the opposition has explicitly rejected negotiating with Moïse since it effectively amounts to abandoning protest and bargaining with a corrupt and illegitimate president few in Haiti back.

In another indication of the “Core Group’s” political orientation, their May 30 statement “condemned the acts of degradation committed against the Senate.” Early that day a handful of opposition senators dragged out some furniture and placed it on the lawn of Parliament in a bid to block the ratification of the interim prime minister. Canada’s Ambassador André Frenette also tweeted that “Canada condemns the acts of vandalism in the Senate this morning. This deplorable event goes against democratic principles.” But, Frenette and the “Core Group” didn’t tweet or release a statement about the recent murder of journalist Pétion Rospide, who’d been reporting on corruption and police violence. Nor did they mention the commission that found Moïse responsible for stealing public funds or the recent UN report confirming government involvement in a terrible massacre in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline in mid-November. Recent Canadian and “Core Group” statements completely ignore Moise’s electoral illegitimacy and downplay the enormity of the corruption and violence against protesters.

Worse still, Canadian officials regularly promote and applaud a police force that has been responsible for many abuses. As I detailed in a November story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Frenette attended a half dozen Haitian police events in his first year as ambassador. Canadian officials continue to attend police ceremonies, including one in March, and offer financial and technical support to the police. Much to the delight of the country’s über class-conscious elite, Ottawa has taken the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state since Aristide’s ouster.

On Wednesday Frenette tweeted, “one of the best parts of my job is attending medal ceremonies for Canadian police officers who are known for their excellent work with the UN police contingent in Haiti.” RCMP officer Serge Therriault leads the 1,200-person police component of the Mission des Nations unies pour l’appui à la Justice en Haïti (MINUJUSTH).

At the end of May Canada’s ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard led a United Nations Economic and Social Council delegation to Haiti. Upon his return to New York he proposed creating a “robust” mission to continue MINUJUSTH’s work after its planned conclusion in mid-October. Canadian officials are leading the push to extend the 15-year old UN occupation that took over from the US, French and Canadian troops that overthrew Aristide’s government and was responsible for introducing cholera to the country, which has killed over 10,000.

While Haitians regularly challenge Canadian policy, few in this country raise objections. In response to US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s recent expression of solidarity with Haitian protesters, Jean Saint-Vil put out a call titled “OH CANADA, TIME TO BE WOKE LIKE ILHAN OMAR & MAXINE WATERS!” The Haitian Canadian activist wrote:

While, in Canada, the black population is taken for granted by major political parties who make no effort to adjust Canadian Foreign policies towards African nations, Haiti and other African-populated nations of the Caribbean, where the Euro-Americans topple democratically-elected leaders, help set up corrupt narco regimes that are friendly to corrupt Canadian mining companies that go wild, exploiting the most impoverished and blackest among us, destroying our environments in full impunity… In the US, some powerful voices have arisen to counter the mainstream covert and/or overt white supremacist agenda. Time for REAL CHANGE in Canada! The Wine & Cheese sessions must end! We eagerly await the statements of Canadian party leaders about the much needed change in Canadian Policy towards Haiti. You will have to deserve our votes, this time around folks!

Unfortunately, Canadian foreign policymakers — the Liberal party in particular — have co-opted/pacified most prominent black voices on Haiti and other international issues. On Monday famed Haitian-Canadian novelist Dany Laferrière attended a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Port-au-Prince while the head of Montréal’s Maison d’Haïti, Marjorie Villefranche, says nary a word about Canadian imperialism in Haiti. A little discussed reason Paul Martin’s government appointed Michaëlle Jean Governor General in September 2005 was to dampen growing opposition to Canada’s coup policy among working class Haitian-Montrealers.

Outside the Haitian community Liberal-aligned groups have also offered little solidarity. A look at the Federation of Black Canadians website and statements uncovers nothing about Canada undermining a country that dealt a massive blow to slavery and white supremacy. (Members of the group’s steering committee recently found time, however, to meet with and then attend a gala put on by the anti-Palestinian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.)

A few months ago, Saint-Vil proposed creating a Canadian equivalent to the venerable Washington, D.C. based TransAfrica, which confronts US policy in Africa and the Caribbean. A look at Canadian policy from the Congo to Venezuela, Burkina Faso to Tanzania, suggests the need is great. Anyone seeking to amplify the voices from the streets of Port-au-Prince should support such an initiative.

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!

Venezuela: Embassy Protection Collective “The Next Two Days Are Crucial”

Embassy Protection Collective Will Refuse To Turn Over Embassy To US Puppet Government: Arrests Expected

The next two days will be crucial for the protection of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. The Embassy Protection Collective is prepared to stay at the embassy for the foreseeable future, for as long as it takes to protect the sovereignty of Venezuela from a coup led by the United States with its fraudulent puppet government that the entire world knows is a farce — unelected and illegal under Venezuelan law. We stand with the Venezuelan government and their legitimately-elected president, Nicolas Maduro.

If you can make it to Washington, DC in the next two days, contact us by completing this form. If you can’t come to DC, please mobilize on Thursday, April 25 at the Venezuelan embassy nearest you to say that the embassy belongs to the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro and that you will protect it from illegal takeovers if such were to occur. This is important because if the US is successful at taking the embassy in DC, other countries may follow suit.

In Washington, DC, people can take action inside or outside of the embassy. A strong show of public support will prevent the takeover of the embassy. There are many levels of risk people can take to show their solidarity with the people of Venezuela.

