Category Archives: Cuba

Canada’s Trudeau Government Puts Squeeze on Cuba

Ottawa faces a dilemma. How far are Trudeau’s Liberals prepared to go in squeezing Cuba? Can Canadian corporations with interests on the island restrain the most pro-US, anti-socialist, elements of the ruling class?

Recently, the Canadian Embassy in Havana closed its Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship section. Now most Cubans wanting to visit Canada or get work/study permits will have to travel to a Canadian embassy in another country to submit their documents. In some cases Cubans will have to travel to another country at least twice to submit information to enter Canada. The draconian measure has already undercut cultural exchange and family visits, as described in a Toronto Star op-ed titled “Canada closes a door on Cuban culture”.

It’s rare for an embassy to simply eliminate visa processing, but what’s prompted this measure is the stuff of science fiction. Canada’s embassy staff was cut in half in January after diplomats became ill following a mysterious ailment that felled US diplomats sent to Cuba after Donald Trump’s election. Four months after the first US diplomats (apparently) became ill US ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis met his Canadian, British and French counterparts to ask if any of their staff were sick. According to a recent New York Times Magazine story, “none knew of any similar experiences afflicting their officials in Cuba. But after the Canadian ambassador notified his staff, 27 officials and family members there asked to be tested. Twelve were found to be suffering from a variety of symptoms, similar to those experienced by the Americans.”

With theories ranging from “mass hysteria” to the sounds of “Indies short-tailed crickets” to an “outbreak of functional disorders”, the medical questions remains largely unresolved. The politics of the affair are far clearer. In response, the Trump Administration withdrew most of its embassy staff in Havana and expelled Cuban diplomats from Washington. They’ve rolled back measures the Obama Administration instituted to re-engage with Cuba and recently implemented an extreme measure even the George W. Bush administration shied away from.

Ottawa has followed along partly because it’s committed to overthrowing Venezuela’s government and an important talking point of the anti-Nicolás Maduro coalition is that Havana is propping him up. On May 3 Justin Trudeau called Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel to pressure him to join Ottawa’s effort to oust President Maduro. The release noted, “the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Lima Group [of countries hostile to Maduro], underscored the desire to see free and fair elections and the constitution upheld in Venezuela.” Four days later Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland added to the diplomatic pressure on Havana. She told reporters, “Cuba needs to not be part of the problem in Venezuela, but become part of the solution.” A week later Freeland visited Cuba to discuss Venezuela.

On Tuesday Freeland talked with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Venezuela and Cuba. Afterwards the State Department tweeted, “Secretary Pompeo spoke with Canada’s Foreign Minister Freeland to discuss ongoing efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela. The Secretary and Foreign Minister agreed to continue working together to press the Cuban regime to provide for a democratic and prosperous future for the people of Cuba.”

Ottawa supports putting pressure on Cuba in the hopes of further isolating/demonizing the Maduro government. But, the Trudeau government is simultaneously uncomfortable with how the US campaign against Cuba threatens the interests of some Canadian-owned businesses.

The other subject atop the agenda when Freeland traveled to Havana was Washington’s decision to allow lawsuits for property confiscated after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The Trump Administration recently activated a section of the Helms-Burton Act that permits Cubans and US citizens to sue foreign companies doing business in Cuba over property nationalized decades ago. The move could trigger billions of dollars in legal claims in US courts against Canadian and European businesses operating on the island.

Obviously, Canadian firms that extract Cuban minerals and deliver over a million vacationers to the Caribbean country each year don’t want to be sued in US courts. They want Ottawa’s backing, but the Trudeau government’s response to Washington’s move has been relatively muted. This speaks to Trudeau/Freeland’s commitment to overthrowing Venezuela’s government.

But, it also reflects the broader history of Canada-Cuba ties. Despite the hullabaloo around Ottawa’s seemingly cordial relations with Havana, the reality is more complicated than often presented. Similar to Venezuela today, Ottawa has previously aligned with US fear-mongering about the “Cuban menace” in Latin America and elsewhere. Even Prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who famously declared “viva Castro” during a trip to that country in 1976, denounced (highly altruistic) Cuban efforts to defend newly independent Angola from apartheid South Africa’s invasion. In response, Trudeau stated, “Canada disapproves with horror [of] participation of Cuban troops in Africa” and later terminated the Canadian International Development Agency’s small aid program in Cuba as a result.

After the 1959 Cuban revolution Ottawa never broke off diplomatic relations, even though most other countries in the hemisphere did. Three Nights in Havana explains part of why Ottawa maintained diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba: “Recently declassified State Department documents have revealed that, far from encouraging Canada to support the embargo, the United States secretly urged Diefenbaker to maintain normal relations because it was thought that Canada would be well positioned to gather intelligence on the island.” Washington was okay with Canada’s continued relations with the island. It simply wanted assurances, which were promptly given, that Canada wouldn’t take over the trade the US lost. For their part, Canadian business interests in the country, which were sizable, were generally less hostile to the revolution since they were mostly compensated when their operations were nationalized. Still, the more ideological elements of corporate Canada have always preferred the Cuban model didn’t exist.

If a Canadian company is sued in the US for operating in Cuba Ottawa will face greater pressure to push back on Washington. If simultaneously the Venezuelan government remains, Ottawa’s ability to sustain its position against Cuba and Venezuela is likely to become even more difficult.

The New Politics of Starvation

President Donald Trump’s use of the most vicious aspects of economic warfare prompt another examination of the politics of starvation.

After George W. Bush’s administration, Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump lessened Bush’s aggressive war policies and leaned to economic warfare. Sounds harmless when compared to exploding bombs, but it is not — economic warfare can crush an adversary without firing a shot. Gone to its extreme, economic warfare has the force of a neutron bomb; it disables the nation’s infrastructure and debilitates its population. Isolation from the international financial system, material embargos, and other sanctions reduce living standards and bring populations close to starvation The most serious aspects of economic warfare are major crimes and a form of terrorism.

Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Iraq endured the most punishing sanctions from the United States. Results of sanctions against these countries, models for the effects of sanctions, show that sanctions have rarely accomplished their stated purposes and their intentions may be for other reasons — stalling economic progress, weakening challenges to antagonistic actions, advancing dominance, and promoting regime change.

Iran

Disturbed with the rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and infuriated by the hostage taking of 52 of U.S. embassy personnel by extreme Islamic students and militants, President Jimmy Carter froze several billions of dollars in Iranian bank deposits, gold and other properties, and followed with a 1980 embargo on trade with and travel to Iran. These punitive actions accomplished nothing for the United States, strengthened the Ayatollah’s Authority and hardened the student demands for releasing the captured embassy officials.