In the last two days, more than 800 people and organizations have signed on to the Declaration of the Embassy Protective (Colectivos De La Paz). The Declaration makes explicit the illegal actions of the Trump administration and their fake puppet government and the legitimacy of President Maduro and the elected Venezuelan government. Sign on to the Declaration here to show your solidarity with the Venezuelan people and your opposition to the US coup.

There has been a series of amazing events at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. The art build organized by the Embassy Protection Collective resulted in the Georgetown embassy being covered with political signs that describe the US coup and the fraudulent, illegal, puppet government. A banner with the “Eyes of Chavez” was installed on the embassy along with multiple other banners.

This Wednesday night, the Collective, which was initiated by CODE PINK and Popular Resistance, will be holding a forum with former CIA officer John Kiriakou. Kiriakou will discuss “An Inside View of CIA Led Coups.” The irony of Kiriakou making this presentation from inside an embassy being threatened by US take-over should not be lost on anyone. That event will be followed by a nonviolent direct action training for people who plan to resist the next day.

The Collective has highlighted that what is occurring in Venezuela is a US coup. Billboards attached to the building show the “The Regime Change Checklist,” which describes some of the steps the US has taken to force a coup in Venezuela. Another is “US Regime Change Results,” which summarizes some of the many US coups and their devastating impacts. A series of 32 panels along the front of the embassy describes the chronology of the US regime change campaign.

The Embassy Protection Collective is in the embassy with the permission of the Venezuelan government. The Collective is not breaking the law but serving the people of Venezuela. If law enforcement enters the embassy without permission of the Maduro government, they will be breaking the law and invading sovereign territory. This is a time when all who oppose US intervention need to show their support by doing all they can to protect the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC.

• All Images are from the Embassy Protection Collective

Paul Manafort and the Crime of Not Provoking Russia

Paul Manafort has been convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for what the judge calls “white collar crimes” unrelated to “Russian collusion.” The mainstream press is in a state of shock. Surely, the morning cable anchors protest, he should have gotten 20 years!

He was friends with (“pro-Russian”) Ukrainian businessmen and politicians! He took fees for political consulting work with foreigners—that he never reported to the IRS! He committed bank fraud and tax fraud! And he may have had a role in the decision of the Republican National Committee at the Republican convention in July 2016, to modify a section of the program to remove reference to the provision of U.S. lethal military aid to Ukraine!

For two years that last accusation has been treated by the press as the truly damning one, the clear proof of a conspiracy to help Russia. There’s been a deliberate effort to generate outrage, where none really smolders in the masses’ breasts. How many people in this country feel strongly about the issue of Ukraine, could find the country on the map, have any knowledge in its history or any strong feelings about the matter of who should have sovereignty over Crimea?

The implicit argument is that not to give offensive weapons to the government in Ukraine at the time (then headed by Arseniy Yastenyuk, who had attained power through a U.S.-supported violent coup and the documented sponsorship of grotesque neocon beast Victoria Nuland) was anything other than the height of irresponsibility, if not treason. (“What more do we need than that?” demands the angry CNN “foreign policy analyst” or “national security analyst” while the hosts nod in agreement.), But this new regime in Kiev was riddled with fascists, was engaged in an effort to impose its armed authority over a rebellious ethnic Russian Donbas region, and might potentially be at war with Russia at any moment.

One could interpret the platform change as a rational retreat from an unnecessary provocation of Moscow. Why should that be so controversial or mysterious?

But to the talking heads of MSNBC and CNN, and maybe some on Fox, the minor move was sure, clear proof of Russian collusion. The party committee couldn’t have been applying mere common sense, and deference to a presidential nominee who’d expressed hope for normal relations with Russia. No, it had to have been hijacked by Russian agents.

In the real world, it’s just possible that Manafort (for whatever reasons) had educated Trump to some basic facts: Ukraine has long been ethnically divided between Ukrainians and (ethnic) Russians. The regime that seized power in February 2014 (toppling the democratically elected if highly corrupt one that Manafort had served) had completely alienated the Donbas region from the outset by its anti-Russian discriminatory measures, provoking the rebellion. As for the Crimean Peninsula, it had been Russian from 1785 to 1954, and the base of the Russian Black Sea Naval Fleet since the 1780s, so it wasn’t surprising that Moscow would want to re-assert sovereignty to prevent the very real prospect of losing its base to the relentlessly expanding NATO.

(It would have made sense for Bernie Sanders, had he won the Democratic nomination—that is, had we had a fair, not rigged, Democratic primary process—-to have stricken out any such language from a Democratic Party platform.)

I wrote a number of columns about Ukraine after the 2014 putsch opposing U.S. intervention in Ukraine and the U.S. effort, involving about $ 5 billion invested in what Victoria Nuland and Madeleine Albright both referred to publicly as “support for the Ukrainian people’s European aspirations.” (This was code for the drive of right-wing politicians in Ukraine to join EU after following the well-established pattern of former east bloc countries first joining NATO, then the European trade bloc.) Some of these were re-posted on Russian media. Am I thus guilty of collusion?

This matter of the non-support for military involvement in Ukraine, as a bad thing, is at the heart of the collusion case. The Manafort judge T.S. Ellis has been right to be skeptical, and to suspect that the prosecutors have been trying too hard to pin on Manafort a conspiracy charge implicating Trump and Russia. (Or a Trump staffer and a Russian businessman. Or a Trump aide and a Ukrainian businessman, or Russian-Ukrainian businessman, or Russian-American businessman.)

The fact of the matter is, as Graham Stack, a Fusion GPS researcher once hired to gather dirt on Manafort, pointed out last year: “Manafort was nothing like a pro-Kremlin influence on the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych… Instead, Manafort was one of the driving forces pushing Yanukovich towards signing the agreement with the EU. The Kremlin has every reason to hate him.”

That is, Manafort for his own business reasons wanted Ukraine to join the European Union, just like Victoria Nuland wanted to use the Ukrainian people’s (supposed) yearning to join the organization—that was then squeezing the life out of the Greeks and was subsequently rejected by the British—-as part and parcel of Ukraine’s planned entry into the anti-Russian military alliance. (This had been announced in 2008, the same year as NATO unveiled plans to welcome Georgia as well in the near term. That plan is on hold after the Russo-Georgia War of that year, just as plans to admit Ukraine are permanently on hold for fear—by the Germans, if not the U.S.—of provoking Russia.)

The motives of Nuland and Manafort were very different. She wanted a cause that would unite the opposition and facilitate regime change; he wanted a deal that would personally aggrandize him, given his investments in EU countries and in Ukraine. But  Russia was as of February 2014 opposed, for reasons Moscow stated clearly. (Basically, the cross-border economies are so deeply integrated, the cultures so similar and movement between the two countries so free that EU goods once in Ukraine would flow uncontrollably into Russia, damaging the Russian economy. Was the Russian stance unreasonable? Moscow offered Kiev a generous aid package, which Yanukovych accepted; meanwhile, Russia indicated it had no problem with Ukraine’s eventual EU membership once certain issues were resolved, and reiterated Putin’s aspiration for a Eurasia-wide free market to extend from Vladivostock to Lisbon. (Was this reasonable? Or does it “threaten our national interests” somehow?)

The Russians perhaps convinced Yanukovych that the austerity measures Ukraine would have to accept even for associate NATO membership would be destabilizing. So he withdrew from the provisional deal that had been pushed by Manafort.The  U.S.-backed  opposition declared Yanukovych a traitor loyal to Russia, and the government fell giving way to the current dysfunctional regime that lionizes fascists like Stephan Bandera.

One should definitely condemn Manafort for his past “consulting work”—with the likes of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, Gerald Ford, Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Jonas Savimbi. (This list of clients includes at least five mass murderers.) But why single him out for assisting the former, democratically elected Ukrainian president in his negotiations with the EU? (Oh, because he didn’t report the income…the tax fraud thing…  Terrible indeed.)

The fact is, Manafort would not have been on trial had there not been an effort to seize on any kind of link between anyone around Trump and any one or thing Russian to substantiate the charge of “Russian interference” in the U.S. election. The thinly researched and argued January 2017 “Assessing Russian Activities”intelligence report on that “interference” was followed by a drive to investigate Trump campaign collusion with Russia, with a clear political mission to explain Hillary’s loss by attributing it to Trump’s (treasonous, secret) relationship with Putin.

It hasn’t led to anything yet but a meeting in a Manhattan cigar bar Aug. 2, 2016 between Manafort, his deputy Mike Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian business partner of Manfort’s since 2005 (“thought to be linked to Russian intelligence”) that might have involved  the sharing of some polling data that by law should have been kept secret (or only shared with U.S. political operatives seeking to legitimately influence the outcome of the U.S. election).

Maybe some Russians used the information to influence targeted U.S. minds, using Facebook to throw the election result in Wisconsin. That would see horrible, would it not? An attack by other people on our democracy?! (While we never interfere, anywhere!)

The message is in any case clear. We should be outraged that “the Russians” “interfered” in “our election” tainting its result. We should view “our” elections as sacrosanct affairs, and be outraged that Trump staffers were willing to talk to Russian officials or private citizens, about the election or lots of other things, neglecting to report any contact with nationals of a country that (for some reason) we’re supposed to regard as an “adversary.”   Indeed, the overriding historical import of the movement to drive Trump from office is its re-enforcement of Russophobia in this country.

Trump is depicted as evil less due to his bigotry, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, or corrupt business practices than due to his failure to do the right thing: take a hard line on Russia.

That means denouncing Putin, the way Hillary did. (Clinton as top U.S. diplomat called Putin a new Hitler, for re-annexing Crimea.) It means continuing to demand, as Obama did, that Russia withdraw from Crimea and cease whatever material support it provides to the separatists in the Donbas region or face continuing U.S. (and EU) sanctions. (These are hopeless demands, and are hurting Europe as well as Russia. Yet their maintenance is depicted as the only responsible route forward, and suggestions they be lifted portrayed as capitulation to evil.)

And it means howling in indignation when Paul Manafort, the closest thing to a “smoking gun” about collusion between Russia and Trump, only gets four years behind bars. It means disparaging Judge Ellis, noting his expressed concern about special prosecutors’ overreach and the possibility of the case becoming a “political weapon.”

News anchors visibly consternated by the sentence length seem troubled too by the likelihood that the Mueller probe will conclude with no real evidence. The dream of Trump being exposed as a Russian agent—promising sanctions relief after his victory in return for advance Russian notice about Wikileaks’ hacked emails publication schedule—-is fading.

In its place is the dream of replacing Trump in 2020 with an (appropriately) anti-Russian leader. This would mean one committed to NATO (which is still officially on track to include Georgia and Ukraine, to better encircle and provoke Russia); committed to the sanctions designed to hobble the Russian economy and prevent other countries from trading with it; committed to challenging Russia’s influence in the Middle East and depicting any such influence as “foreign interference” in a region that ought by rights be dominated by the U.S. as the world’s “exceptional” nation; and the insistence on the myth that the U.S. has “national interests” transcending class interests that need to be protected from Russia pursuing its own.