President Reagan, who partially owed his climb into the executive office to the hostage crisis, showed contempt for Iran’s resolution of the problem. Driven by the unproven assertion that Iran was involved in the 1983 bombing of a marine barracks in Beirut, and favoring Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war, the U.S. president imposed additional sanctions on the Islamic Republic. and, in 1987, banned all imports from Iran.

Duriing the Clinton administration, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) penalized all foreign companies that provided investments over $20 million for the development of petroleum resources.

Iran’s entrance into the atomic age provoked a series of new sanctions. Economic warfare soon reached full scale by subduing Iran’s earnings from its most precious resource and export – oil. The U.S. Congress passed unilateral sanctions that targeted Iran’s energy and banking sectors. Sanctions did not halt Iran’s nuclear activities, or prevent it from signing contracts with foreign firms to develop its energy resources. Exports slowly grew to an estimated $82 billion in 2012, with liberated Iraq and independent China filling the gap as trading partners.

Nevertheless, economic warfare affected Iran’s industries and welfare. In October 2012, Iran’s currency, the rial, fell to a record low against the US dollar, losing about 80 per cent of its value in one year. Lack of spare parts and inability to replace planes affected aviation safety. Real growth rate in GDP, at a steady six per cent a year during the first decade of the twenty first century, fell to two per cent in 2011-2012. One report, citing officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Energy, concluded that gasoline imports in the Shah’s former kingdom declined from 130,000 barrels a day in 2009 to 50,000 barrels a day in 2011. Machinery wears, and the  costs and time for repairs rapidly increased. A nation of educated professionals, who depended upon access to foreign technology and scientific cooperation, had their access to knowledge severely curtailed.

In a October 5, 2012 report to the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon summarized effects of sanctions on Iran’s population.

The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine,

The embargoes have also hampered humanitarian operations, as the imposed restrictions on Iran’s banking system have halted the imports of medicines needed for treating diseases like cancer and heart and respiratory conditions.

The Obama administration eventually eased restrictions on the sale of medicines to Iran, and, after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in which Iran halted and downsized its uranium enrichment, the UN lifted sanctions. In a following year, Iran GDP increased 15 percent.

On May 8, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. and U.S. sanctions came into effect again in November 2018. President Trump articulated his plan for renewed sanctions as, “to bring Iran’s oil exports to ‘zero’ and remove a main source of revenue for the regime.” Trump imposed the ultimate harm afforded by economic warfare — starve the people and have them revolt against the regime.

That has not happened nor is predicted to occur. World Bank statistics indicate a severe slowing of the economy and steady rise of inflation.

As shown in the charts, oil production, and GDP growth dropped monotonically and severely. Currency value suffered an initial shock and had some recovery. Inflation was up 40%, especially in food (up 60%) — a suffering economy, a suffering people, and no political gain for the U.S.

Cuba

Immediately after the 1960 Cuban revolution, the United States imposed an embargo against Cuba. Fifty plus years of sanctions have not succeeded in accomplishing the purposes for which the United States proposed the sanctions — compensation to U.S. firms nationalized by Cuba and the overthrow of the Castro regime. The only result of the embargo has been deprivation of the Cuban people.

Although the United Nations General Assembly on November 2, 1995, voted 117 to 3 to recommend an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba, President Clinton, on March 12, 1996, signed into law the misnamed Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act. This Act imposed penalties on foreign companies doing business in Cuba, permitted U.S. citizens to sue foreign investors who make use of American-owned property seized by the Cuban government, and denied foreign investors in Cuba’s industry to enter the U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) complimented pre-90’s Cuba for its public health system, which had been credited with eliminating hunger and malnutrition and wiping out infectious diseases. A tightened embargo reinforced Cuba’s suffering after Russia withdrew subsidies. and, soon, Cuba of the mid-90’s portrayed another image. The American Association for World Health and the American Public Health Association ascertained that the embargo caused significant deterioration in Cuba’s food production and health care:

  • Cuba was banned from purchasing nearly 1/2 of new drugs on the market.
  • Physicians had access to only 890 medications, down from 1,300 in 1989.
  • Deterioration of water supply increased water borne diseases.
  • Daily caloric intake dropped by 33% between 1989 and 1993.

In 2000, the Clinton administration finally allowed Cuba to have some relief from an aggressive economic warfare. The administration allowed the sale of agriculture and medicine to Cuba for humanitarian purposes. According to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba reached $380 million in 2004. However, after hitting a peak of $710 million in 2008, U.S. food sales to Cuba declined over 50 percent by the year 2011. Reasons for the decline were largely economic – lack of foreign currency and better financial terms being offered by other countries.

Representatives of a dozen leading U.S. business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, signed a letter in December urging Barack Obama to scrap the embargo. The letter pegs the cost to the U.S. economy at $1.2 billion per year. The CPF’s estimates are much higher: up to $4.84 billion annually in lost sales and exports. The Cuban government estimates the loss to Cuba at about $685 million annually. Thus the blockade costs the United States up to $4.155 billion more a year than it costs Cuba.1

After a period of harsh policy toward Cuba under President George W. Bush, President Obama announced in late 2014 that Washington and Havana would begin normalizing relations. To that end, the Obama administration achieved three pillars of normalization: 1) the removal of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, which allowed Cuba to access international finance; 2) the reestablishment of diplomatic relations; and 3) relaxed restrictions on travel and trade through executive action. The embargo remained in place.

In 2017, the Trump administration reversed some of the changes made under President Obama, but the vast majority remained U.S. policy. Despite some tighter trade sanctions and limitations on authorized travel, there are still legal pathways for Americans to export and travel to Cuba. On the list of  new sanctions is allowing Americans to sue foreign companies in Cuba that are profiting from or using properties that were seized during the Cuban revolution.

Havana — The Cuban government announced Friday it is launching widespread rationing of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic products in the face of a grave economic crisis. Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velazquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency that various forms of rationing would be employed in order to deal with shortages of staple foods.

Díaz blamed the hardening of the U.S. trade embargo by the Trump administration. Economists give equal or greater blame to a plunge in aid from Venezuela, where the collapse of the state-run oil company has led to a nearly two-thirds cut in shipments of subsidized fuel that Cuba used for power and to earn hard currency on the open market.2

Another suffering economy, suffering people, and no political gain for the U.S.

North Korea

The proud and impoverished nation of North Korea has been continually subjected to sanctions, threats of economic sanctions, and hastily withdrawn sanctions. The media is peppered with the words: “U.S. Lifts sanctions,” “U.S. recommends sanctions,” “South Korea wary of sanctions.” It’s difficult to know if North Korea is being sanctioned or being forced into being sanctioned. After its 2006 claim of conducting a nuclear test, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic Korea) leaders responded to intended sanctions by labeling them as “a declaration of war.”