The appropriately anti-Russian leader the mainstream media seeks must of course be, preeminently, a proud capitalist. The restoration of normality must combine the new Russophobia (which has nothing to do immediately with anticommunism—since the Russian state is thoroughly capitalist and Putin’s party is both pro-market and pro-Orthodox religion—but draws on Cold War specifically anti-Russian tropes) with a clear repudiation of socialism.

*****

Saturday: Dave Gura on MSNBC expressing puzzlement that John Hinckenluper in a Joe Scarborough interview refused to call himself a capitalist (recognizing the negative connotations of that word among many young people).

Shame! the bipartisan panelists all agree; he should have proudly broadcast his capitalist status, and promoted the market as the key to creating jobs. If the Dems go with a “socialist” message, Trump will win! The very word socialism is Kryptonite!

These two phenomena—the mainstream ruling-class disappointment that the “Russian collusion” case is collapsing, and alarm at the soaring popularity of “socialism”—are related. To bring him down, one accuses the president of collusion with a country vilified throughout the Cold War; the USSR was targeted for its “socialism” but also attacked on the basis of ethnic stereotypes that remain useful to the anti-Russian propagandist. To make sure his successor is committed to the post-Cold War strategy of maintaining global hegemony and preventing the emergence of any rival, one must insure that someone who accepts capitalist imperialism takes office.

The morning TV news anchors, makers of public opinion, unite in agreement that it is unacceptable to question the motives of legislators who always vote in favor of Israel. (In this they in fact unite with Trump, who’s opportunistically charging the Democrats with antisemitism.) They also unite in agreeing it’s good the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump failed, because it would be against U.S. interests to reduce sanctions until Pyongyang gets rid of it’s nukes (which it’s not going to do without sanctions relief, so the anti-Trump position is a virtual demand for war). These are some of the responsible positions of the anti-Trump mainstream.

My, what an awful, awful man! Such a Russian stooge! Jeopardizing our national security, serving Russian interests, by pulling out of Syria! (When did insistence on indefinite deployment of U.S. forced illegally in Syria become so mainstreamed?) And by talking about an Afghan pullout!

And his campaign chairman was meeting Russians! (Let us recall Manafort was chairman all of three months.) And Manafort was secretly meeting Russians, our adversaries!

Such outrage. Such unanimity. Such slavish devotion to capitalism, imperialism, “our heroes” in the U.S. military, sterile political correctness plus unquestioned devotion to Israel, and of course the systematic vilification of Russia. The trashing of both socialism and Russia, the latter having nothing to do with the former anymore, but what difference does it make?  We’re supposed to believe that both of them are Kryptonite, and that the choice before us is between the responsible capitalist and Russophobe (such as Joe Biden) and the capitalist and imagined Russophile traitor Donald Trump.

Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide

American politicians from the two main parties have finally found something to agree upon: more intervention in Venezuela.

“Now, despite (President Nicolas) Maduro, there is hope (in Venezuela)”, wrote Democratic Senator, Dick Durbin, in USA Today. “These events (meaning the current political instability in the country) are a welcome development of Latin American nations defending democracy.”

“He’s picked a battle he can’t win,” Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, said, referring to Maduro in an interview, quoted in the New York Times. “It’s just a matter of time. The only thing we don’t know is how long it will take – and whether it will be peaceful or bloody.”

This unprecedented unity between Democrats and Republicans reflects an American legacy that precedes the current Donald Trump Administration by nearly two centuries. In fact, it goes much further and deeper than the US hegemonic approach to South America, to encompass the entire Western political hemisphere, with the exception of Italy, Norway and Greece.

The West’s love-affair with intervention has little to do with restoring democracy, either in Venezuela, or anywhere else. ‘Democracy’ has been used throughout the 20th century as a tool that provided legal and moral rationalization for US and Western meddling. It matters little to Western leaders that Maduro was elected in presidential elections deemed ‘transparent‘ by international observers in May 2018.

Notwithstanding Maduro’s own shortcomings in uniting his people in the face of a most pressing economic crisis, what gives Trump, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, France’s Emmanuel Macron the right to cast a deciding vote on who rules over Venezuela?

Sadly, Venezuela is neither the precedent, nor the exception. South America – as are the Middle East and Africa – has for long been perceived as if a Western protectorate going back many years. They are all rich with oil and other essential raw materials, but are also strategically significant in terms of global hegemony. Colonialism might have ended in its traditional form (with Palestine being the main exception) but it lives on in other ways.

While the US and its Western allies are strongly challenged by rising economic and military powers in Asia, the fate of South America, the Middle East and Africa is yet to be decided. The US, in particular, has always viewed South America as its own turf, and has either directly or indirectly contributed to coups, political and economic instability throughout the region.

US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has garnered a terrible reputation due to his role in the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent destabilization of the Middle East. Although discredited for his thoughtless and often militant approach to politics, he was resurrected by the Trump administration and is now travelling the world sowing the seeds of political and military discord.

While speaking about Washington’s need to “protect democracy” in Venezuela, Bolton admitted that a coup in Venezuela is an opportunity to exploit the country’s vast oil and natural resources.

Bolton explained the economic logic of US intervention in an interview with Fox News, soon after Venezuelan opposition leader and a main ally of the US, Juan Guaidó, declared himself an ‘interim president’ on January 23.

A regime change in Venezuela “will make a big difference to the United States economically, if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela,” Bolton said.

But how is that to be achieved?

During a press conference at the White House a few days after the coup, Bolton “appeared to disclose confidential notes written on a yellow pad that included a plan to send US troops to Colombia,” in preparation for a military intervention in Venezuela.

Hasn’t Iraq quelled Bolton’s appetite for intervention, considering that the entire Middle East region now subsists in political uncertainty and unrelenting wars? And if Bolton is yet to get a hint that the world is rapidly changing, and that it behooves his country to reconsider its destructive interventionist foreign policy, why are Democrats joining in, along with the ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ European powers?

“Old habits die hard,” as the saying goes, and it seems that Western politicians refuse to abandon the old interventionist maxim and colonialist mentality through which they ruled the world for far too long.

This view is not meant to undermine the horrific economic conditions in Venezuela or overlook the endemic corruption in that country, which need to be understood and, if needed, criticized. But while the Venezuelan people have every right to protest their government, demanding greater accountability and economic solutions to the crushing poverty facing the country, no one has the right to meddle in the affairs of Venezuela or any other sovereign country, anywhere.

Moreover, it must be clear that neither the US nor its allies are interested in helping Venezuela to overcome its economic woes. In fact, they seem to be doing everything in their power to exacerbate the problem.

Hyperinflation and the crumbling of Venezuela’s oil industries led to a dramatic economic downturn in recent years, with about ten percent of the population fleeing the country. Poor policy choices also led to the significant weakening of local production and increasing devaluation of the country’s currency.

Venezuela has been a target on the American radar for many years. The deterioration of its economy, however, was the perfect opportunity for the US to trigger its Venezuelan allies into action, this leading to the current coup and political stalemate.

But those counting on the US to stabilize Venezuela in the long run are ignorant of history. The US government has hardly ever been a source of stability in South America, certainly not since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Since then, the US has done more than mere meddling, but engaged in outright political and military interventions.

The situation in Venezuela is dire, with children reportedly dying as a result of the lack of medicine and food. The country is also gearing up for a US military intervention and possible civil war.

Considering that all of these tragic predictions have already been witnessed in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, South American leaders, and the few sensible voices around the world must move to block any further US meddling, and allow the people of Venezuela, through democracy, to determine their own future.

Venezuela Blitz: Tyrants Don’t Have Free Elections

In our new book, we describe a ‘Propaganda Blitz’ as a fast-moving campaign to persuade the public of the need for ‘action’ or ‘intervention’ furthering elite interests. Affecting great moral outrage, corporate media line up to insist that a watershed moment has arrived – something must be done!

A classic propaganda blitz was triggered on January 23, when Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself ‘interim President’. This was presented as dramatic new evidence that the people of Venezuela had finally had enough of Nicolas Maduro’s ‘regime’.

In reporting this news the following day, the BBC website featured a disturbing graphic of a captive with arms tied behind his back being tortured. The caption read:

Inside Venezuela’s secret torture centre

The image linked to a complex interactive piece that allowed readers to explore the torture centre. There was also a long report on the same centre. The interactive report included this statement by a former prisoner, Rosmit Mantilla:

In a country like Venezuela there’s no difference between being in or out of prison. You are equally persecuted and mistreated, and you can die either way.

Venezuela, then, is a giant gulag. The interactive piece had clearly taken a good deal of time and effort to produce – odd that it should appear on the same day that news of Guaidó’s coup attempt was reported. The BBC followed this up with a piece on January 25 openly promoting ‘regime’ change:

Venezuela’s Maduro “could get Amnesty”

Self-declared leader Guaidó also appeals to the powerful army, after receiving foreign backing.

In fact, Guaidó, also received foreign rejection from China, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Syria and Iran. On January 29, the BBC front page headline read:

Venezuela, “living under dictatorship”

The opposition leader tells the BBC President Maduro has abused power, and renews calls for polls.

Echoing the BBC’s ‘amnesty’ front page story, the Guardian’s Simon Tisdall, also talked up the merits of the coup:

It seems clear that Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader, has the backing of many if not most Venezuelans.

A remarkable claim, given that George Ciccariello-Maher reported in The Nation that an opinion poll in Venezuela conducted between January 7-16 had found that 81 per cent of Venezuelans had never heard of Juan Guaidó. But then this is the same Simon Tisdall who wrote in 2011:

The risky western intervention had worked. And Libya was liberated at last.

The Guardian may currently be Guaidó’s greatest UK cheerleader. After the opposition leader gave the paper an exclusive interview, former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook tweeted:

Extraordinary even by the Guardian’s standards. Juan Guaido, the CIA’s pick to lead a coup against Venezuela’s govt, gives the paper one of his first interviews – and it simply acts as a conduit for his propaganda. It doesn’t even pretend to be a watchdog’

On February 1, Cook added:

Oh look! Juan Guaido, the figurehead for the CIA’s illegal regime-change operation intended to grab Venezuela’s oil (as John Bolton has publicly conceded), is again presented breathlessly by the Guardian as the country’s saviour’

The BBC continues to administer a daily dose of propaganda. On January 31, the big morning news story was:

Venezuela opposition “speaking to army”

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó says his team has held talks with the army about regime change

As we noted, if a US version of Guaidó made that admission in public, he would soon be paid a visit by Navy Seals, perhaps shot on the spot and dumped at sea, or bundled away to a life on death row for probable later execution.

On February 4, the front page of the BBC website featured a heroic picture of Guaido’s mother kissing her son on the forehead at a protest rally. Sombre, stoic, the saviour’s head appears bowed by the weight of the hopes and expectations of his people (people who, until recently, had no idea who he was and had never voted for him). This was a pure propaganda image. More will certainly follow. We discussed earlier BBC efforts here.