The DPRK has,suffered from economic warfare, which includes restrictions on trade and financial transactions. Export of sensitive dual-use items (items that have both military and non-military uses) have, at times, been prohibited.  During March 2012, the politics of starvation entered the situation; angered by an intended North Korea missile test, the U.S. suspended food aid to the “hermit kingdom.”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has suspended planned food aid to North Korea as Pyongyang vows to push ahead with a plan to launch a long-range missile in defiance of international warnings, U.S. military officials said on Wednesday.

Under President Obama, sanctions increased as a policy of “strategic patience;” the US waited for North Korea to change its bad behavior before engaging with the state. As a result, trade between North Korea and China increased and sanctions did not encourage Kim Jong-An to discuss de-nuclearization.

On September 21, 2017, President Donald Trump, as part of his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, allowed severing from its financial system and/or freezing assets of companies, businesses, organizations, and individuals who traded in goods, services, or technology with North Korea.

U.S. negotiations with North Korea have a built-in error; they request de-nuclearization in exchange for improved relations and reduction in sanctions. Not considered is that North Korea’s development of a nuclear arsenal was a response to its regard of U.S. actions in the Korean peninsula as a direct threat to its regime and the developments had no relation to sanctions. Therefore, the DPRK will not trade de-nuclearization for relief of sanctions, and that approach is a non-starter.

Sanctions, intended to collapse the North Korea regime, have not halted its development of nuclear weapons and guided missile delivery systems. They have collapsed the economy and harmed the North Korean people; starvation during droughts have occurred. Although some international assistance has been provided to North Korea, the intensive economic warfare waged against the “hermit kingdom” has exacerbated its problems, without any apparent benefit to its principal antagonist, the United States.

Iraq

If Iraq were Pompeii, then the US would be Mt. Vesuvius.

The sanctions against Iraq began August 6, 1990, four days after Hussein invaded Kuwait, and featured a near-total financial and trade embargo. Resultant suffering has been outlined in a UN Report on the Current Humanitarian Situation in Iraq, submitted to the Security Council, March 1999.  Due to the length of the report, only significant features are mentioned.

Before the Iraq War

  • before 1991 Iraq’s social and economic indicators were generally above the regional and developing country averages.
  • Up to 1990, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) cited Iraq as having one of the highest per capita food availability indicators in the region.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prior to 1991, health care reached approximately 97% of the urban population and 78% of rural residents. A major reduction of young child mortality took place from 1960 to 1990; with the infant mortality rate at 65 per 1,000 live births in 1989 (1991 Human Development Report average for developing countries was 76 per 1,000 live births). UNICEF indicates that a national welfare system assisted orphans and children with disabilities and supported the poorest families.
  • Before 1991, southern and central Iraq had well developed water and sanitation systems, composed with two hundred water treatment plants (“wtp’s”) for urban areas and 1200 compact wtp’s to serve rural areas, as well as an extensive distribution network. WHO estimates that 90% of the population had access to an abundant quantity of safe drinking water.

From Sanctions After the Gulf War

  • Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that Iraqi GDP may have fallen by nearly 67% in 1991, and the nation had “experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty” and had infant mortality rates that were “among the highest in the world.”
  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated the maternal mortality rate increased from 50/100,000 live births in 1989 to 117/100,000 in 1997. The under-five child mortality rate increased from 30.2/1000 live births to 97.2/1000 during the same period. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) calculates that the infant mortality rate rose from 64/1000 births in 1990 to 129/1000 in 1995 (the Human Development Report set the average infant mortality rate for Least Developed Countries at 109/1000). Low birth weight babies (less than 2.5 kg) rose from 4% in 1990 to around a quarter of registered births in 1997, due mainly to maternal malnutrition.
  • Calorie intake fell from a pre-war 3120 to 1093 calories per capita/per day in 1994-95. The prevalence of malnutrition in Iraqi children under five almost doubled from 1991 to 1996 (from 12% to 23%). Acute malnutrition in Center/South rose from 3% to 11% for the same age bracket.
  • The World Food Program (WFP) estimated that access to potable water decreased to 50% of the 1990 level in urban areas and 33% in rural areas.
  • School enrollment for all ages (6-23) declined to 53%. According to a field survey conducted in 1993, as quoted by UNESCO, in Central and Southern governorates, 83% of school buildings needed rehabilitation, with 8613 out of 10,334 schools having suffered serious damages. The same source indicated that some schools with a planned capacity of 700 pupils actually have 4500 enrolled in them. Substantive progress in reducing adult and female illiteracy ceased and regressed to mid-1980 levels. More families are forced to rely on children to secure household incomes. Figures provided by UNESCO indicate that drop-outs in elementary schools increased from 95,692 in 1990 to 131,658 in 1999.

Sanctions, and its toll on the Iraqi people, continued until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Excerpts from Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions, Joy Gordon. Harvard University Press, 2010, describe the extent of irrational economic warfare conducted by the United states against a defenseless Iraq.

While the United States consistently justified its policies in terms of preventing Iraq from developing weapons or threatening its neighbors, the U.S. policy went well beyond any rational concern with security. There was an elaborate architecture of policies that found a dozen other ways to simply do gratuitous harm that had not the least relation to the threat Iraq might have posed to its neighbors or to anyone else.

For thirteen years the United States unilaterally prevented Iraq from importing nearly everything related to electricity, telecommunications, and transportation, blocked much of what was needed for agriculture and housing construction, and even prohibited some equipment and materials necessary for health care and food preparation.

As the criticism grew, there is no sign that anyone in the U.S. administration, and only a tiny handful within Congress, actually took it to heart– actually questioned the sanity and legality of reducing an entire civilization to a preindustrial state, of bankrupting an entire nation for the purpose of containing one tyrannical man.

On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes. Commentator Lesley Stahl asked, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?” Madeleine Albright replied, “we think the price is worth it.”  Is that an expected response from a normal human being?

The U.S. 2003 invasion of Iraq accomplished what sanctions failed to accomplish —  push Iraq to total ruin. A question, “Why war, if had sanctions, or why sanctions if need to go to war?”

Conclusion

As shown, sanctions never accomplished their stated purposes and gravely harmed populations. The economic warfare had equivalents to military war. The country that took the offensive became the aggressor, as in any war, and the destruction to the defending state was equally brutal. In the one-sided engagement, the civilian population of the defending nation suffered greatly and the aggressor country suffered few losses. The economic wars never achieved the results that the offended party desired, and no peace treaties were signed. The struggles remained an open issue.

A limited form of economic warfare may, at times, have a legitimate purpose. A complete economic war, that invades all aspects of a country’s life and continues until it debilitates the population, cannot be accepted. In a military campaign, atrocities and human rights violations are often committed. Although no shots are fired and battlefields are not identifiable, economic warfare cannot camouflage its atrocities and disguise its human rights violations.