“Tyranny” as a Motive for Corporate Media Concern

The BBC, of course, is not alone in promoting the view that Venezuela is a ‘dictatorship’. The Times offered a typically compassionate ‘view on Venezuelan protests against Maduro’:

Paradise lost – A ruthless dictator has driven his people to the brink.

The reference to ‘paradise lost’ recalled a famously foolish remark on Venezuela made by BBC journalist John Sweeney in the Literary Review in 2013:

The country should be a Saudi Arabia by the sea; instead the oil money has been pissed away by foolish adventurism and unchecked corruption.

Apart from any obvious issues of head-chopping tyranny, the fact is that Saudi Arabia is ‘by the sea’.

The Economist focused on:

How to hasten the demise of Venezuela’s dictatorship

Recognising an interim president instead of Nicolás Maduro is a start.

The Mail on Sunday wrote of the ‘despot of Venezuela’. In the Telegraph, Ross Clark discussed ‘brutal dictatorships like Venezuela and Zimbabwe’. The editors of the Sun appeared to be holding a vigil for the suffering people of Venezuela:

We hope too that Venezuelans finally topple Nicolas Maduro, the crooked hard-left tyrant Corbyn once congratulated, and rebuild their economy.

The Sun’s Westminster correspondent Kate Ferguson reported that John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, was backing ‘the hard-left Venezuelan despot Nicolas Maduro’. The Express wrote of ‘the corrupt regime in Venezuela’.

Writing in The Australian, Walter Russell Mead observed that ‘dictator Nicolas Maduro clings to power’.1

Under the title, ‘Venezuelan spring,’ Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

The latest Venezuelan effort to topple dictator Nicolas Maduro is a pivotal moment in Latin American history…

The Guardian habitually uses the term ‘regime’ to signal the illegitimacy of the Maduro government.

An emotional Minister for Europe, Sir Alan Duncan – who once worked as a trader of oil and refined products, initially with Royal Dutch Shell, and who, in 1989, set up Harcourt Consultants, which advises on oil and gas matters – told Parliament:

The UK and our partners cannot and will not stand by and allow the tyranny of Maduro’s regime to continue. He has caused endless suffering and oppression to millions of his own people…

The people of Venezuela do not need the weasel words of a letter to The Guardian, from assorted Stalinists, Trotskyists, antisemites and, apparently, dead people, and also from members of Labour’s Front Bench. What they need is our solidarity with the legitimate, elected, social democratic president of the National Assembly: interim President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.

Writing in the Independent, Patrick Cockburn commented in September 2016:

Sir Alan does have a long record of befriending the Gulf monarchies, informing a journalist in July that Saudi Arabia “is not a dictatorship”.

Sir Alan tweeted:

The dictatorial abuses of Nicolás Maduro in #Venezuela have led to the collapse of the rule of law and human misery and degradation.

We replied:

How much human misery and degradation did *you* cause by voting for war on oil-rich Iraq in 2003 and by supporting oil-rich Saudi tyrants attacking famine-stricken Yemen? Your compassion for the people of oil-rich Venezuela is completely and utterly fake.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also tweeted:

We stand with the people of #Venezuela as they seek to build a better life. We cannot ignore the suffering or tyranny taking place in this proud nation. Neither should other countries who care about freedom and prosperity.

Political analyst Charles Shoebridge commented:

Now speaking of “US standing with the people of #Venezuela against tyranny”, when just days ago he was also speaking of the US standing with US allied repressive tyrannies such as UAE Saudi Arabia Bahrain.

Glenn Greenwald made the same point, adding:

I’d have more respect for the foreign policy decrees of US officials if they’d just admit what everyone knows – “we want to change this country’s government to make it better serve our interests” – rather than pretending they give the slightest shit about Freedom & Democracy.

Writing on the Grayzone website, Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal describe how:

Juan Guaidó is the product of a decade-long project overseen by Washington’s elite regime change trainers. While posing as a champion of democracy, he has spent years at the forefront of a violent campaign of destabilization.

Almost entirely overlooked in ‘mainstream’ coverage, the New York Times reported last September:

The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to American officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who participated in the talks.

Associated Press reported last week:

The coalition of Latin American governments that joined the U.S. in quickly recognizing Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president came together over weeks of secret diplomacy that included whispered messages to activists under constant surveillance and a high-risk foreign trip by the opposition leader challenging President Nicolas Maduro for power, those involved in the talks said.

In mid-December, Guaido quietly traveled to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to brief officials on the opposition’s strategy of mass demonstrations to coincide with Maduro’s expected swearing-in for a second term on Jan. 10 in the face of widespread international condemnation, according to exiled former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, an ally.

Labour MP, Chris Williamson, virtually a lone honest voice on this issue in the UK Parliament, commented:

Donald Trump, who received nearly 3m fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, throws his weight behind a guy [Guaidó] who didn’t even stand in last year’s Venezuelan presidential election and UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, gives Trump his servile support

Williamson was impressively rational in this interview with Going Underground. Sir Alan remains unimpressed, commenting shamefully of Williamson in Parliament:

I’m astonished he’s even been prepared to show his face in this House today.

Lack of Free Elections as a Motive for Corporate Media Concern

As we have seen, the corporate media’s first great reason for opposing Maduro is that he is a ruthless ‘dictator’. This label is credible only if he prevents free elections, which, of course, are intolerable to any self-respecting tyrant.

Again, corporate media are as one in their opinion. The Guardian’s Latin America correspondent, Tom Phillips, writes that Maduro was ‘re-elected last May in a vote widely seen as fraudulent’. The ‘impartiality’ of Phillips’ reporting on Venezuela is clear even from the tweet ‘pinned’ to his Twitter feed:

It is 20 years since Hugo Chávez’s election kicked off his ill-fated Bolivarian dream.

A Guardian editorial noted that Maduro had won a ‘dodgy presidential vote boycotted by the opposition’. The Economist went further: ‘The election he won in May was an up-and-down fraud.’ Ross Clark in the Telegraph:

Opposition politicians have been jailed, while observers in last May’s election reported inflated vote tallies.

The Observer editors opined on January 27:

Nicolás Maduro was re-elected Venezuela’s president last May by fraudulent means, as regional governments and independent observers noted at the time, and his leadership lacks legitimate authority.

Echoing its positions on earlier ‘regime change’ efforts that brought utter catastrophe to Iraq and Libya, the Observer added:

Given this grim record, Venezuela would be well rid of him and the sooner the better. If Maduro truly has the people’s best interests at heart, he should recognise that he has become an obstacle to national renewal – and step aside.

Venezuela needs ‘national renewal’, or ‘modernisation’ in Blairspeak. Like the Guardian, the Observer then insisted that reasonable options ’emphatically do not include US intervention in Venezuela’. Nobody should be fooled by this apparent anti-war sentiment. US media analyst Adam Johnson of FAIR made the point:

I love this thing where nominal leftists run the propaganda ball for bombing a country 99 yards then stop at the one yard and insist they don’t support scoring goals, that they in fact oppose war.

A further prime example of propaganda ball-running was supplied by The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan:

I’m no expert on Venezuela but I’m pretty sure you can think Maduro is a horrible/bad/authoritarian president *and* also think it’s bad for the US to back coups or regime change there.

Beyond the ‘mainstream’, credible voices have argued that last May’s elections were free and fair. Human rights lawyer Daniel Kovalik of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, writing for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, commented:

I just returned from observing my fourth election in Venezuela in less than a year. Jimmy Carter has called Venezuela’s electoral system “the best in the world,” and what I witnessed was an inspiring process that guarantees one person, one vote, and includes multiple auditing procedures to ensure a free and fair election.

I then came home to the United States to see the inevitable “news” coverage referring to Venezuela as a “dictatorship” and as a country in need of saving. This coverage not only ignores the reality of Venezuela, it ignores the fact that the U.S. is the greatest impediment to democracy in Venezuela, just as the U.S. has been an impediment to democracy throughout Latin America since the end of the 19th century.

More than 150 members of the international electoral accompaniment mission for the elections published four independent reports. Their members ‘include politicians, electoral experts, academics, journalists, social movement leaders and others’. The mission’s General Report concluded:

We the international accompaniers consider that the technical and professional trustworthiness and independence of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela are uncontestable.

The Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America, a grouping of electoral technicians from across the continent, many of whom have presided over electoral agencies, commented:

The process was successfully carried out and that the will of the citizens, freely expressed in ballot boxes, was respected…the results communicated by the National Electoral Council reflect the will of the voters who decided to participate in the electoral process.

The African Report:

Our general evaluation is that this was a fair, free, and transparent expression of the human right to vote and participate in the electoral process by the Venezuelan people, and that the results announced on the night of May 20 are trustworthy due to the comprehensive guarantees, audits, the high tech nature of the electoral process, and due to the thirteen audits carried out previous to and on the day of elections which we witnessed.

We can also conclude that the Venezuelan people who chose to participate in the electoral process of May 20 were not subject to any external pressures.

And also the Caribbean Report:

The mission was satisfied that the elections were conducted efficiently in a fair and transparent manner. All of the registered voters who wanted to exercise their right to vote participated in a peaceful and accommodating environment. Based on the process observed, the mission is satisfied that the results of the elections reflect the will of the majority of the voters in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

If all of this has been ignored in the current debate, it is because corporate media, in fact, do not care about free elections in Venezuela.

Consider the elections held in Iraq on January 30, 2005. On the BBC’s main evening news that month, reporter David Willis talked of ‘the first democratic election in fifty years’.2  A Guardian leader referred to ‘the country’s first free election in decades’. The Times, the Financial Times, the Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Observer, the Independent, the Express, the Mirror, the Sun and numerous other media repeated the same claim hailing Iraq’s great ‘democratic election’.

But this was all nonsense. Iraq was not just under illegal, superpower occupation; invading armies were waging full-scale war against the Iraqi resistance. Just weeks before the election, Fallujah, a city of 300,000 people, was virtually razed to the ground by US-UK forces. Six weeks before the election, the UN reported of the city that, ’70 per cent of the houses and shops were destroyed and those still standing are riddled with bullets.’ A quarter of a million people had been displaced from this one city alone by the onslaught. One year later, The Lancet reported 655,000 excess Iraqi deaths as a result of the 2003 invasion.

There was obviously no question of a free election under these lawless, extremely violent conditions. The corporate press was not the least bit interested or concerned. Indeed, our search of the LexisNexis media database at the time of the elections showed that there had not been a single substantive analysis of the extent of press freedom in Iraq under occupation anywhere in the UK press over the previous six months. And yet the media were all but unanimous in describing the elections as free and fair.

• Part 2 coming soon

  1. Walter Russell Mead, ‘Moscow savours latest Latin American crisis to destabilise region,’ The Australian, 31 January 2019.
  2. Willis, BBC News at Ten, January 10, 2005.

Gaza Rallies for Caracas: On the West’s Dangerous Game in Venezuela

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of besieged Gaza to show their support of the democratically-elected government of Venezuela and its legitimate leader, President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela is struggling to defeat a coup attempt that is supported by the United States, Israel and many Western governments.