  1. Dollars and Sense, 2009, The Costs of the Embargo, by Margot Pepper
  2. From CBS News, May 11, 2019.

Cuba Defies the Threats from Trump with Hundreds of Thousands in the Street

Plaza of the Revolution (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

Considering the level of belligerence and hostility coming from the empire of the North one might expect that the powerful May Day march through the Plaza of the Revolution might take on a defensive military overtone. But Cuba is never that way and instead they show their resolution and defiance cloaked within their humanity.

Just as the sun started to rise the march to celebrate the International Day of the Workers began and behind the banner that read Unity, Commitment and Victory were not soldiers with weapons but waves of doctors, soldiers in white, who had recently been expelled from Brazil by the right wing government of Bolsonaro leaving vast areas of Brazil without medical professionals. Vibrant demonstrations also marked the occasion in all 15 provinces of Cuba and the Isle of Youth.

No one really talks about the numbers here but it took almost 2 hours for the marchers that filled the wide Paseo Avenue to pass the towering statue of Jose Marti. This year’s theme featured thousands of people who work in medical services and medical research along with contingents from medical universities like the Latin American School of Medicine that is the largest medical university in the world.

Organized by the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), thousands of trade unionists representing 103 unions from 87 countries participated. Hundreds of solidarity activists were there including 300 who are attending the 14th May Day Brigade at the Julio Mella Camp in Caimito. The largest delegation in the camp this year comes from the United States.

The US: Maintaining Hegemony through Protectionism and Threats

Today, at the CTC trade union meeting at the Palace of the Conventions, Ana Teresita Gonzalez Fraga, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister, explained to the assembled supporters of Latin American unity and sovereignty that we were in a complex period where US Imperialism was trying to hold on to its international hegemony through all out protectionism, the advancement of the Monroe Doctrine, the threat of war, political lies and the use of unconventional warfare against legitimate governments. As she was speaking the first lawsuits from Title III of the Helms Burton Act were being filed in Federal Court in Miami against Carnaval Cruise Lines for its use of the docks in Havana harbor. Title III is a unique measure of acquiring the rights to regain former property that Cubans who fled the revolution in 1959 by somehow magically turning it into US property because those Cubans later became US citizens. This legal stretch had been shelved by previous administrations from the pressure of European allies who will be affected. Also going into effect today is Title IV that prohibits entry into U.S territory people being sued under Title III.

It remains to be seen how deep the new sanctions that the Trump administration will be until they are written into law. In 2018 over 1 million Americans, including Cuban Americans, visited Cuba and in the vicious minds of Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and Pence this type of family and human interaction has to end, to squeeze even harder on an economy that has been blockaded since 1962 for being an disobedient colony and positive example to the world. Trump says he will limit family visits and remittances to $1000 every 3 months that will primarily affect small private enterprises.

Even before the laws are in effect intimidation is already taking place. In the Miami airport, after passing normal security checks passports were being re-checked at the gate and before Cuban Americans could board the plane to Havana their carry-on bags were being opened and searched by Federal Police while a police dog was aggressively checking everyone as they walked down to the plane. What else could this be but to create a chilling effect on Cuban travel?

The Charade of Guaido Fails Again

The failure of the amateurish coup attack on April 30th in Caracas only strengthened the forces of Chavismo in Venezuela according to the Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba, Adan Chavez, at the CTC meeting today, “The attacks on the Bolivarian Revolution started on day one but one thing we know now is that we will never again be a US colony. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez made it possible to achieve victories that will not regress.” The coup that didn’t happen was built up in the corporate media but it has now fizzled out of the airwaves and the reality of installing Guaido, their selected president is evaporating and that is starting to sink in on Wall Street and their impatience is starting to show. Yesterday Forbes, the Capitalist’s Tool, begrudged, “We are not making money…We are all waiting for the catalyst that leads to change in Venezuela. Maduro has outlasted all expectations. He’s entrenched in Caracas.”

John Bolton; how low can you go?

John Bolton, the criminal architect of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that directly led to the death of a million Iraqis and the displacement of millions more, has come up with the latest attack to include both Cuba and Venezuela. Along with claiming that Venezuela has been colonized by Cuba he is also repeating the cynical and outrageous claim that the Cuba-Venezuela cooperative agreement that provides 20,000 Cuban medical professionals to every province, in cities and rural areas of Venezuela are in actuality Cuban soldiers and security forces. That is something they would do, as they have in 177 countries, with more than 800,000 soldiers on 800 bases. Trump is picking up the lie saying it over and over so that the US public will hear it so much that…well, it must be true. This far-fetched whooper of a lie is to justify the threats and tightening of all sorts of sanctions on both countries. The shackling of Venezuela is a key component of the US strategy in the destroying of Cuba, but as was on display here in Havana, in Caracas and in the defense of the integrity of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, the resistance is a force they have to reckon with.

Cuba Defies the Threats from Trump with Hundreds of Thousands in the Street

Plaza of the Revolution (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

Considering the level of belligerence and hostility coming from the empire of the North one might expect that the powerful May Day march through the Plaza of the Revolution might take on a defensive military overtone. But Cuba is never that way and instead they show their resolution and defiance cloaked within their humanity.

Just as the sun started to rise the march to celebrate the International Day of the Workers began and behind the banner that read Unity, Commitment and Victory were not soldiers with weapons but waves of doctors, soldiers in white, who had recently been expelled from Brazil by the right wing government of Bolsonaro leaving vast areas of Brazil without medical professionals. Vibrant demonstrations also marked the occasion in all 15 provinces of Cuba and the Isle of Youth.

No one really talks about the numbers here but it took almost 2 hours for the marchers that filled the wide Paseo Avenue to pass the towering statue of Jose Marti. This year’s theme featured thousands of people who work in medical services and medical research along with contingents from medical universities like the Latin American School of Medicine that is the largest medical university in the world.

Organized by the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), thousands of trade unionists representing 103 unions from 87 countries participated. Hundreds of solidarity activists were there including 300 who are attending the 14th May Day Brigade at the Julio Mella Camp in Caimito. The largest delegation in the camp this year comes from the United States.

The US: Maintaining Hegemony through Protectionism and Threats

Today, at the CTC trade union meeting at the Palace of the Conventions, Ana Teresita Gonzalez Fraga, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister, explained to the assembled supporters of Latin American unity and sovereignty that we were in a complex period where US Imperialism was trying to hold on to its international hegemony through all out protectionism, the advancement of the Monroe Doctrine, the threat of war, political lies and the use of unconventional warfare against legitimate governments. As she was speaking the first lawsuits from Title III of the Helms Burton Act were being filed in Federal Court in Miami against Carnaval Cruise Lines for its use of the docks in Havana harbor. Title III is a unique measure of acquiring the rights to regain former property that Cubans who fled the revolution in 1959 by somehow magically turning it into US property because those Cubans later became US citizens. This legal stretch had been shelved by previous administrations from the pressure of European allies who will be affected. Also going into effect today is Title IV that prohibits entry into U.S territory people being sued under Title III.

It remains to be seen how deep the new sanctions that the Trump administration will be until they are written into law. In 2018 over 1 million Americans, including Cuban Americans, visited Cuba and in the vicious minds of Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and Pence this type of family and human interaction has to end, to squeeze even harder on an economy that has been blockaded since 1962 for being an disobedient colony and positive example to the world. Trump says he will limit family visits and remittances to $1000 every 3 months that will primarily affect small private enterprises.

Even before the laws are in effect intimidation is already taking place. In the Miami airport, after passing normal security checks passports were being re-checked at the gate and before Cuban Americans could board the plane to Havana their carry-on bags were being opened and searched by Federal Police while a police dog was aggressively checking everyone as they walked down to the plane. What else could this be but to create a chilling effect on Cuban travel?

The Charade of Guaido Fails Again

The failure of the amateurish coup attack on April 30th in Caracas only strengthened the forces of Chavismo in Venezuela according to the Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba, Adan Chavez, at the CTC meeting today, “The attacks on the Bolivarian Revolution started on day one but one thing we know now is that we will never again be a US colony. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez made it possible to achieve victories that will not regress.” The coup that didn’t happen was built up in the corporate media but it has now fizzled out of the airwaves and the reality of installing Guaido, their selected president is evaporating and that is starting to sink in on Wall Street and their impatience is starting to show. Yesterday Forbes, the Capitalist’s Tool, begrudged, “We are not making money…We are all waiting for the catalyst that leads to change in Venezuela. Maduro has outlasted all expectations. He’s entrenched in Caracas.”

John Bolton; how low can you go?

John Bolton, the criminal architect of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that directly led to the death of a million Iraqis and the displacement of millions more, has come up with the latest attack to include both Cuba and Venezuela. Along with claiming that Venezuela has been colonized by Cuba he is also repeating the cynical and outrageous claim that the Cuba-Venezuela cooperative agreement that provides 20,000 Cuban medical professionals to every province, in cities and rural areas of Venezuela are in actuality Cuban soldiers and security forces. That is something they would do, as they have in 177 countries, with more than 800,000 soldiers on 800 bases. Trump is picking up the lie saying it over and over so that the US public will hear it so much that…well, it must be true. This far-fetched whooper of a lie is to justify the threats and tightening of all sorts of sanctions on both countries. The shackling of Venezuela is a key component of the US strategy in the destroying of Cuba, but as was on display here in Havana, in Caracas and in the defense of the integrity of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, the resistance is a force they have to reckon with.

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!

Russia warns Bolton: “Monroe Doctrine” Remarks are Insulting to Latin America

What is the ‘Monroe Doctrine’? In brief, it is a document which defines the entire Western Hemisphere as a ‘backyard’ of the United States. It ‘philosophically’ justifies Washington’s neo-colonialism, and the most barbaric coups it has been triggering, as well as covered and open interventions in the Caribbean, and in Central and South America.

And now, National Security Advisor John Bolton, is using this term in connection with Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, outraging those who are opposing the US foreign policy in the region. What he means is clear, although it is never pronounced as bluntly as that: Countries in the Western Hemisphere should never be allowed to go socialist, and they should be prevented from disobeying Western dictates.

In Doha, Qatar, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, expressed his outrage over Bolton’s evoking of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ now, when the West is doing all in its power to overthrow the democratically elected left-wing government of Venezuela:

The theory and the practice of “backyards” is generally insulting…

Sergei Lavrov also added that:

Since 1945, when the UN was founded, the international law is being regulated by this universal and the most legitimate organization.

This is, obviously, not how the United States sees the world. Maybe it never even considered such an approach.

*****

But back to the ‘notorious’ Monroe Doctrine.

Surprisingly, it was not always intended to intimidate and brutalize independent and progressive Latin American nations.

According to the definition of the United States Department of State:

The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to take control of any independent state in North or South America would be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

So, in theory at least, this policy was supposed to be putting the brakes on European colonialist expansionism. This may sound almost unbelievable now.

How very unfortunate that it has evolved into one of the most unscrupulous tools of oppression in modern history!

Contradictory to its original meaning, the United States used the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ in order to overthrow basically all patriotic, progressive and left-wing governments in the Western Hemisphere; governments that resisted the selfish geo-political interests of Washington, or the interests of US corporations, including the infamous United Fruit Company which was notorious for treating virtually all Central American countries as if they were its private plantations.

Then during the Cold War, US foreign policy towards Latin America was built on the belief that the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ should be invoked in order to prevent the spread of Soviet-backed Communism in the region.

What followed is well known: massacres in Central America, brutal coups and fascist dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and elsewhere; tens of thousands of men, women and children ‘disappeared’. Death squads murdering, raping and torturing everywhere, from Guatemala and Salvador to Argentina and Chile.

The fight for US hegemony was basically and cynically named as a ‘fight for democracy’. Slavery was defined as ‘freedom’. The ‘Monroe Doctrine’ became synonymous with Plan Condor, with monstrous torture chambers and with people being thrown alive into the sea from helicopters.

*****

Now the Trump administration is re-deploying those old and fatal Cold War warriors, elevating them to high positions, the same people who were murdering, plotting and cheering assassins. The list reads like a “Wanted for Genocide” catalogue: Elliott Abrams, Michael Pompeo and yes: John Bolton.

These individuals are, of course, unapologetic.

Just recently, John Bolton declared:

In this administration we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’. This is a country in our hemisphere and it’s been the objective of American presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely Democratic hemisphere.

He was talking about Venezuela, of course.

And so, the almost 200 year old ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has been revitalized; put to deadly work once again.

As reported by the Daily Star:

Mr. Bolton said the Donald Trump administration was “not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’,” when asked why it was targeting Venezuela while maintaining close alliances with tyrannies such as Saudi Arabia. The doctrine, dating back to the 1820s, denoted the Western hemisphere as a zone of US influence.

It is clear that this time, what Mr. Bolton envisions under the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has nothing in common with the fight against European colonialism. It is a bellicose ‘modern-day’ interpretation of the doctrine: the justification for Western imperialism all over the Hemisphere. And perhaps all over the world.

Sergei Lavrov correctly defined Bolton’s remarks as ‘insulting’. They are also deadly. As they are indicative of what Western foreign policy may soon become, or has already become: an unapologetic and uncompromising return to the harshest form of expansionism.