The relationship between Venezuela and Palestine has been particularly strong under the presidencies of late Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez and current president Maduro. Neither leader has missed an opportunity to show their solidarity towards the Palestinian people, a fact that has always irked Tel Aviv and its western benefactors.

The Gaza rallies, however, were more than a display of gratitude towards a country that had enough courage to break off ties with Israel following the latter’s 2008-9 war on Gaza – a bloody campaign known as “Operation Cast Lead”. Thousands of Palestinians were killed in that one-sided war. No Arab government that has diplomatic ties with Israel severed its relations with Tel Aviv. While Caracas – over 10 thousand kilometers away – did. Then, former President Chavez, accused Israel of “state terrorism”.

But there is more to Palestinian solidarity with Venezuela than this recent history. Palestinians have experienced decades-long collective trauma from US-funded Israeli colonialism and military occupation. The US has imposed itself as an ‘honest peace broker’ as a way to mask its political interference and meddling in the Middle East, while fully and blindly supporting Israeli aggressions.

While the Venezuelan people have every right to protest their government, demanding greater accountability and economic solutions to the crushing poverty facing the country, no one has the right to meddle in the affairs of Venezuela or any other sovereign country anywhere.

We must remember that the US government has hardly ever been a source of stability in South America, certainly not since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Since then, the US has done more than mere meddling, but outright political and military interventions, supporting various coups that toppled or attempted to overthrow democratically-elected governments.

What is underway in Caracas is a repeat of that sad and tragic history.

The unhealthy relationship between the US and its southern neighbors took an even darker turn when, in 1904, then US President Theodore Roosevelt declared the “right” of his country to hold “international police power” in Latin America. Since then, the entire region has been Washington’s business.

Always looking for opportunities to exploit, Washington now sees a chance to undermine Venezuela and its elected government.

The Venezuelan people are dealing with overwhelming poverty and a very unstable social situation. Hyperinflation and the crumbling of the country’s oil industries led to a dramatic economic downturn, with about 10% of the population fleeing the country. Poor policy choices led to an escalation of the already endemic corruption, to a significant weakening of local production and increasing devaluation of the country’s currency.

However, consensus around president Maduro’s socialist government is still broad, as witnessed by their victory in the 2018 presidential election.

Despite the presence of about 150 international observers from 30 countries and international organizations, which declared that the last Venezuelan election was transparent, domestic opponents, supported by the US and its western and regional allies denounced it as “fraud foretold”, even before Maduro delivered his victory speech.

The US and its Western allies are frustrated by the fact that despite its economic problems, most Venezuelans remained united around Chavez, and now Maduro, who are perceived, especially by the poorer classes, as independent national leaders fighting against constant US destabilization and neocolonialism.

The world order is vastly changing, but US ruling elites refuse to change. While speaking about Washington’s need to “protect democracy” in Venezuela, US National Security Advisor, the infamous Israel supporter, John Bolton admitted that the coup in Venezuela is an opportunity to exploit the country’s oil and natural resources.

“It will make a big difference to the United States economically”, Bolton told Fox News in an interview this week, “if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

Tragically, the US boycott against Venezuela forced the country to sell its gold in return for valuable currency, as well as consumer goods, food and medicinal products. The coup is meant to completely push Caracas to its knees.

Western predators are all moving in, each party playing the role entrusted of them, as if history is repeating itself. Bank of England (BoE) has blocked Maduro’s officials from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of Venezuela’s gold. Worse, brazen interference from foreign countries is becoming so pronounced that UK foreign office minister, Sir Alan Duncan has suggested that the BoE grant access to the gold reserves to the self-proclaimed opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Germany, and France and Spain gave Venezuela’s Maduro an ultimatum: the President has eight days to call elections, otherwise they’ll recognize Guaido as president. On January 31, the European Parliament recognized Guaido as a de facto leader of Venezuela in complete disregard of the democratic rights of the Venezuelan people.

Yet, as odd as this may seem to some, Maduro still enjoys greater legitimacy in his country than Donald Trump or Emmanuel Macron do in the US and France respectively. Yet, no entity is threatening to intervene in France, for example, on behalf of the ‘Yellow Vests’, who have protested in their hundreds of thousands for weeks, demanding an end to Macon’s rule.

It is doubly important that Venezuela doesn’t collapse before this US-led sinister campaign because of the rising far-right powers in South and Latin America, namely the upsurge of reactionary forces in Brazil.

If Venezuela’s political order disintegrates, others, too will become target: Bolivia, Cuba, and even Mexico.

Since the US partial withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, and the Obama Administration’s ‘pivot to Asia’, to challenge the inevitable dominance of China, US policy makers have been keen on staging a comeback in South America as well. More recently, the just-departed US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley was instrumental in shaping the aggressive US policy towards Venezuela.

Now that the country is struggling with extreme poverty – itself resulting from the manipulation of oil prices – the US sees an opportunity to make its move, and reclaim its destructive, domineering role in that part of the world. The election in Brazil of far-right leader, Jair Bolsonaro, who wants to “make Brazil great again’ is tipping the balance in favor of reactionary forces in the whole region.

But the plot against Venezuela is also an opportunity for those who want to challenge the old order, to tell the US government ‘enough is enough’; that the age of coups and blood-soaked interventions should be behind us, and that South America must not be subjugated again.

As Palestinians have fought Israeli tyranny for years, Venezuelans will continue to fight foreign tyranny and unlawful political and military interventions as well. And with true and tangible global solidarity, both nations will prevail – sooner or later.