What the US tried to avert (perhaps) some 200 years ago, it at some point joined, and then ‘perfected’. Now, it is trying to bring it to an absolute extreme.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Venezuela: Still on the Brink?

The silence is almost deafening. Is it the quiet before the storm? Or is the US giving up on Venezuela? I don’t think so. It’s more like a regrouping after a first defeat. Well, it’s a multiple defeat if we start counting since the failed coup attempt against Hugo Chavez on 11 April 2002.

However, Washington is not giving up. The first blows come flying. Pompeo to Maduro. Open your borders for humanitarian aid, or else…. which implies the usual, “all options are on the table.  ’Humanitarian’ military intervention is an option”.

Washington – April 10, 2019, high level US and South American (members of the infamous and nefarious Lima Group, naturally) politicians and military held a secret meeting about the strategic next steps to subdue Venezuela, how to “regime-change” the Maduro Government, by ‘military options’, as reported by investigative journalist Max Blumenthal. The meeting was dubbed ‘Assessing the Use of Military Force in Venezuela.’ It was hosted by the DC-based neoliberal thinktank the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Venezuela’s ambassador to the UN, Samuel Moncada, denounces Trump’s preparations for war to the entire UN community. The UN Community is increasingly taking note of the atrocities and lawlessness of the one rogue UN member that has the arrogance of thinking and acting as if it were above the law, above every law, even the laws made by its own lawmakers, the United States of America. In the context of the failed coup attempt on Venezuela, a group of about 60 UN members formed, including Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran and many more, representing about half of the world population, in support of Venezuela and especially in support of the UN Charter. The group requests and will enhance actions for UN members to respect the UN principles, the laws and rules upon which the United Nations were created almost 75 years ago. This is a new twist within the UN body.

On 11 April, US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, met in Washington with 16 ministers of finance and representatives of 20 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Portugal, Peru, Spain, and the UK) to enhance the support of some 50 countries of the self-declared president Juan Guaidó, and how to support Venezuela, once the Maduro Government “is gone”.  Hilarious, if it wasn’t so serious.  It is as if these otherwise smart people were falling into the trap of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister – if a lie is repeated enough, it becomes the truth. Indeed, there is no other country in recent history that emulates Hitler and his approaches to world dominance by manipulation as well as Washington. And indeed, it is not quite clear, who was teaching whom.

Venezuela’s Vice-president, Delcy Rodriguez, denounces the preparation of a military intervention in Venezuela by the US, Colombia and Brazil. She warns the world of a humanitarian disaster if the global community allows the United States and its minions to interfere in Venezuela.

Mexico’s new President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), also vehemently rejects any interference in Venezuela and offers his Government’s services to mediate a dialogue between the Maduro Government and the opposition, a dialogue to which President Maduro has invited the opposition already many times. To no avail. Mostly because the orders from Washington are clear, no dialogue, no compromise, the Maduro Government must be go.

We will inject the necessary capital into the inefficient oil industry, and our petrol corporations are eager to revive Venezuela’s hydrocarbon industry and make it profitable again. These are the bold and honest words of John Bolton, US National security Adviser. Let’s see where all this hoopla may lead. If it sounds like wishful thinking, it is wishful thinking.

Even though the true media hero, Julian Assange is for totally illegal reasons behind bars in the UK. And this because laws are made in Washington as Washington sees fit, as Trump signs papers, shows them on TV and they becomes law – and laws of the US are applied throughout the US vassalic world, and especially by its poodle puppets in London. Never mind this minor detail of human derailment. More importantly, it seems that Mr. Assange’s spirit and that of his creation of truth telling, Wikileaks, is increasingly reflected by politicians and journalists who, though somehow coopted into the ‘system’, feel discomfort with this very system and decide to leak so-called classified information into the non-mainstream truth-telling media.

A classical case may be the secret ‘RoundTable’ that took place in Washington on 10 April to discuss the fate of Venezuela. The news about it was first published by the Grayzone portal on 13 April. Mr. Blumenthal has obtained the information along with a “check-in list” of the high-flying participants to this private ‘round-table’. When confronted and asked for interviews on the event, most members on the list were surprised, even stunned, and refused to talk. Somebody from inside must have leaked the information about the clandestine meeting.

On a totally different issue, but equally important for the concept and philosophy of leaking information to the outside world, is the recent disclosure – “leak” – by someone in the French military that sophisticated French weaponry was used by Saudi Arabia to attack and kill defenseless Yemenis. And this, although the French, and especially Roi Macron himself, has always denied that the French were participating offensively in this also illegal US-UK-NATO proxy war. The French narrative was and is that France’s weapons were only defensive. Sounds as stupid as calling the US War Ministry, the Ministry of Defense.

Are we entering a Leak-zone (no pun intended), an epoch of leaking, of divulging ‘secret’ and classified information? Have we had enough impunity? It’s time to stop it. What is this “classified” and secret information anyway? In a so-called Democracy why are the elected government officials privileged to hold on to secret information, unknown to the public who lives under the illusion that they elected them, and – more importantly, or even worse – the public, who pays for them. Can’t you see, dear People, what aberration of “democracy” we have moved into?  Please, just open your eyes and see all these contradictions, contradictions for us, but they serve the chosen — and you believe elected-by — you  elite, lining their pockets and increasing their power.

Now the public must know the truth. This new Leak-Culture may take hold. – If so, its high time, but never too late. It would be another sign towards the empire heaving on its last breath, or as Andrew Vltchek so adroitly puts it, when he describing the ultimate crime of the lawless London gang, the police manhandling a sick and defenseless Julian Assange, “By dragging him from the embassy into a police van, it [the empire] has admitted that it already has begun sewing its own funeral gown.”

Back to Venezuela. Has Washington given up? Most likely not. Although their first coup attempt has failed. The Venezuelan military did not defect. Despite Trump’s warning, even threats, they stood and still stand behind Nicolás Maduro. The humanitarian aid trucks at the border in Cúcuta did not cross into Venezuela. In fact, they were burned by the very opposition, hoping to make believe that Maduro’s troops put them on fire. No. They were indeed the opposition forces and their allies in Colombia. Ironically, the mayor of Cúcuta, after the humanitarian aid stayed stuck at the border, asked Colombian President Duque, whether he, the mayor, might distribute the aid among the poor people of Cúcuta, because this aid was more needed in Cúcuta than in Venezuela.

Second, Juan Guaidó was never able to mobilize the crowds as Washington expected. Guaidó, a US lackey in the first place, lacks any charisma. He does not appeal even to the majority of Venezuela’s opposition. So, he is a dead horse. Bad choice by Washington.

Third, a direct military intervention seems unlikely – at least at this point – as Russia quietly but with considerable force has made known her presence in the country. And so does China. Though China may not have sent military personnel, China’s position was and is: Don’t mess with Venezuela. China and Russia have both huge investments in Venezuela’s hydrocarbon industry.

In the meantime, Bolton and Pompeo have already accused, in addition to Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua as spreading ‘socialism’ the region. That’s their crime. It’s now in the open – it’s not just the oil, it’s also ideology. They are going to be sanctioned. In Cuba invoking again the 1996 Helms–Burton Act, under which foreign companies are prohibited from doing business in Cuba, lest they are prevented from doing business in the US. In addition, the amount of money Cuban American’s may send home is again limited, after Obama lifted the restrictions. And exile Cubans – mostly applying to those in Florida – may now sue Cuba in US courts for confiscated and nationalized land after the revolution. And that after 60 years. I wonder, what US courts have to meddle in Cuba. This latest US arrogance stinks to heaven.

Will the world smell it? Is Washington at the end of the rope with Venezuela? Will see. Not voluntarily; that’s for sure. But if leakers keep leaking, it’s a sign that even insiders have had it.

The Right Book at the Right Time

If Vladimir Putin really wanted to hurt the United States he’d send Russian bombers to drop copies of Ron Ridenour’s Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert on schools throughout America. Chronicling US crimes and obstructions against peace for over 100 years, this Tsar Bomba of a book ranges over the 1918 US invasion of Russia, US capitalism’s neverending collaborations with fascists and takfiris, the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK’s assassination, Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and the momentous year 2001 when Vladimir Putin offered to align Russia’s foreign policy with the US only to get repaid by the US serving notice that it would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, setting off a new arms race. (Your humble reviewer believes that the only reason for the US to leave the ABM Treaty is that Dick — the real “decider” — Cheney decided that a nuclear war could be fought and “won.”)

Aside from an exciting account of the Russian revolution, there’s little in the book about Russia’s domestic affairs over the past century. Instead, Russia and the US are contrasted in their foreign policies and dealings with each other. The chief takeaway is that Soviet and Russian leaders from Stalin to Khrushchev to Brezhnev to Gorbachev to Putin were/are a whole lot more cautious, practical and less ideological than their US counterparts. (Fidel Castro wanted the Soviets to leave tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba but the Russian leadership overruled it for the sake of peace. Russia played an instrumental role in the Iran nuke deal and, of course, convinced Assad to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.) The worldwide “communist conspiracy” was largely a mirage covering up a reality of the US continually poking the Russian bear with fascists on its western border and Islamic fanatics on its southern border.

Ridenour has been something of a Zelig-like figure on the left: one of 4,000 people that Nixon put on a list to be rounded up and incarcerated in a concentration camp and also a target of dirty tricks instigated by the FBI and the LAPD. He reported from the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation, lived for years in Cuba (writing  for Prensa Latina) and once, during an anti-war protest with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, witnessed the LAPD beat up wheelchair-bound Ron Kovic with blackjacks.

The timeliness and necessity of Russian Peace Threat was shown on February 12 when the Smithsonian magazine published an Uncle Sam-splainin’ article about the US invading Russia in 1918. The article worried itself with the problems of the US invaders rather than pointing out the criminality and real reason for the invasion. US troops, says the headline, were just “caught up” in this war — pure happenstance that they were thousands of miles from the US, killing innocent Russians defending their homeland. But, as Ridenhour meticulously details, the truth is that the international capitalist class was terrified of the success of the Russian Revolution and doing everything and anything to keep it from spreading, strangling it in its “cradle” as the racist war criminal Winston Churchill said. Capitalism is always and forever the most insecure system — it knows perfectly well how unjust it is. Nowhere in the Smithsonian article is it mentioned that the US destroyed 25 villages in the Russian Amur district alone or that America’s democracy-spreaders burned the peaceful village of Ivanovka to ground, killing 1,300 inhabitants.

One of my favorite parts of Russian Peace Threat is the blow by blow account of how Cuba defeated the United States of Satan at the Bay of Pigs. It reminded me of Marx’s description of the communards in the Paris Commune. Also gripping is the story of Russian submarine Captain Vasili Arkhipov, sometimes called “the man who saved the world” because of his cool-headed actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As Ridenour details, there’s actually a lot more to this story of nuclear-armed Russian submarines off the Cuban coast during the crisis. Cut off from all communication with the world, the submarines had no clear orders when to fire their nuclear torpedos, besides being pounded by depth charges and unsure if war had started between the US and Russia.

Interestingly, the Cuban leadership always had a more positive view of JFK than one would think considering that, of the 638 US-sponsored assassination attempts on Castro’s life, 42 came under Kennedy’s presidency. (Reagan led with 194, followed closely by Nixon with 184. Even the pious homebuilder Jimmy Carter tried 64 times to kill Castro.) Bobby Kennedy is quoted as suggesting a “Remember the Maine” false flag in order to launch another invasion of Cuba. And JFK, just 10 days before he died, approved a CIA plan for destroying Cuba’s largest oil refinery, a large electrical plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities and the underwater demolition of docks and ships. Yet the Cuban leadership’s overall view was that JFK had to appease crazy US generals and CIA officials.

Bobby Kennedy suggesting a “Remember the Maine” false flag might come as a surprise to many but is completely in line with the history of the US ruling class. Ridenour ticks off the list of false flags, skullduggery and psy-ops: the “Maine,” the Gulf of Tonkin, Operation Northwoods, Operation Mongoose, COINTELPRO, Operation Mockingbird, the tale of Iraqi soldiers throwing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators and Gaddafi’s Viagra-popping “black African mercenaries” raping their way across north Africa on their way to Europe until mercifully euthanized by NATO bombs. Immense lies have to be told repeatedly to prep the US working class for war. Reading the list makes me wonder why many left-ish pundits are so incurious about 9/11 — about why, for example, World Trade Center Building 7 fell for two seconds in freefall into its own footprint even though no planes touched it. Considering how monolithically deceitful the corporate media is on Syria or Venezuela, is it paranoid or just common sense to believe that Operation Mockingbird (or something like it) is still going on?

Another stand out chapter concerns the Soviet “invasion” of Afghanistan in the 1980s. With the US arming, funding and training Islamic fanatics in the countryside, the progressive government in Kabul begged Soviet leaders for 20 months to come to their aid. Russian leaders resisted and were bitterly divided — some, like Alexei Kosygin, foresaw the disaster to come for Russia — but they finally assented and, as the architect of the chaos and bloodshed Zbigniew Brzezinski said, “We gave the Russians their own Vietnam.” (Here, too, we see the Soviet leaders’ preference for caution and practicality rather than ideology. This time it was in the person of Leonid Brezhnev who urged Afghan President Taraki to go slower on social reforms to get more public support for them from conservative Afghanis.)

It appears that Syria, Iran and Russia are driving the US out of Syria but it’s well worth pondering Afghanistan then and Syria now when the US can bring the world’s deadliest weapon — the US dollar’s reserve currency status — and almost unlimited resources to bear on any conflict. (Trump said in December that he’s getting out of Syria but ever since he said it, the US has increased both personnel and war material in Syria.)

Ridenour notes that the US and Britain have used the Muslim Brotherhood and assorted takfiris for almost 100 years to divide and conquer Southwest Asia. Brainwashed Americans will be surprised to learn that Afghan women could vote, be politicians, were most of the nation’s teachers, allowed full education, worked in most trades and decided whom to marry and what to wear — and all of that (and more) is what the US destroyed because Brzezinski wanted to give Russia its “own Vietnam.” The US modus operandi is to do exactly opposite of what it says, in other words: “help” means “destroy” — something that Venezuelans are currently getting very familiar with.

There’s so much more in Russian Peace Threat: General Smedley Butler exposing the “banker’s plot” to overthrow FDR, the US/Russian space race, the 2014 US-funded overthrow of the Ukrainian government and the 1990s disintegration of the Soviet Union which is now looking like one of the greatest disasters in working class history, not just because of the suffering and shortened lives of the Russian people but because it turned Uncle Scam loose to wreak unbridled havoc on the world.

How important, interesting and useful is Ridenour’s Russian Peace Threat? Look at the photo below of all the pages I turned down. (An index would have made it even more useful!) With Russia moving its borders closer and closer to US military bases (ha, ha), the US placing missile launchers with both defensive and offensive capabilities in eastern Europe, the Russians countering with the development of hypersonic weapons, the shortening of the time either side has to decide whether to launch nuclear missiles, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock now at two minutes to midnight, the eagle and bear parrying and squaring off in the Ukraine and Syria and, perhaps, now in Venezuela — well, this is the right book at the right time for explaining much of the current world.

Will Cuba be Canada’s Next Target After Venezuela?

“First we take Caracas then we take Havana.”

That’s the thinking driving the Donald Trump administration’s policy towards Venezuela, according to a Wall Street Journal story titled “U.S. Push to Oust Venezuela’s Maduro Marks First Shot in Plan to Reshape Latin America.” Adding credence to this thesis, last Monday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that “Cuba is the true imperialist power in Venezuela.”

Despite Washington’s hope that toppling President Nicolás Maduro could hasten the fall of Cuba’s government, the Justin Trudeau government, which is supposed to have good relations with Havana, has played a central role in the US-led bid to oust Maduro. It has also echoed some of the Trump administration’s attacks on Cuba’s role in Venezuela. Why would a ‘friend’ of Cuba do this?

While much is made of Ottawa’s seemingly cordial relations with Havana, the reality is more complicated than often presented, as I detail here. Most significantly, Canada has repeatedly aligned with US fear-mongering about the “Cuban menace” in the region.

Just days after the April 1961 CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker claimed the Cuban government was a threat to the security of the hemisphere and “a dictatorship which is abhorrent to free men everywhere.” Two years later Ottawa’s representative to a NATO ministerial meeting was tasked with saying, “the Canadian government, of course, holds no sympathy for the present dictatorial regime in Cuba …. We remain deeply disturbed by the presence in the Western Hemisphere of a communist regime aligned with the Soviet Union and by the transformation of Cuba into an area which still retains a potential for disturbing East-West relations and the stability of the Hemisphere.”

Canada backed the US-led Alliance for Progress, which was the John F. Kennedy administration’s response to the excitement created in Latin America by the 1959 Cuban revolution. Ottawa began delivering aid to the newly independent Commonwealth Caribbean partly to counter Cuba’s appeal. In the early 1960s External Affairs officials, notes Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy: The Canadian Navy and Foreign Policy, “singled out Cuban revolutionary activity as the main threat to political and thus economic stability in the region and implied that developmental aid staved off Cuban interference.”

In 1963, that book notes, HMCS Saskatchewan was deployed to Haiti largely to guarantee that François Duvalier did not make any moves towards Cuba and that a Cuban-inspired guerilla movement did not seize power. Three years later two Canadian gunboats were deployed to Barbados’ independence celebration in a bizarre diplomatic maneuver designed to demonstrate Canada’s military prowess and to send a ‘signal’ to Havana. Canadian Gunboat Diplomacy explains, “we can only speculate at who the “signal” was directed towards, but given the fact that tensions were running high in the Caribbean over the Dominican Republic Affair [1965 US invasion], it is likely that the targets were any outside force, probably Cuban, which might be tempted to interfere with Barbadian independence.”

When 7,000 US troops invaded Grenada in 1983 to reassert US hegemony in a country supposedly overrun by Cuban doctors, Canadian officials criticized Grenada’s government and abstained on a UN resolution calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops (predominantly American) from that country. The next year Canadian ambassador to Panama, Francis Filleul, complained that “Nicaragua has been penetrated so badly by Cuba and other [eastern bloc] countries that it is destabilizing. It was not that the people of Nicaragua … chose to welcome the Russians and the Cubans. It was that the FSLN [Sandinistas] had gained control of the revolutionary movement and that was their policy.” As with the US Caribbean Basin Initiative, the 1986 Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN) sought to isolate Cuba from the region.

According to a 2006 cable released by Wikileaks headlined “Canada’s new government: opportunities and challenges”, the US embassy in Ottawa pushed the Stephen Harper government to begin “engaging more actively in other hemispheric trouble spots such as Venezuela, Colombia, and Cuba.” In the spring of 2008 the Canadian embassy in Panama teamed up with the US National Endowment for Democracy to organize a meeting for prominent members of the opposition in Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela to respond to the “new era  of populism and authoritarianism in Latin America.” In 2012 Canada was alone with the US in opposing Cuba’s participation in the Summit of the Americas.

While purportedly sympathetic to Cuba, Justin Trudeau’s government has criticized Cuba’s actions in Venezuela. In a recent article titled “Canada  at odds with Cuban ‘ally’ over Maduro’s fate” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told CBC that Cuba’s role in Venezuela is “concerning” and that “we have heard directly from the Venezuelan opposition that they’re concerned by the role that some Cubans are playing in their country.” The article, written by extreme Canadian officialdom sycophant Evan Dyer, quoted an opposition group claiming thousands of Cuban agents “direct centres of torture in Venezuela.”

Compared to Washington, Ottawa has had cordial relations with Havana since the Cuban revolution. Still, Canada has generally sided with US fear mongering about the “Cuban menace”, which is propaganda largely designed to justify keeping the region subservient to western capitalist domination.

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.